Raleigh 70.3 Race Report

Jun
2015
09

posted by on Race Report, Triathlon

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Race Week:
This year we once again decided to volunteer for the Homestay program and open up our home to a professional triathlete that was coming to Raleigh for the race.  We first did this in 2014 and had a fun experience.  Caitlin Snow was our visitor and she arrived on Tuesday.  Even though we were all working during the week, it was great to pair up at dinner time.  We enjoyed getting to know her as a person and an athlete.

Pre-Race (Friday):
The logistics of this race can be a bit of a pain, but I knew what to expect.  Therefore, I decided to take Friday off from work to start getting focused.  Friday morning I spent relaxing and then after lunch, Cait and I headed downtown for check-in.  We were able to zoom though packet pick-up relatively quickly and then glanced at a few things at the expo and the store.

Balloon

We were killing time in advance of the Athlete Panel where Cait participated.  She was asked to speak in addition to Meredith Kessler and Matt Chrabot, the 2014 first place male.  I had never attended an athlete panel and I found it interesting.

Panel

The Athlete Panel

After finishing up downtown, we made a leisurely stop at Whole Foods and headed home.  We spent another evening sitting out on the porch, eating dinner and sharing great conversation.

Pre-Race (Saturday):
Saturday morning was great!  I prepared homemade blueberry pancakes and eggs to kick-off our pre-race day eats on the right foot.  We had a couple more guests join us for breakfast, so it was a really nice morning enjoying a delicious breakfast on the porch with some more stories and laughs.

So, here is where some of the race logistics are not so fun.  We needed to check in our bikes on Saturday afternoon at the swim start which is located about 50 minutes from my house and in a different direction than the downtown area where T2, the finish line and race headquarters are located.  This is one big reason I wanted to get checked in and packet pick-up completed on Friday.

Rack

Bike racked on Saturday afternoon. She is ready to go!

After getting race prep completed, the late afternoon/evening including was rest, staying off my feet as much as possible, having a delicious dinner that Tony prepared and heading to bed at a decent time.

Lake

View of the lake that we swam in. This view is not from the swim start but from early on in the bike course.

Race Day (Sunday):
I don’t think I can ever get a “normal” night’s sleep before a race. The 3:50am alarm was brutal, but no need to delay the inevitable by hitting snooze. Up to dress, eat and grab gear bags to head out to drive 20 minutes downtown to T2 to catch the shuttle (with an approximately 40 minute drive) to the swim start.

Cait

Just before heading out on race day!

The line to board the shuttle was crazy long…longer than anticipated. However, since my swim wave was scheduled for 7:52am, I was not too concerned about time.

Once at swim start/T1, it was normal pre-race stuff. Getting body marked, loading hydration and nutrition on the bike, checking tire pressure, putting on the first round of sunscreen and packing away my wetsuit in the morning clothes bag since it was deemed to be non-wetsuit legal (the first time in the three years of the race). I then had to wait for a very long time in line for the bathroom. There were NOT enough port-o-johns. I probably ended up waiting at least 35 minutes. Good thing I had a later wave!

One note to mention is that spectators are allowed at the swim start, but they must also ride a shuttle from downtown Raleigh, which also takes them back to T2, after the last swimmer has exited.  Spectators are not allowed to drive themselves down to the lake. Therefore, Tony and crew were waiting for me early on the bike course.

After a snack and shedding my morning clothes bag, I headed to join the line with the other ladies in my swim wave. I started looking around for a fellow blogger that I had “virtually met” a few months ago when we started following each others’ blog since we were both training for Raleigh 70.3. I knew her race number and luckily I spotted her without too much difficulty. It was great to meet Alison of Racingtales, who ended up earning a spot to the IM 70.3 World Championships in Austria! It was nice to connect with her in person and chat before it was time to get down to business.

