What’s half of an Ironman? A tin man perhaps? If that’s the case, then on October 14th in Anderson, South Carolina, I became a tin man by completing my first 70.3 mile “half ironman” triathlon – yeah!
I originally had my first full 26.2 mile marathon tee’d up as my end-of-season goal, but somehow I just couldn’t see doing that much run training and, let’s be honest, triathlon is much more fun! The 70.3 miles is split into a 1.2 mile open water swim; 56 miles on the bike and a 13.1 mile half marathon. My ability to swim the distance (at least at a half decent pace) has prevented me from considering this length before, but my swim has improved dramatically and some solid mid-season open water swims convinced me that a “70.3” was possible, so I duly signed-up for Rev.3 70.3 Anderson, SC.
It has been almost a month and my legs have long ago stopped hurting, but Compass, Snort and others have asked about a race report so here it is. Better late than never!
After spending waaay too much time checking and double checking that I had packed all of the necessary gear, equipment, nutrition and sundries (no mean feat!) I headed south for the 4+ hour drive to Anderson (close to Clemson University) on the evening of Friday October 12th. The drive was tedious, but uneventful, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the Hilton Garden Inn when I checked-in. After a super healthy dinner (yeah right!) at the local Outback Steakhouse I eventually retired to bed to watch some college football and get some shut eye.
Saturday morning dawned clear, but cool and windy. After breakfast I went for a short ride before putting The Slut in the car and heading to “race central” in the grounds of the Anderson Civic Center – a very nice sports complex with the usual baseball fields, tennis courts etc., but also a nice lake and lots of trails. The place was hopping as there was a local cross country meet taking place and I amused myself for a while watching the local middle and high schoolers race over the 5k course.
|...and they're off!|
Registration was a breeze and I had soon had my photo taken so that I could appear on the big screen as I crossed the finish line (I forgot to look, so I have no idea whether my ugly mug actually appeared) and collected my “swag bag” that featured, among other things, a neat visor and a nice pair of swim goggles. The race packet included my timing chip; orange swim cap; race numbers (251) and temporary tattoos (no scruffy serial killer body marking here!). I was also adorned with my race bracelet (like a hospital bracelet) that had my details and race number on it and would allow me to get in and out of transition and to attend race functions.
|Cool Rev.3 truck and the big screen where my ugly mug would apparently appear if I finished|
|Hopefully I would be running up this tomorrow!|
OK, so that took about five minutes, what the heck should I do now? I wanted to drive the bike course and needed to check my bike into T1 in the afternoon, but otherwise the day was free. As I wondered around the race expo. I noticed a sign saying that volunteers were still needed. I headed to the Rev.3 information booth to get more details (I didn’t want to make too big a commitment that I wouldn’t be able to keep) and the nice lady informed me that even an hour or two helping to check-in bikes at T1 would be greatly appreciated. It didn’t seem too onerous, so I signed-up and was given my natty yellow Rev.3 volunteer t-shirt.
Next up I attended one of the “compulsory” race briefings (why do they call these compulsory when there is absolutely no attempt to log who attends and who doesn’t). Pretty standard stuff except that, uh oh, there would be a change to the run course vs. the one advertised. Last year the first six or so miles were around a circuitous course within the sports complex, followed by a flatter out-and-back run to the city center. This year, to make the course more spectator friendly, there would be two laps of the civic center course. Not really a problem other than that this apparently doubled the hills and eliminated the flatter sections. Oh well, what can you do? All of that running on the hills of northwest Raleigh east Durham would come in handy! To add insult to injury I checked out the large poster detailing the official bike course and… what’s this?.... 3,000 plus feet of climbing? The race propaganda and website said 1,293 feet of elevation gain. Oh well, no guts no glory! [Note: my Garmin after the race showed 2,448 feet of climbing and I confirmed this by plugging the course into both BikeToaster and GMaps - not sure why Rev.3 have so much trouble getting their elevations mapped properly and certainly why they could be off by roughly 100 percent?].
I decided to escape the frantic activity at the race site and headed to the local Chipotle for something to eat. After enjoying a healthy (yes, really this time) lunch I headed out to report for my volunteer duties at T1.
