Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Recap: From Doughnut Holes to Stripper Poles

2011 Bling
OK, in theory my race season started underground at The Groundhog Run 10k but I also didn't see any stripper poles while I was in Vegas either.  It has a nice rhyme to it though, right?

I'm going to do my best to NOT write another novel but to bullet point this year and some goals for new year.

  • Did my first triathlon!  That was the whole goal of this thing, right?  I followed that up with 5 more swim/bike/run events.
  • Met a TON of cool people whether that be online through Twitter and Dailymile but many of them in real life: Drew, Bryan, Kyle, Travis, Mark, Ryan, Mark, Lori, Becca, Jeff, and probably a bunch of others I can't remember right now (I'm trying to keep this short, remember!!)
  • Found the competitive bug.  By August I was really trying to compete.
  • Experienced my first race/training related injury.  Required a lot of mental adjustments.
  • Completed my first half-ironman within my main time goal, under 6 hours!
  • Completed my second full marathon under the glitz of Las Vegas.  Missed my PR by 61 seconds.  Pretty good considered I had 3.5 weeks of training + all the other fun that came with it.
  • Commuting to/from work!  Even one time by foot!
  • Nutrition is important.  I focused on race day nutrition this year, especially for my endurance events.  Working on this during training was extremely important because I often did fairly long workouts before I left for work.  Proper nutrition kept me from passing out at work.
  • Time in the Swim/Saddle/Street.  Training for the half-ironman was crazy.  Even though I got injured and readjusted my training, I still got my largest volume weeks in.  It was the speed work weeks that got cut short.  I found out I am capable of getting up at 3:30am to get a bike ride in or 4:00am for a run so I can get to the gym for a swim at 5:30am.
  • Competitive Nature.  As mentioned above, I like the competitive nature of triathlons.  It's one thing to run a 5k but to see how you compare to other participates from an individual sport (even transitions!) to the entire event is quite driving.
  • Training partners kick ass.  I did a few training runs in the 2010 with family and friends but 90% of my miles were alone.  I really enjoyed training with friends and family in 2011, especially Joe VI.  Even though he may not realize it, but he kept me going back in September and October when I really wanted to just sit at home and "nurse" my broken rib.  Pretty much all my training during that time was with Joe.  I'm looking forward to training with Joe in 2012.... even if two months of that will be remotely (see below).
Speaking of 2012
  • BQ.  If you haven't caught on what BQ by now means... well, 2012 is my year to Boston Qualify.  That's the goal.  My entire year will be dedicated to running 26.2 at a 7 mile pace.  Note: I completed the Las Vegas Marathon with an average 8:53 pace.  I have A LOT of work to do.  My "A" race will be the Chicago Marathon on October 7th but I may target a marathon in early September if I feel like I'm ready.
  • Strength Training.  I skipped all planned strength training in 2011.  I may seek a trainer at the gym to help me with this but we'll see.  I'm still not going to be able to show you how to get to the muscle beach, but I want a nice strong core to keep me running upright.
  • Triathlons will be used for cross training.  I do enjoy them but I'm going to swim and bike as cross training.
  • Nutrition.  I'm going to STOP the mentality of "I race so I can eat".  I need to be smarter about my daily intake of foods.  Granted, I'm still eating a Z-Man post-race.  Can't break tradition.
  • Training abroad.  I will be traveling to Bangkok, Thailand for work during February and March. I'm hoping to take advantage of the warmer temperatures during that time to get some good speed and distance runs in.... that is while I'm not working or sightseeing.
  • I've got some big Big BIG plans for 2012 that will come to light soon enough. 
  • All of this will require plenty of balance and planning in my life.  A happy wife is a happy life!  
The Beach2Battleship Pint was custom made.  One of my favorite Christmas presents from TKB!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Race Report: Rock'n'Roll Las Vegas Marathon

I'll just say upfront here that there were many well-documented issues with this race.  From my post, Twitter, and Rock'n'Roll's own Facebook page.  Since I've given my thoughts already, I'll focus on my race and only bring up the issues when necessary to further the story.

Rock'n'Roll Las Vegas Marathon

The Rock'n'Roll Las Vegas Marathon (RnRLV) appeared on my schedule back in June when my sister-in-law, Rebecca (TKB's brother's wife), told us that if she was to ever do a half marathon, this was the race.  It was VERY enticing.  Running the Las Vegas Strip at night?  How could anyone miss that opportunity!  It was truly the first of its kind in terms of size and glamour.  We had never been to Las Vegas in our adult form.  It was the perfect scenario!  Race?  Check.  Vacation?  Check.  Spending time with family? Check.  Well, as it turned out it was more of a perfect storm.

We arrived Thursday evening around 7pm local time (9pm KC time).  We went directly to the Luxor to checkin.  After dropping luggage off on our 5th floor room, we had dinner at one of the restaurants at the Luxor.  This started the constant inflow of water.  Travel always dehydrates me and I knew there would be lots of walking coming up, need to make sure the wheels are well greased.

I didn't have a lot of trouble sleeping, but I woke up at 5am local time (7am KC time) and just messed around on the computer chatting with other RnRLV twitter peeps until TKB woke up.  She started coming down with a cold earlier that week so she slept in a bit. We decided to try to make it up to the Expo and meet some of the folks on twitter but it takes so long to get anywhere in Vegas, we turned at around the Paris hotel and went back to the Luxor when Jake and Rebecca arrived.

But later that day...

we then walked back up to the Venetian with Jake and Rebecca for the Expo and Packet Pickup.  This was around 5pm on Friday and it really wasn't that bad.  I know there have been complaints about the Expo but we may have missed most of the rush since it was dinner time.  I bought some merch and ANOTHER pair of running shoes (I think I still have a post I need to publish on that... guess I need to add onto it).

Bibbity bibbity bop!  Yes, I'm kinda tall.  Yes, Rebecca is kinda short.
By Saturday my sleep schedule was pretty much normal.  After walking 6 - 7 miles on Friday, it was easy to get a full nights sleep.  We took it easy on Saturday and went through the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor and saw Cirque du Soleil: Ka at MGM Grand. Very cool show.  I wish we had time to see more of the Cirque performances while there. After Cirque we went up to the Paris hotel via taxi and found some food to eat.

Overall Nutrition
I tried to have a bottle of water in my hand the entire time and avoid alcohol and sodie pop.  I did have a couple beers at dinner Friday night but that was it until after the race. I tried to consume at least one carb loaded meal each day starting on Tuesday early in the week.

With the gun time at 4:00pm Sunday night, pre-race required some thought.  First was trying to be kind to the legs for the days leading up to the race.  Las Vegas requires a lot of walking to go anywhere and as Jake mentioned, it's the land of misdirection.  It's easy to get lost and have to retrace your steps in the casinos.  We took escalators and people movers whenever possible.

Well, not all the escalators were working.

I woke up around 8 o'clock and started to get ready for the day.  TKB's cold was really starting to hate on her so I went down and bought some water, Pumpkin Spice Latte (me), hot chocolate (TKB), and some lemon and pumpkin loafs at one of the THREE Starbucks in the Luxor (Yes, you can see one of the Starbucks from the line of the other).  She really rallied on Sunday to keep that cold at bay. She was quite a trooper!

While I missed the Tweetups, I did get in touch with @TriBeccaTO who I have been following since I started @ScottyTris.  So it was really cool to meet her for the first time, as well as @reflectiverunr, aka Jeff, (who I had to admit I wasn't following... until a few minutes later).  Becca and Jeff both have blogs too.  They were both in town to be spectators for the event, so cool!  We met up for lunch, which was simply a food court in the Fashion Show Mall.  What to eat was a hard decision!  Generally, four hours before a race I'm sleeping so I wasn't sure what to do, so I stuck with the familiar and had Subway.  We had some fun conversations and people watching while at the food court, it helped to ease the nerves!

Me, Becca, and Jeff! Fashion Show Place Mall.  Where twitter-ers unite!

We went back to the Luxor around 1pm where Jake and Rebecca were looking for lunch.  I decided to get ready and then went over to meet them so Rebecca and I could commiserate with our nerves.  

So much easier than triathlons!

