Gees! Where to begin... The week before race day, I came down with a cold. You figure after ten months of healthy training, you'd be in the clear for race day. Nope! The taper got trashed and I was in bed with apple juice, tea, Aireborne, and lots of movies. Thankfully I kicked 90% of it by race day, but still - what luck!
I drove down to NC from CT on Wednesday; a nice 12 hour drive to tighten everything up. haha I was staying with my best friend and his gf, so I spent the rest of the day unpacking and hanging out. Thursday I got in a short bike and run, picked up my packet, drove the run course, and bought some throw away clothes at the local Salvation Army. And the most random thing happened at packet pickup. I get all my gear and start walking around the expo when I walk past the Tough Chik booth. The person manning the booth was helping someone look at clothes, but I swore I recognized her from somewhere. I'm 12 hours from home - who the heck am I going to recognize at a triathlon expo? Then it hit me, it's Tonia from Racing With Babes! I couldn't believe it - of all the random places to meet people. Of course I stopped over and said hi. And of course she was sporting the mohawk - LOVE IT! We talked about the race, upcoming races, getting prepped, and such. If you're ever wondering, she's just as cool and down-to-earth in person as she is on, well... screen.
Friday I did a spin out with my best friend's roommate who is a local trainer and was gearing up for the half iron on Saturday. We swam the half course, biked for 20-30 minutes, and they ran for a mile or so. Since it was rainy, I opted not to get my run shoes wet. Then I went to the athlete meeting where I learned a few bits of interesting info...
- I believe it was 46 states and 9 countries were represented at the race
- B2B is ranked as the 5th best Iron-distance triathlon in the world, 2nd best in the U.S., and 1st best on the continental U.S. Though I tried looking up the rankings and found THIS, which puts Vineman and Chesapeakeman in the rankings too, so I don't know where they get the ranking, but the race is great either way.
After the meeting, I went back to clean & lube the bike, dropped that off at T1, got some lunch at Epic which amazing, and then drove BACK to the convention center to drop off my T2 bag. The rest of the day was spent lounging.
I swear though, packing bags for an iron-distance event should be worked into training. I was more nervous about having things in the right bag than I was for the race itself!
On race morning I was up at 4am. I had my four eggs, a banana with pb, grabbed all my bags and was out the door about 4:50am. T1 was only 5 minutes away and opened at 5:30am. I got a front row spot! I got my bike all set up, dropped off the special needs and T1 bag, left my shoes at the swim exit, and finally hopped on the trolley down to the swim start.
This was it. One hundred and forty point six miles to go!
The swim was a mass beach start. They called everyone out of the water, played the national anthem, gave us some pep talk and we were off!! Tons of athletes running for the channel. I bet the fish had some odd thoughts.
The entire swim course was lined with orange, green, and yellow pyramid buoys. However, the only ones that mattered were the two orange buoys. We swam out and around the first orange buoy and then headed down the channel in any form of a straight line we wanted. Since I was told by multiple people during our Friday OWS that the channel is quicker out away from the docks, I let my natural tendency to veer left take over. I quickly found myself left of everyone, over near the paddle boarders and kayaks. Did that hurt or help me?, who knows!
Two things I concluded during the swim. One was that the salt water is only so bad. After 20 minutes of my throat drying out and getting rough, it stopped getting any worse. That I was happy about though I still prefer fresh water. Second, salt water gives me a back ache! The extra buoyancy lifted my legs up higher creating an arch in my lower back which bothered me a ways in. I had to turn over and curl in the fetal position a couple times to help keep it at bay.
Soon enough, I came to the second orange buoy at the turn towards the hotel. This is the part of the swim we had done Friday. I sighted the third channel marker and let everyone cut the corner. But it evened out since I cut the next corner straight to the docks instead of following the buoys in the S-shape to follow the current. Again, did it help or hurt me?, no idea. But I made it to the docks, grabbed one of the ladders and lifted myself out happy to be rid of the salt!
