Friday, June 17, 2016

Ironman Raleigh 70.3 Race Recap - Part 2 Race Day!

   As usual, I had a horrible night's sleep and woke up at 2:30am on race day. My alarm was set for 3:30am - no way was I going to be able to fall back asleep. Not on race day with 1,000 thoughts going through my head. "Did I pack my race belt? Do I have enough GUs? I hope it's not going to be too hot. Crap, was that thunder? I think that was thunder. I hope it's not going to rain..."

Don't have a race belt? A Garmin HR monitor strap works just fine.

   Around 3:00am, I got up and got dressed and just kind of futzed around until 4:00am when I was meeting Mark (see previous post) in the lobby. Of course, I accidentally woke up Dudley. Bless him. He's such a saint. Not only did he get up with me, but he helped carry my transition bags down to the drop off area.

I'm way too perky for 4:00.  And how much crap can I carry?
I think Mark is still asleep.

   After we dropped off our T2 bags at transition, Mark and I boarded the shuttles to the swim start. Being the Type-A triathletes, we wanted to get out to T1 early to make sure everything was set, but it was also a 45-minute shuttle ride, which is why we got up so early. I have to give props to the Raleigh organizers here. They set us up with comfy charter busses for the ride, rather than shuttle vans or school busses. Things like that are appreciated.
    Once at T1, I topped off the air in my tires and gave The Weapon one last check. It was still dark out so I couldn't see very well, but I definitely heard something rubbing on one of my wheels. I thought it was coming from the back, but the sound wasn't consistent so I couldn't really tell. I had the bike techs check it out, but all they did was open the brakes. Unfortunately, I had already tried that so I knew that wasn't the issue. After about a half-hour of trying to figure out what the issue was, the sound went away. Thankful, I racked my bike and left transition to rest before the start. Dudley and Laura (Mark's wife) took a later shuttle down, and we were all able to hang out a bit before the start.
   The good news about this particular race is that since I wasn't 100% fit, and am racing another 70.3 in July, Coach Andrew wanted me to use this race as a long training day, rather than a "race." I was never supposed to REALLY push myself, with the hope that I wouldn't shatter myself and still be able to have a decent race in Muncie. While that remains to be seen, the mindset of going into a race as a training day really takes off the pressure. Unlike Chattanooga, where I wasn't fit but still tried to race, I was a lot more calm at the start of Raleigh.
   The race started at 7:00, and my wave started at 7:45. Time goes amazing quickly when you're waiting for your wave to start. It seemed like one minute I was listening to the National Anthem, and the next thing I heard was my starting cannon. Raleigh had their waves staggered by 3-minute increments (I think...I can't find the info now). This short period of time, along with the design of the race course (a triangle) made it very easy for the waves to intermix, which we did quickly. This was the first race where I kind of felt like I was swimming in a scrum that mass-starts often produce. Previously with my mass-start starts, I was swimming downriver so we could spread out some, or it was small race and there just that weren't that many people around me. In Raleigh though? We were all going for the same line around the first turn buoy and there were arms, legs and bodies everywhere. I was hit, pushed and swum over. Fortunately, I did an OWS the weekend before Raleigh where my friends and I just beat the hell out of each other practicing mass starts, so I was OK with getting beat up a bit. Though I did give one swift kick to someone who was annoying the heck out of me, I was pretty calm throughout the entire swim. I have a mantra of "Reach, Rotate and Relax." I just repeated that over and over again while counting off the buoys. 
   While closing on the first turn buoy, the water started getting a little choppy. It wasn't an ocean swim, but it was a noticeable change from closer to shore. Unfortunately, once we made the right turn, we had to swim right into the chop. That was fun. There were several times when I brought my arm forward to start my pull and there wasn't any water there, which is a pretty strange sensation when you're swimming. I knew there were kayakers everywhere, so I just stayed calm as I made my way across the lake. I really wished I knew how many buoys were out there because Raleigh actually had them numbered to let us know where we were. (Yes, they probably do this every race, but I just haven't noticed.)  I looked at the course map, and when the buoys changed color, we were supposed to turn. I was so happy when I hit the orange buoys because I thought it was time to make the turn home. I thought I was FLYING! Unfortunately, the map was incorrect and the start of the orange buoys was only about half way. Sigh. I was still very calm though and never felt out of my comfort zone. When I hit the final turn buoy, I decided to kick it up a bit and see what I had left. Turns out, I had a lot left. Don't get me wrong - I was ready for the swim to be over, but I felt really good. HAZZAH! 

Made it!

   It had been a year since my last triathlon, and I kind of had to remember what I needed to do in transition, which is funny because in T1 all you need to do is throw on your helmet and bike shoes and go. We did have to pack up our swim stuff in our T1 bags though, because nice volunteers were going to collect them all and drive them back to Raleigh for us. Knowing I had three-plus hours in the sun, I stopped at the sunscreen appliers and had them give me a good dose of sunscreen. 

Bike Out. Setting my Garmin with my teeth.  

   I had been warned the bike course was going to be hilly. Nothing crazy steep, but just unending rollers. I had also been warned by Andrew that based on the power output he wanted me to hit, I was going to be passed - a lot. Not fun for someone who is usually pretty strong on the bike, but again, the point was to train, not to race. Understood. And I was passed. A lot. It was really frustrating, but I have to admit pretty fun once I got out of the "Ahh - I'm being passed by everyone" panic. Raleigh has a really nice bike course and North Carolina is beautiful. I'm sure I noticed a lot of things that a lot of other racers didn't, like Historic Yates Mill. It looked pretty and they have tours. If you're in the area, I suggest you check it out.