While we were at their restaurant between the Luxor and Mandalay Bay I ate a banana and half of a bagel around 2:00pm.  This is roughly the same time I would eat those before a race anyway.  We went back to our rooms for a few minutes where I finished my race prep and then made the trek over to the starting line around 3:10pm.
Captain Orange!
The temperature was around 50 degrees but I wasn't cold.  We hit the first line of port-a-porties (stopped) and then walked over through to the family meeting areas and then anther line of port-a-poties (stopped again).  I said my goodbyes around 3:45pm and headed off to the corrals.  They did have small bottles of water available so I downed one with my 4 blueberry chomps.


Being tall does have its privileges.
I had no clue what to expect.  I've never been in a race with this many marathoners (6,000), let alone the entire race participant pool of 44,000.  Corrals were new to me.  I was in corral 6 but I simply targeted the 4:00 pace group (which was in corral 6).  That's 4 hour paced group, not 4 minute mile pace group.  Just for clarification.  Shortly after 4pm we were off!  I finally crossed the start at 4:09 as they staggered the corrals.  After a short distance we turned left to head off to the dessert!  Well, west Las Vegas.

Miles 1 - 6
Pretty easy moving.  There were a lot of people but plenty of room to run and maneuver.  There were a lot of turns during the first six miles.  I mean A LOT. 18 turns.  I did the best as possible to stay to the inside of the turn to keep from adding extra miles.  A couple times I misjudged and swung out left in preparation for a left turn but then realized it was a right turn.  A lot of this course was sort of a loop.  Some sections you ran back on and others you went around the block to back track.  It was cool seeing the elites running by as they returned on the road.

About mile 1 in people (ok, men) started peeling off the course to dump some extra payload.  I couldn't believe it.  For the full participants there were no lines at the port-a-poties.  I didn't count but there were probably 100 holes.

Physically I was doing awesome.  No knee issue and only slight discomfort on the bottom of my feet.  Cardio-wise my heart rate was in the 150s.  It was in the upper zone of my training range, which is just fine.  That's actually low for my racing zone.  I was keeping it there on purpose in case my legs decided to fall apart.  Around mile 2 I had already left the 4 hour pace group.

Around mile 4 I heard someone say "Olathe" during a conversation and I turned my head to find someone wearing a KC Marathon finishers shirt!  He was chatting with a female runner from KC. This wasn't really surprising as there were a good chunk of runners on our plane flights to and from KC.  We all chatted for a bit and then I broke off.  I'm pretty sure he was hitting on her during the race.  As much as I would have loved to hear that outcome, I was looking for the Strip to entertain me.  Off I went!

One Gu packet down at mile 5.  It tasted so good! 

Miles 6 - 13.1
12 more turns.  At this point I was taking water at each aid station and then realized something.  While I haven't trained with Cytomax I need to start taking it in.  There was no Gatorade or Powerade on this course and I was going to need those electrolytes.  

Mile 8 brought on the first of two aid stations with Gu. Now, this is when I start to get stupid.  I reached out for a Gu packet.  The guy had some trouble handing one to me and I ended up with two.  I had planned to consume 5 Gu packets during the race (one every five miles, even 25 to help aid recovery); therefore, I put 5 Gu packets on my race belt.  The stupid part is I didn't need to take a Gu packet at the aid station and I ended up with two.  So I then had to put them somewhere.  Putting Gu packets on race belts are not easy, especially on the run.  Yes, I could have dumped them on the ground but my triathlete blood wouldn't let me (no littering in triathlons).

While at mile 8 I decided see how I was doing in terms of catching up to the 3:55 pace group.  My body was still feeling great and I was willing to boost the speed.  Around mile 9.3 there is a turn around and I figured out I was a couple hundred yards away!  Sweet!  Thoughts of a PR started to enter my mind.  Granted, I sadly couldn't remember what my PR was.  Doh!

Somewhere about this time I started to think about Rebecca and that she was about to start her very first half marathon!!!

Photo of Rebecca... About to ROCK!

I had another Kansas City runner sighting as I come up to a runner wearing a KCMO Police shirt.  I would have said hello (and thanks) but he was jamming out to his tunes.  

I finally caught up to the 3:55 group.  I don't remember when I did, but I was definitely with them at mile 13.  

Miles 13.1 - 19
I hit the wall.  Yes, I know I said I was feeling great physically by taking in Gu/liquids as planned.  My heart rate was actually in the 140s (although I think I had some problems with the heart rate monitor reading low).  That wall?  It was a wall of 38,000 half participants being released for their race.  

Wow, oh wow.  We were informed via e-mail that there would be a full and half lane.  I had no clue where that was until I saw a cyclist yelling that full on the left and half on the right.  No chance.  There were just too many people to control.  I ended up bumping into someone walking the race and loosened my bandaid on my second to last toe on my left foot (I started having blister problems on that toe so I taped it) making me concerned about starting the blister again.  Just so you know, I did apologize as I went past. I was trying to be as polite as possible.  

The next 6 miles was simply bouncing around trying to find an opening.  As I mentioned in my previous post, even if all these people were in the correct corral, they were still moving 2 minutes per mile slower than my pace.  It was worse than when you start a crowded race and zig-zag around people to find an opening in the first half mile... but for 13.1 miles.  I was running on the sidewalk on the outside of the course cones, behind aid stations, around police cars, sprinting through openings.  It was nuts.  

The second half to the course isn't quite an out and back, there are a few more turns.  Because full participants were to stay on the sidewalk side of the street they couldn't take the tangents necessary; however, I said screw that.  I took the corners as I normally did but I returned to my lane as soon as possible.

Gu at mile 15 down without a problem.  The aid stations were a mess here.  They couldn't keep up.  Word is the water was from fire hydrants too.  I took Cytomax when I could find it... but it was hard to tell.  A few of the aid stations had ice in the cups.  Really?  Ice?  I'd rather have warm water than iced water.

As for my pace?  I lost the 3:55 group initially but caught back up with them and eventually broke off.  I had hoped that I was way ahead of them so I could possibly meet up with the 3:50 pace group but before I knew it, they were passing me.  It was just too hard to get that consistent open lane.

Miles 19 - 26
This is the section of a marathon where things typically start to fall apart.  Bolts start flying off the machine, shoes strip apart like they are in a wind tunnel, limbs are found on the curb.  Ok, not really but it can be bad.  Your mind plays games and you have to negotiate with it to see the next mile marker or light post.  In an odd switch-a-roo, having people to dodge like crazy helped me win this mental battle.

After mile 20 I decided to stop and stretch.  I took my 4th Gu and took off again. I didn't wait too long because I didn't want to lose my lead on the 3:55 group.  Everything was feeling pretty good.  My feet was having pains but I could tell it wasn't a blister or cuts.  It was simply in pain for taking the pounding.

I came up on the mile 22 aid station, the second station with Gu.  Because I was still dodging people and staying mostly on the sidewalks I was behind the aid station and reached for a Gu packet.  Remember, I was being dumb.  I only needed one more Gu packet and I was already + 2 packets from the first aid station.  I saw blueberry and then vanilla.  I then realized I had two handfuls of Gu packet (maybe 5).  WHAT WAS I DOING!  I didn't need these and I was being greedy.  Considering the vast amount of gels on these tables, I doubt I was causing a problem with these aid stations running out but I still feel bad.  So I ran with them in my hands for a while thinking I would drop them off at the next aid station.  

I ended up consuming one of them and putting the rest of them on my race belt.  (I think my guilt set in today as I ordered two full boxes of Gu packets.)  Eating that extra Gu packet was a bad idea as it did bug my stomach for a couple miles.  I guess it was redemption from the aid station fairy.

Before too long I looked up and saw the Mandalay Bay hotel.  The end was near!  I knew I still had a couple miles to go but the end was end sight!  At this point I changed my watch to show total race time and it was going to be close for me to PR.  I tried to finally take in the views of the strip too.  That was not possible for the trip north.

I was fairly surprised that I was actually able to pick up the pace during the last 10k, I was still sub-9 minute miles.  In my long runs I was slowing down a minute per mile or more at this point.  I guess my taper was well timed.

