My first Triathlon
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Beach2Battleship Half Iron Distance Triathlon - Triathlon
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Wilmington, North Carolina
Set Up Events
55F / 13C
= 5h 29m 27s
= M 45-49
Age Group Rank
We flew out of Phoenix overnight on Wednesday to arrive in Charlotte on Thursday morning. I put together the bike and took it for a test ride. After spending the evening with Jenna’s family, I left for Wilmington by myself on Friday morning. After getting into town, I spent the rest of the afternoon going from check in to the expo to transition doing all of the errands and chores required for a complicated point to point race. Transition bags and equipment needed to be dropped off at both transition areas and bikes needed to be checked in at the first transition area. My running joke was that it wasn’t so much a race as it was a mission to collect all of the things that you had left all over the region on Friday and if you arrive at the finish with all of your stuff, you win.
Being my first ½ iron race in a couple of years, and my biggest event of the season, I did set out a few goals
(which I typically avoid doing, especially on a course with which I am unfamiliar
). I wanted to break my PR for a ½, which was 6:26
(at Soma in 2009 when I was training for Ironman Arizona. I wanted to break the time I set when I was theoretically in better condition, younger, and racing on a flatter, ‘easier’ course
). Further, I wanted to break 6 hours. A bonus would be PRs for each of the three disciplines. My current condition and everything I read about the course told me that these goals would be challenging but reasonable.
After taking one shuttle from the hotel to the transition area, setting up, and taking a second shuttle to the swim start
(did I mention that this is a logistically complicated race?
), the waiting for the start began. I allowed a lot of time to keep any pre-race complications at bay, but that meant arriving at the start close to an hour and a half before I was due to get in the water. I had worn some clothes that would keep me warm and could be placed in the Salvation Army bins when it was time to race
(anything brought to the start would be thrown away or donated
). The start area was in the 40s, so I was glad to have dressed warmly for all of the sitting around. It would be warmer in the water once I got in, but I was shivering before I put the wetsuit on. Eventually, it was time to get in and get started.
01m 52s / 100 yards
Due to the fact that the swim course goes with the current, it has a reputation of being a very fast
) swim. The joke is that a potato chip bag dropped at the start can finish the swim. The water was comfortable at 74 degrees, and I was well trained. However, I was not prepared for the chop that the current would bring. As I got started, I was being thrown around. I struggled for a while to get a rhythm, without success for about 10-15 minutes. Finally, after reaching the first turn buoy, the chop calmed some and I was able to get my swimming stroke started. I made steady progress after that. The only other complication during the swim was when a guy swam over me and clubbed me over the back of the head in the process.
Overall, this was not my best swim experience by a longshot. I was frustrated that I had gotten off to such a shaky start, but told myself that it was a minor setback, the current would help my time, and there would be close to 70 miles of racing to make up some time after getting out of the water. I pulled it together, aimed for the finish, and got through the rest. I looked at my watch and saw that the current had carried me to a personal best ½ iron swim. Deep down, I knew my performance didn’t necessarily merit it, but I would take it.
There was a long run from the dock to the transition area. I stopped at the showers to rinse off the salt water
(this might seem like a waste of time, but imagine the chafing that can result from being covered in salt and biking/running for an additional 5+ hours
), and had to get everything from the swim into a transition bag and hand it off to a volunteer. I probably could have gotten through a little faster, but there were some factors that took some time.
2h 49m 59s
While I wanted to take advantage of a nice, long bike segment to bank some time, I decided to hold back a little bit to save my legs for the run, where I have a tendency to fall apart. I knew the key to reaching my race goals would be the run course and I didn’t want to sacrifice that to put up a good bike split. I wanted to maintain a consistent, comfortable effort. I made my way through the faster swimmers who were now ahead of me and thought that eventually the course would thin out a bit and I could settle in. While the course was populated, it wasn’t overly congested and I was able to make passes without too much traffic.
When we turned North after mile 20, we were heading straight into the wind. It got a little tougher to maintain speed, but I wanted to focus on the effort and not watch the clock or the miles. I kept focusing on keeping the pedals turning regardless of the wind or terrain. When we turned off the highway and onto the country roads, the course thinned out, the wind relented and the pace quickened. While the conditions had improved, the discomfort began to set in. While the saddle was getting uncomfortable and my back and shoulders began to ache, I suspected that I was having a pretty good ride and I just needed to remain focused and finish it out. I would have a tailwind heading back into town and progress should be quick.
I turned South onto the highway and was enjoying a nice tailwind. I saw the 100 mile sign for the full ironman course, which meant that I had gone 44 miles and was now 12 miles from the end of the bike course. Things were moving quickly.
As I approached a railroad crossing a few miles later, the back end of the bike felt strange. I crossed the tracks and stopped to check. Sure enough, the rear tire was squishy and fast approaching flat. Out of curiosity, I checked my watch and saw that I was only three miles from the end. I did a quick calculation and saw that I would have easily had a PR bike split if I wasn’t currently stopped and working on the bike. Bad break, but I would need to be efficient, fix it, and start thinking about the run.
I worked quickly, and didn’t delay much with double checking since it really only needed to hold for 3 miles or less than 10 minutes. When I got back on the road, I compared my watch with the Garmin and saw that I had lost 8 minutes. Even though it was disappointing, it wasn’t catastrophic. The important thing was to shake it off, gather myself, and get ready to run. I rolled into the convention center with 13 miles to go in the race season.
