IRONMAN 70.3 Eagleman

Published Categorized as Race Reports
2023 Eagleman finisher's medal
2023 Eagleman finisher's medal

This season, I decided to step up to the half-Ironman distance. I spent a long time choosing my first race – there are so many factors to consider! Which type of course would be best? What time of year? What sort of travel situation did I want? I considered all of this and more before finally settling on my race: IRONMAN 70.3 Eagleman.

Eagleman is a storied race in triathlon. It takes place each June in Cambridge, Maryland, a colonial settlement established in 1684 and one of the oldest towns in America. Cambridge has remained a charming town on water to this day and is famous for its boating, golfing, and (of course!) seafood. The town made for an amazing race site with tons of enthusiastic spectators and a beautiful course!



I arrived in town on Friday and picked up my packet right away. The Ironman Village and expo were pretty large, and I took the opportunity to get a feel for the transition area in Gerry Boyle Park. The park, named for the longtime race director of Eagleman who also brought full-distance racing to Cambridge with Ironman Maryland in 2014, was a perfect race venue! Spacious, well-organized, and (relatively) clean are important when it comes to a triathlon transition area. After picking up my packet, where I was informed that the water temperature was 69.5 degrees Fahrenheit, I got a look at the finish line and spent entirely too much on souvenirs at the IRONMAN Store.

Packet pickup at the Ironman Village.

Afterwards, I took a car ride around the bike course to get a feel for it. We would be riding through Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, which is a known nesting site for Bald Eagles and other rare species. While I noted the rumble strips that lined about 15 miles of the road, the course was largely smooth roads. When Ironman advertises this race as flat, they really mean it!

Preview of the Eagleman finish line before the race
Finish line preview!


I headed back to Gerry Boyle Park on Saturday for a short swim in the Choptank River and a quick bike ride around the run course. I quickly discovered that the water is brackish near Cambridge, where the Choptank River flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The salty water plus a wetsuit made for a relaxing post-swim float!

Eagleman bike and run exits
The bike/run exits.

All of this course investigation was following a bit of advice I got in the lead-up to the race, and I’m glad I did it. The purpose isn’t to memorize the entire thing, but more to get a feel for the general environment and scope out things like aid station locations and potential trouble spots.

Swim start boat ramp
There was a first-timer Q&A which also included a walk around the transition area. This boat ramp was the swim start!

After returning to Gerry Boyle Park, I checked my bike into transition and headed off to dinner. This weekend happened to also coincide with both my mom and dad’s birthdays! We went to an excellent restaurant in Cambridge called Ocean Odyessy to celebrate. Seafood isn’t really my thing, but they still had chicken for my pre-race meal and I have it on good authority that the crab was amazing. Happy birthday, guys!

Race Day

I woke up in the dark on race morning, feeling primed and ready to go! After breakfast, it was a twenty minute drive from my hotel to Cambridge.

Kudos to the Ironman organization and race director for the excellent transportation arrangements at Eagleman. Since venue parking is often limited, leading to traffic snags and anxious athletes, we were told to park at a local middle school instead. Buses would then shuttle athletes and spectators the 15 minutes to the venue, saving lots of time!

We had a classy ride on the shuttle bus.
Sunrise over the Choptank River
Sunrise over the Choptank River.

Upon arriving to the venue, I got to work setting up my transition area. Transition opened at 4:45am and I arrived early, so it was pretty easy to get everything in order! I like to give myself as much time as possible on race morning so I can spend my energy on the race instead of logistics.

It’s important to have an organized transition spot!

With all of my gear ready, I got my wetsuit on and headed over to the swim start. Eagleman has a rolling start, which is very different from Age Group Nationals which uses a mass start. A rolling start has everyone lining up based on their expected swim finish time. It’s also self-seeded. These elements make for a much more orderly swim leg and help to regulate the dreaded “washing machine” that mass starts can sometimes become! The national anthem played as the sun rose over Gerry Boyle Park, and it was time to race.

Waiting at the Eagleman swim start
Lined up and ready for action.


I hit the water pretty early and the quest to become an Eagleman was on. By race morning the water temperature had risen to a still-wetsuit-legal 73 degrees Fahrenheit. This made for a slightly warmer swim than I’m used to in a wetsuit. I made some early passes and then settled in on the first long straightaway.