Miles 26 - 26.2
They had mile makers for the entire race but I was just assuming they left this one on the truck.  It took FOREVER.  Yes, I had my Garmin on but I didn't want to look at it.  I was expecting to see the finish where we started but instead you turn up a small hill and finish in the parking lot.  That's where I found the 26 mile marker.  385 yards to go!!

I crossed the finish line in 3 hours, 54 minutes, 49 seconds.  Missing my PR by 61 seconds.

Overall: 972 out of 3766
Gender: 755 out of 2380
Age Group: 153 out of 435

The battle scars are mental.
Now think of your a typical race.  What's the first thing you expect to after receiving your medal?  Someone handing you water, yogurt, bagel?  How about thousands of people waiting to get through the FINISHERS PHOTO?  They forced you through about 10 lines of finish line photos.  Fortunately I was far enough to the edge I could sneak around them and finally find water and then a bottle of Cytomax.  Food?  Green bananas, marathon bars, GoGurt, bagel, and pretzels.  Luckily I heard someone say "do you want a yellow banana" as she was opening a new bag and I grabbed one of those.

I had planned to hang in the finishers area and soak it all in but I then realized there was nothing to soak in other than thousands of other participant's sweat.  So I texted Tricia and we met up at the "K" sign.  (The "K" in TKB).  After she and Jake found me we decided to move back to the finish line and watch for Rebecca.  She was closing in on the end.  While there was maybe 1 full participant crossing the finish line every few seconds, there was probably 10 - 15 half participants.  We almost missed Rebecca finish but she looked strong!

First Half Marathon in the books!
Rebecca and I decided to get our medals engraved.  This is something I've been contemplating to do with all my medals, so I was fine with it... even unloading the $20 to have someone spend 5 seconds doing it.  Since there was a little bit of a wait, Jake and Tricia sent us inside because the temperature was low 40s at this point.  We were both shaking and the mylar blankets were being whipped up pretty badly by the wind.   It actually started to sprinkle after we made it inside Mandalay Bay.

Leaving the race site was horrible.  It took us probably an hour to get through the Mandalay Bay hotel.  Many people were fainting or getting sick.  The Fire Marshall would have had a field day with this and the medics racing in to help someone probably weren't to thrilled with it either.  Fortunately we didn't have to take a taxi or shuttle to another hotel.  We just had to cross through MB to Luxor.  I feel bad for some of the people who took 3+ hours to get to their hotel.  That was probably longer than it took for them to race!

The mess.  If anyone calls that number, let me know! :)

Yeah, I can tell you what the Fragrance of Las Vegas is while in the mess.

Further into the Mandalay Bay, close to an hour later.

Once we got back to our hotel room TKB helped me do something that is a necessary evil.  Stop thinking about that, you perverts.  This:

First of two trips to the hotel ice machine.

Unfortunately, I was too long for the bathtub but all the hurty bits got a nice 15 minute soak.. or about four Mumford & Son's songs.
The Breakdown
  • The Good
    • Running at night.  It wasn't just the spectacle of the strip but the new challenge it presented compared to a typical morning race.  Plus, you don't go home and take a nap, you go to bed!
    • Meeting a lot of neat people, from the plane flights to meeting people from Twitter.  I wish I could have attended some of the meet ups but it just didn't happen.  On the flight home I sat next to the third place 30 - 34 male age group athlete, who is from Kansas City, Dale Dexter.
    • Glow in the dark medal.  This is fairly unique.  When I got home I hung it from my bedside lamp.  When I woke up with leg pain, it made me giggle to see it hanging there glowing.  
    • Flat Course - If you can finish the first half in 1:30, then you can beat the half start and surely BQ (for men... and women, for that matter!)
  • The Bad
    • See my reflections
    • There were bands on this course?  I'm not complaining about the bands there were on the course. It actually made me giggle that there was a "death metal" band on the course.  I was kind of expecting to have more bands playing consistently on the course.
    • Dump the Cytomax and go with Gatorade/Powerade.  I probably should have stuck with my training regimen and brought my own drink or better planned for the Cytomax.
    • Some people did not get t-shirts at the expo.  HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?
    • They ran out of half medals.  Ok, this didn't impact me but it's inexcusable.  There were 33,000 finishers of the half with 38,000 registered.  
    • Ice in the water/cytomax.  dumb.
  • The Standard
    • Packet Pickup:  Smooth.  Decent expo. I purchased some fresh-off-the-line Mizuno Wave Inspire 8 at a good discount.  
    • Goodie Bag: T-Shirt, Gu Chomps (which I used pre-race), various flyers.  The best part being a running head lamp.  I could have used that four weeks prior.
    • Communication: 4 - 5 e-mails leading up to the race.  Good web site with lots of information.  Facebook page.  Problem?  They need to emphasize the key elements of this race, such as the half versus marathon lanes
    • Aid Stations: First 13.1 miles were OK but need better communication on where cytomax versus water was located.  Second 13.1 was simply a massive cluster.  It looked like a disaster area.  My advice?  Run behind the tables and pick up your drink.
    • Post-Race: Poorly designed layout.  I'm ok with the food options, but they need to make sure they can handle the number of participants.  Assume people will take more than one.... well, no green bananas.  
    • Port-a-Johns:  Sufficient but I wasn't there for the half start.  I know people were going into casinos when they couldn't wait any longer.  The port-a-potties on the full course we tucked away and hard to find but I managed to not need one the entire race.
    • Parking:  Don't know since we stayed in a hotel.  What I do know is there was a mess leaving the host hotel.
    • Volunteers: I'm always supportive of the volunteers and I think the volunteers were great here.  If there was an issue with a volunteer, it was because they weren't educated on how to handle scenarios.  
    • Route:  Closed to traffic.  Now if they could do a better job with managing the flow of participants.  Lower numbers and better corral management will definitely help.
The Proof
Our home for the four days.

Serious Athletes

Yeah.  I'm just really tall.  This happens a lot.

TKB decided to go for a stroll along the strip but she didn't bring her running clothes.  Oops.

Ironically, Rebecca did too.  Fortunately she picked up clothes at the expo.  She has a similar body type too.  Weird.

WATCH OUT!  Naked runner coming through!!

Yeah, I know what you are thinking.

Stairs?  Why are you taking stairs with all the escalators.

Nice shoes.
Game face!
There's a dude in my beer.
The Mess
This was the start of the half.  A big ole' cluster.

Rock'n'Roll Las Vegas - 24 Hour Reflections

OK...  worked on this post on my iPad while flying home from Las Vegas (keep that in mind when finding weird typing errors :))

The Rock'n'Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half-Marathon combined to send 44,000 runners down the Las Vegas strip.  If there is one city that can manage that load of humanity it has to be Las Vegas; however, managing that many people within a critical one to two hour window was definite a challenge.  The scenario is this:

4:00p - 4:15p: 6,000 marathoners are released in 9 corral bunches to the west side of the Las Vegas through industrial areas and Larry Flints "fun house".
4:05p: The sunsets
5:30p - 6:30p: A bulk of the marathoners return to the start of the race where they turn north on Las Vegas Blvd to finish the second half of the route
5:30p - 6:30p: 38,000 half-marathoners are released through 40 corrals straight north on the Las Vegas Blvd.

See a problem?

As a full marathon participant it was a huge shock to go from a nice roomy street to total chaos.  I managed to chase down the 3:55 pace group just prior to the turn onto The Strip but as we turned I immediately lost them.  I believe that when I joined the mass of humanity I was probably with the 2:20 half marathon pace group, nearly two minutes per mile slower than my current pace.

To keep the marathoners segregated they set small cones 8 - 10 feet from the sidewalk and there were cyclists riding the line asking half participants to stay in the three to four lanes of road allotted to them.  As you can imagine, they were grossly unsuccessful.  For one thing, the aid stations and port-a-potties required people to cross into the full participants, but that's ok because the aid stations couldn't keep up with the demand.  There were aid stations on the half participants side of the street but it is unrealistic for them to only use those aid stations.

On Twitter there is a ton of discussion on what went wrong.  My thought boils down to this: 44,000 is way too many participants.  But you say this: there are other races that have more than 44k runners and they don't have these issues.  Correct, but they don't mix half and full participants.  However, I don't think that was the issue.  I have run the KC marathon and the half & full start together (granted it's a MUCH smaller event). The issue was having the full start 1.5 hours before the half and expect them to merge together.  Typically they start together but split somewhere on the route.

