Wednesday, October 30, 2013

B2B Full Race Report

My second full iron distance triathlon is in the books now, I finished the PPD Beach 2 Battleship full in 13:12:03. It was a wild day out there and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's how it all went down.

Evil Genius had a field trip on Friday, so once they got back to the school Kelley signed them out and we threw the gear in the car. I got mostly packed on Thursday night and planned to take Friday and Monday off from work anyway so we got on the road as early as possible. Easy drive down to Wilmington, only about 2 hours away. It's nice to have an iron distance so close to home without all of the hassles of a branded Ironman race.

Glad to be on the road, kids are in the back

The Battleship is behind that coast guard ship, this is the view from our hotel room

Our room overlooked some of the finish line area, they were setting up on Friday
I went to the packet pickup and they were already out of t-shirts my size. Oh well, I'll shove myself into an XL if that's all you have. Went through the expo and saw Marty Gaal, he was running the half and is a local triathlon coach here and trusted friend. I had to pack my T2 bag and get it checked in Friday night, and I saw my friend Rene after I got that turned in. Her husband ran my first triathlon with me back in 2008 and I haven't seen them since we moved to Raleigh. Rene was pimping the Bone Island Triathlon for Setup Events, and that one should be on your bucket list; it's a cool race. Then I ran into a fraternity brother, Scott. I haven't seen Scott in almost 20 years since he graduated from college, but after reconnecting on facebook we discovered a mutual love of triathlon. Me and his wife beat him up into signing up for B2B, it was his first full and his dad lives near Wilmington now. So it was time, and I'm really glad he chose to come down and do it. I'm sure now that Scott is also glad he did it.

I made it into the 5 pm athlete meeting, which was about as interesting as you would expect an athlete meeting to be. Athletes received a 4 minute penalty if you did not sign in with your timing chip to one of the athlete meetings; those things aren't usually mandatory like that. Afterwards, I had an hour left to get my bike out to the Beach transition area and get my T1 bag checked in. Fortunately I had all of my gear already separated so sorting everything was a breeze. But split transition areas are always a pain logistically, and previous day checkins aren't fun. But with 2200 athletes out there that comes with the territory. After the bike/bag drop off, we found a Moe's for the big pre-race burrito and got back to the hotel for an early turn-in.

T2 bag went first

EG is so excited to be there

Had a SWEET spot on the first bike rack

All checked in and ready to go Iron again!

Race Day
The worst part of the day, by far, happened before the race ever started. My prerace nerves were totally shot. Saturday morning was so cold. It was maybe 30 degrees outside. I had to pay for a bus ticket from the host hotel out to the T1 area. There was no morning clothes bag, which was odd, but I did have access to the T1 bag. So I wore a sweatshirt and pants out to T1 with flip flops, then stashed those in the T1 bag and changed into the wetsuit and speedo before taking the other bus out to the swim start. You could wear other clothes out to the swim start that then would get donated to charity, so that's what most people did. I did not. I had on my sleeveless wetsuit and bare feet. One thing I have always hated about Setup Events races, they close the TA's so early. I got shoved out to the swim start at 6:30 AM, and had to watch my toes turn blue while the sun came up before the race started at 7:30. Once the sun rose it warmed up a few degrees, but nobody was going to say it was comfortable out there. I was huddled around a space heater with several other athletes, including one other guy from Raleigh. Eventually somebody yelled that we needed to walk out to the beach so we all did. Heard the national anthem, then they played One Shot by Eminem, and the gun went off and I charged into the water.

There are no spectators out there, and since you can't send anything back with you there are no pictures of the swim start. It is just something you have to experience for yourself. An interesting approach, but that vision will be embedded in my memory even if it's not something I can share with anyone who wasn't out there. And since Kelley wasn't about to get up that early with both kids and try to get them somewhere else, I won't have any pictures for a while until the official race photos come out.

