2014 is the first year that Setup Events has done a half iron distance at Lake Logan. I had to jump in on that as soon as I saw it on the schedule, and sure enough it sold out pretty fast. I've done the oly out there twice, in 2011 and 2012, and set PR's both times. The best part about it was the bike course, which was incredible. And for a total bike hater like me to admit that it had an amazing bike course is really saying something.
We arrived in Maggie Valley on Friday night. I tried to be sure we got there early in the evening, so of course it was about 11 pm by the time we arrived at Kelley's mom's summer house. I pretty much went straight to bed after that.
Race day came dark and early Saturday morning. I got up about 5:30, ate some breakfast and got out the door. This is when the fun started.
I underestimated the drive time. I thought it was 15 something away. Turns out, that was 15 miles, not 15 minutes. And 15 miles in the mountains takes 45 minutes to get there. So the GPS said I would get there at 6:25, and I knew that packet pickup closed at 6:30 so I was cutting it close but could still be ok.
Of course, somebody who was apparently not involved in the race was going incredibly slow, you know, just to piss me off. Then they stopped on the bridge to have a casual conversation with the cops who were directing traffic into the parking lot. at 6:25 am. when I'm 100 feet from the airstrip where the race participants are supposed to park. that was a lot of fun for me.
Eventually I did make it into the parking lot. And then it filled up. An airstrip that is so huge they have no need for overflow parking actually filled up. The volunteers were scrambling trying to find enough spaces for all of these people and I was about 10 cars back in line. The truck in front of me suddenly had 3 people jump out, grab the bikes off of the back with bags and a pump, and get all of the prep work done while somebody's girl parked the truck. That was fun for me to watch. All of this time I'm thinking "there's no way I'm going to race today" and "well, there goes the packet pickup closing". Finally, about 6:45 I get my car parked, throw some air in my tires and run towards the race site.
There was no line at the packet pickup so I was able to get my stuff quickly, grabbed a timing chip, hit the body marking on my way into the transition area and threw my bike on the rack. I did get to unzip my transition bag, dig and find the chip strap, throw the chip on my left ankle and run to the swim start. On the other side of that bridge, I hear "The first wave starts swimming in 15 seconds", and I get to see this:
|I'm one of those yellow caps|
|Incredibly beautiful venue & day|
Swim 1.2 miles: Goal under 30 Actual: 32:30
The water was freezing. Actually it was about 63*, certainly wetsuit legal and I was maybe the only person not using a wetsuit. I actually brought it, but left it in the transition bag since I didn't have time to suit up. Fuck it, it's time to roll with whatever today gives me.
|Some swimmers coming into the bridge|
|Beautiful lake! Amazing day!|
This is one of my favorite lakes to swim in, and the bridge and cold water never disappoint. Thanks to my friend Susan for getting these pictures. I didn't even see her on race day but she said I could steal these from her facebook post.
yea, that whole "no time before race start" thing came into play here. I still had to put the stickers on my bike and helmet, get the new bike shoes on, and get everything ready to ride. No way I was going to hit my 90 second target this time, and I knew that going in. I decided not to let this bother me. The whole point of the day was to test my nutrition and pacing, not to test my ability to prepare.
Bike 52 miles: Goal under 3 hours, Actual 2:53:53, 18 mph, Good!
What did I just say about testing my nutrition? Well normally when I'm setting up my TA I use electrical tape to secure some gels to the top bar of my bike, and I didn't have time to do that this time. So of course right after I hit the mount line, I realized that I also didn't grab them out of the bag.
I call this is called the Hungry Hungry Half because I was kind of hungry when I got into the park after forgetting to grab a granola bar when I left the house. So when I was swimming, I was hungry. I hit the bike and I was hungry. As soon as you leave the park, half a mile into the ride, you hit the first climb. It is steep and quite a challenge. For the oly course, you crest that climb and get a nice descent, and the next time you face a steep climb is going back up that nice long descent. For the half course, they threw in a shitload of hills. I had 2 bottles of sports drink and 1 bottle of water and I was already hungry. This is not a good situation.
When I first started out I thought the bike was geared up a bit high, again something I should have set pre-race. I geared down to make the first climb, then in the flats played leap-frog with another guy for a while. Then I finally realized after about 5 miles, that I was in the small chainring! Gah! it wasn't geared up too high after all. So of course I pushed up to the big chainring and left that dude in the dust.