Unless you are a fast runner (sub-3 hour marathoner), you got caught.  If you were running a sub-1:45 half, you were ahead of the chaos.  I guess I would like to see them do a better job of starting the half-participants with pacing of the full participants.  Although there is another problem.  Within minutes of turning onto The Strip, I literally ran into half-participants.  She was wearing all black and it wasn't very will lit at the time but the problem was she was WALKING.  So within a tenth of the mile she was already walking.  This leads me to believe that people who planned to walk the half-marathon decided to cheat up to a much earlier corral to give them more time to finish or simply so they didn't have to wait over an hour for thier corral to start.

My solution?  I mentioned before, reduce the size of the participants
Fewer participants should equal more room.  I saw on twitter that the average race registration was $165, which means $7.26 million dollars of revenues.  Raise registration costs if you would like to recoup some of that.  People will pay it. An extra 20 or 30 dollars is pretty small compared to the money spent out there.

If the whole draw of this race is to run it at night down the Las Vegas strip then I didn’t get to fully appreciate it because it wasn’t until Treasure Island that I was able to get back in a groove and enjoy the scenery, which really is past all the glitzy scenery.

Better Education
In the emails they mentioned that there would be a full and half lane, as well as cyclists separating the two.  However, there was no follow up.  Not once before the full or half did they mention this.  There were plenty of opportunities during the pre-race countdown to convey this information.  As my brother-in-law, Jake, mentioned during packet pickup when each runners attention was under full control of the packet pickup volunteer they could have discussed this.

3 Events: Full, Half, Walk
Ok, maybe not an official walk category but to provide direction to people who plan to walk the distance or need to walk for an extended time (not everyone plans to walk but things can go wrong and need to).  Maybe a lane similar to that of the marathoners.  Walkers all the way to the right, marathoners on the left and half-marathoners in the middle. Along these lines, I would not recommend starting the two distances at the same time because then you will definitely infuriate the marathoners trying to BQ.  This will only work if you have separate courses or a fully blocked marathon lane.

Aid Stations
I was thinking along the race that I should have tried to remember when the water versus water/cytomax versus water/cytomax/Gu stations were.  However, why try to make us remember and just make it available at each aid station. 
In addition, please include better signage at the aid station (water then cytomax then Gu, etc).  One thing to help would be some how to indicate how long the aid station was so people wouldn't bombard the first few tables and overwhelming the volunteers.

How would you feel if you completed your first (or 50th) half and not received a medal at the end?  Then walked over to get nourishment to found no water or sparse food options.  What about taking 15 minutes to walk between the two because a photo shoot is going on?  This should be an easy fix but it is going to require taking up more of Mandalay Bay's parking area.  Please include 10-foot tall signs to indicate where things are located too. The main issue with the medals is simply that after September 30, you did not have to inform the race officials if you were switching from the full to half.  You just lined up in the half start.  They must have not anticipated that many people switching events.  Then there are the problem of bandits.

Crowd Control
Logistically they need to figure out a better way to get people out of the post-race area.  The only way out was through Mandalay Bay and that took nearly an hour.  People were getting sick for various reasons and emergency personnel called in to attend to them.  We aren't talking 44,000 people here but 100,000+ throughout the night.  The Fire Marshall would have had a field day with this.  The only consolation for us was that we only had to go one more hotel to get "home"; however, others still needed to get a taxi/bus back to their hotel.  One last item:  most restaurants closed up shop at 11pm.  Ravenous runners had to dine on gift shop fare to get their fix.  So this issue is directed at the hotels and not the race.

Final Thoughts
People have mentioned that they won't plan to do this race again because of the organization issues, even some avoiding Rock'n'Roll altogether.  Some joking that RnR has never put on a race before, so it's not a shocker.  The thing is this is new.  No one has done a race like this before at this level of size and complexity (well, that I'm aware of... Chicago and New York don't have to deal with these logistics and they are the only two races with this capacity.)

Just like many things, it's not always a good idea to purchase the first model of a vehicle, even on a redesign.  The same goes for electronics.  Things happen and bugs need to be worked out.  Rock'n'Roll captured data from 44,000 people (and their spectators).  They should be able to design a course that manages this merge much more effectively.

This is by no means my race report but my 24 hour reflection on the event.  I was bored on 3.5 hours of flight.  I don't want you to come across that I'm some snobby marathoner that didn't appreciate having to dodge half-marathoners.  They had to contend with the same issues as the full.  That being said, I wasn't there to PR or BQ.  Had I been trying to do that on this flat course, I would have definitely been miffed and very frustrated.  One of the people on twitter was on pace to BQ until she got to mile 16 and simply couldn't keep up the pace because of the humanity, missing the mark by 25 minutes.  I truly feel bad for her and anyone else in her situation.

Aimee added to her story via twitter:

I fought it as hard as I could until mile 16 or so. The cussing & shoving was a bit extreme. I've never run an event where runners were so mean to one another.  Generally, everyone is very encouraging because we love the same sport. I merged w/ 13.1s that were walking & texting, on phone, 4-5 wide & had NO IDEA 13.1s to the right. The 18inch cones to mark were all kicked over. The people on bikes - not sure of their role but they were a fail. 26.2-ers couldn't run tangents because our lane swung so wide. I've talked to several 26.2-ers that took a DNF because it was so mismanaged. Shame on @RunRocknRoll. #RnRLVFail.
Aimee brings up a great point about the course and tangents.  I decided during my run that if half-participants were in my lane then I entered the half lane to cut the corners whenever I could.  I believe my run distance was 26.4, so I only added .2 miles.  Considering all the turns in the first 13.1, that's pretty good.

OK, that's all I have for now. but my race report will be coming soon.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Race Preview: Rock'n'Roll Las Vegas Marathon

My last race is a week away and I'm officially doing the marathon.  I'm guessing about mile 24 I'm going to be regretting that decision.  I'll also be regretting it around mile 500 of the plane flight the next day.  I'm going to need some Vitamin I and a nice drink for the flight home.

It's kind of weird to see this race season come to a close but I guess this is the event to do it.  I'm already thinking through my 2011 race evaluation and hopefully putting the finishing touches on the 2012 schedule, which is likely to look completely different a year from now.

So my final week of marathon training went quite well.  In fact, better than expected.  I did my 20 mile run home from work and I tried to enjoy every moment of it, just like I will on December 4.  I stopped when I wanted to (not often) and walked when I felt like it (also, not often).  I got home in 3 hours and 21 minutes, which turned out to be a 9:49 pace.  If I run that pace at RnRLV, that will put me crossing the finish line in 4:17, only 13 minutes before the cut-off.  That makes me a little nervous; however, I have hope.   My knee did start to bug me after a couple miles but that went away after 6 or 7.  It wasn't until about mile 15 that the bottoms of my feet starting to bug me.

I knew that the route would probably put me at home in just over 20 miles but I wanted to go an extra 2.  They say things go wrong after mile 20, so I wanted to get mentally prepared for it.  It's not my first rodeo, so I've dealt with that before.  When I was at the point in my run to add that extra 2 miles, I decided to nix it.  Cardio-wise I felt like I could run another 20 miles (at times during my run I thought my heart rate was low) and I was still mentally "in a good place".  My feet where pretty angry with me.  The fore-foot was sore and I had some occasional shooting pain between my toes (planter fasciitis issues?).

On Wednesday, the day after the run, my knees were not happy with me.  They didn't want to go down any sort of decline but that pain was gone by Thursday.  Sweet!  I even did a 6 mile run on Thursday evening and everything was feeling good (besides my gut from the still digesting Thanksgiving meal).

