Friday, July 17, 2015

Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Raleigh (May 31, 2015)

So here's the lowdown on my first 70.3:

I honestly went into this with quite literally zero expectations for myself other than to cross the finish line. That is something that I haven't really let myself feel in a while. I've always been competing against the voice in my head telling me to go faster. I've always been "competing" with my peers or my own last race time. This isn't a bad thing, so to speak, but it always meant that entered races with a weight on my shoulders. Not this time. In my mind, I placed this race at this point in the season for a specific reason: I didn't want to have time to train. I mean, I gave myself time to prepare physically for the distance, but I didn't TRAIN for the distance. That way I could, in my own mind, "justify" a slower time. I could "live" with a 21mph avg on the bike, I could "accept" a 2:15 or 2:30 run split. I know this sounds silly but it's just my nature. I am EXTREMELY competitive and so I always want to feel like I gave my all to the course. Here's the thing though... I COULDN'T give my all to this course. I have my "A" race in two weeks. I couldn't afford to drive myself into the ground. So, I let myself go out and ... wait for it... have FUN! (I'm still not sure that word means what I think it means...) I mean, supposedly why I do this right? Anyway on to the race...

Pre Race:
Manda and I got into Raleigh Saturday just after lunch. We got checked into the hotel then headed to packed pickup. We made the rounds and then listened through the athlete briefing before heading out to T1 to drop off the bike. Bike racked, bike gear bag in place we headed back to town via the bike course. When we rolled back into town it was getting dinner time so we headed to Jimmy V's Osteria (the on site restaurant...which just happened to be Italian food) to grab some grub. I ordered the spaghetti. It was delicious. Then it was up to the room and off to bed.

Race Morning:
My alarm clock went off at 3:15am. I groggily rolled out of bed and got dressed. I made my way down to the lobby to acquire breakfast (which I checked on the night before so I knew what they would have and that it would work for me) I grabbed Greek yogurt, OJ, a plain bagel and a small coffee. Breakfast consumed, I kissed my sleeping wife and headed to the athlete shuttle for the 40ish minute ride to the lake. She would follow later on one of the spectator shuttles.

The bus rolled in and we all rolled off and lumbered through body marking and over to our bikes. I got my stuff all situated and then sat around for the next 3 hours waiting for my wave. This kind of threw off my routine a bit but nothing that really impacted my day. Finally, after the pros went off around 7 they opened up the water for warmup and splash around. I got my speed suit on and headed to the water. Water temp was 79 so no wetsuit. I warmed up then headed over to get in my wave. I met up with Nathan Mize who was also in my wave. We chatted it up as we made our way into the water. Gun went off and off we went. For the most part, the swim was uneventful. I lined up more aggressively and tried to go a little harder which worked well for me. I hit my stride then started passing people. Caught some stragglers from the earlier waves then started passing the red caps from the first 30-34AG wave (they split us by last name because the group was so big). After rounding the second buoy turn I ran into heavy traffic and my pace slowed a bit. Again, no big deal. Just gave me a bit of a breather. I reached the short and headed up to the bike. Swim Split: 42:00:00

I took some extra time in T1. I knew it was going to be a long, hot day so I opted for the arm sleeves
and calf compression. I'm glad I did. I got geared up and headed out. The bike course was largely uneventful. I was focused on two things. Fuelling and saving my legs for the run. I took all my calories for the day in the form of my custom Infinit Nutrition blend. I had two bottles and my plan was to consume both of them. This would give me around 550 calories along with my necessary carbs, protein and sodium. I also had a race tube of Base Salts with me. Honestly, I'd never tried them but I took them with me anyway (this would turn out to be a great decision). I started out feeling great on the bike. I was holding around a 20mph avg and my legs were feeling great. I just rode along, taking a hit off my bottle every few minutes. My plan was also to grab water at the aid stations and take a few drinks of clean water to keep from getting sugar mouth from my Infinit. All of this worked perfectly. Halfway through the course almost exactly I finished the first bottle. Perfect. It was here that I decided to take a chance. It was getting hot and I was sweating heavily. I decided I would hit the Base Salts every 5 miles. Let me say this... this stuff was like crystallized rocket fuel. I could literally feel my body react to them. The last half of the bike was a bit tougher. There was less shade and more little obnoxious rolling hills. I slowed a wee bit, but not too much. I finished my second bottle of Infinit with around 5 miles to go. Awesome. Into town and off the bike. Running into T2 I spotted my wife along the rail. I ran over and got a good luck kiss, then racked my bike and headed out on the run. Bike Split: 2:43:30

I took my time in T2 also. Put my socks on, shoes on, race belt, visor, applied sunscreen to my head and shoulders and off I went. By now, temperature was over 80 and climbing. The course was two-laps in downtown Raleigh meaning very little shade. I was a bit concerned about the heat and I would need to take extra precautions to avoid cramping and other heat related perils. I knew they would have water, Gatorade, GU and whatnot at the aid stations, My plan was to walk every aid station and sip both water and Gatorade at each stop. I would also hit the Base Salts at this time. They had buckets of ice, frozen sponges and waterguns at the aid stations as well . Each time I passed an ice station I would shove ice or a sponge under my tri shorts to cool my quads and down my top to cool my core. I used the water to splash my face too. Take a sip, splash the rest. I did this religiously at each station. Combined with smart pacing, it seemed to work. On the subject of pacing, my plan was to treat this run as "just another long run" meaning I would keep my pace, slow and steady. I was shooting for a 9:30 -10min/mi avg pace or higher. My first lap I was moving really good and strong at around a 9:40-9:50. Perfect. The first half of the lap was a steady climb and coming into lap two I started feeling it. I decided here to drop my pace a bit just to keep my legs happy. Again I just had to keep telling myself "this is a training day." I allowed myself to stop for a nature break on lap two also (which was a nice little extra break from the sun). I kept my fueling strategy the same for lap two until 3 miles to go. At that point I needed some caffeine so I added a sip of Coke or Red Bull to my aid station ritual at the last three stops. The caffeine boost was nice. Before long I saw the finish chute and my pace increased slightly. The spectators on the run had been great all day but the final half mile was a zoo. It was really amazing to see that much support out there. Cowbells, vuvuzelas filled the air along with clapping and cheering and screaming of athletes names as they ran by. It was a fantastic end to what had been a very good day for me. I crossed the line with a run split of 2:18:26 and right at 11min/mi avg pace.

Looking back on the weekend as I write this I realize that I really did put together almost the perfect
race. I made a plan before I ever got in the water and stuck to that plan all day long. My goals for this race were 1.) Don't drown in the swim (always goal number 1 for me...)... check. 2.) Manage my pace on the bike and take in all my calories... check 3.) Manage my pace on the run and try not cramp up... check. 4.) Cross the finish line with a smile... check. I finished the longest race of my life and through smart decisions, came out with no injuries or ill effects and very little muscle soreness. I'm ready to ease back into some light efforts this week, hit it hard next week and go all out in Willamsburg Huge thanks go to my coach Scott Koch for helping me put this plan together and getting me ready for the race.

Finish Time: 5:52:36

Now, on to the next adventure...

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