Posted On:
Friday, July 14, 2023
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Athlete Race Recap: IRONMAN 70.3 Pennsylvania Happy Valley & IRONMAN 70.3 Musselman

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The last couple of weekends have been full of IRONMAN 70.3 racing!

IRONMAN 70.3 Pennsylvania Happy Valley

Dawn O’Shaughnessy raced the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Pennsylvania Happy Valley on Sunday, July 2, 2023 in State College, Pennsylvania!

Dawn used a Triathlon Custom-Built Training Plan to prepare for this race, which she signed up for with a group of her friends. One of her biggest goals for this race was to have fun with said friends. Her other goal was to finish and enjoy the experience. I’m so pleased to say that she accomplished both of these goals!

The road to that finish line on race day was a bit rocky, as traffic and a delayed race start made for a chaotic swim start and seeding. It poured on the bike, and Dawn reports that this bike course is the most difficult course of any that she’s ever raced. (And believe me…Dawn has raced a lot of long course triathlons, so if she says this, it’s legit!) After a soggy half marathon with squishy wet shoes, Dawn experienced the fun finish line in the stadium, complete with a Jumbotron! Congratulations, Dawn!

IRONMAN 70.3 Musselman

IRONMAN 70.3 Musselman has become an annual favorite for Full Circle Endurance athletes, and this year was no exception. Lisa Crockford and Nina Stourman volunteered at the finish line and another eight athletes raced on Sunday, July 9, 2023 in Geneva, New York! Their experiences at this race were as diverse as they are, and every single one of them had a race to be proud of and that I am proud of!

Daria Bakina
A special moment for Nina (left) and Daria (right): Nina presenting Daria with her finisher medal!

Daria has raced IRONMAN 70.3 Musselman before and is a seasoned long-course athlete. However, even experienced athletes can have surprising and tough days, and Daria encountered a lot of adversity during this year’s race.

She had a strong swim, but started having trouble on the bike. Her back seized up and caused her a lot of pain. She managed this and was able to finish the bike course, but knew the run course was going to be a challenge. She was feeling so poorly that she contemplated withdrawing from the race. (When she asked me if she should, I told her in an (obnoxiously) upbeat voice, "No! Adapt, modify, and you will get through this.") She made the choice to continue, and kept modifying her race strategy as-needed to keep her back pain at bay and to keep herself moving.

Daria crossed the finish line running straight into the arms of her mom, Full Circle Endurance athlete Nina Stourman, who was volunteering at the finish line and presented Daria with her finisher medal! This was a hard-fought and well-deserved finish. Congratulations, Daria!

Christina Barker
Lisa (top left), Daria (bottom left), Yvonne Brown (top right), and Christina (bottom right) after Christina's epic finish!

Like her good friend Daria, Christina is a very experienced long-course athlete and has many IRONMAN 70.3 finishes under her belt. This race was actually her first-ever 70.3-distance triathlon finish back when it was still privately owned and before it was acquired by The IRONMAN Group!

This year, Christina had a late start to her training for this race due to personal reasons.  However, starting in April, she was game-on and was laser focused on preparing the best she could for IRONMAN 70.3 Musselman.  On race day, she encountered her first layer of adversity on the swim, coming out of the water within a couple of minutes of the cutoff and way over her projected time.  She struggled to find a good rhythm on the bike, but managed to come into Transition 2 with approximately 14 minutes to spare.  

She started the run and was able to stick to her planned run/walk intervals for the first couple of miles, but was unable to keep up the running. She walked the final 10 miles of the run and was the last official athlete allowed on the second loop of the run, making that cutoff by ONE MINUTE. She crossed the finish line with a small but incredibly enthusiastic crowd of supporters cheering her in.

Her finish time of 9:09 put her 39 minutes over the total allowed time for the race, giving her an official DNF. However, as former Full Circle Endurance athlete Yvonne Brown says, DNF stands for “Did Not Fail.” Despite the day not going the way Christina wanted, she never wallowed in misery or felt sorry for herself. She kept going, determined to do the best with what the day was giving her and to cross the finish line. We can all learn from Christina’s attitude and spirit. Congratulations, Christina!

