Lake Logan 70.3 Race Report

Best Sherpa Ever!
Race morning started with a 3 a.m. wake up. I was so thankful to have the-best-Sherpa-ever, my dad, at the wheel for the 1.5 hour drive, as he was quite familiar with the winding roads through the mountains. Every time we thought a turn had brought us to the middle of nowhere, we made another turn, farther into the rural NC mountains.  Switchback after switchback and climb after climb, we quickly realized that Jason and I would be having an interest bike ride that day!

This was the 11th year for the Lake Logan Multisport Festival by Set Up Events, which always draws a very competitive crowd. Although in the dead of summer, it's always wetsuit legal because the lake is fed by a mountain stream. The water at the swim start is generally in the 70s, but we were told that as you near the finish, where the stream meets the lake, the water temp drops to the high 50s! At the well-organized packet pick up, we got our bibs and awesome Next Level t-shirts, my favorite brand because the material is so soft! 

About the time we finished setting up our transition areas, the sun was peeking over the tops of the mountains, giving us our first glimpse of how beautiful this race would be.  We joined my dad outside of transition, ate our pre-race fuel, and started tugging on our wetsuits.  On our way to the swim start, we paused on the bridge that crosses the final 100 yards of the swim, to scan the course, take pictures, and say our goodbyes to my Dad.  

Jason and I were finally racing together again. There’s nothing like having your training partner next to you. Someone who has taken the same journey and is experiencing the same race-day emotions, and has similar expectations.  Jason was in the third wave, and I was in the fifth.  We hugged and kissed, said our goodbyes, and he reluctantly left me to go line up for his start.  So proud, I watched him jump off the dock into the water and start his day.

As my wave lined up, I jumped off the dock and waded in the water, thinking my position would place me to the outside left. As we ticked closer to the start though, women started to crowd into the water on my left from the beach, which meant that I would actually be closer to the middle. To complicate matters, I seem to always underestimate my swimming ability, and start toward the back.  As the gun went off, I found myself at the very back, dead middle. Worst possible starting scenario and rookie mistake.  

Swim start and course
I’ve never been in such a packed swim start. The slower swimmers ahead of me were shoulder to shoulder and I just couldn’t break through. After getting hit in the head a few times, I was finally was able to swim to the right and around, finding a clear path almost half way to the turn around. At this point, I was frustrated, and a bit panicky. I reminded myself to slow down and focus on my breathing and stroke.

I eventually settled into my rhythm and next thing I knew, I was aiming for the turn around. Once around the two turn buoys, I found the way back a little difficult to sight. I couldn’t tell whether the orange dots were the marks for the way out, or the way in, and I felt far off course.  Eventually, I caught sight of the bridge and headed for that, as I felt the water began to cool.  Almost to the bridge, I popped my head up and spotted my dad, intently scanning the water for me. I waved, and saw him wave back, which gave me all the motivation I needed to finish strong.  

Just as I was about to pass under the bridge, the water suddenly turned freezing, take-your-breath away cold! We had hit the mountain fed stream, and myself, and the athletes around me were gasping from the shock. The last hundred feet were also only a couple feet deep, very silty, and full of rocks. With my bad allergies, I didn’t want to accidentally breathe in the silt, so I doggie paddled and pushed myself off the rocks below with my hands and feet. It was way too treacherous to walk.  I hopped out of the water a bit frustrated with my swim start, but seeing 38 minutes on my watch, I knew that I had still managed to recover for a decent swim.

Swim: 38:09

Fortunately, just prior to the race, we had overheard athletes remark that the front part of the bike course was mostly downhill, and all the big climbs were on the back half. This bit of information proved invaluable. There was one large climb out of transition, but after that, it was all fast, curvy downhills and flats! I felt like I was flying, which boosted my confidence after a so-so swim. My second split was a 30 mph average! However, I was cautious not to hammer too hard on this part to reserve my energy for the back half of the course.

As usual in the Smokies, the mid-morning sky was still overcast, the fog snaking over and through the mountains. Farms dotted the green mountain sides, and around every turn was another breathtaking view.  Eventually, we left the rural roads, and found ourselves in town.  Heavy traffic and constant turning made the already technical course even more complicated. I tried to keep my head on a swivel, reminding myself to be alert.  

Leaving T1
Thankfully there were many volunteers directing traffic, so I felt about as safe as possible with the roads completely open. The back roads however, were one lane, and had no police support. I was cut off by a mail truck that ran a stop sign to turn in front of me, then immediately slammed on brakes to stop at the mail box next to me. I also got stuck for a mile behind a truck that could not pass slower cyclists in front of me.

I tried to keep my frustration in check by focusing on the beautiful scenery. Eventually the sun came out, and it started to warm up.  Cue to drink more fluids. I checked my watch. I was about half way, with only 1300 feet of elevation gain, and almost a 18 mph avg. I was excited, but knew that I wouldn't be able to maintain that speed if the back half way truly all climbing.  My nutrition was seemingly on point-I had three bottles of Infinit with me (one per hour), plus a bottle of water for the last 30 minutes of the ride. I don’t normally carry this much with me, but I wanted to test out my Ironman fuel. It was nice to not have to stop at an aid station.  I also at my pb&j about 2 hours in.