The swim course was basically perfect as far as I’m concerned. There were lots of buoys which made sighting easy, and the water was relatively calm for a river swim. The sun wasn’t the problem I had originally expected, even on the second straightaway back to shore where I was breathing into it.

Looking at the data, my heart rate was a little higher on the swim than it normally would be at this pace. I think the combination of warmer water and being very pumped up at the start contributed to that.

swim exit
Coming out of the water at the swim exit.

At the pre-race briefing, I was told that there would be strippers. No not THAT type of strippers – wetsuit strippers! This is the first event I’ve done with them. I have to say that they made transition a lot easier! They know how to get a wetsuit off ASAP and without damaging it, even when mine almost got stuck on my watch.

Pulling my westuit down at the Eagleman swim exit
Getting the wetsuit down.

The strippers tossed my wetsuit back to me and I headed off to transition to get on the bike.

That’s when things got interesting.


Everyone goes into their big race with a plan, but our results often have more to do with how well we adapt to the things that mess with our plan. While preparing for Eagleman I spent a lot of time on my nutrition plan, especially on the bike. It’s much easier to control nutrition on the bike, since you can carry more with you and you aren’t bouncing around like you will on the run.

The Plan

My plan centered around multiple bottles of liquid fuel instead of carrying numerous gels. The fluids would be both easier and safer to consume, with no wrappers and no need for a bento box. I settled on a custom Infinit nutrition powder which I would put into all of my bottles: 35oz in the aero bottle between my arms, and then three 24oz bottles mounted behind my seat or on my seat tube. I also brought some chews, which I stored in the small compartment attached to my aero bottle.

Leaving Transition

Running the bike through transition to the mount line involved going through a lot of grass, bouncing the bike around quite a bit. I quickly mounted and was off into town! About 2 minutes into the ride, I rode over a drain cover and felt a large bounce followed by a thunk. I looked back to see one of my bottles, with 24oz of nutrition in it, rolling away on the road.

A beautiful golden hour photo that perfectly captured the moments after losing one of my bike bottles.

I reached back to discover that my remaining behind-the-saddle bottle was about halfway out of it’s cage as well. My best guess is that bouncing across the grass to the mount line moved both bottles up in their cages, but the big bounce over the drain cover was enough to shake one all the way out.

I was going to have to improvise. My original plan was to not stop at any aid stations on the bike. I would carry all of the hydration and fuel I would need. Now almost 25% of that was missing. I moved the seat tube bottle to a saddle cage (it’s more aero!) and secured both bottles there. I was going to have to use those aid stations I’d planned on blowing past!

Improvising with Aid Stations

Picking up bottles on the bike without losing time is tough. You have to slow down into the aid station, sit up, and roll through with your arm out to grab a bottle. These volunteers are pretty fearless at the bike stations. They need to be to hold out bottles so someone can ride by at 10-15mph and grab it out of their hand. The tricky thing was that I had never practiced this type of exchange, so I was every bit as nervous as the volunteers! I was able to grab a bottle at the first aid station. I’d like to thank the volunteers for that because I fumbled the first two bottles as I went through, but they were undeterred and kept holding them out down the line!

Riding through a corner.

The Ride

The Eagleman bike course through Blackwater was every bit as beautiful as advertised. Seriously, this is probably both the best course I’ve ever ridden. I nailed my all my targets on this ride too!

The rumble strips early on made for an interesting variable. Passing in those areas was very, very difficult because the roads were not closed. Riders would have to make the decision to risk riding on the road, stay on the shoulder but be very limited in passing other riders, or ride the shoulder and simply accept getting bounced around while trying to cross the rumble strips to pass. I went with option two. I did make a few passes in this area, but they were carefully timed with driveways where the rumble strips would disappear for a few dozen yards.

Riding my bike through Blackwater
Cruising through the beautiful Blackwater Nature Reserve.

It wasn’t until about halfway through the ride that I first noticed a bit of cramping in my legs. They would briefly lock up when I stopped pedaling to reach for the bottle on my seat tube. It would go away as soon as I started spinning again, so I didn’t think much of it. I kept getting my nutrition in and had tons of energy. Little did I know that it was a harbinger of things to come!