Neil Beck
Neil (left), Mary (top right), and Lisa (bottom right) in the finisher area post-race!

Neil Beck has been an athlete for more than 55 years, but he still loves to challenge himself with new adventures. We’ve been working together for the last two years, and over that time, the 70.3 distance of triathlon has been a big focus for Neil.

After a very frustrating injury situation that led Neil to (make the very smart decision to) withdraw from IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina in October 2022, he came back strong and had a good finish at IRONMAN 70.3 Florida in December 2022. He wanted to improve his performance for IRONMAN 70.3 Musselman, and boy did he!

Neil has been swimming most of his life and has been a swim coach for a lot of that time.  As such, he’s very proud of his swim.  However, I reminded him that a triathlon is not about executing one discipline very well and then just getting by in the other two; triathlon is about executing three disciplines well.  So, I gave him strict orders to reign it in on the swim and not over swim.  He listened!  He had a strong swim, but not one that overfatigued him for the rest of the race.

Both of Neil’s Transitions were smooth and quick.  He wasn’t able to hold the power that he originally wanted on the bike, but rather that be stubborn about it, he modified his race strategy until he found an effort that was sustainable.  This led him to be able to start the run feeling pretty good.  He was able to maintain a consistent series of run/walk intervals and to follow the plan we had laid out (which included walking the big hill on Lake Front Drive every time he encountered it).  He maintained strong, good form for all 13.1 miles and crossed the finish line with a smile!  

In addition to landing on the podium as 5th place in his age group, Neil’s finish time was over 30 minutes faster than he was in December at IRONMAN 70.3 Florida, and on a harder course with tougher conditions!  This combined with how he felt after the race (tired like he had done something, but not in pain and not beat up) signals that he executed a smart, great race.  Congratulations, Neil!

Carolyn Classen

This was the second time that Carolyn Classen made the trip from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Geneva for IRONMAN 70.3 Musselman, and it was great to see her shine again on this course!

This season, Carolyn has made the choice to be what I call a “Nuanced Racer.” In the past, she’s identified as a “GO! Racer”, but this year, Carolyn is focusing on racing more races and racing more frequently since she loves being at races.

Carolyn seeded herself well on the swim and managed the chop on the first half of the course well.  Once she was on the bike, she cruised along, taking the headwinds in stride while she enjoyed the views.  On the run, she leveraged each aid station to help keep her hydrated, cool, and on the move.  She ran all hills and executed a steady, consistent run, which enabled her to cross the finish line with her fastest 70.3 time since last year’s IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina!  Congratulations, Carolyn!

Rebecca Dottolo

Rebecca Dottolo raced IRONMAN 70.3 Musselman as part of a relay team (they named themselves “Team Brains and Brawn”); she was the runner.  This was a C-Race for Rebecca, as she is in Taper Phase for her A-Goal race taking place in a couple of weeks!  As such, this was a training run that happened to be in a race and it followed a normal week of training for her.  She ran a very strong half marathon and helped carry her team to 9th place overall out of all relay teams!  She also gained some valuable intel about what works best for her in a race situation, namely that it’s in her best interests to carry her hydration vest with her and not rely exclusively on the aid stations to make sure she maintains sufficient hydration status.  This is an important lesson that we will be putting to use in her A-Goal Race and is a great illustration of how C-Races can be used to effectively test different strategies and refine the final strategy that will be implemented on A-Race Day.  Congratulations, Rebecca and Team Brains and Brawn!

Mary Houck

Mary Houck signed up for IRONMAN 70.3 Musselman on her own, but at my urging, she agreed to treat it like a B-Race and use it as a testing ground for everything that she intends to do in her A-Race, which is in a few months.

Mary overheated on the swim; the water temperature was 76.0ºF on race morning, making the race wetsuit legal by 0.1ºF.  She decided to wear her wetsuit, but this ended up illustrating the principle of “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”  For Mary, this wasn’t the right call.  It took her a very long time to settle into the swim and to calm her anxiety about feeling overheated.  Despite this being a negative experience, it was a great learning opportunity and will give Mary valuable insight when she makes decisions in future races.  (For those of you reading this: Just because a swim is wetsuit legal does not mean you MUST wear a wetsuit.  Make the gear choices that work best for you, even if you look different from a majority of the other athletes.)

