After finishing at IRONMAN 70.3 Eagleman in June, I had several goals for my next race. One was to have some legs left for the run. Two was to better my time. Three was to make IRONMAN All World Athlete status for the 2024 season. Thus the search for the next finish line began! I eventually settled on IRONMAN 70.3 Muncie, one of the longest-running triathlons in North America.
IRONMAN 70.3 Muncie was previously known as the Muncie Endurathon before becoming an IRONMAN race in 2011. It also placed in multiple categories of the North America IRONMAN 70.3 Athlete’s Choice Awards, including being voted as the best overall race in North America!
I arrived on Friday morning for packet pick-up. Muncie is only two hours away from Columbus, and as much as I love big travel races, sometimes it’s nice to be close to home and have simplified logistics.
At the Horizon Convention Center I discovered that this race means a lot to the locals – in fact, the mayor himself was participating! Many streets had banners welcoming the triathletes, and everyone I spoke to was excited to have us in town. The mayor was even taking pictures with people next to one of the signs.
After packet pick-up and the race briefing, I headed over to the race venue at Prairie Creek Reservoir and met up with RCT Athlete Aaron O’Rourke! Aaron started working with RCT Athletics in October 2022. After completing the American Triple-T ST in May he decided to set his sights on a 70.3 race for the summer. We biked the run course together, then checked our bikes into transition and headed off to rest up and prepare for the race to come.
I was staying with friends about 50 minutes away from the race site, so I woke up early on race morning despite the 8am start time.
After the traditional setting up of transition in the dark, there was a pretty long wait before the race started. The entire venue was laid out very well, with a nice TriClub area near the finish line and lots of bathrooms.
We headed down to the swim start, which was about 1/3mi from the transition area. There was a long fenced-off corridor for athletes to take from the swim exit to transition. This type of setup makes for a longer T1.
The swim got off to a good start. I seeded myself in the 30-35 minute time bracket as part of my overall strategy for this race, which was to take it easier on the swim/bike legs so I’d have enough gas left in the tank for a better run.
Being a reservoir lake, the waters were calm and sighting was easy. There were lots of kayaks and paddle boards to keep an eye on swimmers as well. This was an uneventful swim, which was one of the things that made it a great swim!
I went in to the bike with a plan: slow down! Not the usual goal of a racing athlete, but in long-distance triathlon sometimes the key to going faster is to actually go slower. Some of you may remember my excellent ride at IRONMAN 70.3 Eagleman, which turned out to be an overreach when my legs ran out of gas on the run. My goal for Muncie was to keep output on the bike under control. No chasing after getting passed. No uphill surges!
After a quick transition (especially considering the distance from the swim exit to the transition area) I hopped on my bike and was off. No lost bottles this time!
I was passed within minutes of getting on the road, which was expected, but this person barked “STAY TO THE RIGHT!” as they went by. As a competitive person this was a big test of my restraint. They didn’t get very far past me before dropping back into the normal lane, and I set a mini-goal for myself: I would not leapfrog them for 10 miles. I’m happy to say that at mile 11, I passed them back and never saw them again!
The IRONMAN 70.3 Muncie bike course was relatively flat (although compared to Eagleman it was rugged) and mostly straightaways on a closed state highway. This made for a pretty straightforward ride.
I wasn’t planning to stop at the aid stations, but riding through them was still a blast. Volunteers make the race go round! There was one particular intersection where locals and supporters lined up to watch the cyclists. Seeing a man there in a Mr. Potatohead suit definitely broke the tension a bit during this ride!
I felt pretty good as I returned to transition. My legs were in good shape for the run, and I didn’t have any impending cramps this time!
The run at IRONMAN 70.3 Muncie is classified as rolling which is a good description for the (mostly) gentle hills along the out-and-back course. It had more shade than Eagleman, which isn’t saying much, but it would become a factor as the race wore on! The weather had become warmer in the days before the race. On race day, it was projected to be as high as 80 degrees Fahrenheit by noon! This had to be considered in planning. Heat can drastically increase the effort required to keep muscles firing.
There’s an old maxim in triathlon: “bike for show, run for dough”. That was pretty much my plan for Muncie, and I reached the run leg with plenty of gas left in the tank. I was running well out of transition and averaged 7:29min/mi for the first half. Right on target!
By the time I reached the turn-around it had become quite hot. My pace began to slow down as the heat and fatigue set in, but it never crashed completely. My average on the second half was 8:49min/mi – a significant improvement!
I said that the hills were gentle on the run, but that isn’t entirely accurate. There is one brutal hill: the very last hill before the finish (because of course). It was more of a march than a glorious charge to the Muncie finish line!
The finish line was part of the reason that this race was voted as one of the best in North America, and I really enjoyed the experience. The hill was killer, but then the chute is right there! The announcer was reading off names and team affiliations (heads up: RCT Athletics is now an official IRONMAN TriClub!) as athletes completed their journeys. Thankfully the post-race food was not pasta salad this time!
Official Time: 5:17:52
There was a bit of chaos in the weeks prior to this event. I may talk about that in a future article, but for now I’ll just say that chip & seal roads are not your friend! Despite the lead-up, this was a great race. The execution was much better here than at Eagleman. I dropped a little over 6 minutes but more than that I felt good for the majority of the race. With the right training, pacing, and nutrition it’s possible to not only go faster but to feel better doing it!
Thanks for reading!