This year has been all about racing in the cold, and unfortunately Beach to Battleship was no exception. You'd think by now I'd be good at it. You'd also think that having lived in Wisconsin my whole life I'd be used to the cold.
The forecast was for sunny skies and a high of 63. Sounds good, right? Well...that was 4 pm. The low was 37 with temps of about 41 the time I would be starting the bike.
I figured the sun would help a lot so my plan was arm warmers and toe warmers and that's it. Then I rode the day before in the morning when it was 50 and I was freezing. The wind coming off the ocean was cold. I clearly needed to rethink my plan. So the new plan was to buy a fitted long sleeve shirt to put on in T1, then put on gloves and I decided to race in compression socks all day to help keep my legs warm.
The logistics of this race are tough. It's a point-to-point swim and has two transition zones. To keep Courtney from getting stuck in traffic going to T2, we had to park about a mile from T1 and walk. I did my best to stay warm, but I was pretty cold at the start of the swim.
I never really warmed up despite intentionally swimming harder than I normally would in a half. I think I swam off course, but that's hard to say for sure. What I do know is that I swam close to someone else, we took a left at the only buoy and eventually discovered the main group was waaaaaay over there. So I finished the swim cold and frustrated with a slow swim time at a race known for a smoking fast swim (34:xx, I think...haven't looked it up). Fantastic.
Oh yeah...never swim in compression socks. I felt like I had two small parachutes behind me. I didn't think they would catch water like that. Lesson learned.
There's a quarter mile run from the swim exit to transition and I was shivering. I was really wishing I had a towel in transition...and knee warmers...or maybe a dry kit....something more than I had.
I didn't realize it when I registered for this race (or I wouldn't have signed up for this race), but they send the front of the half iron distance right into the back of the full distance race. I was extremely cold and trying to work my way through a pack of riders racing a completely different race at a completely different intensity. The full distance athletes were really good about trying to leave room for the half athletes, but there just wasn't enough room in some places and I got held up a lot. So I was cold and frustrated.
Mainly, I was cold. Really cold. So cold, in fact, I considered dropping out...mainly because my bits and pieces were so cold I was beginning to fear they may never work again. Unfortunately, I'm completely serious. Wet, thin shorts and 41 degrees don't mix well. I remembered an ex-coworker who told me he wore 3 socks when he rode in cold weather. I thought about the socks I had back in my suitcase at the hotel. If only I had one of them right now.
I told myself I wasn't going to be the Wisconsinite who went down south and DNF'd due to cold weather. I also knew it was going to be warming up. I just needed to get through the first half of the bike. My hands were so cold squeezing gels was difficult. I didn't have any strength left in my hands.
My power was really low the first 20-30 minutes, partially due to getting held up but also from the cold. I was struggling mentally. I finally found some open space and started pushing harder. Things started warming up and the final 30 miles weren't too bad. Eventually I regained feeling in everything but my feet.
Had they not had two races mixed on one course, this bike course would have been great. It was part of my reason for picking the race - biking on the interstate, smooth blacktop, no pea gravel, not potholes (seriously, none), etc.
T2 - Whoa, my feet are still numb.
If you read my pre-B2B post, you know this was all about the run so even though my day wasn't going as I'd hoped I was still focused on getting that sub-90 run. I have logged a lot of miles in triathlons this year with numb feet, and this race gave me 7 more. Yes, 7. It's getting old.
I needed a 6:52 pace so I started out right around a 6:50-6:55 pace for the first mile and then got my average pace down to 6:50...then 6:49...then 6:48. I was a little more tired than I wanted to be at this point, but I was feeling confident I could hold the pace. I held 6:47-6:49 average for the first 7 miles. I was told earlier in the run I was 5th in my AG, 2 minutes behind 4th. I got a split at the turnaround and saw I was a minute down. The pace was getting tough, and I had slipped to a 6:50 pace so he became my carrot for the second half of the run. Keep chasing.
Since I was the first half iron wave, and this course was an out and back, I was one of the first athletes to come back in the other direction. I think I caught some volunteers at an aid station off guard and I asked for Coke but they missed it. I was a little frustrated, but figured I'd just hit up the next aid station. No big deal.
At this point I'm right on the edge. I'm trying to speed up but I'm right at 6:51 and fear it's about to hit 6:52, I'm still chasing 4th. Dig deep. You can still get your sub-90, I tell myself. Then I hear someone catching me yelling "Coke!" Huh? It was one of the volunteers from the aid station. She must have run a couple hundred meters with a cup of Coke for me. I was a bit out of it and caught off guard and I grabbed the cup and mumbled "thank you" but I fear she didn't hear me. I zone out a bit when I race, and I suspect I come off as unappreciative in aid stations. I don't always say anything and when I do it's usually a mumbled thank you. I know the volunteers don't read my blog, but trust me I really do appreciate the hard work you guys do. I'm just not good at showing it while I'm racing.
I eventually caught and passed 4th place. Mile 10 and I'm right at 6:52. Mile 11 and I'm at 6:53 and I'm pretty sure I'm going to puke. My mouth is watering. I'm off my goal by about 10-15 seconds so I know sub-90 isn't happening, but I keep pushing. I can't hit my goal, but I can come close.
I managed to avoid puking and I hit the finish line around 1:28....12.75 miles. *sigh* An out and back and the distance was off. My pace was 6:54 so I was set to finish about 20-30 seconds off my goal.
Yes, I'm disappointed I didn't break 90 minutes, but I'm still happy with my run. It's a big PR and I came close. I showed that it wasn't an unrealistic goal. I just didn't have it today. Maybe next year.
I have mixed feelings on this race. Once again I struggled in the cold and didn't have the race I wanted, although I did come really close to hitting my run goal so that's a positive. As a Wisconsinite, I really do need to learn how to handle cold weather. This is embarrassing.
Final thoughts on B2B:
- I think this would have been a different experience doing the full. Although I have some complaints, it's generally a well-run race.
- Wilmington is a very cool town.
- The run course was awesome. I loved it. Very scenic. I'm jealous of those who get to run that route any time they want.
- The conditions of the bike course are perfect. Yes, they have the grates on the bridges and a few speed bumps very early in the bike, but other than that it's perfect.
- The volunteers are awesome.
- I won't lie....I'm not coming back to do this race. Not the half anyway, and it's mainly because they send the half into the full. Mixing distances like that makes for a lot of sketchy moments.
- 1.2 mile swim...one buoy. Really?
- The logistics of this race are very challenging.
- The run was short. There's no excuse for that.
- This isn't the first year this race has been really cold (2011). I think it's typically warm, but be prepared for the potential for cold weather.
- It's not spectator friendly.
- "Finisher" pajama pants. Yikes. They did give us a great B2B long sleeve cotton T with packet pick up. I'll definitely wear that. I turned down the pajama pants and the volunteers were surprised and I was surprised they were surprised.
No B2B post would be complete without a picture of the battleship.
One last thing: I've read a lot of great things about B2B, and while I have my complaints I do think it's a good race. However, I left this race convinced that the Door County Triathlon is the best independent half iron distance race in the country. I'm thinking B2B is better as a full than a half.