I did it! 6:31:06 is the official time. The whole experience exceeded my expectations. I know this is a long post with tons of pics. But it really is the hightlight of my year.
The strangest thing about the whole trip was that nothing strange happened. I mean besides this:
A little gay love with Big Sexy before the race. He is freaking hilarious. I'm going to head down his way sometime over the winter for a long weekend bike ride. He finished 3rd overall male, and the only two guys that beat him took it on the run. He was actually leading the half distance coming off of the bike, but his 1:36 half marathon wasn't good enough to take the overall victory. Dude, since when is a 1:36 half mary not good enough for anything? let alone after you just put in 1.2 miles swimming and 56 miles on the bike. He finished in 4:20:29 and took home hardware. Well done, brother. Well done indeed.
Ok fine. Here's how it all broke down.
Goal #1: Basic Survival. Don't die. - Success!
I did hit up the medical tent trying to get a free IV after crossing the finish line, but they pumped 3 bottles of water into me instead. I had no dehydration issues after that! And I felt so much better after getting checked out by the doctors in there. Very cool.
Goal #2: Break 7 hours. - Actual 6:31:06 Success!
I have to start the day before the race. I left work earlier than expected. Got everything packed up and loaded into the van, and we are ready to hit the road in a reasonable, but already late time frame. Then the girls start screaming "I don't want mommy and daddy to leave again" just tugging on my heartstrings. We finally got on the road, and had a flat tire on the van on I-40 about half an hour into the drive. So I changed the tire with trucks whizzing by me within a few feet and we made the rest of the trip on the doughnut. What was supposed to be a 3 pm or earlier arrival time turned into 4:30 arrival time. Checked into the hotel, got the luggage organized settled in to this view:
Might not look like much here, but this was an incredible place. Behind those trees is the battleship North Carolina and the river. We were able to walk to the packet pickup and expo, and I got all the gear. I picked up some arm warmers and a bottle of Endurolytes while I was at the expo anyway. Got out of there just in time to catch the mandatory 5 pm athlete's meeting.
After that it was back to the hotel to get everything organized for the big race. I packed up the bags, checked everything twice and then went over my game plan again. Then we finally found the Beach transition area (T1) and checked in Jenny and my transition bags. I wanted to go see my friend Charlotte who lives nearby, but didn't get the chance to. It was too late and we were too hungry. You had to have the bikes checked in by 8 pm, and we got there at about 7:15.
The place was huge. So many bikes that are so much nicer than mine. oh well.
I got the bike racked and the bags inline. Then....
Here's Kelley ready to beat me with the tire pump Friday night.
When it was all said and done, we got some dinner at the first restaurant we could find. My friends Chris and Mandy had reservations for us to join them and a group of folks at this italian place, and that happened to be the first restaurant we could find. They were done but not gone by the time we got there, so I got to talk with them some. And my friends Jon and Kim that live in wilmington were also there, so we got to hang with them for a while too! That was unexpected and awesome! Then we went back to the hotel and I fell asleep on the couch. Guess I was expecting to be more nervous than that.
I don't know why they do this. But they stopped bodymarking at 6:30 am and transition was closed at like 7:45 am. yet my swim wave didn't start until 8:40! We arrived shortly after 6. So I guess it's just a logistics thing to get all of the athletes checked in. But really over 2 hours to wait around? Gimme a break. But I got bodymarked:
And found all of these awesome peeps! Here's me with Chris:
He's a two time brain cancer survivor, and a real inspiration to all of his friends and family. Chris finished in 6:48, his first half iron as well. I'm so proud of my little brother!
That's me with Missy before the race. She is just as sweet and pretty and tall and funny in person as she appears on the blog. We got to talk plenty at the swim start too. She ended up taking 1st place in her age group, finished in 5:27 with a PR and 15th overall female. Wow, that's nuts.
I strapped on the wetsuit and took the trolley out to the swim start. Once I was there, I found Calyx and Donna and got to hang out with them for a long time. I got to the swim start just in time to see the first full iron distance swimmer passing by. They had a mass start at 7 am. It was really cool to see those guys out there. Finally 8:40 rolled around and I got in the water.
You know how they say Rule #1 is not to try anything new on race day? yea.
Goal 2a: Swim 1.2 miles in less than 42:28, my oly swim time. Actual: 33:46 yea baby success!!
It was a wade start, meaning we had to walk across the timing mat, wade into the water until it was too deep to stand up in. The wetsuit was so boyant I didn't have to tread water, just sort of hang there on top. First thing I did was pee in my wetsuit. I had to pee for a long time before we got in the water, and didn't want to take it off. So that was great.