So what are my plans/goals?  I'm not planning for a PR (sub 3:53) but I'm going to try to hang with the 4 hour group and re-evaluate at mile 10.  If I'm feeling up to it, I'll shoot for 3:55 and then possibly the PR.  If I'm not feeling with it, I'll plan to just have fun!  I know that it will be an awesome event with 44,000 participants (6k full and 38k half-participants).  Just the energy alone should help me finish.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Race Pre-Preview: Rock'n'Roll Las Vegas Marathon -- The Big Debate

Two weeks from today (well, right now actually) I will be bouncing around the Las Vegas Strip in my running shoes with the neon glow of gambler's tears lighting my way.  The question will be, which side of the street will I be running?  The full or half marathon?  When I signed up for this race back in July with my sister-in-law Rebecca, I debated on going 13.1 or 26.2.  My concern was ramping my running base from the half Ironman's 13.1 run to a full marathon in 5 weeks.  I knew my "software" could handle the load (if I could endure a 6 hour race, I could endure a race that had a 4.5 hour cut-off time) but the "hardware" was a question.  I signed up for the full.  At the time there was only a $15 difference between the half and full (if I remember correctly), so I'm fine with losing that, just in case.

My plan was to gradually increase my running distance during the remaining weeks of my HIM training plan but that didn't happen, like most of my training during the months of September and October.  So with four weeks to go, I put together my plan:

Pretty darn agressive, eh?  So I shifted my long runs to Tuesday evenings.  That's because the race is at night, so let's do my long runs at night.  I knew this was going to be a challenge but it wasn't until I REALLY looked at that last column that made me go "hmmmm."   Yeah, a 60% increase in volume.  Actually, I originally had runs scheduled for Fridays which gave me a 75% increase so it really looks better, right?

I've been used to mixing biking and running in my training, so in order to not get bored I decided to change up my locales.

For my 15 miles, I decided to run at the downtown airport.  Since I'm running at night, I need a place that is well lit or fairly low traffic and the downtown airport fit the bill. This is essentially a 3.6 mile loop around the airport grounds:

Yeah, boring.... aside from ducking under the occasional low flying aircraft.
I got it done.  Four laps plus a little extra at the end.  My legs started to bug me during lap 3 and the final lap was basically running to the next street light and hangar.  My hip hurt for about 5 days after, ouch.

My 18 miles the next week required some scouting.  The night before I drove the roads near the Kansas City International Airport (I don't know why I'm drawn to airports but my Dad did work for TWA/American Airlines for a "few" years).  The route was mostly lit with a good amount of sidewalks.  What wasn't lit well would be the first part of my route while the sun was out:

This run was windy at parts which made it a challenge.  My legs seem to manage the run much better than the 15 miles.  What did bother me was my right knee.  It just felt weak for a couple days.

Two days after the 18 miles, I went for a 5 mile run.  Due to some potential evening plans, I decided to run around downtown Kansas City.  I knew there was a nice Riverfront park the that had good sidewalks for running.  The question was how to get to them.  Part of the route involves 3 stories of stairs.  My knees did NOT like this.

You can see the park in the upper right area.  There is a bit of a "Y" in the route.  That's where I got lost.  I turned right when I should have gone left and ended up running between some railroad tracks.  Yeah, that's not a park.  So I turned back and corrected myself.  My knees and legs started bugging me after the first mile and it took every remaining ounce of energy to keep running.  Part of the motivation is the last half mile is through the area where my company has multiple buildings, so I wanted to make sure I was running in the event any coworkers saw me.  Wouldn't you?

Once again, the knee was bugging me but not my hip.  I wanted to make sure I get these smaller runs in just to keep my body thinking that I'm not done with this running thing.

My next big challenge was a 9 mile run around the neighborhoods where I live.  A nine mile challenge versus 15 and 18 seemed pretty minor, right?  Well, Rock'n'Roll Las Vegas is pretty flat, so my training runs have also been on the small hills end of the spectrum.  My neighborhood.... isn't.

I like to call this the piggy route -- although I added the "flag" this time to make sure it was 9 miles.
My legs were doing pretty well and my knee was too.  I could tell it wasn't happy but it didn't hurt like it had during the 5 mile run downtown.

So now I sit here trying to make up a decision I promised to make:

And my decision is?

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

To decide next Sunday.....

OK, if you put a gun to my head I will say that I'm running....

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

the FULL!

Ok, that didn't seem all that climatic.

But I do want to give myself another chance to change be comfortable with my decision.  I want to get my final long run in, which is 20 miles on Tuesday.  This is going to be an extension of one of my goal bike routes, commuting from work.  This time by foot.

I've been prepping for it by replenishing my Gu supply, finally purchasing a reflective vest, and mapping the route:

Don't worry, Mom.  That section on 9 highway is pretty safe.
Not only does this route have distance, it has hills.  NASTY hills.  I actually plan to do some walking to make sure I don't kill my knees.

Therefore, I officially will wait to decide next Sunday.  At that point I will likely bag the runs for the rest of the week and be in official taper!

Don't get me wrong.  I am not anticipating any PR here, it's just to survive it and have fun doing so.  There will be 44,000 participants in RnRLV and I have a feeling that the energy of that many people will make this race so much easier to complete.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reflections On Beach2Battelship

The further I get removed from Beach2Battleship the more I think about how it went.  Thinking through all the elements of the weather, I really think I could have gotten under 5:45. Shaving 10 minutes from the bike, considering all that head/crosswind, really seems doable.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still psyched about finishing in 5:54 but I know I could have done better, even with my level of conditioning.

I never hit the "wall" in terms of nutrition.  I think I completely nailed my nutrition plan and will continue using it going forward.  Even post-race I never really felt like I was "dragging".  Granted, the prospects of  the beach house were enticing enough.

For the next half-ironman, I really think I could do much better on the bike and run.  The one outlier is the swim.  Not sure how many courses will give me a sub-30 1.2 mile swim.   I felt like a Styrofoam cup floating in the water without really pulling through it (consequently, the race director said a bag of chips could complete the 2.4 mile swim in under 90 minutes). I think I'm definitely going to have to do the Masters swim sessions with Doug Hayden to improve on that.  I just need to figure out when the best time it is to work that into my schedule.  We will have to see.

Since my last post, I received some more photos from Mike (TKB's Dad) and "found" some more:

For the record, I'm still a fan of orange but I'm full yellow for this race.  Top, Shorts (piping), and gloves.

woo hoo!


Quite an awkward pose but I like the color saturation.

What's next?  Rock'n'Roll Las Vegas Marathon.  I've already decided that this race is going to hurt.  I did a 15 mile run about ten days after Beach2Battleship and the legs hurt a full 24 hours later.  I don't remember them hurting this much after the half-ironman.  I am breaking in a new pair of shoes, so that's probably one reason.  I've also noticed my foot strike is more on the toe end of the shoe than mid-sole, which is my typical form.  I've been trying to shift my strike forward to better cushion my landing (not sure if that's truly why).  So I'm bagging my sore legs on that.

In order to go from 13.1 to 26.2 in under four weeks is going to be more about getting my marathon legs under me than cardio.  From a cardio perspective, I felt great after the 15 mile run.  My muscles just hurt.

Joe and I have started planning our 2012 year for about a month now.  Hoping to have the details of that finalized soon so I can get the training plans in place.  Will be posting about that as soon as I can!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Race Report: Beach2Battleship 70.3

While chatting with my friend Kyle about my upcoming triathlon season during a Christmas party last year, he brought up Beach2Battleship (aka, B2B... but not to be confused with B2B as Brew-to-Brew that we did in April) as a possible triathlon to participate in. A few texts to Joe VI and it sounded like a possibility.  It was a good fit as Ken and Kyle both live "near" the race site, as well as it is in the same state of TKB's parents and middle older brother's family.  It didn't hurt that it was also 30 minutes away from our favorite vacation spot, Topsail Island.  Now I just needed to figure out what "70.3" meant.

As I set up my race schedule for the year, I had planned to do a sprint and a couple olympic distances leading up to the race.  There was a perfect 3 - 4 month period where my races were stretched out enough that I could fit in the 18 week training schedule.

June 27 started the first day of my Half-Ironman training plan and I was off and swimming/biking/running, granted not without some struggles.  The training was going quite well.  I was feeling stronger and stronger with more endurance.  I had two triathlons during the training and both went quite well.  I was definitely benefiting from a structured plan, even if it was more focused on getting miles in over actual speed/strength training.

Then the infamous September 1 bike accident that plagued me for the following two months.  The morning workouts were shot as my broken rib was too sore in the morning for activity and work was creeping into my evening workouts.  The long workouts on the weekend were still (mostly) completed.   After a successful half-marathon, I was mentally back in the game.

