Posted by: bradhammond | August 16, 2010

Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3

I have not had much luck with the half-iron distance. At sprint distance, olympic distance, and full iron distance I have finished every triathlon that I started, but at the half-iron distance I was 0 for 2 going into yesterday:one DNF with bike problems, too many flats not enough spare tubes, and one DNF because it hurt too much to run and it was too easy to quit and walk back to T2 after everything cramped up.  So, I had some ideas about how fast I would like to go, but I mostly wanted to finish.

I live about an hour from Lake Stevens and I have done a number of training rides on the very hilly bike course.  The run course is fairly flat and I ran on it once after a bike ride.  I had never gone swimming in Lake Stevens, but I heard that it was very easy to stay on course because you could follow a white cable on the bottom of the lake.


I went up Saturday to pick up my number and drop off my bike. The last 5 miles to Everett had really bad traffic and I got there a few minutes after 1. They were being very hard-assed about not letting people check in until they’d sat through the pre-race briefing, and not letting people into those once they had closed the doors. So I had to wait about an hour for the 2 pm briefing. The people who just missed the 2 pm briefing had to wait until 3:30, so some other people had it worse.  I think it would be better if they put a video on-line and had you answer a few multiple choice questions to demonstrate your mastery of the material, and stream line the check in process.

I drove over to Lake Stevens to put my bike in transition. When I first climbed on to start riding I could hear something rubbing. It looked like I had pushed the brakes off-center while popping wheels in and out, so I adjusted the brakes and that seemed to fix it. When I did my last training ride at Lake Stevens my bike would squeak loudly going up each hill because the extra torque made the rear tire rub the frame – I had gotten the bike shop to fix it, but I was pretty worried about it happening again on race day. Those hills are hard enough without the extra resistance!

Race morning I woke up early and started the hour drive  at about 4:30. I found the high school, parked and got shuttled over to transition by 5:45. I put drink bottles on my bike, set out running shoes + socks, fastened a rubber band from one bike shoe to the bike frame so that the pedals would stay level while I ran with my bike, and put on my wet suit. My friend Emily from triathlon swim class was doing the race too, so I spent most of the time hanging out with her after we left transition. She runs a lot faster than I do, and I told her I thought I might pass her on the bike, but she would probably beat me in the run.   I was in the last swim wave, and her wave was only 8 minutes earlier.   Michael Covey is the teacher / coach for the triathlon swim class at the Pro Club and he was there to watch, so I talked him some, too.  I watched the pro’s start at 6:30 and then I went off to use the bathrooms – managed to find some bathrooms with almost no line.


I had heard about this white cable that you could follow for the whole swim, but I started too far to the right to see it until I reached the first big orange float. At that point I merged in with a group of swimmers and started following the cable. I drafted some in the first part of the race, but passing stragglers from the previous waves made me lose the draft. In the second half of the swim my wetsuit started rubbing the skin off my neck, so now I have some really raw and painful spots there. Other than that I felt very good during the swim. My swim split was 37:11 for 1.2 miles, which was a little slower than I had hoped to go, but not too bad.   I heard Covey cheering for me when I came out of the water, and I was surprised he could recognize from that distance.


I heard the announcer saying that the mens leader had just passed 25 miles in the bike, and I quickly figured out that they would be on their second loop before I got to the looping part of the course, so I wouldn’t see them at all. I pulled off my wetsuit, put on the sunglasses, race number, and bike helmet, and ran out to start the bike. Time 2:12, pretty good!


Despite all my worries, I never had any problems with wheels rubbing! What a relief! I stood up on a little hill in the first mile and my left calf felt a bit twitchy, but I ignored it. I felt good and I saw a sign that said 5 miles, then a while after getting onto the loop portion I saw a sign that said 10 miles. A couple of the pro men lapped me. Then I saw a sign that said 15 km and I got very confused. It should have said 15 miles, but for a few minutes I worried that all the signs had been km and I wasn’t as far along as I thought! About this point the leading pro women started lapping me.

