Racing after COVID: Ohio 70.3

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This year Ohio 70.3 was moved from Delaware to Sandusky Ohio, a small city on the shores of Lake Erie. Sandusky is known for its family attractions including the famous Cedar Point Amusement Park. The drive to Sandusky from Chicago is about 4.5 hrs., not the most scenic but an easy drive overall. I figured this would be stress free come back race after getting sick with Covid in June. The race had the potential to be great, fast, and mostly flat. Unfortunately, the weather is unpredictable and so was my fitness.

This was a Sunday race; we made the trip to Ohio on Friday afternoon. Packet pick up was available Friday and Saturday, we were hoping to get in on time to registered but we did not. Tip #1 plan when traveling to small towns, as you all know there is a significant shortage of service staff nationwide and Sandusky had limited restaurants close by. We found a pizza bistro and went to bed early. Tip #2 Lodging was limited, being a small town there were not many options for hotels and very few Air BnB. As it is often the case for Ironman branded races, the price for hotels ranges from$ 200-500 a night or if you owned a boat, I guess you can stay by the harbor right by the finish line on Sandusky Bay.

Race Day

The temps were in the high 60’s and raining, the forecast called for overcast skies with highs in the 80’s and 90% humidity. We were happy that the rain stopped and ready for a hot day.

The swim is on the Sandusky Bay, the water temps were in the high 70’s so we knew it would likely be not wetsuit legal. On race morning, there were a few thunderstorms that rolled in overnight so there was a delayed on the start. By the time 630 came I was ready to go and get on the course. We had cloudy skies and the lake seemed calmed. However, we all underestimated the high winds. We jumped from the Ferry into the lake, I was feeling good about my swim, and I felt ok for the first few buoys, but then I started feeling nauseous and dizzy. I kept on swimming trying not to overthink anything, the swim is the shortest part of triathlon. I came out of the water with my slowest swim time ever, I was shocked, a little disappointed and had a massive headache (possible signs of hypoxia). Being in the water for that long was exhausting. I did not realize that other people had a similar experience.

The bike was described as a rolling 56-mile bike through scenic Sandusky and Erie Counties, it seemed flat to me. It was a fast course, even with the 10+ miles of head winds and wind gust at 30+ mph. Despite having 4 Aid stations along the course, 3 of those were on the second half so the first 20-30 miles had little support. I usually carried my own nutrition. My goal for this race was to pay attention to watts and heart rate and ride at ironman pace which I successfully achieved. I rode at a relatively easy pace. I was impressed by the nice smooth roads and peaceful scenery. I felt great until mile 52 when my quad started to cramp.

The run was 13.1-mile run along the shoreline of Lake Erie capping off with a thrilling finish in downtown Sandusky. It was a two loop with multiple turns and zig zag, not ideal but it was flat. My goal was to run at ironman pace, but my body had other plans. It was quite warm by the time I started my run. I saw a few of my teammates on the course during the first 2 miles. The next 2 miles were a blurred, I was dizzy disoriented and nauseous. I felt sluggish and my legs were heavy. By mile 5 everything went black, a lovely lady grabbed me, asked me if I needed help, and hold me until a volunteer came to help. I was taken to the medical tent I don’t remember much other than feeling completely overwhelmed with emotions.

I would recommend this race to anyone who wants a fast and relatively flat course. Be ready for unpredictable weather conditions and limited food options. We did find a great lunch place in downtown called Macca Root Juice Bar and Eatery. After speaking with some local people, we found out that there are some beautiful beach/lake towns in the surroundings areas. And if you come here with the family, make time for some roller coasters at Cedar Point Amusement Park, visit Kelleys Island or Put-it-Bay and enjoy Lake Erie water activities.

I underestimated the impact COVID had on my body. The truth is I have been so fatigued, and I was truly exhausted, my fitness was significantly impacted, and my body just could not handle the effort. I was so disappointment at first but after doing some self-reflection and the kind words of my friends. I realized my body did exactly what it needed to do, it shut down to protect me. As endurance athletes, we trained our bodies to tolerate discomfort, be stronger and faster; and trained the mind for mental toughness.  We are always pushing the limits.  In fact, we are masters of suffering, this can work against us when the body is depleted and recovering from an illness like COVID. There is so much we do not know about it. So please be extra careful out there and be smart.

Congratulations to everyone to completed the race on Sunday, especially to my Well-Fit and Betty Team. You all did amazing out there.

On to the next one,

Erika

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Erika has been an endurance athlete for over 20 years. She fell in love with running in her 20’s in graduate school, working full time and being a single mother. Running became time for reflection. She has run over 30 marathons and countless triathlons; qualified for 70.3 World championships. To qualify for Kona is her next goal! She loves being a mom to a wonderful young lady and a fur puppy (cocker spaniel). Travel and exploring new places to train around the world is a passion. She is a licensed clinical counselor who specializes in the treatment of anxiety, depression and trauma. She spent 15 years in academia and has recently taken a role as a clinical director to focus on her clinical work. Erika believes in the therapeutic benefits of endurance training for people who struggle with mental health illness and stress. She is patiently waiting until we can all travel and race safely again, until then she recommends staying active, healthy. and consistent.

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