There was a very strong current. It didn't feel like I was quite as on top of my swim game like I wanted to be. But I went the distance, stopping to breaststroke when I needed to, and I stopped once and floated on my back for a while just to catch my breath. The goggles fogged up pretty bad, and I had trouble sighting for a while. But eventually I saw the finish dock and dashed to it. Had to climb a ladder to a dock to get out of the water. The volunteers pulled me off of the ladder, and I was slightly disoriented, but not too bad. The wetsuit strippers were awesome! I was de-suited and running in no time flat. Hit a freshwater shower and got some of the saltwater off, and I was off and running to t1.
And yes, the swim seemed to go by just that fast. the current was awesome. Spectators were not allowed at the swim start (no room for parking) so I have no pics.
What was new?
Goal 2b: Transitions in 20 minutes or less - Success!
They don't have t1 times posted, but T2 was only 4:49.
Here I'm running into T1 carrying the wetsuit. I had the new SUGOi Velocity tri suit on under the wetsuit already. So I had to throw on the bike shoes & socks, and get the skull cap and helmet on, and arm warmers and bike gloves. I did take the time to throw on the Garmin and start it up so I could keep track of my speed on the bike and run.
What was new? Never wore the Garmin in a race before. Or arm warmers, ever.
Goal 2c: Bike 56 miles in 3 hours. Actual: 3:11:57 I'll take it. Success!
That's 17.5 mph average. A little slower than I was hoping for as an overall speed, but I will take it. More on speed later.
Kelley got an awesome spot as the bikers were coming out of the course. Apparently, some of the athletes thought she was one of the pro photogs, so they were making nice for the camera. unfortunately (for you ladies) this was the only eye candy shot she got. It was only about 38 degrees at the start, so there weren't too many half naked hardbodies walking around. I, however, was very grateful for the increased female participation rate when the run course came around. It was the hottest part of the day after all.
Those are all the great pics of me she got on the bike. I know Glaven and Dr Nic will think the arm warmers are sexy. and they are!
Start times and waves get all confused after the swim. So if you're like me, you end up passing a bunch of people at the start of the bike leg, then getting passed by a bunch of other people that are faster than you. One of the bad things about this bike leg was that it started out with a bunch of road turns to get out of transition. I tend to take turns pretty aggressively, usually I won't stop pedalling and I lean in really hard instead of turning the handlebars to steer. Tri's also have severe penalties for drafting, which means you have to stay 3 car lengths behind the person in front of you to avoid drafting and you have 15 seconds to complete your pass without penalty. Three penalties and you're disqualified from the race, so I take that pretty seriously. I was able to pass a few people, but the first 2 miles of the course didn't have 15 seconds of straight roads to pass this slow guy on. Of course, by the time the road straightened out there was nobody in front of him, so I just passed and went up to my speed. Then I got passed by like 3 other folks. But this guy braked thru every turn, and didn't accelerate once he could see the next turn, and there were maybe 15 turns in those first couple of miles.
When it did straighten out we were headed up a bridge. You know I'm not afraid to pass people riding uphill. In the first half of the course, this was not a big deal. By the second half I would pass people going uphill, and they would leapfrog me again when it flattened out.
The bike traffic was a little frustrating. The full and half riders were both out on the course at the same time, and most of the full riders were still able to clog up the streets somehow. The bike traffic was always congested. And tri's are really single file bike rides, you only go next to someone to pass. It's not like a group ride or a stage ride where you ride as a pack. So there were 1500 bikes on the course at the same time. Maybe I've just never done a race that big before, but it seemed very congested.
Overall though, the bike leg was awesome. Have you ever taken a freeway at 20 mph? The organizers said they had to get federal permission to shut down one lane of I-140 for 12 miles so we could bike it. And biking on the interstate is cool. It was a one loop course, the full iron guys had a much longer loop, and us half-ers kicked an out and back leg for a bit. Even at the coast, there are still slight up and downhill variations. Not steep climbs, mind you. but enough to notice. On the "out" portion of the out and back parts, I would regularly look down at the garmin and see 23.4, 21.5, or 22.8 speeds. regularly. My plan was to average about 19 mph to save the legs some for the run. So I was amazed when these speeds seemed effortless. Then I hit the turnaround point. Those regular 21 - 24 mph speeds quickly turned to 18 - 19 mph speeds when I was going back "uphill". I mean, that's still fast, and it's not like it was really steep uphill. But you could definitely notice the extra effort required to keep a decent speed.
I saw Ryan heading back on the bike while I was heading out. He was the first biker I saw coming back in already, leading the whole race at that point. I heard him yelling at the final aide station for water, and I just yelled "GO RYAN" as loud as I could and have no idea if he heard me. I just kept on pedalling.