Smiles everyone, smiles!  

     Other than me being passed, I had two items of note for the ride. One was that the rubbing sound from my wheels was back. Again, I couldn't tell where it was coming from, and it wasn't consistent, but it was enough that I expected a blowout at any minute. Always fun to think about crashing when flying downhill on unknown roads. Fortunately, though, I made it back safely. The other item was that I carried three bottles of nutrition / hydration with me. I planned on a bottle an hour. I noticed that I still had a bottle and a half left at about mile 40, which meant I was behind on my plan. So I started drinking a bit more towards the end of the ride knowing I had a half-marathon to run and I needed to fuel up. (This is called foreshadowing people. Pay attention to that little tidbit.)

   The good news about trying to stay in my power range was that my legs were pretty fresh for the run. Once I hit T2 (where I had the longest walk to my racking position EVER), I took a few more swigs of my nutrition / hydration and downed a gel. Made another stop at the sunscreen station where they only had lotion, not the spray sunscreen they had at T1. That has to be the worst volunteer position ever. How would you like to apply sunscreen to 2,500 sweaty athletes all day. Ugh. 
   Anyway, I was feeling pretty good when starting the run. I was tired from the day, but I felt like I could easily stay within the conservative paces that Andrew had laid out for me in my race plan. And I first. It was after noon by now, and the temperature was in the mid-to-upper 80's with humidity covering the city like a blanket. But, again, I felt good. I was even kind of chuckling at all of the people who started walking immediately after the bike. I was all cocky thinking "look at you - you cooked yourself on the bike and now you have nothing for the run." Sigh...Foolish girl.
   I first noticing trouble around mile three in the run. The course was hilly, but it wasn't my legs that were failing. It was my stomach that wasn't feeling great. Nothing horrible at first, but definitely not right. While I was hot, I wasn't dizzy or anything, so I tried to keep going. But then the nausea hit. Apparently, the nutrition I took during the last part of the bike and in T2 didn't absorb and now it wanted to come back up because of the heat / humidity. I'm not going to go into graphic detail, but from mile three-four to the end of the run, I felt like I had to throw up. I would be OK if I walked - the nausea would subside - but when I started running, it'd come back after a few steps. I realized I had a dilemma - I could either continue to run, completely hurl and probably end up in the medical tent, or I could do my little walk / jog thing and live to fight another day. I chose the latter, and even doing that, I still couldn't really keep anything down. I had some water and orange slices - that was it. I tried a GU, but that came back up immediately. It wasn't a whole lot of fun, and I would have been really upset if this had been an A race. Fortunately, it wasn't and I was able to learn a valuable lesson about how my body reacts to humidity and nutrition. I had almost the exact same experience when I raced Augusta a few years back, which was also extremely humid. I obviously need to adjust my nutrition plan in humid weather. 

I look happy, but I'm not. I saw the photographer and faked a smile.

   After three hours of wogging, I made the final turn down the long straightaway to the finish. This section was kind of a wind tunnel because of the buildings, and while the wind should have felt good because of the heat, it was a headwind and it felt like something was pushing me backwards. No cool wind. The finish is three blocks away and I'm being pushed backwards after three hours in the heat and humidity? Just seemed like a cruel way to end a race. Stupid weather.

So. Much. Sun.

   When I made the final turn, I decided to try to run it in, rather than walk. I mean, who wants to walk across the finish line, right? With every step, I kept thinking "Don't throw up. Don't throw up. There are photographers everywhere. Don't throw up." And fortunately, I didn't. 

Ironman knows how to do a finish line.

I ran into Catherine at the finish! Yay Nashville!

Me and Dudley post-race.

   I found out after the race that there was a pretty high DNF rate. I read in a forum that over 100 people were pulled from the swim alone, and judging from the results, it looks like there were a lot of people who dropped from the run or finished over the time cutoff. I also found out after the race that my front tire had gone completely flat at some point in the day. Remember that rubbing noise? I still don't know what it was, but apparently I'm pretty lucky I made back to transition without flatting. 
   Even though it was stupidly hot, I loved this race. I'm sure a lot of that had to do with my mindset of treating this race as a long training day, rather than adding the extra pressure of a race. It was probably the hardest 70.3 that I have done in that both the bike and run courses were hilly, but I knew that going in. The City of Raleigh did a great job with pretty much everything. On paper, it seems like a logistical nightmare, but the race organizers did a great job explaining everything and the two transitions weren't any big deal. There were plenty of volunteers and a lot of people came out on the run to cheer us on. There were a lot of people out on the bike course, too, which surprised me. And as I mentioned in my previous post - my hotel was right at the finish line! That was glorious!! The only thing that could make this race better is if they moved it to May so it's a bit cooler, but that would conflict with Chattanooga so I can't see that happening. I would absolutely do this race again even with the heat, and would recommend it to anyone. 

Raleigh 70.3
Swim:  45:33 (14th out of 96 AG)
T1: 3:28
Bike: 3:10:32 (27th AG)
T2: 5:35
Run: 3:00:19 (41th AG)
Total: 7:05:27

I'm running the New York Marathon with Team in Training!  Help me find a cure for blood cancer by donating to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society!


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