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.
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!|
|This is just TKB's and my stuff.|
|Our bikes are about to travel 1,400 miles just to ride 56.|
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.
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.|
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.|
Age Group Rank: 40 / 64
Overall Rank: 279 / 554
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.|
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.|
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.
Age Group Rank: 27 / 64
Overall Rank: 264 / 554
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!!
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.
|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.|
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!
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.
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 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.
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.|
|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