This race is somewhat unusual (although by no means unique) in that T1 and T2 are located at different locations. The swim takes place in Lake Hartwell which is located about three miles from the Civic Center where T2 and race finish are located. This requires everyone to drive their bikes for check-in the day prior to the race. My job would be to make sure that only race participants wearing their race bracelet entered transition and that if anyone removed a bike from transition the numbers on the bracelet and the bike matched!
The very first thing I noticed as I drove into Darwin Wright Park (the site of the swim start and T1) was that the water in the lake was incredibly low.
|Where the hell did all the water go?|
Apparently the water level is controlled by the local utility company and they had needed to drop the levels to 14 feet below normal, leaving the organizers a bit of a challenge to find a 1.2 mile course (and a 1500 M course – there was also an Olympic distance race) that was deep enough! Several people were commenting on the muddiness of the water, but all I can say is that compared to Jordan Lake and, especially, Falls Lake and our central North Carolina red clay, it seemed pretty clear to me!
After checking out the swim start I checked The Slut into T1. I was an early arrival, but pleased to get this chore out-of-the-way.
|An empty T1|
|The Slut - ready to rock and roll!|
|Early arrival. I was just hoping that the racks didn't look this empty when I finished the swim!|
|I liked the (personalized) racks. Much more practical than the more usual steel bars!|
After that I reported for duty at the entrance to T1. Apparently the lady at the information booth had done a great job of recruiting volunteers, as we were over-staffed and there really wasn’t much to do. It was nice to chat to some fellow competitors though and, especially, to look at the many awesome bikes that were being dropped off. Pretty soon even more volunteers turned-up and, after consulting with the guy in charge (can’t remember his name) I decided that my time could be better spent driving the bike course.
It didn't take long to realise that the bike wouldn't be easy. Within about half a mile of leaving T1 it was right into a reasonable hill (note to self - get gearing ready) and even with a map and the road already being marked the course was difficult to follow. Lots of twists and turns through the South Carolina countryside and a few pretty technical sections - one in particular on Timm's Mill Road with a steep descent and a hairpin turn at the bottom. This was going to be more "interesting" than I had anticipated! I only got lost once, but it took me longer than I had anticipated to complete the drive through historic downtown Pendleton and back to Anderson. Given its complexity, I was pleased that I drove the course - the next day I would be able to pick off several landmarks such as the friendly Llama at around mile 20 (yes, really!).
Not much to do now but get something to eat, double check my gear, prepare my bottles and nutrition and turn in for an early night (more college football in bed!). Oh yes.... and apply the race number tattoos!
Race Day: I was up early of course for my usual breakfast of bagel, bananas, Ensure and coffee. Felt remarkably calm and was keen to get this baby started! A quick look out of the window confirmed that the nwind had died down as forecast - phew!
After the short drive to the T2/finish area I parked my car and set-up my T2 area before catching one of the shuttles to the start.
|T2 (photo taken early on Saturday!)|
After checking my bike and pumping tires (or "tyres" if you are reading this in the UK!) I went for a short warm-up run (bikes were not allowed out of transition, so no warm-up ride) before daylight finally appeared and I pulled on my wetsuit and headed to the swim start to get wet before the race. The race was declared "wet suit legal" but I was pleasantly surprised by the water temperature - just about perfect!
For a change my start wave was early - "over 40 men" were the first age group wave to go - ten minutes after the professional men and five after the professional ladies. It was a running beach start and fun to watch the maelstrom as these guys jostled for position and plunged into the water. Then (insert fanfare here) it was my turn......
Race Report: My primary objective was simply to finish my 70.3 event upright and smiling. To be honest, I was pretty confident about this and so, like just about every triathlete in history, I had a secret target time in my head. The Puppeteer had mentioned getting around in about 7 hours in an email about a month previously - no freakin' way was I going to take 7 hours!!! NOT an option, even on a relatively hilly course like this one. Having trained long and hard with Fratboy all summer and seen him finish a flat 70.3 at the Outer Banks in just under 5 hours 30 minutes, I knew that going under 6 hours was pretty unlikely (especially as I intended to work really hard not to go out too hard on the bike so as to leave something in the tank for the run), so I set myself a "soft" 6 hour 30 minute target which I only published to a select few individuals. In my head I had things broken down to something like:
45 min swim; 5 min T1; 03:20 bike; 5 min T2 and 02:15 run.