My main worry on the bike route was this big 2-part hill on Dubuque Road – on one training ride I pushed too hard leading up to it on my second lap, and I really struggled, so I wanted to take it easier on the flats and downhills that precede it. I was about halfway up the first part when I passed Emily, so I tried to say something encouraging. I hoped that seeing me go past so early in the ride wouldn’t discourage her. After the big hill climb there are some really fun downhills and rollers, but I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted – a pickup truck passed me and then slowed down because there wasn’t room to pass the next biker. A couple of fast guys who were lapping me wove past me and the pickup and the slower bikers in front, but I didn’t feel that daring.

I had forgotten to start my watch before the swim start, and I noticed early in the bike ride that I still had to press one more button to get it started.  I hit the halfway point when my watch said 1:25, but I wasn’t sure how long I had been riding before I started it.
I made it up the big hill again with no problems, although it was starting to get uncomfortably hot at that point. I was very non-aero going down the hills so that the breeze could cool me off. I was going up a smaller hill in the last few miles, and I noticed that the rider I was passing had a prosthesis on one leg.  His name is Ed, and I talked to him after the race.  I thought he was doing great, but that he probably wouldn’t be catching up to me on the run. My bike split was 3:03:46. I had been hoping to do 3:10:00, so I am really happy with the bike split!


The announcer was giving the results for the top 3 women, so that was interesting. I took off the helmet and put on socks, shoes, and a hat. Time 1:50 – seems good to me!


I have been running for over 35 years, but I don’t think I have ever run over 13 when the temps were mid 90’s before. My quads were a little sore, but I settled into a comfortable pace which I held until the first aid station. Drink water, dump water on head, start running again. I thought I was doing about 10 minute miles for the first several miles, and under the circumstances I was very happy with that.

At the 4th aid station (about 4 miles) I screwed up. At the first 3, water was at the first table. This was on an out and back stretch and it was set up for the opposite direction, so I grabbed a cup from the first table and it was cola and I drank it anyway. Instant gut pain.  The rest of the way I went from just having painfully tired legs to having pretty much my whole body hurting.  Soon after that there was a long gradual up hill, and I walked at least half of it.

Finally I got to the turnaround and the mile 5 aid station. I got sprayed with a hose, which felt great, but I got shoes and socks soaked by the water running down my legs, so I hobbled along with heavy wet feet. I was probably about 5.3 miles or so, and I saw Emily running the opposite way and we yelled to each. I thought I was about 1/2 mile ahead, and I was pretty sure she would beat me, but I got some motivation from not wanting her to beat me by too much! She passed me a little before the 8 mile mark, and when I was doing the uphill on the out and back stretch she was over a mile ahead cruising into the finish.

I did quite a bit of walking during the last 9 miles. I had just hit the turnaround a second time and had about 2 miles to go when Ed passed me. I started running again, but I wasn’t getting any closer to him.  I saw my friend Sarah from the Pro Club going up the hill, and I yelled to her and tried running some more.  I had to walk another stretch in the last mile. My run split was 2:42:24, so I think I averaged between 13 and 14 minutes over the last 9 miles. Not real proud of the time, but I’m happy with effort!

Post race:

I visited with a few people I knew, and met a few more. I found a nice shady spot next to a food tent, and Ed happened to be there so I complimented him on his race and told him how I thought I was going to beat him to the finish after I passed him on the bike, but I was wrong! We introduced ourselves, and he seemed to enjoy telling his wife, and we commiserated about the heat.   He’s in the Pro Club too, and I’d seen him before, but I hadn’t gotten to know him.  The hardest thing post race was walking back up to the high school – 30 minutes of hot uphill walking.  After I got home I jumped in the lake to cool off, and the back of my neck stung as if it were salt water on my wounds – probably mixed with the dried sweat on the rest of my body.  My overall time was 6:27:21 and I was 27 / 52 in my age group.  Not my best race, but at least I finally finished one at this distance!



  1. Congratulations on breaking the half-Ironman streak and crossing the finish line! Your swim and bike times were really good and it sounds like the run leg was really hard. Regardless, you did it!

  2. Congratulations, Brad! Wish I could have been on the course with you. Except for the heat, though…it must have been one hot race.

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