Calyx told me she saw me coming back on the bike when she was going out. Apparently, it was evident how focused I was on maintaining that nice speed. She said I looked "dialed in" and that seems really cool to me.
So why with all of that focus and speed was my average only 17.5? Well the congestion was a big part of it. Navigating slow people isn't always fun. They said there was going to be aide stations every 15 miles, and the first one was mile 25. On a 56 mile course, 28 miles is the halfway point. I drained both of my water bottles by mile 25, expecting an aide station. It did not appear until mile 31!! I'm not sure what's worse, being mis-told about the distance or having no aide stations on the first half of the course. But I stopped at the first aide station to refill my water bottles with one bottle of water and one bottle of Heed. The other aide stations (there were 2 others) I took a bottle of water and a bottle of Heed while riding and drank it while riding. No stopping there. I also took 5 gu's and 4 Endurlolyte capsules while on the bike. Each time I had to feed, I slowed down some and got passed by a few folks. There were several bridges we had to ride up and back down, so the uphill/downhill had an effect on my overall speed. There was only one bridge with a steel grate, and they had carpet over that. It didn't bother me really, but I'm sure it slowed me down some. Or at least the guy in front of me slowed down some then.
Overall it was really cool to be able to bike that far that fast at the coast. I don't want to leave a negative impression about this bike course, it totally rocked! It was by far my favorite part of the race. Like everything in triathlon, there were challenges. and it's easy to project those frustrations onto something else. But this bike leg was nothing short of fantastic.
T2 went smooth. A volunteer took my bike coming in, and pointed me to the rack spot where my T2 bag was. Bike stuff off (including the arm warmers), and I threw on the small headsweats hat and running shoes and took off.
While I was on the bike, Kelley got to take the car to a tire place to get thursday's flat tire fixed. Stupid hillbilly tire people didn't call her when it was done, so she didn't get any pics of T2 or me on the run. But she did make it back to the finish line on time.
Goal 2d: Run 13.1 miles in 3 hours. Actual: 2:40:35 Big Success!
2:40 is a respectable time for a half marathon at any skill level. When you stick it behind a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike I absolutly love it. I figured the bike would be a little over 3 hours and the run a little under, but I didn't expect 20 minutes under. And I had to stop about mile 5 to hit the port-a-let, and that one piece tri suit did not want to go back on my upper body after I finally got it off. So if it weren't for a bowel movement I could have shaved 10 more minutes off of there.
This was an out and back run course, so it was 6.55 miles long. The full iron guys had to go out, back, out, back and that must have been boring. The course was very broken up. It started with a few bridges to get into downtown. Then downtown we had to run through the middle of a farmers market. I thought it was a huge aide station at first. Then it went up and turned through a park, running on a path not anywhere near a road. That even had to cross over some wooden bridges. There was actually someone getting married in the park at that time, so I ran past someone's wedding. Hit the turnaround and come back through it all, and I was done.
There were aide stations every mile almost; 5 total on the course that you could hit each way. I took 5 gu's while running, and bananas at each aide station. I also ran with the camelbak, and filled it with Heed and water at the first aide station. I was so glad to finally get some solid food on the day. I had breakfast, sure, but that was at 5:30 am. it was closer to 1 pm when I finally hit the first aide station for some solid food. My packet of Endurolytes fell out of the pocket in t2, so I had no salt capsules. That really came back to bite me in the second half of the run. The final 5k took 34 minutes. I was really sluggish the whole way back.
But the nutrition advice I got from everyone held up great. I took more gu's than I thought I needed, and drank more water than I thought I needed. I never hit the wall. I never ran out of energy until maybe the last few miles of the run. I had to convince my legs they had 2 more miles left in them. But they listened.
Finished: 6:31:06 280/372 men
When your mind starts to get off of your game, everything else starts to go downhill. I had to remind myself what mile I was in so I could stay on schedule with the GU's. Once I got off schedule that was it. It takes a lot of focus to finish strong. Still.......
When I hit that finish line I had lost it. I was crying, and I shit myself a little. Losing it emotionally and physically. I was instantly overwhelmed with my own sense of accomplishment and the wonderful support of everyone who pushed me to that point. I was grateful for every mile. I knew I had lived that entire course. And it was an experience that nobody could ever take away from me.
I got some ice down my shirt and a bottle of water, they put the finishers medal on me. That is some serious bling! Kelley's dad thinks it's big enough to be made into a belt buckle.
Notice the ice melts creating an oozing pattern from my chest, and you can still see tons of salt showing through too. I don't know if that's saltwater or sweat. But it's all salt stains.
Goal 3: Have fun. Success!
Overall, the whole experience was amazing. I got to see so many people, some of which I live near now, and some I was meeting for the first time. Every triathlon I've ever been to has been filled with the nicest people. It always amazes me to see how many old and new friends I find at these races.