I did finally bum a gel off of another guy around mile 35, and that changed my entire outlook. I remembered his bib number and gave him back one of my gels after the race was over, and thanked him profusely. The hungry hungry half was not quite so hungry anymore!
Mile 31 had a hard climb thrown in. Mile 39 had one of those gut wrenching, throat pounding climbs that is so steep and so long you think it's never going to end. Since I am training for a full iron I kind of made my way up that sucker like a billy goat. But it was a really hard climb. and 39 miles into a 52 mile ride is a pretty tough place to put a climb that hard.
The Garmin was giving me splits, and you could tell it was a mountain ride from the speeds. Up and down, up and down, up and down. There were a few mile splits that were over 4 minutes, those miles had the hard climbs in there. A first for me was getting a mile split at 1:58! I've never broken a 2 minute mile before. THAT was really cool. I also had a 2:08 and a 2:04 mile.
Overall this bike course was beautiful, challenging, and FAST. This is the best reason to come to Canton NC and do this race. This incredible bike course did not disappoint.
Again, I got out of the bike shoes before running into TA, so I had to find my running shoes, put them on, tie them, find my bib belt, and I attached my bib while I was on my way out of T2. This took forever. Oh the dangers of pre-race prep time!
Run 13 miles: Goal under 2 hours, Actual 1:55:15, Success!
The run course is an out and back on one road. It goes straight uphill for 5k, then straight downhill for 5k, and that's it for the oly course. There was supposed to be a turnaround to make it a 2 lap course for the half. This is finally when I started to see my friends, since they are all faster than I am.
On the first lap, that uphill is manageable. I clocked an 8:08 for the first mile. By the time you hit that turnaround, you're ready to cruise back. They say you have to turnaround and go back up that hill for a second lap.
they tell lies.
Really what you have to do is go down the hill, make the turn through the finishing chute and go all the way to the finish line. Then, instead of taking that last step to the finish the race, veer to the left for a "turnaround". Only that's not a turnaround either. You have to take a lap around a field, cross a timing mat at the halfway point, hit an aide station (where I stopped for a gel) in the middle of this field 20 feet from the finish line and 30 feet from the TA, then go back out for a second lap.
Nothing in triathlon hurts worse than the run in a half ironman. Even in a full iron when you run out of gas you know what's coming. In a sprint, you know how much pain you need to eat to push that 5k run speed. But in a half it's pure torture. And the uphill leg of lap 2 did not disappoint.
Eventually you hit the actual turnaround again at the top of that hill, and get to cruise down to the finish line. I still knocked some miles in the low 8's coming back down that hill.
There was also rednecks shooting off shotguns on some land near the road. They weren't a threat to anybody, just rednecks doing redneck shit. I made a few jokes about it to other racers that seemed a bit more nervous.
Finish: Goal under 6 hours, Actual 5:31:13 Success!
I finished this race and collapsed pretty hard. I know that I left everything I had out on that course. I brought my zen into the day, and I gave the day everything I had to give. I took everything the course could throw at me. And at the end of the day, I ended up with a 15 minute half PR on a slightly short course.
The post race food was incredible. I got plenty of water, protein drinks, and solid veggie food. Couldn't find any of my friends at the finish line, but that was ok. I saw them on the run course. Lots of people from Greenville, Raleigh, and Atlanta were there. The day itself was just beautiful, cloudy and in the low 70's. insane.
I finished 26/42 in my age group. The M35-39 podium spots went to times from 4:21 to 4:31, so that is some serious competition.
|snapped a couple of selfies while I was packing up my stuff|
|The airstrip that filled up as a parking lot|
|Athletes walking back to their cars|
|That's TA in the background|
|The finish line in the background and the infamous bridge. We had to swim under it and run over it twice.|
|My happy place. Drinking coffee, sitting on the deck listening to those waterfalls after a hard days racing.|
|And this fine honey was waiting on me when I got back to the house!|
So to recap, Lake Logan Rocks. This was the innaugural half iron, and I hope they make it a regular event. I also hope they make the bike course 56 miles instead of 52 and avoid that climb in mile 39. Come do it next year! this place is amazing.