On Sunday June 2nd I completed my second "half" distance triathlon - the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Raleigh event - along with about 2,400 of my closest friends. Well, maybe not, but as it was a local event I did know several dozen fellow lunatics who signed-up for this before they realised that they would be running in Dante's Inferno!
To cut to the chase, it was an incredibly well organized event; the support along the course was awesome (both at the aid stations and from people who lined the course to watch); it was brutally hot, but I ended up with a new personal best time for the 70.3 mile total distance by about fifteen minutes. The City of Raleigh did us proud! Here's how things played out......
Because the race course was "point-to-point" the logistics of the event were pretty complicated. The 1.2 mile swim took place at Vista Point State Recreation Area on Jordan Lake; the bike course was 56 miles through rural Chatham and Wake counties from Vista Point to downtown Raleigh and then the run was an out-and-back course from the city center, past the NC State Univesity Campus, through Meredith College and then turn back after two loops of a very hilly section on the greenway through the North Carolina Museum of Art grounds. Very scenic, but as we will see, also very tough!
I picked Compass up on Friday afternoon and we drove to the Raleigh Convention Center where we were to register and pick-up all of our race gear. The registration process was smooth and efficient. After signing our lives away on the numerous legal disclaimer forms and proving that our USAT memberships were up-to-date, we had our participant wrist bands firmly attached and then picked-up race numbers, timing chips, race shirts etc. before taking a look around "Ironman Village" and the various vendor displays. Race number 345... nice and easy to remember! Ran into Jon Anderson, Julie Paddison, Rachael Houp, The Coachman, The Otter and others before finally finding "the dynamic duo" of Snort and Flipper Ass. Chatted for a while before heading home to get my race numbers attached to The Slut, bike helmet etc. and finally starting to think about laying out all of my race gear.
On Saturday bikes had to be dropped at Vista Point between 10 am and 6 pm. SWMBO and the Junior Sassoons agreed to take the 45 minute ride from home with me and to drive the bike course afterwards with a promise of a trip to the Farmer's Market and lunch!
|The Slut in position.|
|Clearly we were relatively early arrivals! It would look very different the next morning!|
|Vista Point: Swim start - the calm before the storm. You can see the first yellow sighting buoys being put in place.|
|The Junior Sassoons and SWMBO survey the swim exit.|
I tried to "rest up" for the rest of the day and watched the NHL playoff game before turning in relatively early. Surprisingly, I didn't lie awake thinking about the next day's race like I usually do and I was out like a light! This was just as well because......
.....the freakin' alarm was set for 03:10 am!! This was all Compass' fault. She's apparently paranoid about getting to races "in plenty of time" and insisted that I pick her up at 04:00 am to make sure that we had sufficient time to leave our run gear bags in "T1" outside the Progress Energy Center for the Perfoming Arts in downtown Raleigh and to board a shuttle bus for the swim start. It could have been worse I guess - on Friday she was suggesting that I pick her up at 03:30 am! She is certifiably nuts!
As usual I woke up a few minutes before the alarm was due to go off (how does this always seem to happen?) and was soon drinking coffee and eating a Breugger's bagel (onion with honey walnut cream cheese - yum!); banannas; and a bottle of Ensure - my standard race day breakfast. I also took a Lava Salt capsule (as I had also done the evening before) because I knew it was going to be a hot one.
After double checking that my three color coded gearbags were in the car [green for street clothes; blue for bike gear (and to receive wet swim gear) and red for run gear] and getting my three nutrition bottles out of the fridge (each with one scoop EFS; two scoops CarboPro and the contents of one Lava Salt capsule) I headed off to pick-up Compass. I was surprised that her hubby Gerry was up at such an un-Godly hour to see her off and wish us luck - another good "Iron Spouse"!