The next time I check my watch was 10 miles later. We were now at 2300 feet of elevation gain! I could feel the climbs, and was happy I had saved some effort.  My new 11-28 gearing was really saving my legs. I still got passed a lot on the uphill, but downhill, my little Kestrel was proving fast and light, as always. Nothing could prepare me for what lied ahead, however.

Bike elevation profile
Once I reached mile 42, I ground to a halt. I peddled as hard as I could, not to maintain pace, but to keep from falling over on the steep 6+% grade! I felt slightly better, because some of the guys on road bikes that had passed me earlier were now walking their bikes up the hill. I considered it for a minute, then realized, if I got off, I’d have to get back on my bike and start peddling up the side of the mountain, or walk the whole way in. Nope, unless I fell off my bike, it was better to keep pushing. Each time I thought I finally made it to the top, I rounded a corner and saw the road still climbing the mountain.

"Thank God!" Leaving T2
Finally at the top, I descended into a valley. Here, the road appeared flat, but there was a head wind ripping through the mountains. I could still only manage about 13-14 mph, but pushed my legs pretty hard because I felt like I was losing so much ground. This false flat continued almost all the way back to transition with one last large climb a mile out thrown in to ensure that my legs were completely trashed, with no time to spin them out before entering T2.

The last 1/3 of the bike, I told myself to hold on until I could get to the run.  Throughout my training, I’ve felt I’ve gained the most on the run, so I refused to be discouraged. Given the conditions, I was satisfied with my bike, but now the race could begin. I only hoped that my legs were not as worn out as they felt on the bike. As I passed my dad outside transition, all I could say was “Thank God!”

Bike: 3:25:35; 16.3 mph; 3,200 feet elevation gain

Stream that fed the lake and ran by the run course-beautiful views!
In T2, I changed into a fresh pair of socks, and began on the first of the two-loop out and back run course. The course wound along the stream that fed into Lake Logan, and the views were beautiful! The out was a steady, but slight uphill.  I couldn’t really see or feel it, personally, but my pace was a little slow. I could feel my calves knotting and I knew that pretty soon I wouldn’t be able to feel them. My dad had brought his bike, and would ride ahead of me to cheer me on as I passed. Seeing his proud face every mile or so really made the run go by quickly. I also saw Jason on his way back, which was a great boost!

Sure enough, my leg was completely numb, but with tingling pain, by the time I hit mile 2. I just hoped that I wouldn’t turn my ankle. Otherwise, my legs actually felt strong, a miracle after that awful bike ride.  As I made the turn around to head back toward the start and transition, I could definitely tell we were running downhill! I stopped briefly at the aid station to refill my water bottle, and I felt the pressure in my calf let loose. I could feel my leg again! I began to push a little on the downhill. I passed several of the girls who had passed me on the bike, which really confirmed to me that I had played the bike course right.

My tried and true nutrition planned seemed to be working as well.  I had two servings of my Infinit run mix, concentrated in two bottles. My third bottle was water, which I would have to drink and fill twice to get enough fluids. I also had a pack of shot bloks. I planned to alternate water with Infinit, sipping every quarter mile. Pretty soon, I realized that I was drinking my Infinit too quickly, so I slowed to every half a mile. I ate a block at mile 1-3-5-7-9-11. I made sure my bottle of water was empty by mile 4, then 8 and 12.

The last quarter mile of the loop followed a gravel path along transition, then through a lumpy grass field, before turning right at the finish line. You had to really slow your pace through here to keep from tripping or turning your ankle. Once back on the pavement, and half way through the run, I knew not to get discouraged when my pace dropped up that last incline. If I could keep a steady pace uphill, I could push downhill again, and by the looks of it, I was set for a 5 or 10 minute run PR. My dad was waiting for me at the turn around, and knowing he would be there was all the encouragement I needed to get up the hill. I saw him, and not wanting to jinx myself, I simply told him that I thought I was doing really well. I made the turn super excited about my run.

Run turn-around
I really started to push downhill, and stuck to my nutrition plan. I don’t think my stomach was happy with the intensified effort combined with Infinit and my final block at mile 11. I started having some stomach discomfort, so I tried to drink more water. The last mile, terrible side stitches came on, and although I tried to control my breathing, they would just not go away. I had no choice but to slow my pace a bit, but knowing that I was close to my PR and how hard I had worked to get to this point, I refused to walk.

Run: 2:15:19

Coming up to the finish line, I had no clue what my total time was or if I had PR’d the race, but I knew that I had just run a 2:15 half marathon.  This was a 70.3 PR of at least 15 minutes, and only 11 minutes off my stand alone half marathon PR on a pancake flat course. That in itself was a success. To the very finish, I felt the strongest and most in control than I have ever had at that distance (my third), and I had certainly had the most fun. I also knew I had the strength and endurance to be out there for a lot longer, if necessary.

Overall: 6:25:17 (8 minute PR!)

Coming into this race-I knew it could go two ways. I could be very slow, which would mess with me mentally going into Louisville 8 weeks later. Or I could absolutely crush it and know without a doubt that the training was working. Fortunately, the latter happened. Everything but the swim was executed perfectly, and I crossed the finish line beaming with confidence that I absolutely could cross that finish line in October! My training partner also did amazing, crushing his previous 70.3 time by an incredible EIGHTEEN MINUTES! Who does that!?

Lake Logan 70.3 was officially a success. Although, I do want to come back for redemption on that bike course!


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