2021 Ironman Musselman 70.3 Triathlon Race Report!
July 11th, 2021 in Geneva, New York at Seneca Lake State Park
Weather: mid 70s and cloudy with rain beginning around noon
Water temp: 70.5 degrees - wetsuit legal!
This race was easily the best weather I’ve had for a half Ironman and lots of fast times were had, even an almost 20 minute 70.3 PR for me. This one was my 8th 70.3 race so hopefully I can share some insights and comparisons to other courses I’ve done.
This was a much smaller race than any other Ironman- branded race I’ve done. There were 1,050 finishers, which was probably a reduced capacity due to COVID. Even in normal capacity though I can’t see this race being as large as ones like Chattanooga or Augusta 70.3. The smaller size was pretty amazing in terms of a less crowded bike course.
We arrived in Geneva the Friday evening before the race just in time for athlete check-in. In this post-COVID era, athlete check-in times are selected about a week before the race. The race venue was beautiful and all the volunteers were very nice!
We stayed in this amazing cottage AirBnb in the neighboring town of Canandaigua, which was about a 25 minute drive from the race venue. I highly recommend it!
On Saturday morning before heading to bike check-in, I did a quick bike inspection to make sure everything was in good working order and found a cut in one of my tires! Luckily I had brought a spare tire. Changing a tire wasn't necessarily how I planned on spending the morning but I was glad I found it then and not in the middle of the bike course from rough, broken pavement. Alanna got to witness the "fun" of changing a Conti GP 5000 tire too
My bike check in time was 1-2pm which worked out very well with the in-person athlete briefing beginning at 2pm. Nothing really surprising in the briefing but I always enjoy listening to understand little nuances that are unique to each race.
With the outdoor temp only in the upper 70s at bike check-in, I didn't worry about letting any of the air out of my tires. I knew there was a chance of rain and storms overnight, so after some internal debate, I racked my bike with the outer bar brakes for more stability than racking by the seat.
Race morning! Alarm went off at 4:15am, I ate a quick Oreo and banana breakfast, covered myself in sunscreen & Ruby's lube, filled all my bottles, and headed out the door at 4:53am for the drive over to Geneva. For anyone considering staying in Canandaigua, it was a very easy drive on race morning and parking was also very easy to find.
We got to watch a beautiful sunrise on race morning during our drive and walk to transition. It was pretty nice to have daylight for transition set up.
I went through my typical pre-race bike check in the morning to ensure all gears were working, tires inflated, and brakes working/ nothing sticking. The bathroom line seemed long, but I waited less than 5 minutes to go into a portable toilet just before the race. Transition closed around 6:15 and the first swimmer went into the water at 6:30.
Jacki and I seated ourselves in the 40-45 minute swim time estimation group, and our race began just before 7am! She had an amazing swim, and I was just glad to get out of the water and onto the bike!
The swim - probably the hardest 70.3 swim I’ve done. With starting further back, the waves, turbulence, and crowding on the swim made for a challenge. These factors were probably the culprit in causing panic and quite a few DNFs per George, watching rescue boats bring people back to shore. Most people I talked to agreed it was a challenging swim even for confident swimmers. With a morning water temp of 70, I was glad to have a wetsuit!
In the middle of the swim, it was like a washing machine and for the first time ever I felt motion sick during a swim. I swam with my face out of the water for about 100 yards before I got to a calmer section and got back in the groove back in to shore.
I was all smiles getting out of the water and excited to take on the bike course.
Transition - the shortest distance T1 of any Ironman race I’ve done. It was only like 0.2 miles. Transition was directly across from swim start and swim exit so that was really convenient!
Bike - overall this was a great bike course. The first half was uphill and into a headwind, and the second half was downhill with a tailwind so they balanced out. The 10 mile uphill from mile 21 to 31 into a headwind was very mentally draining. At the top of the hill, the course turned onto Townline Rd which was the road section many were concerned about due to lots of potholes and broken up pavement. There had been a lot of work the week before to make this section rideable, and with some close attention and staying out of aero through here to ride the good spots, I got through it unscathed!