It took us no time to find a parking spot and drop our run gear in the T1 transition area before heading over to where the shuttle busses were lined-up. Well, what a surprise! We seemed to be on the first of about fifty that were waiting to leave. I could probably have had at least another 30 minutes (probably an hour?) in bed.... thanks Compass! She clearly doesn't realise how much I need my beauty sleep. Actually, now that I think about it - beauty sleep? I need a coma!
|On the bus. Me snoozing. Compass apparently delerious (or drunk again?)|
|T1 was just a little bit busier than it was on Saturday morning! Organized chaos!|
|Flipper Ass smiling as usual. She wore that sh#t eating grin even through the pain of the run from hell!|
|Snort - apparently applying sun block with a carrot....|
|Chris Roberts - photo blatantly stolen from his wife Kelly's facebook page - thanks Kelly!|
|Yours truly and the WRAL reporter guy, who is clearly trying to work out what the hell I am babbling on about!|
|Male pros lined-up for the start|
|The start of my "orange cap" wave.... I'm in there somewhere!|
|...and they are off!|
OK - enough of this preamble nonsense.... time to get on to the real race report!
Swim. 1.2 miles:
00:39:46 (02:03 per 100M)
Division rank 55/179
Overall (male & female): 503/~2,400
Overall I was very pleased with this. Clockwise triangular course with the second leg being the longest. Being out of the water in around 40 minutes if the swim was wetsuit legal was my target and I managed things well. I waited a few seconds for the "scrum" to subside at the start and pretty quickly found myself some clean water. I took it easy on the first leg and just focused on "long and steady". A few bumps along the way as usual, but I'm well used to this now and managed to take them all is stride (or should that be "in stroke"?). Found feet to draft on a couple of times, but in both cases I seemed to be faster and so went around them. Soon found myself catching some "red caps" from the previous wave, which is always a good confidence booster. On the second (longest) leg the wind was in our face and it was significantly choppier, but again no issues. I sighted well and passed adjacent to every buoy. On the final leg there was a slight "surfing" effect from the wind driven chop. Was happy to see the timing clock at the end and knew that I had managed a respectable swim (for me at least!)
|Exiting the swim|
|Swim exit.... where's that damned zip?|
My first experience with "wetsuit strippers". As you exit the water there are a group of volunteers who yell at you to lie on the ground and then basically rip your wetsuit off you - awesome! :-)
Smooth transition with no issues. Steady mount on the bike.
|Coming out of T1 and looking awkward running in bike cleats....|
Bike. 56 Miles. Rolling course. Official elevation gain: 1,230 ft. My Garmin elevation gain (corrected on Training Peaks): 1,933 ft.
02:58:51 (18.79 mph average)
Division Rank at end of bike: 51/179
Overall (male & female): 582/~2,400
I was again pleased with this - anything around three hours was my target. Would definitely have taken a sub three hour bike at the start of the day. Nice course - very scenic. Long drag uphill out of transition and then "rolling" throughout. As usual I had a pretty consistent flow of speedsters from later (and younger!) waves passing me throughout (including The Coachman, who flew by me very early in the bike and yelled that something was rubbing on my bike - luckily it was just a "click" that only manifested it self when I was in the small ring and the highest gear!). I did manage to chase down and pass quite a few people myself though. Kept aero and steady throughout and feel that I kept a good cadence and pace. Drank/fueled regularly. Had a little wind assistance in places, which helped. The support through rural Chatham county and into Holly Springs was fantastic! All sorts of banners, yelling and waving. I did think that the giant cut outs of dog's heads was a bit weird.... I guess they meant something to someone!
|On the by-pass in Holly Springs (I think... maybe it's Route 64?). Note that it was still overcast at this point.|
No issues. Ate a gel and took some fluids before heading off on the run. By this time the sun was blaring down and it was getting noticeably hotter!
Run. 13.1 miles. "The Run From Hell"! Official elevation gain: 226 ft (yeah right!). My Garmin elevation gain (corrected on Training Peaks): 421 ft. Some people measured as much as 800 ft. Whatever it was, Ironman lied to us!! :-)
Heat index: 98 F
02:23:07 (Slow as heck! 10:55/mile average)
Holy crap this was a tough one! Coming off the bike I thought that I had a pretty good chance of smashing the six hour barrier, but it didn't take long to realise that this wasn't going to happen!