SWIM - 0:49:49
Rank: 28th of 414
Goal time was 50 minutes, so I was happy!!
I ran up dock and made straight for the wetsuit strippers. They weren't as violent as the ones I saw on the Lake Placid videos, but they got the job done quickly that I would have. With the suit, I put the shoes on I had stashed earlier, and made my way down the pier. Thankfully, they had volunteers warning you of the tile that Brian pointed out before. Nice touch B2B! But better yet was the tunnel of HEATED showers!
The race director for B2B told us in the athlete meeting that they have the best medical personnel and staff of any race and that one of the things the med staff insist upon is heated showers post-swim. I'm sure I would not have been unhappy with cool showers, but you certainly won't hear a complaint about the heated water. I quickly rinsed my face and neck off, sprayed my body, and made for T1.
Once, across the street, I picked up my bag and ran into the tent. I didn't really need to go into the tent, but oh-well. I took the shoes off, put my jersey on, and stuffed everything into the bag. The volunteers took the bag as I ran back out of the tent and I booked it for my bike while I finished adjusting my jersey. I was the first one to my rack, but the bottles slipped under the bar easily enough and I was off.
T1 - 3:27
Rank: 10th of 414
I had budgeted my goal for 3:30, so I'm still on a roll.
I ran right past the mount line, did a flying mount and was off. I had my shoes on the bike already, so I slipped them on without much issue, and every once in awhile adjusted them until they were on right. But after all that, it didn't matter much. Only 0.5 miles into the bike, I hit some bumps and one of my bottles ejected. I unclipped my right foot and swung around to pick it up. The problem was, I turned left. So as you can imagine, I fell off the bike 0.5 miles in, got some light road rash, picked up the bottle, and took off again. And yes, someone did see it happen, so I can't deny it. =P
|If you look closely, you can see the blood on my left knee from the road rash.|
Comparatively, the rest of the bike was uneventful. I settled into what felt like a conservative pace early on. Heck, there's 112 miles to complete and then a marathon to run. I'm SUPPOSED to feel good and not pushed at this point, right?! But I was surprised to find that this pace was 21-22 mph which was above my goal.
Another conservative thought I had was all the bricks I've done where I end up feeling drained right off the bike. Not enough nutrition. So I decided to see how much I could stomach. Every 20 minutes or so, I took down a GU or Stinger waffle along with some Perpetuem. Overall, it went down easily enough and I kept pace, so it seemed to be working. Yay!
The forecast had called for a 7-10 mph western wind. I'm sure everyone was happy about that. The only two things that could beat that are no wind, and an eastern wind. The course goes about 45 miles north, heads west for 10 miles, and then turns south with a few east sections in order to get back on the same road we started. Therefore, the first 40+ miles I sped right along at a nice cruising speed with the wind on my left. As soon as we turned west, the speed went down to 18 mph. Ugh!
With less than a mile to go on that road, we hit the special needs. I stopped, replenished my nutrition, and hit the bathroom. I had been trying to pee on the bike for nearly 20 miles, but my body wouldn't cooperate. After a minute or two, I was back on the bike.
On the way back, we hit some head winds. I'm sure it was still better than previous years, but I had little comparison and headwinds mentally get to me. Not to mention, the bike itself was quite lonely. I had thought that a mass start would give me plenty of people on the bike to pass or be passed by thereby keeping me entertained. Wrong! A fast swim and a fast-ER bike left me with not many people around. And not too many spectators were out cheering on the bikes. It really was more of a battle in my mind to keep going and keep up the pace than it was a battle to turn the legs over. Lesson learned!
