July 1, 2014

race report: raleigh 70.3

My first 70.3 triathlon!

I did my first sprint triathlon in 2008, and continued with a once-a-year shorter distance until jumping to the Olympic distance in 2012. I’d been thinking about moving up again, but needed a little push to pull the trigger.

That’s where the Annapolis Triathlon Club comes in. I had joined the club and made some friends, and when a few of them decided to race Raleigh, it didn’t take much arm-twisting to get me to sign up. I was ready for it, I just needed to know I wouldn’t be racing alone!

We ended up with a large group down in Raleigh, with 17 of us participating in the June 1, 2014 race.  I drove down the Friday before the race with two friends who would be my roommates for the weekend. We stayed just outside of town at the Residence Inn, which was more like a townhouse than a hotel room, complete with a loft, murphy bed and two bathrooms. And plenty of room for three bikes and all our gear.

We watched the Iron Kids race on Saturday morning before hitting the expo. Not too big, but I got some excellent souvenirs — a bike jersey, a visor and a T-shirt with all the racers’ names on the back.

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After the expo, we headed over to the lake for a quick swim. There wasn’t access at the race site, but there were public areas open so we could get a feel for the water. It was nice! Next we went over to the transition area where we’d rack our bikes, but went out for a short ride first. I was a little nervous about riding before race day, but took it super easy. One of our tri club members wasn’t so lucky — his chain broke during his shakeout ride, and he crashed. Probably a bit bumped, bruised and sore from that anyway, but a gash on his leg was too deep to risk lake swimming. He was unable to race, but was a trooper and provided excellent support, cheering and taking photos of us on the course.

We didn’t have time to head back to our hotel to shower before dinner (oops!), so we had to settle for a quick change in the car. Good thing it was a casual place. We were able to get two huge tables at an Italian restaurant in a back room … that we were sharing with two birthday parties! I got pasta primavera with grilled salmon — a perfect pre-race meal. Salmon has been kinda lucky for me, resulting in lots of good races and PRs!

When we got back to the hotel, we had a bit of packing to do — T1 and T2 were in different places (we biked from Jordan Lake back to downtown Raleigh). We would set up our run gear before boarding buses in the morning, plus had a bag we could gear check pre-race in the morning, and another to pack up our swim stuff before hitting the bike. We’d claim all our bags when we picked up our bikes post-race.

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It took a bit more thinking to make sure everything was in the right place than when you just have one transition area! We were all a bit nervous and got to bed later than we should have, but who sleeps well the night before a big race, anyway?

I got a little sleep, at least, but it was a very early morning. We prepared our breakfast (peanut butter sandwich, which I would eat on the bus ride), grabbed our gear, and headed downtown in the dark. Parking was easy and close by, and we quickly got our run gear set up and hopped on a bus.

It wasn’t until the bus ride to the start that we learned the race would be wetsuit legal — just barely at 75.4. That was definitely the news I wanted to hear!

I had a lot of time to kill before my swim wave would start (women 35-39 went off at 8:10, wave 19 out of 21), but it want quickly. I got my tires pumped, waited in a ridiculously long porta-potty line, and then hung out with my fellow tri-club members until one by one they started their races.

And then we were off. The lake is beautiful, and I was calm right from the start. I remember thinking how this would be the most relaxing part of my day, and tried to really enjoy it. It got a little crowded at times, but nothing too crazy. I’m a non-aggressive swimmer and I’d rather just move out of the way. I finally found some open space after the final turn … when I realized I drifted a bit far from the buoys. Oops! I pulled myself back on course and swam to shore.

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Swim time: 45:11

I had my first experience with wetsuit strippers once out of the water. I had unzipped myself on the way there. Two people would pull the suit down, sit you on the ground, pull it off, and help you back up. Awesome!

The transition lot was pretty big, but my bike was in an outside row so it was easy to find. I packed up my swim gear, and quickly got ready to ride.  I stopped briefly for some volunteers to spray my shoulders and arms with sunscreen — another new amenity!

And then I was on the road. I started slow, well, because I’m a slow cyclist! I’m also pretty conservative on the bike. I was especially cautious around other cyclists because I don’t want to end up accidentally drafting! It would be really silly to get a drafting penalty when only riding 14mph …

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The ride was great, though, and I was well prepared. I had simulated the course on a CompuTrainer, and done some hilly outdoor rides. I was ready for the elevation.

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It was still pretty exhausting, and I found myself itching to be finished around mile 43 … only to get a second wind around mile 50. I actually passed a lot of people going uphill!

It felt great to return to downtown Raleigh and get off the bike!

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Bike time: 3:57:51. I thought it was going to take four hours, so this was a win!

I racked my bike, got my run gear on, and hit the porta-potty before hitting the road. I knew I’d finish at this point … I felt pretty good!

Not as good as a guy who flew past me in the first quarter mile, shouting, “I finally got to my sport!” I yelled back, “Me too, but I’m not going any faster than this!”

I didn’t know how fast “this” was … so I glanced down at my watch, only to see it in mph. Oops, forgot to change sports! I changed it then, which restarted my run.  I’d be a little bit behind every mile marker, and I had no idea how much time had passed already. My run finish time would be a surprise!

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The course was a double out-and-back. The ‘out’ portion was mostly uphill and in the sun, while the ‘back’ portion had a little shade and some downhill. My first ‘out’ went pretty well, I had a decent pace. I slowed a little on the way back, starting to feel the hills, and by the time I got to the second ‘out,’ the heat and the hills had taken a toll. I was walking through every water stop, taking sports drinks and dumping water over my head.

Around mile eight I started losing speed. And so did that excited runner, I recognized him walking up a hill. I asked, “are you the runner that was so excited to run?,” and he sighed, “yeah.”

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I fought to keep shuffling up that hill. Even though miles 10-12 were in the easier part of the course, I slowed quite a bit, probably extending my walk breaks. But after mile 12, I picked it up a bit. Rally to the finish!

I ended up with a 2:12:49 half marathon time — and I was thrilled! While I can run faster in a standalone race, 2:13 is kind of a benchmark for me. From my second half marathon in 2005 until the summer of 2009, my PR was stuck at 2:13:11 … and I’m still happy enough finishing races in that timeframe.

Going into the race, I had given myself a 7:30 goal. A bit conservative, but realistic. That’s a long time to race, and I didn’t know how my body was going to react. I thought that 7:30 could possibly be a best-case scenario …

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It was a good day!

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