Best in the West 70.3 (a race before the race)

There’s just ten days until the race for water! Next Sunday I’ll endure a good five hours, alongside my brother, racing with a purpose at Ironman Arizona 70.3. 

Here’s a recap of another race of the same distant that I attempted last month. While the distance is the same, the purpose heightens with this next one: will you help me suffer on purpose for a day so those who must endure daily can receive new life and purpose?

Every $50 provides life-giving water for a child, for life! 

——

Leading up to Ironman Arizona 70.3 this month (on 10/16!) — a fundraiser to provide WATER for 100+ kids in Africa! [GIVE] — I sought out at least one triathlon this Summer. Since my favorite triathlon — and the only one I’ve done so far, twice, the Clackamas Cove sprint tri — was cancelled for Father’s Day, another race had to suffice. Locals tell great stories about the Best in the West triathlon festival, and it’s hosted annually at a favorite Summer spot near and dear to our family: Foster Lake. Most races are on Sundays, yet as a pastor I want to be with our people to worship and serve on the Lord’s day, so Saturday is much better. Lo and behold, there’s a sprint distance at the Best in the West. And a half-iron distance (aka, 70.3 or long-course). How about we try it?

We camped two nights before, and I have never witnessed a quiet campground! Seems everyone was resting up to race well.

With gear all packed the night before, check-in done with the Best in the West “Posse”, a good dinner, storytime with the kids, praying together, and bike secure in the tent, sleepy-time comes.

The morning was brilliant, at least the weather that is. I was a bit scattered, per usual, had forgotten to bring oatmeal, neglected to take vitamins, and felt bit out of sorts collecting items in the dark. The family would vacate the campsite while I raced, so sought to gather up and put away any random items. Then planned on riding bike over with transition bag on back, but the family totally surprised me and woke up early to take me the mile or so to the start.  Once there I mixed in with the triathletes, a few of whom were doing the long-course distance for the first time as well. Then there were the “superbikes,” which are built for speed in triathlons/time trials, with deep race wheels. These bikes are in another class, a luxury type of vehicle. and thus an advantage for their riders. I was looking forward to hanging with those racers on the course, putting in the extra effort to keep pace. Once my bike was at stall #34, and I chatted with those nearby, took off for a short jog, chatted with a veteran racer doing the same, and snapped some photos of the lake. Then put on wetsuit, swam a couple hundred yards for warmup, and in line for the official start.

Foster Lake just after sunrise
Foster Lake just after sunrise; let’s swim!

My race goals, per discipline and overall:

  • Swim (1.2 miles): settle in at a good pace (1:45/100yd or faster) and practice drafting off other swimmers. Leave the water not overly tired within 35 minutes.
  • Bike (56 miles): enjoy the silence and time to pray and meditate, sing songs and push up those hills! Try to hang with the “superbikes,” and not get passed by any riders with a bike comparable to mine (without race wheels, less aerodynamic, etc.). Goal was sub-three-hours, and 2:40 if having a great day.
  • Run (13.1 miles): relentless forward movement, endure cramps if necessary. Optimal time would be about 1:40 (7:35/mi) off the bike.
  • Overall:
      1. Finish! (This was the first time to race 70.3 miles, endure for five plus straight hours over three disciplines.)
      2. 5:30 would be a good time; beating five hours would be a welcome surprise
  • Have fun, enjoy the process, finish with joy to spare and share with my wife and kids

Race Time. Let’s do this!

Just after 8 AM we were off in the water, and probably eighty of us in the first wave (44 and younger).

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About 600m into the swim my heart rate was too high and my form was poor. Slowed down to find my rhythm, and shifted strategy to focus on good form, enjoy this half hour in the water, and find some feet for drafting. This helped find my groove and set a better pace. Out of the water someone said I was with the “front pack,” and while I knew there were probably a couple dozen in front of me, it felt good to have a decent swim.

  • Swim split: 35:09 (1:35/100yd)

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Quick transition to the bike, and off we went. 

