For the first time in the history of the Muncie Half Ironman (or at least as far as I know) the race distances were shortened to a 1 mile swim, 30 mile bike, and a 10K run due to record hot temperatures being recorded in the Muncie area.  The temperatures were above 100 degrees for many days before the race and the temperatures of Praire Creek Reservoir were pushing up towards 90 degrees for race day.

Once getting over the initial shock of the change in race format, being at Muncie 70.3 took on that familiar IRONMAN feel. Huge race expo, manditory pre-race meetings and super efficient race packet pick up procedures.  The volunteers at the registration area were energetic and ready to take care of all the racers needs.  Although, it was very obvious that no one was talking about the race day changes. The moved up start times and the reduced race format seemed to be secrets and not many people were talking about it. The race course maps for the 70.3 format were still displayed prominately in the expo hall and many athletes were suprised to hear that the race format was changed.

The Tri Tornadoes had an outstanding team of 6 racers competing at Muncie.  They were Jeff Clifton, Matt Pierce, Blake Briggs, Justin Tyminski, Alan Coppinger and Coach Todd Shellenberger .  This was to be the FIRST 70.3 experience for the first four listed, but due to the weather…..that will come another day!!

As we arrived at Prairie Creek on Saturday morning to get ready for the race the all to familiar pre-race hype was in full swing and all the athletes were buzzing about the heat and the effects it would have on the race.  As with most Ironman 70.3 races the transition area was huge and the distances to run in from the swim and out/in on the bike were long and required extra care to ensure that you could find your proper transition spot.  A good thoughtout pre-race practice takes care of any problems you might have with finding your spot.

The swim started with a smooth take off into the warm waters of Prairie Creek Reservoir, with 3 minutes separating each swim wave to get the triathletes out on the course as quickly as possible so they could deal with the with the coolest poosible temperatures during the race.  The swimmers were plunging into the water and fighting for postion to get around the course in the quickest possible manner possible.  There were many cool spots in the lake to help keep the swimmers cool during the swim portion of the race.  I had a solid swim to start the race.  I found a number of other athletes to draft with during the swim and came out of the water with a 26:26 swim split.  As I ran up the swim exit chute, I passed teammate Alan Coppinger, who started a few waves ahead of me and had a great swim.

Out on to the flat and FAST bike course.  The weather was almost perfect for a 30 mile (or approx 28.9 mile) ride.  There was a tiny cool breeze during the bike leg, but there was no headwind.  Speeds were off the charts.  The fast guys were riding 26 to 27 miles per hour and the average guys were riding in the low 20’s.  It was a smooth, fast course.  I had a good solid ride.  I averaged 23.82 per the results, which was good for 17th in my age group.

Within seconds of getting out of the transition area onto the run course…..REALITY HIT and boy did it hit HARD!!  The heat at 8:45 AM was DEATHLY.  The course was HOT, the shade on the course was HOT, it was just plain HOT.  Now to give you some perspective…..I have done races in Illinois in May with 96 to 97 degree temperatures where the tar from the run course sticks to your shoes and I have raced in Florida 3 times (Great Floridian Ironman Distance on 2 different days) and (The Great Clermont Tri) where record high temperatures were well into the 90’s.  But I can tell you, THIS WAS DIFFERENT!!  The rolling hills of the Muncie 70.3 run course were tough and the heat just added to the torture.  To make matters worse or better depending on your outlook, my teammate Blake Briggs came off the bike right behind me and was running strong and decided to push me to my limits.  He came running by me about 1 mile into the run and he just took off.  He maintained a 50 yard lead on my throughout the entire run.  He was running through the aid stations and I was walking and taking in all the fluids I could handle as quickly as possible.  I would gain a bit on him in between each aid station, but as soon as I would walk and get fluid he would pull away again.  It was a classic cat and mouse chase.  Blake started approximately 12 minutes ahead of me so I knew that I would finish ahead of him, but I did not want to let him outrun me on the course.  I just wanted to catch him.  If Blake was not there….I would have walked, and I probably would have walked a lot.  Blake YOU WERE AWESOME!!  Thank you for pushing me….I REALLY needed you!  So I was chasing Blake.  I had 1 mile to catch him.  I just started pushing the pace and tried to catch him.  As we approached the half mile to go, I caught Blake and we momentarily ran together, just like our usual Thursday night practice.  As I started to move past him Blake told me to “Take it home Coach”.  As I started to pull away a bit from Blake, I really wanted to walk, I just needed to fight and keep fighting.  I have run this course many times in the past and two previous races this year and the last mile seemed to take forever and the rolling hills just kept coming.  By the time I finally reached the finish line…I was TOTALLY Spent.  What a Race, what an effort!!

All the other guys on the Tri Tornadoes finished the race and had a GREAT experience!!

I need to give a MAJOR Congrats to Doug Robinson, Head Coach of Multifit, the Jordan YMCA Triathlon Team, for his awesome performance.  He finished 1st in our age group (and 43 Overall) with the 1st fastest run and the second fastest bike in our age group.  What a STUD!!  He is getting ready for Ironman Louisville and he is hoping to qualify for IRONMAN.  If this race is any indication on Doug’s fitness and readiness to qualify, I will be tracking him on IronmanLive in October.  Keep up the GREAT Work Drob!!