Another big race in the books. Unfortunately no PR to share, but overall a fantastic experience...one I was able to share with my cousin Mike as he completed his first 70.3.
I drove down to Raleigh Saturday morning. I got on the road a bit later than I wanted to, but except for the usual delays down 95 in Stafford down through Fredricksburg, made it into town around 3. There was a lot to do pre-race, so I didn't waste much time. Raleigh 70.3 is a point to point race (my first in a triathlon) so there is the issue of driving 40 minutes to the swim start/T1 to rack my bike, and then back into Raleigh (where I was staying/having dinner). I pulled up to the convention center shortly after Mike and his family arrived. I headed in, eventually found athlete check in, and found Mike. I also saw my friend Heather and her crew at check in. Always eases tensions seeing family and friends (from my days as a 5 year old on swim team, I ALWAYS get pretty nervous and worked up pre-race). We wrapped up check-in, made sure we had all our necessities, and then we drove out to T1 to rack our bikes and check out the swim course.
We finally found T1 (Jordan Lake) and took care of bike racking, swim exit to bike rack positioning, etc and then headed back to Raleigh. Mike had setup dinner with his Richmond crew and we ate a place called Vics right near the convention center. A simple spaghetti with meat sauce and some rolls for dinner and some good conversation. Met a slew of new friends and had a pretty good time. Soon enough, it was off to my "home stay." I was lucky enough to stay with an old friend from high school. She has a condo very close to the convention center and I met up with her and she let me in. Unfortunately, she had family plans so not much time to catch up, but pre-race this was probably best. I made myself at home, prepped as much as I could, and was in bed before 10. Not much sleep as usual, but I was very comfortable and just tried to relax as much as I could.
Before I knew it, 4:00 AM rolled around and it was time to get out of bed and roll out. I don't know what the heck I was doing, because soon enough I looked at the clock and it was already pushing 4:30. I hustled up and got in my car and found a parking garage near the convention center/T2/Shuttle to T1. I rolled out of the garage and was literally right where I needed to be. I had asked some guys in the garage if they heard any news on wetsuit legality (76.1 degrees or less), but they hadn't heard. I decided since hearing that the lake had been 78 on Saturday, that I might as well leave the wetsuit behind since it wasn't likely it'd be legal. I headed to T2, setup my run area, found Mike, and jumped on the shuttle. The drive over seemed pretty quick and we were in T1 before too long. I dropped my morning clothes bag and bike gear bag at my bike and hit the bathrooms. As I was walking to the bathroom, they announced the water temperature. 76 degrees...wetsuit LEGAL! Are you kidding me??? Ugh. No wetsuit for me and I soon was psyching myself out. I tried to remind myself I wasn't planning on swimming with it anyway, but still was playing head games. There was definitely a mixed reaction from the athletes (I think the groans were from those of us who left the wetsuit behind). I took care of everything, put on some sunscreen, and headed to the swim start with Mike. We found Mike's wife and daughters and worked our way to the lake front to wait. While we were over there, we ran into some of the Richmond crew and Mike's buddy Brad said he had his wetsuit but didn't want to wear it. He said I could wear it, but it might not fit. I figured I'd give it a try and we grabbed it and I tried it on. It was a medium (mine is a large), and while it was tight, I was able to zip it up and felt pretty comfortable in it.
Now came the waiting game...Mike's wave went off at 7:22 and mine wasn't until 7:50. I had figured I'd catch him right about the time we hit T2 and may actually roll in together. I decided to check out the pro finishers after Mike started and was able to see some of the men finish up. Laura Bennett was the first female out of the water in 24:XX - the fastest swim of the day male or female. Some of the men were coming out of the water in 28:XX and I began to worry. With these times, I figured the swim was either long or tough with a current (it appeared to be moving from right to left - the opposite direction we were headed in the long portion of the swim). I realized soon enough that I was running out of time and headed to the start. I noticed my group was already through the swim start arch and getting ready to get in. Ooops. No worries though, I didn't miss anything. The next thing I knew we were in the water and getting ready to start. Believe it or not, I actually finally felt ok/at ease.
Swim: 32:41 (6th in my wave, 13th age group)
This is probably the best I've felt in a 70.3 swim yet (ok, only three to choose from, but...). I actually didn't get in nearly as much pool time as I wanted, but even so, I felt good. I lined up right at the front and maybe 10 yards over from the far right buoy. The gun went off and we were off. Very little if any contact at the start and I was soon in a decent rhythm. I was counting off the buoys (6th one was the turn) and this was actually a good strategy for me - mostly due to my ADD :). I started counting anywhere between 90 and 110 strokes between them so this helped with sighting too. I tried not to sight too much, but would every 30 strokes give or take. I stayed a few yards to the left of the buoys, but this actually helped fairly well with the turns as I made them right on point and didn't have to slow much to get around them. I knew I was up towards the front of my wave, but soon enough hit the waves in front of us. This is where most of my contact came from. I did my best to weave my way through, and soon enough was coming towards shore. I was very pleased to see 32:XX on my watch especially seeing what some of the pros swam. My lack of swim training worried me, but I thought 32 was solid. I was only 2 minutes off my goal and was hoping to make it back on the bike. And this is where the fun began...