Trip Preparation
Anyone who knows me (and following my blog, you should have picked up on this by now), I like preparation almost as much as the event.  The few days prior to departure I spent the available hours setting out all my gear and pre-bagging them for each transition.  My transition bag was packed so I could just empty things into their official transition bags.  I made sure enough provisions were purchased, which took me back to my bike shop a few times (darn).

My trip preparation.  After I posted this on twitter/facebook, only one person commented on the hydration bottles  at the top of the screen.  I can always count on you Todd!

The Trip

This is just TKB's and my stuff.
Our bikes are about to travel 1,400 miles just to ride 56.
Here is some details about the trip which started on October 26 when I picked up Joe VI from his office.  We stopped in St. Louis to pick up his wetsuit and drove to Knoxville, TN.  Then we were off to Greensboro, NC to stay with Ken and Kyle.  On Friday we caravanned with Kenny to Raleigh to pick-up TKB at the airport and then to Wilmington, NC to pickup Lauren at the Wilmington airport and then to the B2B expo.  Once that was done, we met Tricia's parents for dinner.  OK, so to summarize:

Me, Tricia, Joe VI, Lauren, Ken, Mike (TKB's dad) and Susan (TKB's Mom)

Packet Pickup and Bike Drop Off
Three words: Smooth, Smooth, Smooth.  Joe and I dropped the car off at the Hilton and walked the two blocks to the convention center.  You walk into the center and the inflatable "Start Line" easily directs you to the beginning of the process.  Per Setup's recommendation, we pre-filled our medical paperwork but still stopped by the first table with the forms to mark our names off some participant list.  The next step was to get our numbers, chip, three bags/stickers for the transitions.  The volunteer that helped me was extremely helpful and talked through the entire packet.

Once through the painless pickup process, we meandered over to the mandatory participant meeting.  Jeremy Davis (Race Director) and Bill Tough (Head USAT Referee) presented information about the race, each transition, and the main rules that tend to be broken.  This was the first race that I have participated in which there were actual USAT referees on the course.  The presentation was quite humorous, enjoyable, and yet, informative.

The expo wasn't all the spectacular.  There was a Beach2Battleship merch store but my hopes for a pint glass were smashed.  A couple local bike/tri shops were on hand as well as a triathlon clothing company, Trinity Multi-Sport. Joe and I both purchased a new tri jerseys as they had an orange-y color and Joe bought yellow.  We also picked up our shoes for the next 400 - 500 miles of running as we found a clearance version of our shoes.  So consider that a success!

By this time TKB had checked into the hotel rooms (although Joe and Lauren's weren't ready yet) and we started preparing our transition bags.  This race is a point-to-point race so T1 is a different location than T2.  The race finish line is at T2.  So logistics requires some thoughts.  We got three bags:
  • Pre/Post Race Bag:  I used this for my wetsuit, goggles, and swim cap.  The plan was to put my pre-race clothes into this bag and then I would change into those clothes after the race.  
  • Swim-to-Bike Bag:  I put my helmet, shoes, arm warmers, Edge 800, sunglasses, etc in here.  When we arrived to the transition area before the race we were able to setup T1 just like a typical triathlon.  There was some confusion in the booklet about it.  It sounded like the full distance triathletes had to pickup their T1 bag with all that after the swim near the entrance to the transition area.  As you finish the transition, this bag was to be used to put all your leftover T1 items in for transportation to the finish line for pickup.
  • Bike-to-Run Bag:  Shoes, Visor, Socks.  Simple, yet effective.  You would then put your bike items in this bag for pickup later.
  • Special Needs - If you do the full, then you will have a run and bike special needs bag.  We weren't manly enough to require these.

Once set, we drove over to the Bike-to-Run transition to see what was in store for us some 22 hours later. Then off to the Swim-to-Bike transition area to drop off our bikes.  Talk about bike porn!  I saw a really nice burnt orange Felt tri bike that I might accidentally take for a spin the next day.  We also dropped our bike-to-run bags off as well.

Pre-Race Meal
I subscribe to the ideology that carb loading and "restful night" be held two nights before the race, not the night before.  Granted, neither of those really happened due to traveling; however, we did end up eating at Carrabba's Friday night.  I was quite surprised we could get reservations at 7:30pm, considering there were 1,863 athletes in town.  Maybe most of them were already asleep.

I finally hit the pillow at around 10pm or so but not sure when I finally hit REM as my heart was beating in my throat.

Joe and I discussed heading over to the transition area at 6:45am.  So I decided to get up at 5:45 to take a shower to help wake me up.  Along with a bagel and banana, I also took my vitamins and some pre-race ibuprofen to help aid any aches.  In addition, I have some medication to help with rib soreness/inflamation so I decided to take one of those to possibly help recovery.  A few seconds before tossing them in my mouth, I noticed this pill wasn't quite right.  I then realized it was actually a Vicodin!!!  (which I was given to help with pain after my ER visit for rib problems).  Whoa!  That could have been interesting.

At some point during the night it crossed my mind that I couldn't remember when body markings took place.  After I woke up I noticed it was suppose to be from 5:00am - 7:00am (other places in the participant guide indicated it finished at 6:30am).  We would miss the posted body marking time.  For as much as I prepare, I felt obligated to stick to their posted timeframes, even though we didn't need to be at the swim start for another hour after (where, ultimately, they were still doing body markings).  After 4 months of training, I didn't want to be screwed over because we missed something trivial as this.  So much to everyone's dismay, I got everyone up and we headed over to T1.  At the back of my mind I knew they had all the full distance participants at the swim start, meaning parking was going to be a pain.

We arrived in time to see all the roads were blocked for the bike course already, so we jumped out and hoofed it over to the transition area.  Bodies marked, transition area setup, and port-a-john visited.  Of course in our rush we forgot one little critical item: my tire pump.  Fortunately you can't take two steps without finding someone willing to lend theirs.

Fortunately there was a big light shining down my bike rack, easy to spot when running to your bike zombified from the swim.
The sky was dark with the slowly rising sun and cloud cover.  In all the rush it was easy to neglect the temperature, it was a surprisingly low-50s.  After meandering around we hopped on the trolley the ride to the beach start.

Swim Start
We arrived to a dock area for the half participant start.  There were probably 20 port-a-potties at the start and we made a couple visits there.  At some point we finally saw the full participants swim by and then we realized how fast this current was.  I believe I heard someone say it was 1.5 knots (1.75 mph).  I could definitely use that!  The lead swimmer even waved at us as he flew by.  Not sure I would appreciate that if I was the second place swimmer!

Around 8:15 we decided to pull on our wetsuits for added warmth and loaded all of our clothes into the pre/post-gear bag and dropped it off in the bus.  Of course this meant I would spend about 30 minutes dealing with poor vision as I put my glasses in the bag and just had my prescription goggles.

It wasn't too long before our wave was asked to enter the water.  This was starting to feel real!  We swam out to the end of the dock and waited for the horn.

Joe and I are in the water about to start.  TKB, Lauren, and Kenny just arrived to the beach start at this point (they walked from the transition area).

Swim - 1.2 Miles
The horn blew and with a final high five to Joe, we were off!  I immediately got into a groove.  The field of 45 - 50 people were spread out enough that I had no issue getting swimming space.  The key was to get as far left as possible to take advantage of the current and just look for the bright orange rectangular buoy.  It took about a minute to realize we were swimming in ocean water as a sudden intake of water revealed the salty flavor.  So I tried to keep exhaling as my head entered the water and exited for the next breath.

The sky was cloudy, which saved fighting the shining sun; however, it was foggy.  From discussions Joe had with others in the port-a-john line, he heard to make a hard left turn once you hit that turn buoy as you will be fighting the current.  I did that and it worked, but I noticed people were mostly going at an angle to the dock so I evened it out and ended up on the other side of the "swim lane".  I lost some of my advantage as I had to continue to fight the current to get back over.

I decided to put my FR 310xt in my swim cap.  Even though I've never done this in a race, I went for it anyway.  I'm glad I did because hearing the beep at 1 mile was extremely welcoming.  I even started to "kick it up" after that point but that last .2 miles just seemed to take forever.  Below is the Garmin map of the swim.