I loved every minute of this ride, and I went into T2 with a lot of energy.

Returning to the transition area with my bike
Returning to the transition area after the bike. High five!


The Eagleman run course is two loops through the town of Cambridge. There were tons of fans, and the locals were very supportive! I passed one house with speakers playing music, and another where a girl had dragged a garden hose down to the road to spray water on athletes who ran past. It felt really great to have so many people out supporting us, especially as things got more difficult.

I was really beginning to feel the cramps in my legs as I exited T2. It was starting to get hot by this time. My main concern as I felt the cramps was that I had nailed my carbohydrate intake but somehow messed up my hydration.

I held a good pace for the first 40 minutes of the run.

I made it through the first 40 minutes of the run at a decent pace, and was returning on my first loop when I had finally hit the wall. My legs were cramping badly. After a brief pit stop at an aid station I got going again, but the damage was done. I had to walk occasionally to keep my legs from completely locking up.

As I reached the end of the first loop, I knew that the cramping situation was not going to improve. The next 6 miles were going to hurt. The turnaround point was within sight of the finish line, and I could even hear the announcer’s voice. This was probably the lowest point of the race for me. I was frustrated knowing that, despite having lots of energy, my legs were simply not going to carry me as fast as I wanted to go that day.

Round Two

As I passed back onto the main course, a boy stuck out his hand and gave me a high five. It’s not an exaggeration to say that high five kept me going for the rest of the race. It reminded me that, while I might not be feeling great at the moment, I might still look a superhero in that kid’s eyes.

I steeled myself and came around the corner to head back out.

I later learned that the salt on my kit was probably from the brackish water of the Choptank River, and not a sign of insanely salty sweat!

I’m sure I looked as bad as I felt at this point in the race, but the last six miles were more mental than physical. Everyone was grabbing ice at the aid stations and pouring water on themselves to stay cool. I continued my new strategy of running for a bit, then walking briefly to shake off the cramps.

I was about one and a half miles from the finish line when I started running with a local athlete named Allen. He really helped me get through that final push to the finish line! As we got there I found out he still had to do his second loop of the course, but he directed me to head over to the tent of his triathlon club, Cambridge Multisport, for a cold towel and chips once I finished. The people at the CMS tent were some of the nicest I’ve ever met at a race, and I’d like to thank them for taking care of me even though I wasn’t a member and they had no idea who I was aside from “Allen said to find you!”

Finish Line

I passed the turnaround point and finally saw the red carpet and arch ahead of me. This is where I saw my sister by the fence. She cheered and took off running to get the rest of the family, while I went down the chute as fast as my legs could carry me!

Running down the red carpet. You can see my brother-in-law Matt taking pictures here too!
Entering the finish line chute at Eagleman
The finish line from Matt’s perspective.

Running down that red carpet and hitting the finish line was an amazing way to cap off the toughest race I’ve done so far. Eagleman definitely lived up to the hype. It was hot and humid; a fast course but a challenging environment. The people of Cambridge are amazing, and I’d like to thank them again for both coming out to support all the athletes and especially for their volunteer efforts! Without people like them, events like Eagleman wouldn’t be possible.

Crossing the Eagleman finish line with the timing board in the background
Crossing the Eagleman finish line!


Division (M30-34)51

Official Time: 5:24:34

Full Results

I’d like to take a moment to thank my family for taking this journey with me. Before I signed up for Eagleman, all the way back in November 2022, I asked my dad if this was really what he would want to do on his birthday – watching a triathlon is hard work! He said there was no place he’d rather be. I stayed with my sister Rachel and her husband Matt on the way to Cambridge, and they came down on race day to support me too! I couldn’t have done this without all of them.

family at Eagleman
The whole family came to see the race!

I’m happy with my race at Eagleman. I didn’t get the time I wanted on the run, but the swim and bike legs of the race were exactly what I trained for. Considering that this was the first 70.3 I’ve competed in, I did well and learned a number of valuable lessons about myself and the race distance that will help my approach for the next one.

With that, thanks for reading!

If you’re interested in coaching, get in touch with me here.

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