T1: 2:35 - Wetsuit strippers rule! Uneventful T1 for the most part. I had forgot to turn on my Garmin, but realized this and turned it on first thing when I got to my bike. Put my wetsuit, goggles, cap, and towel in my bike gear bag, put shoes on (couldn't put shoes on pedals), and headed out.
Bike: 2:55:17 (126 AG :( )
There's a gradual climb out of the park to start the bike course. Since I have a tough time settling in and getting my heart rate down, this proved tough. Soon enough though, I was easing into things. Of course, this is about the time when the first thing went wrong on the bike. I hear an odd metallic sound off the back of my bike. I look back, and I've lost one of my co2 cartridges. Luckily I had 2 just in case. I just hoped it'd stay on if I needed it. Not too long after, I hear something else hit the ground. CRAP! This time it was my lone flask of EFS Liquid Shot. 400 calories of nutrition gone. I knew there would be gels on the course so I just did my best to make sure I got them when we hit the aid stations. I was able to get 2 Gu Roctanes, but did miss one I wanted to pick up. I had also put a Honey Stinger Waffle in my jersey so I had that as well. As I was riding along, I began picking up some time and started to push over that 20 mph avg that I wanted to maintain (ultimately shooting for 21 mph overall). Unfortunately, at around mile 18, I heard something I did NOT want to hear. The sound of air escaping my tire. I pulled over to the side of the road and began changing it. I had an extra tube and still had one co2 cartridge left so I was ok, for ONE flat. I settled myself down (it was a bit disheartening to get a flat to say the least especially because for once I was doing a lot of passing and not being passed too much only to see many of those people fly by me on the side of the road) and got to work changing the tire. Besides a minor issue getting the co2 flowing, I managed to change the tube without incident although it took me longer than I'd hoped (about 7 minutes). I hopped back on the bike and prayed not to have a reapeat for the next 38 miles. I began passing those same people I had passed before and I hoped I could still get to T2 in 2:50 or less. Unfortunately it wasn't to be this day and I finished in 2:55 and change. It was a fairly tough course. Hills and hills. The hills weren't too bad (not nearly as bad as some at the Columbia Tri), but ultimately, they had a cumulative effect on me and I just couldn't push faster. Up one final hill, pulled out of my shoes, and finally to the dismount.
T2: 1:49 - One minor issue with my shoe coming off my pedal, but I stopped and a volunteer picked it up for me, handed it to me, and off to the rack. Racked my bike, put my shoes on, helmet off, grabbed my Garmin 305, turned it on, grabbed hat, and I was off. Quick stop for some sunscreen on my shoulders and out on the course. Very happy with T2 and wouldn't change much if anything (other than the shoe falling off my pedal).
Run: 1:48:01 - 26th Age Group
It was hot. And hilly. Hot and hilly. The run was definitely tougher than I anticipated. The first four miles went pretty well, although I knew early the heat was taking it's toll. Right about mile 4 though, I caught up to Mike. He still looked pretty strong - minus his chafing issues. He tolled me to keep rolling and I headed on towards the park. Wow...the park. Miles 5 through 9 were either uphill or downhill. And there were some steep hills. Not to mention a double loop inside the park. It was tough, but I manged to "run" everything except a bunch of the water stops where I just wanted to get fluids/ice. I finally grabbed some coke at the mile 9 aid station and I think I waited too long! Not too late, but I should have grabbed some earlier. I finished the run strong so I wonder if I had grabbed some around mile 6 if that would have helped some of those tough sections. Hmmm...something to consider for the next one. Just after mile 9, a kid rolls up to me and tells me I'm a running machine. Ha! He's the one who caught me! Anyway, we ran together for a bit, I pulled ahead at a aid station (I started running through them after 9), he caught me again, ran together, he pulls ahead, rinse repeat. Around mile 11 or so, we started talking a bit. Turns out we live about 20 minutes from each other. Small world! Around 11.5-12, I see my friend Robin and her HEAT crew. She snapped a pic, gave me a hug, and I had a nice boost to the finish. With about a half mile to go, my new buddy Brendan spots his little brother and that was fun to see as well. We had two turns left at this point, and I took off. I was motoring (finally) and was enjoying a fantastic finishing crowd! The streets on both sides were PACKED! I slapped high fives with tons of fans and really enjoyed the finish. I came across the finish line in 5:20:23. Not my best 70.3, but I'm happy with my performance none the less. A little bad luck thrown in, but it happens to everyone. The results are how you deal with it, and I have to say I'm proud of myself for not throwing in the towel. Hardly anyone passed me on the run, something I'm also very proud of.
Time to find my next 70.3 challenge! I'm still gunning for sub 5!!!