The second half of the ride was so fast with a downhill, and once it turned onto smooth asphalt it was an amazing ride back into town! The bike course was listed to have 1402’ of gain but everyone was in the 1700 to 1800 range. I managed my fastest ever 70.3 bike average pace and finally broke that 3 hour mark!
Transition 2 - also very fast and easy! The run out was very simple to find and no troubles were had.
Run - I loved this run so much! It was changed the week before to be two repeats of an out and back course so I got to see my friends (Jacki, Holly, Sarah, and Katie) often and pass by George 4 times!
I felt great on the run and held a comfortable and consistent pace aside from the mile long hill each loop. The rain began with about 30 minutes left of my run (and I love running in the rain!) My fastest half marathon in a 70.3 by 10 minutes and finally got sub-2 hours!
With less than a half-mile to go, I couldn't help but tap into my sprinter roots for a little pick up to the finish line. That red carpet feel never gets old!
Overall I’d highly recommend this race to others even as a first 70.3 experience. The bike and run are both very do-able and overall allow fast times and PRs. You can’t beat the host city/ area atmosphere either. It’s a perfect race to turn into a vacation!
Having my amazing husband George and my friends to join me made it such an incredible experience
Now for some general comparisons to the other 70.3 races I've done.
2017 - Goose Pond Half Iron (Alabama): similar swim, both wetsuit legal, Musselman had more waves/chop. Musselman had much better bike course but about twice the elevation gain. Only 1 bike aid station at the halfway point from what I can remember. Musselman also had a much better run course with less elevation gain.
2017 - Atomic (Toughman Tennessee) Half Iron: similar swim, both wetsuit legal, Musselman had more waves/chop. Bike course was great on both races, very comparable in terms of road surface and elevation (this was the old Atomic bike course before it was changed in 2018 or 2019.) Run course: Musselman had much less elevation gain.
2018 - Ironman Augusta 70.3: This Augusta race was the easiest half iron swim I've ever done as it's downstream with a good current. The Augusta bike course is very comparable to Musselman, probably the most similar bike course to Musselman of any other race. 3 bike aid stations all spaced about 15 miles apart, which is standard for Ironman 70.3 races it seems. The run at Augusta was insanely hot (like real feel nearing 100). Although Augusta run course is totally flat, the heat always makes it challenging.
2019 - Ironman Chattanooga 70.3: This Chattanooga race was the second easiest swim I've ever done, as it's a down river swim like Augusta. The Chattanooga bike course is my favorite bike course of any 70.3 I've done. It had the standard 3 bike aid stations. Chattanooga has slightly more elevation than Musselman, but much of the Chattanooga climbing is mixed into rolling hills rather than long, slow mild grade hills like Musselman and Augusta. The Chattanooga run is much more challenging than Musselman with over double the elevation gain and race day temp in the mid-90s.
2019 - Ironman Augusta 70.3: This year the swim had less of a current than the previous year, but still fast and easy. Bike course: same as above description. Run course: same as above description but even a few degrees hotter in 2019.
2020 - Atomic Half Iron: similar swim, same as 2017 swim. The bike course was a different one with much more climbing than in 2017. This is the most difficult bike course of any half iron I've done. Only 1 aid station on bike course at the Atomic in 2020. Also a challenging run, same course as 2017.
2021 - Ironman Chattanooga 70.3: The swim course in Chattanooga is officially lengthened, with the upstream portion permanently cut out and the starting point about 2500yds from the finish. They assume that the current will make you faster so the extra distance shouldn't be an issue. This year the Tennessee River was flowing more slowly, so I finished the swim in the low 40s swim time which is around what I average at most 70.3 swims. Bike course: same as above description. Run course: a few degrees hotter than 2019 and same course.