I might have had delays in T1, but this transition was an utter fiasco. I handed off the bike and headed to the transition bag area. One volunteer was calling out my number, and another volunteer was saying the bag wasn’t there. I started to feel my anxiety level rising as I approached the spot where I saw that she was looking for bag 1090. My number was 1290. Miscommunication. I went to the right spot, found my bag and changed into my running shoes. I put the bag back on the peg and started to head out. A volunteer was trying to direct me to the changing tent, but I was already changed. I asked her how to get to the run course and she pointed past the changing tent, where I saw a bag drop sign. I asked if we were supposed to take our bags there instead of leaving them in their places. She asked for my race number and said they would work it out. I decided I didn’t want to make someone else correct my mistake and also didn’t want to take the chance that the bag would get lost or be difficult to find when I was picking them up after the finish. I went back, got the bag, and dropped it with the others before proceeding to the run course. Disaster.
2h 17m 18s
10m 29s min/mile
After the swim and bike, the thought of running 13 miles had limited appeal, but I took the opportunity to check my current time and that provided some motivation. I would be able to break 6 hours if I could manage less than a 2:18 ½ marathon. While my previous best in the course of a triathlon was 2:43, my best standalone time is 1:47, and my current training indicated that I could manage it. Of course, it had been over three years since I had run that far off the bike. While I was aware of the time, I tried to put it aside and just focus on running my best and letting the chips fall where they would. I would look at the time later, after I had at least a few miles done.
Aside from a steep hill about 1 ½ miles in, I limited walking only to aid stations as I took in a cup each of water and sports drink. I navigated downtown and got into the park. I felt like my pace was good
) and steady. I refrained from checking my watch until the turnaround. At the turnaround point, I checked my watch and did some quick math as I made a bathroom stop. I was right at 5 hours elapsed and was at mile seven. While I hadn’t given myself a cushion, if I could string together six 10 minutes miles in a row, I would break six. I thought back to the eight minutes I lost on the bike course, the rough swim start, and the slow transitions and wished I had some of that time back. Regardless, I told myself to keep pushing and don’t let up until six hours had passed and hope was lost. It was a mental game but it provided some motivation.
I glanced at the Garmin occasionally and saw that my pace was consistently under 10 minutes, but also knew I was giving some time back when I took in fluids at the aid stations. I was counting on the remaining course to be more downhill than up and hoped my pace would reflect the terrain. As the miles counted down, I put the remaining distances in context. Four miles left – a run with the dogs. Two miles left – a run around the neighborhood loop. When I headed back into downtown and felt the Garmin count off the 12th mile, I checked again. I had just over 11 minutes left for 1.1 miles – right on pace, but no time to spare.
As if there hadn’t been enough little difficulties already, a pedestrian walked right across the street in front of me as he was crossing and bumped me when he came from behind a car. In addition, there was an aid station about four tenths of a mile from the finish and the volunteers said that there was a mile left. While it was an innocent mistake, at that point it just seemed kind of cruel. If there was actually a mile, my Garmin was way off and my goal was shot. Anyway, round the corner and keep going. I could now see the finish line and had less than two minutes to spare. I entered the finish chute and was counting with my watch in my head and knew that I had made it with only seconds to go. While it was likely the most painful mile I have run in a long time, it was also the most rewarding. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and elation as I turned in my chip and picked up my finisher’s gear.
I wandered to the food area and had a couple of pieces of pizza and a Dr. Pepper and reflected on the day. I went back to the convention center, picked up my bike and bags and went back to the hotel.
If you normally receive these race reports, you know they can be lengthy, and this one is the longest one in a while. That has a lot to do with the event, its importance to me, and how much there is to say after the fact. Regardless, thank you for reading. As I stated above, I had a lot of goals associated with the race, and I am proud that I accomplished most of them
(no PR on the bike, but had it not been for that lost eight minutes – well…
) . While I am happy with the times, I am more satisfied with the way I got there. I have a tendency to be a little weak mentally in some races and when something goes wrong, I let myself off the hook, stop pushing, and go into cruise mode. I had a lot of small adversities to deal with in this race – chop in the water, clubbed in the head on the swim, flat on the bike, flustered in transition, bumped by a pedestrian and given an inaccurate distance on the run. I didn’t fold this time. I kept pushing, and ended up with the result I wanted – even though I sure didn’t make it easy on myself.
This is a well run race and a good course. It is a little confusing, but the organizers do a great job pulling off a complicated event. The course has potential for high winds, choppy water, and cold temperatures, but if the weather is good, it can be a fast course. The feel of the event is pretty big and comparable to larger branded events.
Last updated: 2015-10-21 12:00 AM
00:39:13 | 2112 yards | 01m 52s / 100yards
Point to point in the Banks Channel – current aided
74F / 23C
Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
02:49:59 | 56 miles | 19.77 mile/hr
From Wrightsville Beach, a point to point North through the peninsula and then back South to Wilmington
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Shoe and helmet removal
02:17:18 | 13.1 miles | 10m 29s min/mile
Out to a park South of Wilmington and back downtown to the finish.
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]
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