One thing I found interesting is I do not remember the second or third turn at all.
It was a HUGE sigh of relief once I saw the dock for the swim exit.  Swimming obviously took a huge hit in my training so I was glad to be done with it.

Time: 29:26
Age Group Rank: 40 / 64
Overall Rank: 279 /  554

Transition 1

They have wooden ladders for you to use to exit the water with plenty of volunteers to help.  I ran in some direction and found wetsuit strippers.  During the participant meeting, the Race Director made sure to emphasize that the wetsuit strippers were triathletes, so they would take care when removing the suit.  They did an awesome job.

You then run through a couple shower tents (cold then hot).  I tried to rinse off the important bits while running through and then you have a nice 1/4 of a mile (based on my Garmin) jaunt to the transition area.  At this point I noticed Joe about 30 feet ahead of me!  So I ran up to him and we entered the transition area together.  

Joe and me running into the transition together.
The transition was pretty much like any other transition but this time I had to contend with my arm warmers and decision to use my bike jacket.  My concern was that I would overheat if I used the jacket and feel the need to dump it. Since I use this jacket during normal daily use, I didn't really want to lose it.  I have worked out in similar temps before and not needed it, so I kept it in the bag.  I then threw my wetsuit on top of it (and yes, I paused for a second knowing that I wouldn't be able to use that jacket until I got it washed... I'm a dork).

Since I like to send a GPS tracking link out for people to follow me on the bike/run, I did take a couple seconds to click "Send" on it.  One final run through the internal checklist and I was off!

Right at the transition exit I found TKB, Lauren, and Kenny.  It always feels good to see those familiar faces in the crowd!

Excuse me.  Pardon me.
Time: 6:17

Bike - 56 miles
Let's recap the weather:  low 50s and cloudy with occasional drizzle.  Oh yes, there was also a 15 - 20 mph wind added to the mix.  On Friday I really struggled with this when thinking about the bike.  We did train in similar situations but it was hard to get my mind wrapped around it.  The first mile or so was just getting out of the Wrightsville Beach area, so there were some quick corners before getting onto Eastwood Rd.

The race director indicated that if it was raining they would force us to walk our bikes over the bridge as it is metal grating.  Fortunately, the rain had mostly bypassed us so we were able to cruise along but it's still a bit hairy crossing it.

Once we got out of town a bit, we then get to ride on I-140 for about 15 miles.  This sounds pretty freaking cool when you are used to riding on surface streets and back roads.  The reality of the situation was very different.  It started to drizzle a bit (at least I had some water droplets on the end of my helmet and I doubt it was sweat this early).  In addition, there was a really strong cross wind hitting us the entire time.  It was physically draining and emotionally frustrating.

During this 15 mile stretch on 140 they had us ride on the left (passing) lane of the interstate with orange cones separating us from the 65 mph traffic (which was relatively light since traffic had to wait for a gap in the triathletes as they would cross into the left lane).  At this point I had seen a few people with bike problems and one person laying on her back with arms crossed.   I'm wondering if she had an accident as another triathlete was on the phone apparently calling for help.

At some point during this stretch I almost ended my day as I actually ran over a cone.  I didn't hit the orange cone part but the thick black weighted base of the cone.  My bike popped up a bit as it jarred the frame.  I'm pretty sure I was riding on "the hoods" so I was able to stabilize the bike better.  Coincidentally, I had just noticed how the "boys" were a bit numb from the ride and cold weather, so they didn't seem to care.

I've never had problems with GI issues on the bike (stomach aches or anything) but things were beginning to get sore in the belly.  I think I may have needed another trip to the port-a-john while waiting for the swim start.  It helped a little to get out of aero position.  During this ride, the aero position did start to hurt my back too.  I could really use some good core workouts next year.

With the cold, rain, and crosswind, the only thing I could think of while on the interstate was getting off the interstate.  I wanted something to block this wind.  My averages were 15 - 17 mph during this time.  Once I got my wish when we turned onto 421, I immediately knew it wasn't going to get better.  Instead of a crosswind, it become a headwind.

The first aid station was soon after the turn onto 421 which I elected to bypass (and the rest of them while on the bike, for that matter).  We rode on 421 for quite a while and I noticed a couple triathletes already heading back towards town.  These were the leaders.  I was hoping that meant my turn around was coming soon but I was actually about 10 miles behind them.  Wow.

We made a left turn into the loop section (see the image above) and at this point the clouds started to break.  My belly issues had subsided and everything was just feeling great.  My averages were getting back to the 18 - 19mph range.  We also split off from the full participants at Currie and soon started our way back to town.  Between miles 40 - 55 my 5 mile splits had an average speed of 19.7, 20.4, 21.4 and 22.1.  The sun was out and I had the wind at my back!  I was concerned about kicking it up right before the run but I figured I was easy on the second half of the race, it was time to "not be a wuss".

Around mile 35 I noticed something that was a little concerning.  I looked down at my bike frame and notice something missing.  My handheld tire pump!  I had meant to put it on my bike Friday night but forgot. Fortunately the roads were in good shape so I wasn't concerned there plus the race offered neutral bike support, so as long as you waited for it to come around, you could get help.  I just continued biking along but not without a little extra caution.

There is one nice hill for the bridge over the waterway (which had lots of crosswind with it) but I didn't care, I was almost to the run.

I actually took a minute to pull my cell phone out of my pocket to extend the time on my GPS tracking software (it only allows for 4 hours) but it was giving a low battery indicator so I decided to leave my cell phone on my bike.  (In case you were one of the 40+ people watching me and wondered what happened)

As you turn off of 421 onto the road leading to the battleship, they have 1/4 of the road lanes for the runners, 1/4 for the bikes, and half for pedestrian traffic (and event vehicles).  It was a bit hairy but I managed to get out of my bike shoes in time for a perfect flying dismount.

Time: 3:08:32
Age Group Rank: 27 / 64
Overall Rank: 264 /  554

Transition 2
I handed the bike off to a volunteer and ran towards the changing tent.  They call out your number as you enter the transition area and there is a volunteer ready to give you your bike-to-run bag.  Very very very smooth.  They did an amazing job with this (NOTE: It helps to have your bag marked up with your numbers in addition to the sticker they provide, that way the volunteers won't have trouble finding it AND you know which bag is yours as you run through the volunteers).

I ran into the changing tent and found a chair.  Socks and shoes on, all my bike stuff back into the bag and securely tie it shut.  Fairly quick change over but I take a few seconds to collect myself.  I'm almost done!  There is this small business about running a half-marathon, but I am ALMOST DONE!!  I escape the tent but decide to take a few more seconds for myself and head for the line of 8 - 10 port-a-johns.  I take what seems to be the longest pee ever (I did consume 64 oz of water/gatorade on the bike and sweating was fairly minimal with the temps).

Off to the run!!

Time: 4:34

Run - 13.1 Miles
I still hadn't seen Joe since we left for our bikes.  I figured I was ahead of him but wasn't sure by how much.  Once I got out on the run and over the first bridge (the same bridge I had crossed on the bike), I saw Joe's green cycling jacket riding up the bridge and we gave each other a holler. I then turned towards the second bridge and into downtown Wilmington.

My plan here was to break the run into four 5k-ish segments.  This was pretty effective.  The first 5k segment was relatively easy, even considering the bridges.  I was hitting around an 8:15 pace for the first 3 miles.  It helped to have a couple downhills during this span.  I also saw our cheering section (which included Mike and Susan this time) in front of the Hilton.  This section also included running on some brick/cobble stone streets.  It was a little nerve-wracking and I almost took a face plant at one point but caught myself.

Miles 4 - 6.5 were a bit slower.  I was walking aid stations now.  My back was really starting to bug me on the run.  I took a Gu around mile 5 but was still only drinking water at the aid station.  This was still working for me just fine, so no complaints.  The problem was my back.

At the point of mile 3 on the map above, we entered a nice park section of the route but with parks come trees and with trees comes poor GPS tracking.  So my Garmin had issues keeping track of the distance (and apparently my footpod needs to be re-calibrated).  That didn't really impact anything, but just a note for myself in the future.

