The 70.3 Ironman, also known as the Half Ironman, consists of a 1.2 mile (1.9 km) swim, 56 mile (90 km) bike ride, and 13.1 mile (21.1 km) run. University of Michigan Triathletes Malcolm Hudson (rising senior), Michael Liberato (rising Junior), and Matt De la Fe (rising senior) competed in the 70.3 Ironman in Benton Harbor in Southwest Michigan. Congratulations and thank you to Malcolm, Michael, and Matt for answering these questions about their experiences! (Michigan Triathletes that also raced in the 70.3 Ironman but do not have interview responses below include Claire and Delaney -- congratulations to them too!)
What inspired you to sign up for the half ironman? What were you thinking in the process of signing up?
I had just gotten so accustomed to doing olympic distance races with the team, that I felt ready to take it to the next step!
A half-iron is just kinda the next step, I've always wanted to do a full since my swim coach did one my junior year of high school, and De la Fe said he was doing Steelhead so why not do it with a bunch of good friends. After that it was all downhill of trying to recruit as many people as possible
When I joined triathlon in the fall, I said my goal was to do a half Ironman in the summer . I knew it was really far off, but it was a goal I kept throughout the year and my brother wanted to do it with me. I almost did not sign up though. It was a day before the deadline for signing up, my foot still hurt from my previous triathlon (Grand Rapids Olympic), and I knew I was not nearly prepared for it. I signed up because I had told my brother we would do it together and had friends already signed up. I did not want to back out just because I was scared.
How did you train?
My training was no different than for olympic distance races, I started training thoroughly at the beginning of May after taking a short break after collegiate club nationals and finishing classes. I trained around 15 hours per week, focusing on the bike since it's such an important part of this kind of race, and on brick runs (running after riding) .
The weeks leading up to Nats got me training a lot more with everyone on the team, and I kinda used that to jump into summer racing/training. After Nats I took a couple days off, and jumped into a lot of biking/training with Malcolm around work, trying to get in roughly two workouts a day, averaging 2 hr days with a couple longer days each week, and one rest day. For the first couple weeks of may I trained around 12-14 hours, and then I got offered to go to Colorado for an internship. I went there and had no friends so I decided to up the training to 18-20 hr weeks, trying to hit three hours a day-ish. Weekly I'd do three swims, two normal runs, one long run, one speed workout run (track or just fast) and then biking almost every day with speed work thrown in once a week. I kinda just carried that through June/July with some slower weeks, then slightly tapered off before the race.
I did not train enough. I did a lot of swimming in June and the beginning of July. I swam about 25k in the two months before the race. I biked during the week with long rides on the weekend in July and the first week of August (the race was August 12th). I put in a little over 600 miles on the bike in the 2 months before the race. I didn't have a consistent run schedule like I had with biking. I ran about 60 miles in the 2 months before the race and only did one or two bricks (bike then run) which were short. When I do another I will give myself at least another two weeks and try to hit 30k swim, 1000 bike, and 110 running with a more consistent diet.
How did you do? What were the best parts? What were the most difficult parts?
The water was just slightly hot to wear wetsuits, water was choppy and there was a decently strong current, but survived the swim! Bike was mostly flat with some small rolling hills, it was what I worked by far the most this summer, and I surprised myself with how well it went. Running the entire run course in the heat and after all that was just not possible for me, and it just mentally defeated me, had to walk some of it. Didn't expect to be so destroyed by the run, it was bad.
Very long, and mentally challenging. I felt like I was simultaneously pushing myself and balling up energy for the last couple miles of the run which was the mental battle to keep going (also catching Malcolm was huge).
I did well, super happy with all three parts and thought I balanced the three pretty well.
The best part was the first half of the run when my legs still liked me and the swim/bike felt good as well, just a consistent effort to keep moving forward.
The most difficult parts were the swim, where we were attacked by 3 foot swells and the last two miles of the run.
I figured that the back half of the run would be where shit hit the fan, so I feel like it went along with my expectations. Given that, I thought my legs would be able to pick up that back half and instead I was barely able to maintain a decent running form/pace. So the effect of a 56 mile bike on the back half of a half marathon is really something you just gotta experience.
The atmosphere was great on race day. I triple checked everything because this is not a race you want to be missing anything. I was not in the lead pack by any means so the range of talent seemed to be out there to have fun and finish. It was more about racing yourself than the others around you. I missed my goal time by 20 minutes and came in a little over 6 hours and 20 minutes. The best part of the race was definitely the bike. The swim was really wavy and I came out of the water tired despite that being my best segment usually. The bike was fast and it was so much fun seeing so many racers all the time. The worst part was the run. It was really hot with no shade. My legs were drained after the bike, and my lack of training really started showing. I expected the swim and run to be faster and the bike to be slower. I also imagined that it would feel longer. I was coming into hour five with a lot of the run still in front of me before I even noticed how long it had been. There is just so much to focus on and think about that time just seemed to flash by.
What would you tell someone thinking about doing a half ironman? What’s next for you?
I would recommend everyone who enjoyed the challenge of an olympic distance, and has even the slightest interest of ever doing a half ironman, it's totally possible! I want to do at least one more 70.3 before doing a full, I feel like I need to be more comfortable with a half ironman before doing a full one.
Very interesting question haha I'm not sure i would. I think it's a really good goal, but you gotta want it and be determined to 1. train A LOT and 2. finish. There were a lot of points where I felt like death but finishing, catching malcolm, and putting all my training into a performance drove me to keep going.
I would say to TRAIN a lot, and try to sign up with other people because having the support/camaraderie is amazing. Have goals, plan it out, and be able to adapt (I lost two waterbottles on the bike an had to just kinda roll with it). Also nutrition is huge (maybe the most important part of the race), make sure to bring enough and test it on longer training rides before you get to race day.
Next is to train hard for two weeks and then attack collegiate season full force when everyone gets back.
Do it to have fun and race against yourself. It is daunting but a super great atmosphere. If you're on the edge about it and have some time, sign up and start to pick up your training a lot. If you train and have some guidance, you will definitely cross the finish line which is an awesome experience, but expect it to me more difficult than you anticipated. I'm going to drop back down to Olympic distance for a while and build up some speed on my run. I would like to do another 70.3 next summer to beat my time.