Goal 4: No trip to the ER during recovery. Success!
My nutrition plan during the race held up. I had GU's taped to the top bar of the bike so I could tear and eat. The SUGOi tri suit had pockets in the back to hold all of my GU's for the run. The camelbak gave me plenty of water on the run. I drank more than I thought I needed to. Then I drank 4 bottles of water immediately after finishing.
The worst/scariest part of the whole thing was after the race. I saw my friends Chris and Jon while we were waiting in line. After finishing, I went to the medical tent just to get checked out. Given a clean bill of health we had two choices. take a water taxi accross the river with 300 people in line, or take the trolley back across the bridge and stay on land. We chose trolley b/c of the shorter line. We still had to wait for 3 hours before getting the 10 minute ride back accross to the hotel. And standing outside after running a half ironman while still wearing sweaty tri suit and the temp drops into the 30's because the sun went down while you are still standing in line even when you finished the race at 3:11 pm and now it is fucking cold and you have pains that require sitting down and a hot shower and you need more water and I had to go pee twice while I was standing in line and can you get how absolutely unacceptable this waiting in line was????? That was the one real organizational failure.
This race is not spectator friendly. There are very limited access points for photography. No room for spectators at the start. T1 had parking, T2 and the finish line are the same spot. Kelley had to leave the run course just minutes before I came back through downtown (but she didn't know that) to catch the water taxi back across the river to the finish line. It shouldn't take 30 minutes to cross a river, but it did. It shouldn't take 3 hours to get back across the same river, but it did.
Goal 5: Ruth's Chris. Fail, by choice.
This was a fail by choice. Missy, Ryan and I were all supposed to meet up at Ruth's Chris after the race for a celebratory dinner. I felt great after we finally got back to the hotel. But I didn't want to put anything as heavy as a steak on my stomach. Instead I had a bowl of soup, then a bowl of cheerios. I could have eaten more, but again, given my post-race history of vomiting, didn't want to take the chance. So I could have pushed it with a fat dead cow, but chose not too. Soon though, soon.
This race exceeded every expectation. The city was fantastic, the race was fantastic. 1500 racers and over 1000 volunteers. If you're looking for a destination Iron or half Iron distance race for next year, give this one some serious consideration.
That's the race finish line, etc from our hotel's side of the river.
And a clean shot of the battleship. It really is impressive.
The SUGOi Velocity tri suit left me with some fun tan lines. I didn't put on sunscreen which I am very aware is a big no no. Just because it was cold doesn't mean you can't burn.
It's even more obvious from the back (looks like I was wearing a giant sport bra, huh?). The arm warmers leave me with the reverse farmer's tan on my arms. Funny tan lines are funny no matter what. I got the body marking numbers scrubbed off in the shower today, and the sun didn't burn under where the numbers were on my shoulders. So there's a white outline of an 8 now in all that red on my left shoulder.
In recovery, I was actually talking to Calyx on the phone at that point. Her and Donna both rocked, beating their goal times by almost an hour.
The run course went right by the hotel, and there were plenty of people still running late into the night. I grabbed a cowbell and went out to the balcony to cheer them on.
I actually fell asleep on the couch about 9 pm, moved to bed sometime and woke up about 7 am. The drive back was uneventful until I tried to stand up.
I can't stand up long enough to pee, so I have been sitting down like a girl (or Ryan ) all day. At least it only hurts from the neck down. Actually, as the day has progressed my upper body soreness has all worked out. The legs are feeling better, but not great. I still have to think hard before walking up stairs. Still, I did it, and it's done.
My secret target was to finish this half and still feel like I could do it again. Ironman Florida was also yesterday. That means the online registrations open up monday for the 2010 race. So I have until then to decide if I want to register. Kelley talked me out of it for 2010. She's thinking about doing another marathon in 2010, and doesn't want both of us to be under heavy training schedules at the same time again. Plus we're going to sell the houses in Greenville and finalizing the move to Raleigh, buying a house here, getting the family re-assembled and settled, and all of the fun that comes along with it.
So this was certainly the last race of 2009. 2010 will be all marathons and century rides for me. Kelley keeps saying that she doesn't understand why anyone would ever want to attempt an Ironman. She doesn't want to have to sherpa my shit for 15 hours; she was worn out after this race. She wanted to call it a night at 7:30 last night. I can't explain why I want to run a full iron distance race. But I do. After completing this 70.3, I know a few things. I want a 70.3 sticker for my car. I want a 70.3 tattoo on my right leg. And then I want to cover them both up with 140.6 stuff. If Ironman Florida has to wait until 2011 that's ok. It leaves me more time to convince her it's a good idea.