Eventually, my stomach started feeling... the best way I can describe it is "full." I went without one GU and then without a Stinger. I tried keeping more to liquids, but it still felt odd. In the last 20-30 miles, I could tell that my body was starting to feel the pace. I don't know if it was because of a pause in my nutrition or simply my earlier pace catching up with me. But after hitting mile 60 at an average 21.11 pace, I saw it drop as low as 20.2 average. The fact that I was still ahead of my goal pace was a helpful mental note. And the signs every 5 miles gave me something to try and predict - something to keep my mind occupied.
|Getting loopy with somewhere around 25 miles to go.|
Finally, I pulled into downtown and knew that I was done! I undid my shoes, had a cramp in my left hamstring as I did so (the only cramp of the entire day), and pulled up to the convention center where I handed off the bike.
BIKE - 5:35:46
Rank: 78th of 414
My goal was 20 mph, or 5:36:xx. With the special needs stop, I still beat it! Awesome!!!
I felt like I was racing Kona (minus the sun). We ran into the convention center, all the way around the bike racks, through the hangers to find our bag, and then to the other side of the room to change. Thankfully it was carpeted, but I ran into a few people using the path as a walkway. Really people?!
I put on a new pair of socks (I know, breaking the cardinal rule!), slipped on the newer Streak IIs, reapplied some lube, grabbed my hat, handheld water bottle & race belt and left the helmet & sunglasses in the bag. Again, a volunteer grabbed the bag as I exited the changing tent and I headed back out the same door I came in to start the run.
T2 - 2:48
Rank: 14th of 414
I had allotted 2:00, so I was slower than I hoped, but given the run around, I'm not unhappy with the time. I was already ahead of schedule, so no worries.
And now the fun begins!
We had one, just short of 13.1 miles, loop to do twice along with a quick out & back to run first in order to make up the difference. I wasn't more than 0.2 miles into the out & back when I noticed that I was wheezing. WTF?! I've never wheezed before! I tried breathing through my nose - perfectly fine; you just can't get in the same amount of air that way. Back to breathing through my mouth - wheezing! What gives? I stopped at the first aid station and got some cold water. That stopped the wheezing for 0.1 miles. Thankfully the turn around was shortly after that, so I stopped again as I ran by and got another water.
At this point I had a few thoughts. First, I had started out at sub-8:00 miles (I can only say so by feel) and I'd love to keep it up, so I was a bit bummed at the obvious limitation. However, second, if I can't stop the wheezing, there's no way I'm going to push this run. I've heard too many stories of people pushing through minor 'normal' issues on race day to find out that they're life threatening. I had already rocked the swim and bike, I was ok with crashing on the run. Third, if the cold water helped and I can breathe through my nose fine, I bet it's just a constriction of my airway due to heat, dehydration, or nutrition. So get something cold at each station and see if I can turn this around.
|Somewhere around mile 1.5. Running has never been a flattering photo op for me.|
I ran all the way to the first hill (Yes, this "pancake flat" course had three main hills, the first which is killer). Around about mile 4, I started feeling better. I could breathe normally. Crisis #1 averted!
However, I had succumbed to the mental fatigue, so it was on to cola and wafer cookies! Gotta' get the blood sugar back up. After three aid stations of that, my head was... well, not completely back in the game, but I was able to run much longer. I was still walk/running, but at a much better ratio. Crisis #2 averted!
Then I started getting that 'full' feeling again. My bet was on the wafer cookies. Up to this point, I had avoided the GUs that were stashed in my race belt. I decided to try switching to liquids (cut out the cookies) and after another mile or so, the feeling abated. Crisis #3 averted!
As you might be able to tell, I walked through each aid station. I was also walking 1-3 times in between stations on the first loop. I had avoided some crises, but knew I had lost my chance at a sub-10 finish unless I happen to find a magical recovery I knew didn't exist.
During the bike, I had day dreams of the Pringles that I stashed in the run special needs bag. As a friend suggested, "stash something in there that you'll be happy to get to no matter what it is. If you love a candy bar, put that in there. If anything, it will help you make it to that point by the shear desire to get it." On the back half of the second loop, I found chicken broth and all the dreams of Pringles disappeared. I did grab a few anyways, but I'm glad I didn't do more since it was solid food and the liquids were working much better for me. One more look at the finish line before I headed out on loop #2.