Swim 2.4 miles: 1:07:38, Goal 55 minutes: fail
The incoming tide hit later in the morning than they organizers expected, so the benefits of a strong current that make this race swim fantastic really wasn't there for the first 20 or 30 minutes. I also did not push the speed in the water; it was the warmest I had been all day and I didn't really want to get out. The water temp was 72*, so it felt amazing to just finally be in the water and moving.

I swam pretty straight. There wasn't much of a washing machine effect, I didn't get kicked very often or anything tough like that.  you just keep swimming.  There's only one turn and almost no sight buoys or anything. I kept checking to be sure there were people beside me and occasionally looking forward. Then one time, I didn't see anybody beside me. when I looked forward I saw grass. So I thought that must be the left turn.

I was wrong. About 6 strokes later I noticed everyone I could see was swimming towards me. that's not good. Pretty scary, in fact.  I made the left turn and was swimming across the channel. Turn right, quickly.

Eventually I did see the correct place to make the left turn. When I did the half in 2009, I was standing on a dock cheering the full swimmers as they went past. This time I never saw the halfers, never heard the cheers. I also never broke my stroke. I kept a consistent effort the entire 2.4 miles and still turned in a great time.

The swim finished on a dock, I had to pull myself up a ladder to get out of the water. As soon as my feet hit the ladder, both calves locked up in a tight muscle cramp. It felt like somebody drew a knife down the back of each leg. Then the wetsuit strippers did their job quite well.

Transition 1: 14:03
So there I was, running through crowds of cheering spectators, maybe 200 people out there. I was wearing a small black speedo with some green highlights and carrying my wetsuit, still dripping wet in 30* temps. That - I wish I had a good picture of. I wish I could take pictures of the spectators that obviously were not expecting to see someone in a speedo when they were bundled up in heavy winter coats.

Even more unusual, I grabbed the T1 bag and had to hit the port-a-lets outside of the changing tents. I certainly didn't get to pee in the water like I normally do before a race, and about 45 minutes into the swim I got that "special" feeling in the gut that warned me I might be in for a long day if I didn't square away the nutrition. So there I was holding a changing bag and a wetsuit, in a small black and green speedo, dripping wet when it's 36 degrees outside and I'm about 6th in line behind a bunch of guys that are already in cycling gear. Fortunately, they must have been relay guys so they pushed me up to the front of the line and I got in and out of that port-a-crapper as quickly as possible.

They had a warm water shower setup that was a fantastic way to wash off that salt water, then I hit the changing tent and got the bike gear on. For a full iron, I do not want to ride 112 miles in the thin chamois of a tri suit so I do a full change. That makes a speedo the fastest way to get naked in the changing tent. I put on my cycling bib shorts, an Appalachian State bike jersey, arm warmers, gloves, socks, bike shoes, and got out of there. If that sounds like it took forever, it did. One of the biggest mistakes I made in IMFL was not applying any lube then having sandpaper crotch during the ride. So I made sure to lube up good this time.

And as soon as I ran out of the Beach TA with the bike there was Coach Katie yelling at me! She just had a baby a couple of months ago and I was so incredibly excited to see her there. It was so nice to see a friendly face at that point.

Bike 112 miles: 7:05:17, Goal 6 hours: fail
I was trained to be able to hold a 20 mph speed for the duration of this ride. My practice half iron ride came out well over 18 mph on the toughest bike course in Raleigh. When you go to the beach where it is flat and fast, you're supposed to get a flat and fast bike course. It should be easier than the 18 mph course. But anyone who has done this race will tell you the bike course is uphill both ways. The wind plays games with you. It wasn't really strong but it would be behind you sometimes, then 30 seconds later be in your face.

I started riding and felt great. It was still very cold outside, but I heard it was going to warm up about 10 am. My toes went numb again almost instantly. My leg muscles never did really warm up. I started out kind of easy just to get into the spin and let the faster bikers get past me. Then sped up a bit. 30 miles into it I was already over it emotionally. It's not a good sign when you are ready to be done only 1/3 of the way into the distance.

