Thursday, November 21, 2013

Beach 2 Battleship Race Report

Back on Saturday October 26th I took part in the Beach 2 Battleship 70.3 mile "half iron" distance triathlon in Wilmington, NC..... I guess this race report is long overdue. I'll try to keep it short!

This race is gaining a very good reputation and (somewhat surprisingly, I have to say) is rated by Triathlon Magazine readers as one of the top five triathlons in the world.... It's a great race, but how can this be when there are so many great races and venues?


I'll spare you all of the usual preamble; suffice to say that I made the two hour drive down to Wilmington on a beautiful, crisp Friday morning and arrived at the Convention Center on time. The check-in line was pretty long....

...but apart from that, everythiing was very well organized. After taking a look around the expo. and buying a natty new bike jersey, I attended a long, but entertaining compulsory athlete briefing (where I sat with fellow OSB athlete and fellow Brit Anne McDonald and her family) before dropping my "T2" gear bag off and heading out to Wrightsville Beach to drop off The Slut and set-up my "T1" transition area
Anne - pretending to be nervous before the race, when really she knows that she's going to absolutely crush the run and smash her personal best tomorrow!

The transition area was on the grounds of the Wrightsville Beach Municiple Complex. Thankfully there was plenty of parking and I soon had The Slut in position before heading over to take a look at the swim finish.

How T1 would have looked before color photography was invented....

....and in 2013

It was nice that my number matched the year of my birth!

The ubiquitous shot of The Slut in position

The swim for this race is in the intercoastal waterway. The start is on Wrightsville Beach island and once in the water you basically turn right and swim about 3/4 of a mile to a single turn buoy before turning left and cutting diagonally past a small island to the swim exit at Seapath Marina.


The swim finish showing the path around the island and diagonal swim to Seapath Marina

There were numerous athletes from the Outer Banks Tri Group competing and it was nice to run into Jim Snyder and Samantha after checking out the swim finish. The following day Jim would run the entire 26.1 mile marathon (he was doing the "full iron" distance) in a gas mask to raise awareness for wounded warriors - awesome!

Now that I was set-up and had the lay-of-the-land, there wasn't much to do but head back to the hotal and wait for SWMBO and the Junior Sassoons to arrive! Once they were safely checked-in we enjoyed dinner at the local Olive Garden and headed back for an early night!

This race starts at 07:30 for the 140.6 distance and 08:00 for the 70.3 mile distance so it made a nice change not to have to set the alarm for 04:00! On top of this, there was a wave start for the 70.3 and my advanced age meant that I was in the second to last group to start and wouldn't be entering the water until around 09:20. The previous evening I had arranged a taxi to take me from the hotel to Wrightsville Beach and it arrived only a few minutes late at around 06:45 (phew!). The first thing that I noticed as I stepped out into the fresh air.... it was freakin' cold! The O/N low was close to a record for the date in Wilmington and it was around 34 F and breezy as we left.

Once I had double-checked my T1 area and spent some time chatting to Anne and her husband Dave and also to OSB Athlete Audrey Shipprack (who wasn't racing, but was supporting her friend Diane) I headed to the shuttle bus that would take me to the swim start.

Despite my late wave start, all athletes had to be over the bridge and onto the island early, so unfortunately I was in for a long wait in the freezing conditions. I had my wetsuit on and was layered-up with a long-sleeve T, a ratty old sweathsirt, socks, old sneakers and Dollar Store gloves (all of which would be left at the start and donated to the Salvation Army) but it was still COOOLD! Things improved slightly as the sun got a little higher, but I was very pleased when it was finally my turn to get into the water, which was still close to 70F.

Swim: 1.2 miles. 00:39:43

Beach 2 Battleship has a reputation for fast swim legs because there is often a "tidal push" that helps propel you to the finish. Unfortunately this year.... not so much! The tide was basically slack, so there was little, if any, push as shown by my time, which was slightly slower than I swam at Raleigh Ironman 70.3.