So... how did it go? Here goes....
Swim: I wanted at all costs to stay calm and avoid that "constricted wetsuit feeling" that I experience occasionally. The best ways I know to minimize this possibility are to pull the wetsuit on as well as possible and to stay out of the fight zone at the start. My plan was, quite simply, to let the faster guys go and wait until there was relatively clear water before plunging-in. It would be a long day and waiting a few seconds at the start wouldn't kill me! The gun went off and I did this, along with a few other guys with similar plans, and was pleasantly surprised to find good water pretty quickly and to settle into a nice rhythm.
From this point on there's not too much to report. I felt that I had a solid swim with no issues. I even managed to find someone's feet and draft for a while. Kept a solid rhythm and managed to take it up a little on the final leg into the beach finish. I'm pretty sure that I sighted well and this was confirmed to some extent by how closely some of the better/faster swimmers from the wave behind passed me - I can't have been far off line if these speedsters were touching me as they passed! I did slip on the muddy bottom as I was leaving the lake, but no harm done (and I was far from the only one).
40:27 (includes the wait at the start and the run to transition). Not super fast, but I was pleased that I executed to plan and felt good getting on to the bike.
T1: 03:15. No issues. Stayed calm. No problems getting out of my wetsuit. Remembered my arm warmers as it was reasonably chilly!
Bike: One of the drawbacks of starting right after the pros is that there is no one to chase! I generally enjoy trying to chase people down on the bike, but in this case I think that I only passed four people overthe whole 56 miles. These were:
- A guy from my age group very early on who appeared to be having trouble with his knee
- A guy fixing a flat
- A guy who stopped to pee (and who flew by me again pretty soon afterwards), and
- An older lady towards the end who appeared to be a straggler from the Olympic distance race (they shared the early/late part of the course).
Not exactly a cause for celebration! :-) Needless to say, I was passed by plenty of people from the younger men's and the women's waves that started behind me! I didn't let it get to me and stuck to my race plan and, especially, not to go out too hard on the bike.
The course was, indeed, more hilly than advertised and there were a few fairly technical sections. I enjoyed it though, especially the winding section through down town Pendleton where there was some support and lots of cow bell action!
03:20:51 (within a minute of my target time!). 16.73 mph average. Given the nature of the course I was happy enough with this. In retrospect I think that I could have certainly gone faster. I would have probably gone slower on the run, but I think the time made on the bike would probably have more than off-set any losses on the run.
T2: 02:11. No issues.
Run: I felt that the run course was tough - not too many flat spots anywhere - so I was actually quite pleased after the race when I saw an interview with one of the lady professionals (Tenille Hoogland I think?) who said that it was the hardest run course that they do all year. I basically tried to keep a nice steady tempo and keep smiling. There was one short, but very steep section that I walked on both laps (I noticed a lot of others doing the same) and I slowed at every other aid station to make sure that I was getting enough fluids. My pace definitely dropped a little over the last two miles, but I never felt remotely in danger of not finishing or having to walk home!
02:15:39. - Not fast, but again almost exactly on my pre-race estimate. I'll take it!
Overall: 06:22:22 If you would have offered me that at the start of the day I would certainly have taken it! Very pleased to have my first 70.3 completed and now, of course, I'm chomping-at-the-bit to go sub 6 at Ironman 70.3 Raleigh next June. Having gained this experience I'll be ready!
One of the nice things about Rev.3 events is that they encourage finish line celebrations and provide free finisher pictures. Lots of people run across the line with their kids (and dogs apparently!) but unfortnately my guys were unable to join me for this weekend because of other commitments. I amused myself for a while on the run by trying to think of a good finish line celebration, but in the end I just ran up the finishing chute waving my OBX Tri running cap in the air like a dork! If you've got the stomach for it you can see this pathetic effort towards the end of this video: http://vimeo.com/51436490
...and here's that finishing chute picture!
|My actual time was 10 minutes faster than this - we started 10 minutes after the pros!|
And here I am after the race.....
Maybe one day I can double the distance and become this guy if I keep up the training and can ever find the time......