The most boring point of the course is actually the turns. It starts by getting out to I-140 where they shut down the fast lane, and that was really cool. We stayed on that road for 12 miles. The next road we stayed on almost until the halfway point. The turns never came. The road just kept going on and on and on and on and on.....the scenery never changed. The wind, occasionally would change, it was in your face one minute, then a crosswind for a bit. Never really got much of a tailwind.  I rode through the first aide station at 21 miles feeling good.  Then the 38 mile aide station I did stop at because everyone else was stopped there and I thought something was going on. Turns out, I was just confused. So I grabbed a clif bar, pee'd, and rolled out of there.

Actually, I stopped to pee 5 times on the bike at different aide stations. I did, actually pee 6 times, so, ya know, well, ugh......

The next aide station was at mile 55, the bike special needs. I didn't use the special needs bag but did grab another clif bar and some solid food. and more gels.  Really I just tried to eat and drink as much as I could everywhere I could on the bike.  The second half aide stations were at miles 68, 80, and 90 I think. There were 6 total aide stations on the bike course. I ate 2 clif bars, a granola bar, 10 gels, 4 bottles of Heed and 3 bottles of water and a few doughnuts or whatever else they had on hand.  I've never seen that many people stop at aide stations in a triathlon before.  Actually, I've never seen anybody stop at an aide station in a triathlon before unless they were in line for the port-a-let.  It was really weird, but comforting. You could talk to people without having to worry about a drafting penalty or anything.

I did see plenty of bike marshals on the course, and plenty of drafting as well. Somebody actually told me to keep it slow and steady as they passed me. People were riding side-by-side talking, and some were just riding a paceline. that's all kind of against the rules in triathlon, so it was pretty unusual behavior. But I should also mention that out of 500 men, I was number 136 out of the water, and had the 391st fastest bike split. So that's what I get at the back of the bike pack, I guess. Not the super competitive attitudes of the front half and I got passed by half of the field.

By mile 90 my ass was done. Could not stand to be in that saddle any longer. I had chafing in all the wrong places. Mentally I was wiped out. The winds had defeated me. The cold left me longing for hot coffee and a doughnut. I thought about the Navy Seals, when they quit seal training (like 90% of the BUDs participants do) they get a hot cup of coffee and a doughnut before being assigned somewhere else. And they are a helluva lot stronger than I am.  Then I realized something that was truly unique about that day. I never broke a sweat.

Let's try that again. I rode 112 miles on a bike as hard as I could without breaking a sweat. That's why I had to pee so many times. I was still hydrating like I was sweating gallons in August, but there was no actual sweat coming out. It was freaky!! and I was so glad when it was over. The Garmin said 110 miles and I knew downtown was close. Oh such a relief.

Coming in from the bike

App State jersey representing!
Transition 2: 8:31
A volunteer took the bike to the rack, I grabbed my T2 bag and headed for the changing room. So relieved to be off of the bike, it felt so good to know that it was done and I could hang Roberta up for the winter. There was a girl in the Men's changing room, which I thought was odd until I realized that she was one of the medical volunteers and was giving an IV to one of the other dudes in there. just because she was maybe 3 feet away from me, I didn't let that slow me down. I still stripped down naked as quickly as possible and threw the running clothes on, then got out of there after a quick stop in the bathroom. Peeing when you get off of the bike is a sure sign that you were properly hydrated. Or never broke a sweat, whatever.

Ready set go!

Run 26.2 miles: 4:37:36, Goal < 4 hours: fail
Finally I was off and running. This is my only full marathon this year, and that seems crazy. Finally I was in my comfort zone and it felt so good. My plan was to run at about an 8:30 pace and walk 30 seconds at least at the aide stations to average around a 9 minute pace per mile. If my nutrition held up I should be able to do that for the entire marathon.

