I signed up for Ironman Maryland earlier this summer after the Goose wasn’t responding to treatment she was receiving on her IT band and it was looking increasingly likely that she was not going to be ready to race in time for our original goal of racing Ironman Mont Tremblant.
IMMD was a new race on the M-Dot circuit, and honestly the timing of the creation of the race and the introduction of Ironman’s transfer program could not have been better as we both transferred into IMMD with minimal headache.
Honestly, I was not very excited about IMMD, I prefer hills and scenery over flat and fast, but there was no way we were going to take the time off work to travel to two Ironmans or pay for lodging for both, and the Goose was actually excited about not having to worry about hills for her first Ironman, so we decided on IMMD and didn’t look back.
As such, I had one goal for this race. SPEED. Race the fastest possible race I could and set my IM PR that would likely stand ‘til damnation since I wasn’t interested in racing another flat race as long as I lived.
We drove up over to Cambridge on Thursday morning and went straight to check-in. Since it was Thursday, we some of the first people there and check-in was a breeze. Seriously, like 5 minutes. After that we headed over to the Merchandise Tent and I picked up a couple pint glasses and the requisite IM shirts with everyone’s names on it.
In the two days leading up to race day, we just hit our last pre-race bricks and dropped off our bikes and bags. All super easy, with great volunteers.
I had one hiccup during our pre-race workouts that would be a sign of things to come. I noticed that the integrated hydration bladder on my Shiv had leftover water sitting in it from the week prior and I can’t stand the plasticky taste water gets when it sits in those so I dumped it out and reinstalled the bladder just before dropping my bike off.
The weather was beautiful and we made the drive in from our house in St. Michaels (about 45 mins away due to a serious lack of housing options…), but got there early and were able to park close to transition on one of the side streets. Dropping off our final bags and setting up our bikes went quickly and painlessly, but unfortunately we were not able to get into the water for a practice swim, but instead had to line up with our pace group and get ready to hop in the water.
The swim at IMMD was a two-loop swim and slightly confusing if you hadn’t pre-swam the course, but luckily we both had. I lined up with the 1:00-1:10 group given that was about my time at Lake Placid last year and I had gotten a little faster since then. Soon we were running down the boat ramp and chasing the first turn buoy to get our day started. The water temperature was perfect (around 70) and not too choppy, but man-oh-man was the swim rough. I was fighting elbows and feet all day long, and halfway through my second lap had one of my goggles knocked just loose enough to fill with water. Rather than stop I figured, I’d sight it in the rest of the way with just my left eye and was able to make it back easily enough. I swam a very solid line, despite others seemingly having swam a rather long route, and felt like I had a VERY strong swim; however, there must have been a bit of a current as my time didn’t demonstrate that as I had a 1:15 (23 AG/254 OA).
The bike course is a two-loop lollipop course that leaves Cambridge and runs through the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. The course is super flat and has the potential for some blazing bike splits, but I had ridden a few times in preparation for the race and knew the wind could be a MAJOR factor and in fact, in one of my training rides, turned what was typically an average speed of 21 mph or so into an hour with a 12 mph average. I knew that the winds typically picked up in the afternoon and were strongest in the Wildlife Refuge, so my goal was to hopefully be heading back to Cambridge before it got too strong.
The first loop of the bike went really well from a speed perspective (21 mph average), but I immediately had trouble with my hydration. During the athlete briefing, I was told about an aide station that was set up around mile 25 that would be in a potentially hazardous position at the base of a very mild descent from a bridge you cross. I had decided that I would steer well clear of the aid station on the first loop, as I knew it was going to be hectic, and wait until the following aid station to refill my hydration bladder. This would have been a smart move had my hydration bladder not gotten twisted when I reinstalled it the day before the race and ran out of water less than a mile after the aid station. My twisted hydration bladder would end up causing me to not be able to quickly refill it at aid stations and saw me run out of water 3 separate times before finally, out of exasperation, stuffing multiple bottles into my tri suit like I was delivering water to the peloton in the Tour de France and holding on to them for ten miles to the next aid station.
On the second loop, the wind started to pick up, although not nearly as bad as it could have been, and I had even more nutrition issues as I started my second bottle of concentrated Infinit nutrition mix. I was completely unable to choke down any of my nutrition on the second loop and knew I was going to pay for this later.
All things considered, I ended up with a very solid bike finishing in 5:41 (26 AG/374 OA).
If you have done the Eagleman run course, forget anything you know about it because this is not the same run. I cannot stress how much better the IMMD run course is than Eagleman, I thought it was awesome. The run starts off the same and makes its way to the West Side Bypass where it turns around and retraces its steps past transition and through Cambridge before heading back to transition for your second and third laps. The course really made it easy to see family and friends both spectating and racing and aside from just a few recommended changes, I thought it was great.
My run started out well despite my nutrition issues on the bike, I started feeling much better and was able to eat and drink my run nutrition while holding a steady pace. I kept on a steady 8:50/mile pace through 20 miles and was within a 10k of completing my first IM under 11:00 when my lack of nutrition on the bike finally caught up with me and I completely bonk’d.
This is actually the first time I’ve ever experienced this during a race and I cannot explain how quickly I changed from feeling like I was about to nail a great Ironman to being completely confounded as to why I could no longer force my mind to override the fatigue in my legs. I spent the next few miles walking and feeling absolutely terrible, downing sodas and water at aid stations until I could finally will my body to start a slow jog again.
I eventually did make it to the finish line and turned in an Ironman PR with an 11:21 (23 AG / 269 OA). I missed my ideal goal time by 21 minutes, but given the issues I had throughout the day, am extremely happy with how my race turned out .
Observations on Ironman Maryland:
- Overall, Ironman did an incredible job with this for their first year running the event and the volunteers were absolutely amazing. The event was well run and a really enjoyable experience and the changes they made to the Eagleman and Chesapeakeman courses were well thought out and made the event better. I was actually very surprised with how much I ended up enjoying the flat course and would not hesitate to recommend it to someone considering the race.
- Lodging is difficult and so is getting around Cambridge due to the size. Stay as close as possible to the transition area.
- The swim here was slow, only two people swam under 1:00, which is not common. The course is billed as an opportunity to set a PR, if you want to market it that way, try to find a way to normalize the swim times.
- The bike course can be a bit lonely, but that is to be expected when the course meanders through the Wildlife Refuge; however, I think as the community starts to embrace this race more and more tri clubs get involved (like Team Z next year), there will be opportunities to set up Cheer Station Outposts that will make the bike a lot more fun.
- The run course is vastly improved over Eagleman and I honestly hope they change that course to be more similar to IMMD. The only issues I had with the course were short sections that along Great Marsh Park through the grass and the division of the road into three sections into Cambridge. The narrow sections of the course here made it rather difficult to pass people as the course gradually became more congested.