Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Who in their right mind buys an m-dot cookie cutter? Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Raleigh

Me. I bought one. One of the "perks" of an Ironman branded race is the expo and all the m-dot crap one can happily buy.
Some firsts for the weekend. My first Ironman branded 70.3 and my first trip to Raleigh, North Carolina. In brief it's a great race and a lovely town.
This is a statue of Sir Walter Raleigh and somebody dressed him up in this pink stuff. Pretty funny. This was outside of the expo which is about a 2 minute walk from either the Sheraton or the Marriott.

Quickly some "know if you go" details about the race: It's a point to point bike ride. There are two separate transition areas. This is a little bit of a pain because you have to get your bike out to the race venue the day before and then you are up a little earlier for the 40 minute shuttle ride to the start. Yawn, very early wake up call please. Also this year there was no true Tri Bike Transport available.
Pro Mary Beth Ellis was working at the TYR booth. I'm a big fan of hers and I met her first in France while checking in for the race. She's very nice and blazing fast too.
A very early bus ride to the lake
A bikeless transition set up. I dropped my stuff at t1 and went to get on the bus. Bus service starts at 4 we got on the bus at about 5:05 and the last bus leaves at 5:30.
Ben and Alberto on the bus. Ben managed to actually sleep. I have no idea how.

Me and Jim ... 2 bundles of nerves.
Swim 39:31
The swim is in beautiful Lake Jordan. Where the visibility in the water is about one inch. The water is clean and tastes fine but you can't see a thing in front of you.

sunrise over transition
The swim was tremendously well marked with buoys and I seriously only had to lift my head to sight about maybe 10 times in the whole race. The only other swim that I've done that was this well marked was the Lifetime Tri in Minneapolis where there is a buoy about every 25 yards.

There were about 30 swim waves. But it was great. I did my warm up and they had corrals for the upcoming waves and I got in mine and it went off right on schedule and I didn't have too much contact with other swimmers or anything.
This is the swim area on Saturday you can already see the yellow buoys are set.
Regarding my actual swim performance I was expecting more like at 36 minute swim. This is my first race swim where I was seriously not concerned that I was trained for the distance. My only concern was to avoid an anxiety attack at the start. I had a good swim. I started to the left and waited a quick 3-count and just went. I started slow on purpose but once I was sure I had my breath I picked up the pace. I worked hard and didn't go off course so I am not sure why it was a little slow, clearly I needed to swim a little harder.
Happy to be finished swimming
Things to know if you go: you cannot do a warm up swim at the race venue the day before the race. We went to a public beach (on the same lake) a few miles down the road for our practice swim. The practice swim was much much rougher than race day due to the heavy boat traffic we think.

Also, the Ironman staff uses a different thermometer than the Army Corps of Engineers so even though the water temp for this lake was measured by the Army at 76 for a few days before the race it was still announced as wet suit legal for race day ... take your wetsuit.

T1: 4:06 this is super slow but I had some trouble getting my wet suit off even with the strippers. Plus you have to pack everything into your gear bag which the race team takes back to the finish line. So I knew it would be slow. Probably everyone had a few extra seconds. Also since this is my first transition in a long time I am admittedly out of practice.

Bike 3:09:48
This is a beautiful bike course. I really liked it. Rolling hills to be sure. The descents were fun. The climbs were not too tough. We were nervous about the first climb which looks very steep on the course profile but it wasn't bad at all.

I was probably not as prepared as I would have liked to be for the climbing and also there was some wind out there too.

Regarding my actual bike performance I was hoping for an average of at least 18mph and really hoping to come in under 3 hours which I clearly didn't hit. I thought it was a challenging bike course. I really did give it everything I had out there so I'm satisfied/only slightly disappointed with my performance.

I know I was working hard because my nose was running the whole time which I think is a sign that I'm pushing hard on the bike. I think this because this is when it happens. Many apologies to those around me for the snot rockets.

The course was clearly marked and the roads were closed and protected but there were cars that managed to get onto the course throughout which was no fun. There was also unfortunately a bad accident between a biker and a car apparently due to the car not following directions. This is not the fault of the race director but it's something they'll need to work on every year. I wish a speedy recovery to that athlete for sure. 
Thank goodness that's finished. I should remember to not talk as I approach transition. My pictures look silly.

T2: 3:09 I was very happy to be off my bike. My head and neck hurt from being in aero and from my helmet pushing on my ponytail. Also I forgot to put my hat on and had to go back for it. And I stopped to let the sunscreen folks slather me which is worth every second.

Run 2:06:42
For a lot of runners this would not be a great run split but this is a good run for me. It's actually the fastest half marathon I've run this year and it was the last leg of a triathlon. Also this is the hilliest run leg of a triathlon I've ever done. Those were really tough. (note: apparently this course was less hilly than the first year so thank goodness for that).

Let's do this!
My goal in training was to remember that the run is mental and to have the mental strength to push through in the run which I did. I'm very proud of that. I did walk through the water stops which probably cost me a few minutes over all and I also stopped to go to the bathroom at the beginning.

I have never cramped on the run in a race but this time I was fearful in the last 2-3 miles that my right quad was cramping. It never actually seized but I think that also shows that I pushed hard on the bike and then kept up the pressure on the run giving the race what I had.

The run was two loops through downtown. There was excellent crowd support and terrific volunteer presence. Interestingly there were two dead squirrels on the course ... yuck.

There was also a homeless spectator that cracked me up. On both loops he was yelling in his booming voice, "Continue with Endurance!" over an over. It was hilarious. 


Overall 6:03:17
While I had hoped that would be faster ... it wasn't the case on Sunday. 
Finished and the first out of my training group which was fun.

This is officially not a PR. However, as every race is different I think I was faster on this course than I was in Ocala mostly because I think that both the swim and the bike in Ocala were short. Every course is different and that's what makes them hard to compare. I don't wear my watch in the water so I have no way to compare but that's my instinct on the swim. I know that according to my watch the Ocala bike was close to 2 miles short.

In other news interestingly I was 55th out of the water, 45th on the bike and 43rd out of 150 after the run. So I feel pretty good about that. It's not the normal pattern for me. Usually I give up placement on both the bike and run. There were a lot of fast girls out there to be sure.
Recovery meal/beer at the Raleigh Times which is a giant bar/restaurant. They have rooftop seating which we wanted to try but we'd all had way too much sun so we sat inside. I had a sock knocker IPA which hit the spot.
I do recommend this race. As I mentioned before this is my first Ironman branded 70.3 race. All three others I've done were off brand. This race was really well done.
Balloon art at the expo entrance. Worth the price of admission :-)

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