After getting "that constricted feeling" for a short time while wearing my wet suit at Lake Royale Sprint, I decided to stay out of the fray and waited for the faster guys in my age group (white caps) to get going before I started. I pretty soon got out to the middle of the channel and found good water and a nice steady stroke. There were a few guys who were a little erratic and crossed my line, but in general I had no difficulty sighting off the large orange turn buoy that was 3/4 of a mile ahead. No problem with the turn and then think that I took a good line cutting closer to the jetty on the right, followed by the grassy island on the left as I headed to the finish. Overall I was satisfied with this.

The swim exit was up steps onto a dock and there were "wet suit strippers" to help you remove your rubbery warmth.... brrrrr! It was chilly when that came off! There was a long run (about a quarter of a mile) over rough pavement to T1, but on the plus side, there was a walk-through tent with warm showers running to help flush away some salt water.

Coming out of the water with wetsuit under my arm and sporting my new OSB Racing Team shorts!

T1 was uneventful. 00:06:23 - sounds slow, but that includes the long run and putting on arm warmers, gloves and a wind jacket for the bike - it was still COLD!

Bike. 56 miles. 03:11:06.

Definitely slower that I was targeting (and slower than Raleigh Ironman 70.3, but this was a common story because of the wind). The way the course is set-up you basically ride ~35 miles north out of Wrightsville Beach and then ~20 miles south back into downtown Wilmington. Unfortulately there was a pretty good wind from the north, so the first 35 miles plus felt like a lot of hard work! I kept in aero position and maintained a good cadence, but it was always destined to be a slow ride. I didn't have any issues on the two "metal grid" bridges that everyone had talked so much about last year. Another plus was that I managed to judge my clothing well and stayed warm without over-heating. My major observation is that the bike course is bor-ing! Lots of flat highway and not much of interest until close to Wilmington. Because I was in a late wave start, I wasn't overtaken by many people and overtook loads, so that at least made it a little more fun!

Wrapped-up warmly somewhere on the bike course!

T2 was pretty uneventful.  Somewhat unusual in that you hand your bike off to a volunteer who racks it inside the Convention Center before running to a changing area where you pick-up your gear bag and change into running shoes.  Unusually I stopped to pee!    00:04:33

Run.  13.1 miles.   02:21:17.

Ugh!   This is where I fell apart a little because my right knee started hurting so badly!   The run started well and I felt good when I first spotted Compass and Flipper cheering me on and making sarcastic comments about my hair!   :-)   They had come to support me, Rabbit and others that they know - awesome!  Shortly after that, as I passed the finishing chute on my way out, it was even more awesome to see SWMBO and the Junior Sassons, who were making posters as I passed.   The course went south along the river walk and out of Wilmington Center before a long out-and-back section through a park around a lake.  Apparently at one point there was a juvenile alligator lying on the course, but I didn't see it!  

About three or four miles in I became acutely aware that my right knee was hurting and, before long, I was down to not much more than a jog.   I'm pleased with myself for "toughing it out" and running the whole thing (apart from a couple of aid stations where I walked so that I could drink) but the time is obviously pretty dismal!   It was nice to see Compass and Flipper again as they rode their bikes next to me and chatted a while before disappearing (presumably to some bar or house of ill-repute!). Great also to see speedy Anne and crazy Aussie Eleanor Richardson as the passed me on their return legs as I was still running out. Somewhere out there Angie McDonald, who I had seen at the swim start, was also rocking it. There was a great OSB cheering section in downtown Wilmington, but I have no idea who they were! All I know is that I want some of what they were drinking! :-)

Overall:   06:23:01    Much slower that I was targeting, but I'm not beating myself up - many others were in the same boat because of the conditions and my knee problem didn't help!

After ice cream with the Junior Sassoons we picked-up my bike and gear bags before heading back to the hotel for a shower and short rest. The wonderful Thai food that evening was well earned!

The run before my knee started hurting!
On Sunday we enjoyed a really nice day looking around historic downtown Wilmington and touring the Bellamy Mansion before heading home.

Another one in the books!

The Sassoons on Sunday morning with the USS North Carolina in the background.   Thanks so much for coming out to support me - I love you!

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