14311278_1130085093742355_464270002592605704_oFifty-six miles is a good workout. Especially with about 2,600 feet of climbing, and . As I said before, one goal was to hang with some of the “superbikes,” and not be passed by others riding a bike of similar quality of mine. This sorta leveled the playing field, as I knew some bikes simply could go faster than others (mine). Settled into a pattern of good efforts up hills, passing as many riders as possible, and then settling into a good downhill cadence, often passed by those same cyclists on the descent (!). There’s a no-drafting rule on this bike course, so passing takes a bit of strategy and extra-effort to gain an advantage.

As there’s no music or headphones allowed, it can get lonely out there, mentally. Took the opportunity to pray, meditate, think, and sing. Had quite a few of the Seeds Family Worship songs as a spinning soundtrack, belting out: “Do NOT be ANXIOUS … about anything! …

… but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

—Philippians 4:6&7

Enduring with purpose! And thinking of the kids who will get water through our fundraising efforts this year.

Near the end of the fifty-six miles I realized I had put in more wattage (power measurement) than planned and knew my legs would be tired for running. Increased cadence and thanked God for the endurance of just under three hours (a minor goal to get in under three on the bike). Most of the course was in the main traffic lane but right near the end was over in the bike lane — and boom! a flat tire — which gives more evidence as to why cyclists prefer to share the road and not endure so much broken glass in the bike lane. Was a mere quarter-mile from the end so came in on rims, “sparking” as we say. Hopped off the bike barefoot for the final couple hundred yards of running to the transition with bike.

  • Bike split: 2:58:51 (18.9 mph; 236W avg)

Now it’s time to run! Took another Hot Shot (for cramping) and filled back pouch with Picky Bars. Started chewing on a stick of Run Gum and off we went.

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Having staved off a bathroom break for last half of the bike course, really had to pause and take care of business. The tough reality is how hard my quads ached, and I knew that any pause would induce some cramps. Stopped anyways, prayed. First steps out were painful. Stopped and prayed. One step at a time! That first mile was s-l-o-w. But then saw family and stood up tall and found my rhythm.

The run course has two loops and each spot is passed four times. Saw the same smiling faces handing out nutrition and lending support and encouragement. (Really, the heroes of any triathlon race is the volunteers.) And this helps to see others running, to offer encouragement — some of us started smiling — and even to see one’s competition. At this point, it’s really all about endurance rather than speed. I’ve never run a half-marathon this slow, and the pain and cramping in hamstrings especially (quads too!) was borderline unbearable. Not giving up, yet could’t go any faster. Heart rate rarely hit 150 bpm, which means I was running an “easy” pace on any other day, but today this was as fast as I could manage.

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As the race was on the weekend of 9/11, marking fifteen years since that significant day in our nation’s history, it was inspiring to see an athlete with Team RWB (Red, White & Blue) carrying an American flag for the duration of 13.1 miles of running.
  • Finishing time: 5:32:59.8 [26th of 158 overall; 25th man of 94; 2nd in age 35-39]

First words, my wife tells me, I said at the finish line: “That was SO fun!” It was!

Looking forward to doing it again in a mere 10 days.

Smiles near the finish line after 5-and-a-half hours of endurance #gracedriveneffort for 70.3 miles. Fun times giving my all & racing against the best in the region. {5:32:59 for 25th overall, 2nd in age-group; battled cramps entire run} • They are an inspiring group of athletes young & old, including all the fabulous volunteers! 👍🏼 Thanks @pickybars, @RunGun, @team_hotshot, @hammernutrition, @garmin, @rokasports & @altrarunning for going with me. 👊🏼 • Family was awesome in taking this trip together, camping a couple nights & made the best of the wait by recreating along the lake today. • 70.3 = Swim 1.2mi » Bike 56mi » Run 13.1mi. #BWtri • First ever attempt at this triathlon distance & I’ll happily do it again. Actually, will be doing it in 5 weeks for life-giving water in Tempe, AZ. Details & an invitation to donate water for life for a child in Africa at renewjeff.com » link in bio. #TeamWorldVision #GoFartherTogether Heart full, legs cramped, family home now. #renewrecreate @GodRenews #rungum #whatdoyourunon #70pt3 #garmin #920xt #zerolimits #lifepoints #triathlon A photo posted by Jeff Patterson (@renewjeff) on