Well, it worked great for the first 9 miles. After that the walks became more frequent than just the aide stations. The course was a 2 loop out and back that went through some downtown parts, and quickly got onto this strange greenway that went around a lake. The first loop was actually longer than the second loop (turnaround discrepancies) but there was no more Bermuda triangle confusing the runners like last year! Overall, this was a fantastic run course. No complaints there. If anything, it was too much on the greenway, but that's like complaining about having too much cake. The greenway part was all curvy and you had to dodge a bunch of trees (not easy after dark) but overall it was really cool.

Sidewalk running around the convention center near the first mile marker

So happy to see the family!

Bonus points if you can read the Garmin

This run course does have some serious cool factor
The Garmin said I hit 13.1 miles in 1:58:24 so I felt great about that. Still well on pace to get my sub-4 Ironman marathon! All I had to do was keep that up. But then I hit the turnaround for the second loop at about 14 miles. The other odd logistic around that course was the finish line. I had to run past the finish line in mile 2, so I saw some guys finishing around 10 hours. Then you run past it again to get to the turnaround point, then back past it again in mile 14 knowing all you have left by then is mostly the greenway section after a couple more blocks of roads.

I was coming down a particularly open stretch of road just before hitting the halfway point when I saw Jason Biggs spectating! He owns FS Series, the primary race production company that I race with here in Raleigh, so he must have had some friends running B2B or something. I was flying when I saw him, we yelled a bit and he said I looked strong, so that was amazing. I really needed to hear that just then and he'll never know how good it was to see him there. Total coincidence.

The second half of the ironman marathon is where it really gets hard. I was not expecting to spend that extra hour on the bike, I thought I put out the kind of effort that was going to get me at least 3 mph faster out there. I also was not expecting the cold to be there. When I was standing on the beach freezing my toes off before the sun came up I had a goal set to be done before the sun went back down again. And around mile 15 in the marathon is where the wheels came off in my head. My everything hurt and I walked a lot.

The run course in the daylight

The battleship at sunset

It got really cool after dark

Actually I told myself that if I got the sub-2 hour half marathon split it was ok to walk as much as I needed to in the second half. I knew then that I was going to finish, and seeing that finish line was all that mattered. Time splits didn't matter anymore, overall placement or total finish time didn't matter, just stay as comfortable as possible and see that finish line knowing the whole family was going to be waiting for me.

So I did walk as much as I wanted to. I'd jog for about 200 yards before the muscles just couldn't jog anymore. I put up lots of 10 to 15 minute miles and may have cried a few times. This is why they say Ironman will push you to your limits. Then you push past them and keep going. Keep running. See it all the way through.

4:37 is the second slowest marathon I've ever done. I knew my 11 hour target was gone, and my 12 hour goal that was really 12:30 could only be met with a 4 hour marathon so that was gone. I thought I could still beat my time from IMFL but in the end this was all I wanted to see. Right after this pic was taken I was blazing through the finish line chute, and Evil Genius hopped out and started running beside me, all the way into the finish line. Girl has got some speed to keep up with my finish line kick!

Finish: 13:12:03, 268/500 men, 53/79 age group
Having EG cross the line with me was so cool. the volunteer actually let her put the finishers medal around my neck. I was so incredibly glad to be done. This race is in the books, I'm now a two time ironman finisher, and Beach 2 Battleship is checked off of my bucket list.  After I made this my first half iron back in 2009, I knew I wanted to come back for the full and now it was over. Such a fast day.

And it turns out two of my AAA Carolinas triathlon teammates finished within about 10 minutes of me! What a small world. I'm so happy for Dusty and Meghan too.

Me and EG right after crossing the finish line

She stuck with me for a while

Very grateful to be sitting down

Pizza and beer! Yay!
Back at the hotel holding the medal. that bling don't play!
They gave out the coolest swag ever - finishers pajama pants! I didn't see that one coming, but they are so neat.  I may not take them off - ever.