Miles 6.5 - 9
Everything was screaming at me to walk at this point.  I kept going until I hit the next aid station and would walk those plus a little more.  I knew that if I had kept my training up, I would still be running but I also felt that walking pace = running pace, so why add the extra bounce?  Well, I probably walked about 10% of this section.

I did take a guess that I would see Joe again right about the time we entered the park and sure enough, that's where I saw him!

Miles 9 - 13.1
It wasn't until this section that I actually flipped the screens on my watch to see my total time.  I saw 5:30 and I knew sub-6 hours was in my sights!!  I tried to calculate it in my head and I just didn't want to spend the energy.  I didn't know what to expect on my time but was very pleased to see I was going to hit my goal!

I took another Gu around mile 10.  It tasted delicious.  I wanted another!

More walking during this part, especially on the inclines of the bridges.  The wind was just too strong and I couldn't keep my pace.  Plus the terrain of the draw bridge hurt (again, grated metal).  OK, I'm just making excuses.  I did get some good stretches of 8:00 - 8:15 pace on here though, but that's likely because of the downhill from the bridge and the emotions of the day driving me to continue.

Being an out and back course, I knew exactly where I was and the home stretch felt so freaking good.

Apparently this year they added a run around the transition area to alleviate collisions between runners and cyclists.  All I wanted to see was that finish line and what a sight it was.
Almost.  There.

Soon after this photo was taken, I heard someone say to the girl in front of me "You better take those out....".  No audio devices during a USAT Sanctioned event.

Time: 2:05:15
Age Group Rank: 43 / 64
Overall Rank: 266 /  554

After dropping off the timing chip (we got to keep the chip holder as it had the Beach2Battleship logo on it), taking my HUGE medal, and grabbing my finishers shirt, TKB, Lauren, and Ken found me.  I had trouble speaking.  The emotions of the entire day, event, and last 10 months were pouring in.  I was ecstatic to finally have completed this and it was awesome having friends and family there to support me.

They had warming tents, massages, merchandise booths, and food for the participants with tons of options.  Papa John's pizza was the main item but plenty of other tidbits.  Water, pop, and gatorade to replenish liquids.  While TKB and Ken left to find a bathroom, Lauren and I went over to the finishers chute to watch for Joe and he had just turned the corner!  Perfect timing!

We walked around a bit just to continue the cool down before heading over to collect our bikes and gear.  Since no one was allowed to drive to the finish area, you had to either take a water taxi, bus, trolley, or just simply walk back to the hotel.  Only the trolleys allowed bikes on them, so we waited in line.  It was time for the next order of business... heading to the beach house on Topsail Island!


Time: 5:54:02
Age Group Rank: 33 / 64
Overall Rank: 251 /  554

To sum it up: The fast swim was awesome, the first half of the bike was a struggle as well as the second half of the run.  I knew going into this that my time would suffer due to missing a bulk of the training in the second half of the plan but I got it done and under 6 hours.  There is a lot of improvement to be done for the next Half Ironman, which is shaping up to be IM Kansas 70.3 (although, I'm going to have challenges with that training too... more on that in a later post).

One thing I found most interesting of the entire day was the run.  While I struggled on the run and had my worst half-marathon (or best half-marathon during a half-ironman!), the run seemed to go by fairly quickly.  Looking at it in 3 mile chunks made it very manageable mentally.

As with all firsts, you just have to sit back and enjoy it and I definitely took the opportunity to do so.

As for a race management perspective, this was extremely well coordinated and executed event.  I would absolutely recommend this race to anyone wanting to participate in the first or 50th half-ironman event.  The ONLY drawback I have about this race is that it is so late in the year that weather can be so fickle.  It could be a perfect day, a horrible day, a mix of both.  Looking at the dates for the next two years shows that it is going to be even more of a gamble, weather-wise.

Competing an Ironman is on the bucket list and this will be one of the first races I will consider when that item comes up.

Survivors  Finishers
Per their usual awesome-ness, Lauren and Tricia surprised Joe and me with massages at the beach house the day after the race!  I've never had a professional massage, so it was another first for me.  Coincidentally, the masseuse actually did Beach2Battleship 70.3 too!  Even more, her bib number was 1353 (mine was 1352) so our bikes got to hang-out together over night.

I'm sure the massage helped but my legs/joints, were still somewhat sore for another day or two.  Finally, on Tuesday I strapped the running shoes on for a "recovery" run which turned into a 10k run with about a mile at Boston Qualify pace.  Ouch.  I do have a marathon in 34 days to train for!

The Breakdown
  • The Good
    • Packet Pickup:  Quick and seamless.  Humorous participant meeting.
    • Participant Family Activities: Lots of activities for families waiting for their participants.  Heck, it's right next to a battleship for touring!
    • I can't stress enough how well this was put together by the race director and SetupEvents. There is a reason this race is rated as one of the top 5 in the world (by Triathlete magazine).
    • Community Support.  Even at the far stretches of the bike course, there were people cheering you on (granted it was few, but they were there).
    • HUGE Medal.  This thing has some heft to it.  I currently have it hanging from my rear view mirror (remember: dork) but I am taking it off with concerns that it might break my front window if it slams into it!
It's pretty thick too.
  • The Bad
    • It's apparent that they try to think of all the scenarios that a participant may encounter and document it in their 30+ page participant guide but there is a lot of discrepancies in it.  It really needs to be reviewed for organization. 
    • Weather:  How about we see this a couple weeks earlier?
    • Cobble Stones/Brick on the run.  Could have done without this but it is part of the historic downtown that Wilmington is showcasing.  I believe I remember moving over to the sidewalk at one point.
  • The Standard
    • Packet Pickup:  Smooth
    • Goodie Bag: Not much - T-shirt, Hammer nutrition, Timing Chip, Chip Strap, Transition/Gear Bags, Bag Labels, and Bag Instructions.
    • Communication: 4 - 5 e-mails leading up to the race.  Good web site with lots of information.  Facebook page.
    • Aid Stations: Appeared well stocked with food and great volunteers.  Bands/music during the run.
    • Post-Race: Good.  I put some comments above.
    • Port-a-Johns:  Sufficient, although I only remember seeing 2 in T1 (but I'm pretty sure there were a bunch on the other end of transition).  Even with only those 2 there wasn't much of a line since most participants were already at the swim start.  Although they ran out of toilet paper.
    • Parking:  Logistically this was a mess but not really problematic.  I never did find out from TKB if they had problems parking at T1 but it didn't appear that there were issues parking.  They returned to the Hilton and left the car there for the rest of the race.  No one was allowed to park at the finish line and you had to take the water taxi, bus, trolley, or walk back to their car (2+ miles).  The trolley line was about 10 to 15 minutes long but no complaints.  All modes of transportation were free.
    • Volunteers: Awesome.  I believe they said something like 1,000+ volunteers for this event. They had 50 people in the water alone supporting the swim (see last image below).  They were all wonderful.
    • Route:  It was open to traffic but volunteers/police at all intersections.  The entire community of Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington really supported this whole event.
Again.... I would highly recommend this race to anyone.  I am definitely looking forward to doing it as a full one day.  I drove 2,400 miles round trip to do it once, I'd do it again.

The Proof
Thanks to everyone who took photos and let me use them (Lauren, Ken, Mike & Susan, and others that I stole images from).  I left my camera in Greensboro working on the previous post.

I'm basically in the middle with my hand on my swim cap (holding my Garmin's start button).  Joe is to the left looking at me.
The Transition One Area. 

Getting on the arm warmers.  Hope they work.

Joe saying goodbye to his wetsuit.

Joe in green.  That looks warm.

The patent pending Joe celebration jump!
Our ladies with their homemade shirts.  (See below for a better shot)

What a joker.  We smelled like roses!  Thanks Kenny.
I may not have seemed amused I found these on my bike, but yes, it was pretty funny.  I have to love my friends for their jokes.  (I was concerned about breaking a spoke taking them off).  We are at the swim-to-bike transition prepping to leave them Friday night.
The design on the back was made by Lauren!  Very creative!
We got to keep the chip strap.

Thanks for the present, Joe and Lauren!
Talk about water safety.
Photo Credit: Beach2Battleship Facebook Page