The course started downtown and the went out on Hillsborough Street (a steady incline) past the NCSU campus, into Meredith College and then onto the Raleigh Greenway for two laps around the gounds of the NC Museum of Art before returning along the same route to an awesome finish past the State Capital and down Fayetteville Street. Very pretty in parts, but also MUCH hillier than advertised! Coupled with the heat this made the run extremely difficult! I pretty soon found myself having to walk up the steeper inclines and though every aid station to put ice down my shirt; take iced sponges; drink everything in sight (including some puky orange sports drink that didn't agree with my stomach - a mistake) and take on fuel. The volunteers at these aid stations were nothing short of awesome! So much help and encouragement. I wasn't happy to be moving so slowly, but took some comfort in the fact that virtually everyone else seemed to be having to walk too. After the race it was interesting to see even the pros talking about how tough the run course was (see the very end of this post).
|Thanks (I think!) to Jen Bauldree for this picture of me in an hour of need.|
Things got a little easier once I escaped from NCMA and Meredith College. It was still hotter than hell, but at least it was mostly slightly downhill. I still walked through the aid stations, but otherwise managed to keep up a plodding run to the finish.
The closing half mile down Fayetteville Street was absolutely fantastic! Talk about a good boost to finish. The sidewalks were packed with cheering supporters and the finishing chute was a zoo! Great setting too, with the State Capital behind you and the Performing Arts Center ahead. Raleigh turned out in force and put on a great show!
|One of the pros heading down Fayetteville Street to the finish|
|Some annoyingly super fast guy in the finishing chute.|
|The exact moment that I realised that I had run past SWMBO and the Junior Sassoons|
|Oh there you are.... give me a kiss!|
|Last few yards!|
|Done! Started 10 mins after the pros, so chip time was 06:07:29|
Well what do you know? Despite the Run from Hell I managed a personal best! Overall I finished in 06:07:29 - a full 15 minutes faster than I did Rev.3 South Carolina last year. Final placement was 55/179 in my division and 777/~2,400 (men & women) overall. In the top third - I'll take it! Very happy with this and what an absolutely fabulous race! I will be back for more punishment next year.
|Pleased to be done!|
|Hanging with the Junior Sassoons!|
|Got. To. Sit. Down!|
Firstly, and most importantly, a huge thank you to SWMBO and the Junior Sassoons who were there to cheer me on and put up with my long hours of training and obsessive tracking of stats! I love you all!
|I LOVE the optimistic "you run like a lightning bolt"! :-)|
|I seem to be doing back stroke!|
|Awesome M-Dot blueberry & vanilla pie that I was served fro dinner. I'm a lucky guy!|
Finally, thanks to The Coachman for his guidance and wisdom and to all of my training buddies and fellow members of the OSB team for their support and encouragement!
Here are a few more pictures "just because".....
|A well deserved beer with super speedy OSB athlete Audrey Schipprack|
|Bike collected and heading home|
|The Otter sporting her OSB kit and concentrating on the race to come... [Photo: WRAL]|
"My race on Sunday was pretty darn good. First off, lets discuss how hard Ironman is for a second. It was horribly humid and you need to keep moving for hours and hours. I recognize it could have been hotter and the bike portion of the race was somewhat cool due to cloud cover but by the time we got to that bear of a run it was stinkin hot."
"Out onto the run I was expecting something resembling the course profile. Notsomuch. Here are some of my thoughts: Where the heck did all these mountains over by the art gallery come from? Who turned up the heat? Why is the whole way on the way out totally uphill when the profile says it is flat? The run was really really hard. When most of the pro men are in the 1:20s range you know it is hard. I was spending the entire run trying not to do my classic southeastern chicken dance instead of finishing. I walked aid stations, took 4 cups of ice cubes and generally went into meltdown protection mode."
"I saw none of the beauty on the run course since I was blind with suffering but the bike was incredibly awesome. So green, best roads in the world, most fans on the side of the road ever, best aid stations ever, most interesting point to point journey, you name it this race is awesome. I loved it. Want to come back."