Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ironman Raleigh 70.3 Race Report

The inagural Ironman Raleigh 70.3 was on June 2nd 2013. I fought the good fight out there, finishing in 6:09:41.  Not my fastest half iron by a long shot, but not my slowest either. Here's how it went down.

The thing I love most about the Ironman Expo is that I'm not the only crazy one in there.  Everyone is my kind of crazy!! ah, it's good to be among your own kind. The biggest thing I got from the Athlete meeting was learning the length of the bus ride.  40 minutes to drive from the finish line to T1? Come on man. They said the athletes should leave downtown no later than 5:30 am, the same time I was planning on waking up.  Time to change my plans.
The Ironman store at the expo
Saturday I did the athlete checkin downtown and the bike checkin in T1 out in Jordan Lake.  Split transition areas is a logistical nightmare, and the WTC people handled it flawlessly.  I started in T2 by finding my bike spot, then headed down to T1 at Jordan Lake to checkin my bike.  No checkin saturday, no race on sunday.  Checked and done.

Ready to roll!  The swag had a great bag, and I got a few shirts and stuff from the Ironman Store, and a coffee cup that I got to show off around the office later.  Time to race.

Race Day Start
I got up at 4:30 am (not 5:30 as planned) ate breakfast and headed downtown with a big cup of coffee. I actually found the parking garage and made my way to the Ironman Village, and snapped these pics of T2 from the car. 
T2 at 5:10 AM from a moving car
then I left my phone in the car, found my T2 spot to drop off the run bag, and got on the bus.  That was a really long bus ride, but at least we got to see the sun rise.

The first major fail from WTC was in T1.  We got off of the bus at 6:15 am.  I got bodymarked and went to my bike to drop off the bike bag, then ran to get in the port-a-let line.  They needed at least twice as many toilets in T1 as were actually there.  Transition area closed at 6:45.  I was still standing in the damn line with my legs crossed when I heard "transition is closing in 5 minutes" come over the loudspeakers.  you have got to be kidding me.  25 minutes to get through the crapper line?

I had to run back to get into T1 to grab my timing chip, throw on some suntan lotion and do the final checks to be sure everything was there.  Grab the goggles etc, then get out of there before it closes at 6:45.

Fail #2 was the wave swim start.  There was 2500 people in this race, and the logistics at Vista Point don't allow for the mass beach start.  The pros started first at 7 am, men then women.  Then it was the waves in an age group breakdown.  They started with Men 55+, then worked back to the men over 40.  Then women age 55+ working back down to 40+.  Then my age group, men 35-39 working back to the 20 year olds, then women 39 to 20.  So the fail is that wave starts without typical speed rankings for the age groups make for a real cluster.  A real cluster.

Swim: 41:01, 84/218
My wave started at 7:50. Yes that means I had to stand around for over an hour after transition closed after already standing in line for 25 minutes to take a crap.  While I'm in line, I did get to talk to some nice fellow insane people.  When it was time, my wave got in the water and I positioned myself  near the front on the right hand side where I normally try to get.  When our time came I took off swimming.

200 yards later, I was having a full blown panic attack.  I was getting kicked in the face repeatedly while other people were coming down on my back and legs, and finally I started to assess the situation so I got outside and threw in a few breast strokes to keep my head above water.  My heart was racing and I couldn't catch my breath.  I didn't expect to get passed by so many people that fast.  I started near the front, not in the front.

There were two turns we had to make in the water.  By the time I hit the first turn buoy, I had passed people that started 12 minutes ahead of me, gotten the panic attack under control, and gotten my heart rate back down.  the waves started every 3 minutes, so I was already passing people that started 4 waves ahead of me.  Planning fail.

After making that first turn, it was still incredibly crowded.  I started to get my confidence back again by that point, but it could only help so much.  The water is so murky you can't see the foot rising up through the water until it is a couple of inches from your face.  So I got kicked in the face a lot.  But I would make a move to one side (which is not an efficient move) to get around, and find someone else on my hip.  I started throwing hip checks in the water to these people.  Again the point of swimming fast is that you should glide through the water with as little resistance as possible.  Creating resistance by throwing a hip out to the side is bad, but it did keep the idiots from swimming over me.

After making the second turn, however, it got incredibly crowded.  yes i know it was incredibly crowded before as well.  I swam back to shore shoving other people out of my way.  How much were other people in my way?  Typically I make that swim in 32 to 35 minutes.  So there was well over 6 minutes of drag created by the crowds.  I felt just awful getting out of the water, like I had really screwed something up there.  But finishing so high in my age group tells me that I actually had a pretty decent day in the water.

T1: 3:46
I ran up the hill into transition and found my bike no problems there.  Stuffed the swim cap and goggles into the bike bag, threw on socks, shoes, and helmet and got out of there.

Bike: 3:06:18, 18.04 mph, 146/218 age group place
Oh the bike course.  the route of unending climbs. 
This was the hardest bike course I've ever seen in a race in my entire life.  I've done a bunch of these things now people. Nothing comes anywhere close in degree of difficulty.

When I first got out on the bike it took 3 miles just to get out of Vista Point park and onto highway 64.  They were all uphill. Once we got on 64 it was mostly rollers, and some of the roads were the same ones I train on regularly including Pea Ridge Road and Old Hwy 1. Apparently they planned the route backwards from the direction I usually ride. Then it got into unfamiliar territory.

I was absolutely blown away by how many people passed me on the bike.  Overall, I went from 605 place overall out of the water to 929th place overall after the bike leg.  Insane.  There were lots of serious cyclists out there.