I can wear these to work, right?

 Me and Scott on Sunday morning
I finally got to hang out with Scott, his wife, their kids, and his dad some on Sunday morning! We grabbed lunch in Downtown Wilmington with them before heading back to Raleigh. I did see Scott a few times on the run course, he was out of the water before me, put up a great bike split, and finished in 11:19 as the First Master Fatty - his term - in his first Ironman! I can't imagine winning the Master Clydesdale division your first time out. We were really close in college and it's very cool for me to be there when he turned iron. I'm so glad he came down and did the race.

After lunch we headed back to Raleigh. This whole trip was an experience I'll never forget. It was an amazing race, very well organized and the 1400 volunteers were incredible. PPD was more than just a sponsor, they had 200 employees running the race. And a special section for PPD heroes - people who had been through drug trials that PPD staged and beaten their deadly disease. I can't imagine doing Ironman after beating cancer through an experimental drug, but those folks were out there too! Insane. The entire environment that this event creates is so wholesome and amazing. Totally different from a branded Ironman event, but that's another post. Thanks for reading this long report!


Unknown said...

Way to overcome !

And the finished pj pants are clever. I've never heard off that before.

Tea said...

Congrats John! The only thing you can ever control is your reaction. You remained cool and in control. I know how hard it can be to keep going when things don't go your way. You handled all of the challenges extremely well.
Well done. Congrats. I look forward to hearing your plans in 2014.

CautiouslyAudacious said...

Amazing! Loved reading this! Winds can be so defeating way to push through!! Great pics. I plan on my next half distance to be a non IM brand & am hoping to benefit from the smaller field.

CautiouslyAudacious said...

Amazing! Loved reading this! Winds can be so defeating way to push through!! Great pics. I plan on my next half distance to be a non IM brand & am hoping to benefit from the smaller field.

Sarah said...

Congratulations, John! I was thinking about you with how cold it was, glad you pushed through and locked it up with a good day.

B.o.B. said...

Congrats! Great racing!

Alisa said...

Way to go! You pushed through the mental challenges and still had a great race. May not have been the PR you wanted but low 13's is still an amazing time! Actually, I'm now a believer than anyone that finishes one of these is amazing, even if it's 16:59:59.

Would you rather have the cold like this or hot and humid?

I'm nervous about the wind in AZ as I've heard it can be quite windy on race day. I am hoping I did enough riding in windy conditions to prep me mentally.

Sounds like you never had GI issues which is HUGE, that can be such a game changer.

Congrats again! Looking forward to hearing the comparison between IM and non-IM.

Anonymous said...

Great Job! Congratulations!

Karen said...

Great job John! I was so jealous of all of you last weekend - I love B2B so much! That swim could definitely use a few more buoys. The years I did it, we had greyish caps so combine that with foggy goggles and it is so hard to see. Agree with you on the bike course. I have always felt advertising it as pancake flat was a little misleading. That wind is no joke. CONGRATULATIONS on a great race!!!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

You definitely had a VERY cold race day so I am glad you overcame that and still put up a solid performance. The thought of standing outdoors wearing very little in those chilly temps makes me actually shiver a little! You should be so proud of yourself as you did so well. I am just so happy you overcame your foot issues! congrats on having another IM under your belt!

Amy - the gazelle said...

Nice job on the 2nd IM! You are amazeballs, and I am totally jealous of the finisher pj pants! Love!

Unknown said...

Awesome scenery, way to go!

Someday I will do this... someday.

hebba said...

WOW! What a great day. It's always hard to set a time goal and then find out that the weather is not going to cooperate. But man, oh, man! What an accomplishment.

Amber said...

Huge congrats to you! I still cannot believe you have done this crazy feat more than once. You're amazing!

-Chris said...

Congrats dude! Looks like you had a great race.

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Congrats on so many levels!! One of my teammates raced it and was telling me how cold it was.