The first half of the second loop was by far my best. I nearly ran station-to-station without stopping. I had done some calculations in my head and found that I was somewhere around a 10-minute/mile pace. If I kept it up, I would be right around eleven hours. Sub-10 was out of the question, but sub-11 might still be within reach. So I dug in and kept at it the best I could. I shortened my walking breaks, let myself get competitive with other racers, etc. I was good all the way through the final turn around.
Oh, and by the way, the staff at the turn around aid station
were all dressed in various Mario characters
Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Yoshi, etc.
They were awesome!
At some point after that turn around, my body/mind started giving in. I was calculating again - 1 minute under to hit goal, right on goal, 1 minute over, 2 minutes over and so on. In the end, I chose to not push. Could I have gone under 11 hours, I'm sure of it. But I kept the pace I was at and enjoyed the experience.
I ran down the hill on Front St, turned onto Ann and avoided falling down the steep hill, and I turned to see the final stretch. I grabbed one more cola at the final aid station without stopping, zipped up my jersey, lifted my hat up, and just enjoyed the finisher's chute. I have to admit though that I was so out of it mentally that while I did tear up a bit, I didn't all-out cry as I expected to.
RUN - 4:31:34
Rank: 105th of 414
I finished 1:03:17 over my run goal. But with all things considered, I still had a good run. Not many people run a 4:31 marathon alone let alone after over 6 hours of previous racing. haha
FINISH - 11:03:21
Rank: 60th of 414
After crossing the finish, I got my medal, a beanie, a sticker, a bottle of water that I quickly downed, and I got pulled away to the medical tent to get my knee cleaned up. I guess it looked worse than it was. And wouldn't you know, the tent was HEATED! How nice!
Then I got to eat a Twinkie!
The friends I'm staying with and who chased me around all day long (Jim & Blair) had picked up a whole box after Jim knew I wasn't able to find them before the race. Friends rock!!
I got a massage. Blair is a massage therapist and while watching me get massaged wondered whether I had fallen asleep. The truth is, I did not. But it wouldn't have taken much for me; I was pretty tired.
Finally, we picked up my bags and headed home. I cracked open a nice Oreo Ice Cream cake and Blair made me some eggs and toast. However, my stomach was already being iffy and made it's final stand by having me projectile vomit quite violently. I was strongly reminded of Mr. Creosote from Monty Python's 'The Meaning of Life' if you know it.
As of this morning, I am feeling sore of course, but much better than expected.
OTHER RANDOM FACTS
- The pink outfit seemed to be a hit! While I did have one guy say "If you're going to wear pink, you better start running," I had plenty of females voice their approval. I sure was easy to pick out as the ONLY male with a pink kit. There was, however, a guy with pink shoes.
- Chicken broth is better not heated, at least in warmer conditions. I got odd looks when asking for it straight out of the can, but I'm sure I wasn't the oddest request of the day some of the volunteers had.
- The volunteers at B2B were absolutely amazing!! Ok, there were some lazy ones out on the bike course waving their directional flags in ways I couldn't figure out what they were saying (the police at some points had taken over directing the bikers), but anywhere there was constant action, they were lively, helpful, and would jump all over to get you what you needed. Awesome job!
- When the race director said they had the BEST medical team anywhere, he was right! I can't tell you how many med trucks and staff I saw on the run course. I certainly felt safe medically.
- One thing I will gripe about - drafting on the bike. I saw five people drafting, in peloton fashion on the course. I thought at first they were simply close to each other as I went by. Nope! I could see them switching places every so often until they went out of sight. That really pissed me off!
Now it's time to rest (aka, Goofy Challenge training) before picking the Iron training back up in January for Lake Placid!
Swim fast. Bike smart. Run hard.