On the bike, Mary was stung by a bee and then got not one but TWO flat tires. Yes, TWO flat tires at two separate times.  While incredibly frustrating, Mary handled all of this well.  She has tubeless tires, which means that swapping to a tube is a very messy proposition.  She was able to get a bike pump at an aid station and from bike support to inflate these flats and get her back to Transition safely.  Even if someone isn’t allergic to bee stings, the histamine reaction to a bee sting will impact one’s ability to bike at their normal capacity, so Mary had to modify her effort accordingly.  All things considered, she had a great bike split.

We know Mary had a great bike split because she was able to run/walk successfully for the entire half marathon.  She crossed the finish line without aggravating any of the ongoing injuries we’re managing and feeling strong.  It was a great B-Race for her where we learned a lot about how to optimize her A-Race Plan.  Congratulations, Mary!

Colleen Krug
Pre-race with Colleen (left) and Rebecca (right)!

Colleen Krug was the lone rookie in this batch of athletes, and IRONMAN 70.3 Musselman was her first-ever long-course triathlon! She comes from a running background and has done a few shorter triathlons, but this was her first go at this distance!

Prior to hiring me in February, Colleen hadn’t ever ridden more than 30-35 miles.  Needless to say, training for an IRONMAN 70.3 was a new, big, and exciting challenge for her!  She was incredibly coachable and displayed a true learning spirit.  She took everything I handed her in training in stride, really pushing herself outside of her comfort zone, especially on the bike.  She cruised into race week well-trained and ready to take on this new-to-her challenge.

Colleen seeded herself well on the swim and then headed out on the bike course.  She had an incredibly fast-for-her bike split, and then she started the run.  Unfortunately, the wheels started to come off 2-3 miles into the half marathon.  Colleen bonked…hard.  I can relate to this on a very real level, as I did this myself when Musselman Triathlon (as it was called before The IRONMAN Group acquired it) was my first 70.3-distance triathlon over a decade ago.  Needless to say, Colleen felt miserable.  Despite how awful she was feeling, she kept going, modifying her strategy, walking when needed and consistently moving forward.  She crossed the finish line feeling tired, but accomplished.

Every single endurance athlete is going to learn by doing; I’ve not only gone through this as an athlete myself, but I see this every day in my work as an endurance coach.  I can share experiences and my best advice with every athlete I encounter, but there is a certain amount of this that must be learned from actual experience, not from someone telling you what the experience will be like.  We become smarter and stronger athletes because of our experiences in training and racing.  This means that even those performances that don’t live up to our initial expectations still have incredible value.  In all honesty, I actually admire athletes more when they manage tough days than when everything goes as planned.  Colleen leveraged the experience she has from other endurance sports (it does cross-pollinate!) and managed what the day gave her so incredibly well, and this led her to that finish line.  You are an IRONMAN 70.3 finisher, Colleen!  Congratulations!

Gerad Levey
First-ever photo with Gerad after five years of working together!

I’ve been coaching Gerad for five years now, and despite him being local (he lives in Rochester, I’m from Syracuse), I’ve never had the joy of cheering for him at a race until this year’s IRONMAN 70.3 Musselman.

Gerad is incredibly focused and hardworking and he brings a lot of 70.3-distance triathlon experience to the table; he put all of these skills to use in this year’s race.  He had a solid swim in choppy conditions.  Like so many of the other Full Circle Endurance athletes who raced, Gerad encountered adversity on the bike.  The ambient conditions (extremely humid with a high dew point plus wind) made the bike course challenging.  Fortunately, the back half of the course was a smidge easier than the front half.  On the run, Gerad also had to modify his race strategy, and he ended up walking a bit more than he planned.  He kept moving steadily through the half marathon and finished with a grin on his face.  He told me when we were chatting after the race that this was the most physically challenging 70.3-distance race he’s done to date.  He definitely earned this one!  Congratulations, Gerad!


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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