About 35 miles into the ride the sun came out, and it started really bearing down.  When it got hot, it got really hot.  Then the hills went from tough to unbearable.  We went through Apex and Holly Springs, then into downtown.  The coolest part was that around mile 54, right as we were coming into downtown one of my swim coaches was volunteering and yelled some words of encouragement.  That was really cool.  Around mile 45 my neck and upper back started to get really sore, so I was hurting pretty bad by the time I was done riding.  It is time for a new bike fit and maybe some new aerobars.

T2: 3:04
I had a loooong run through the TA to my spot on the bike rack.  Bike stuff off, run stuff on, and get out of there. 

Run: 2:15:32, 122/218 age group, 799 overall
The run course headed up to the capital building, then down Hillsborough street.  I was quite happy to see my family hanging out on the capital grounds.

Check out the closeup on that calf muscle!  That's decent definition
It was well over 90* at this point.  My legs were completely toasted after the bike.  There was very little gas left in the tank.  Plus the route was backwards, again.  Typically, I run from my house to the capital at around a 7:30 pace, then back up to the house at around an 8:20 pace.  So I knew this route really well, and knew what to expect.

Except I knew absolutely nothing about how to handle it after such a punishing bike ride.  This way, going out was the hard part so it would be easy going back.  I was averaging about a 10:30 pace going out, and about a 10:20 pace coming back into the capital.  I have to admit, it was certainly easier in the second half but the heat was a killer.  Most of my half marathons come in around 1:45, so to be 30 minutes slower is really hard to believe.  That's how tough it was out there. 

The family made it to Snoopy's, a local hot dog joint for some lunch.  That was on the course, so I got to see them again.
Yay!  I'm going down hard here!

Keep going down Hillsborough street

This corner is the entrance to a greenway and right next to Meredith College.  The course turns in at the main entrance to Meredith, and follows the greenway up to the art museum.  After two loops around the museum, it's time to head back into downtown.  and it's all downhill from here.

It was hovering around 100* by this point, and I was taking ice every chance I could get.  Dumping ice down the shirt really helped keep me cool, and I'd drink a water and a powerade at every aide station.  They had some sponges in icewater as well that were quite nice.  You can see there is no shade on that road.  I ended up with quite a nasty sunburn.  The heat tends to melt my will to survive, screw the strength to keep moving forward.  The heat made it incredibly tough out there.

Coming into downtown and heading to the finish line felt great, even if I was a big pile of melted ice cream.  I was more than ready to have this race done!

Almost there!  I had no sprint left in me.
Finish: 6:09:41, 122/218 age group, 799/2500 overall
I was so glad to be done with this race.  I hit the finish line and sat down while the volunteer grabbed my chip.  I stayed sitting down until I had 2 bottles of water in me.  Then I wandered around the finish area trying to find Kelley and the kids.  I ended up asking a stranger to text her because I couldn't find her anywhere.  Eventually we met up at the finish line.
Remember I started 50 minutes after that clock started running, and then it took a while after I finished to find her and get the pic
We found a spot in the shade and I got some extra water and eventually got some food.  The coolest part of the race was hanging in the food line and hearing how much other people liked Raleigh.  People that had never been here before thought it was beautiful and had a great time at the race.  That makes me very happy.
EG stole one of my cookies
That was some really good food too.  Pizza, pasta, salad, cookies, you name it.  Kelley grabbed my stuff after that and we headed on home.  This was a pretty incredible day.

What could have gone better?
  • More toilets at the swim start
  • Don't clusterfuck the swim waves
  • Move the date back to October when it's not 100* out here
  • More shade around the finishers area
  • There are roads with less hills to bike on
So I don't think that I will be doing this one again next year.  It was great to get in on the inaugural event, and it was incredibly well organized.  Split transitions are never ideal, but they handled it really well.  This race really showcased my city on a national level, and that is wonderful.  The city really showed up too, spectator support was fantastic.  I'll probably volunteer next year, all of the volunteers out there were great.  Don't hesitate to come to Raleigh and do this one once, you will not be dissapointed.  I certainly wasn't. 

And now for some kid pics downtown.


The kids were also happy to get out of that heat.  I'm proud of them for coming out like that, and they are proud of me for doing the race.


Wes said...

nice work CJ. Another half in the bank!!

Badgergirl said...

Sounds like a brutal course, John. Great job battling through!

Diana said...

Congratulations John on another finish! That heat sounded absolutely is one thing that definitely sucks the life out of our bodies!

Unknown said...

good job getting that done in killer heat. my gosh, i tried running a wimpy 3 miles in 100 deg heat the other day and it about killed me. does seem crazy to have an event like that at this time of year!

RockStarTri said...

That day was stupid hot up here so I can only imagine what it was like in Dixie. The pictures of you running show you strong. Keep up the good stuff.

Unknown said...

Heat squashes my will to survive as well.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Nice work, John. That sounds like a brutal race with the high temps. And the swim part sounds so brutal w/ how crowded it was. That is what makes me most nervous/hesitant to take on a tri. I like swimming and am decent at it but I don't think I could handle getting kicked and hit!

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

Great work! I hate running in the heat. It saps my will to live. I can't imagine being in it for all three activities and/or for so long!

Unknown said...

Nice work! That course was definitely tougher than expected. I didn't think the hills were too bad on the bike, they just never ended! The middle of the run was brutal!

I'm thinking of heading back next year for some redemption.