Swim:
I think I felt a little less anxious that I have historically, just before our wave was signaled to start. My plan was to find my groove as soon as possible and hope for as little contact as possible. The first 150 meters or so was just average, but after that I found my pace and yes had some contact, but nothing too terrible. There were lots of sight buoys, which plays to my advantage, since I struggle with swimming straight in open water. After the first (of two) turns, I was still feeling decent. I was expecting the “back section” to include more chop. My experience was weird though…I seemed to go from one extreme to the other…either feeling MORE chop than the first out leg or feeling LESS chop in comparison. I did experience a bit more contact in this area including an instance of the person directly in front completely stopping. I also got kicked in the hip by someone swimming breast stroke, which takes up much more space in the water than freestyle, and I definitely felt that kick. As I rounded the final buoy, I was happy. I was on the last section and I felt like I was having a solid swim. This swim back to land, felt soooooo long though. As I continued to sight, it just seemed like it was taking me forever to get to land. I think the gist of it is that I was just ready to get on my bike.

As I exited the water, I checked my Garmin…50 minutes…I was expecting much better. I had trained much better…albeit, this swim was without the wetsuit, but still, I was a bit frustrated right away. My goal to better my times from 2013 was still in play though. My time was a handful of seconds faster and that swim was with a wetsuit.

T1:
I was trying to be efficient. My bike was fairly close to the transition exit which I prefer since I can run better in bare feet carrying only my goggles and swim cap, than steering a bike with bike shoes on my feet. I did a quick spray of sunscreen before heading out since there was no way I was having a good race if I had to deal with sunburn!

Bike:
Onto the bike and the first few miles were kind of crappy. People were all bunched up together and you have to do a small out and back from the exit road that leads from the lake to the highway. There are some rollers in these first miles and the pavement is not the best, so it is just a section that I was ready to get through in order to find my true rhythm. As I pulled onto the highway, I saw my mom and family friend, Kathy. That was a boost because they are loud and proud. Immediately after that I saw Tony who always motivates me and he called up to Tim who was a little further down, since he was posing as race photographer. This is where it really all began…I put my swim behind me, saw friends and family and started riding my bike on super smooth pavement…I was ready to go!!!!

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Game on!

Smooth pavement!

One of the most important things for me to do on the bike was DRINK! With the forecasted temperatures to be in the upper 80s for the day, it was going to be a warm one and I wanted to be as smart as possible and not get behind on my hydration. I started with one bottle of Gatorade (the same they were serving on the course) on my bike and I planned to get more at each aid station. I had all the nutrition I needed with me…Honey Stinger Waffles and some peanut butter filled pretzels. I also had salt tabs which I took a couple of during the ride.  #hshive

Along the course, at around mile 33, I once again saw Tony and Tim, plus another friend, Eric was hanging out with them as well.

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Another boost and big smiles from me! I was riding well and feeling good. Not hot and not thirsty. I kept an eye on my average speed because I pretty much knew what I should have in my legs, but also did not want to blow them out.

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Around the 44 mile mark, the bike course goes along a road that my brother and his family live off of, as well as, one of my closest friends. I was on the look out for them, because I know how hard it can be to spot a racer on the bike. Kelly spotted me and I shouted hellos to her.  After that I saw my brother with an awesome poster along with my mom and Kathy. More great cheers! My niece and nephew had planned to watch for me with my brother but they both got sick last minute.

Jax with poster

My nephew Jaxson hanging out to send cheers my way!

When I was on the tail end of the bike course, I was right where I wanted to be. I had eaten most of what I planned and was never thirsty. I focused on finishing strong and maintaining something in the tank for the run. As I neared T2, I was happy with my ride and would not change a thing about what I had done. I knew I had continued with my goal of bettering my 2013 time which was a strong bike leg.

T2:
As I entered T2, I knew I had a long way to get to my rack. After I dismounted and ran/walked a few steps in my shoes, I knew I did not want to do this. I stopped and took off my shoes and ran barefoot. Better. The pavement was very hot, but still better. However, I made a ROOKIE mistake. I was searching for my number on the bike rack and gear bag. My number was 2066 and in my mind I was looking for 2206. WHAT?!?!? Tony was shouting (to try to help) from the side of the transition area, but I was so confused!! I then realized it and OMG…how silly am I?? That definitely cost me a bit of time. UGH! I grabbed my run gear, sprayed a bit more sunscreen and then hit the bathroom before running out.

Run:
I wanted to have a good first mile. I didn’t want to go out crazy fast, but I did not want to start with too easy a pace. My legs felt heavy, which was completely normal, but I did get that first mile at a solid pace. I spotted Tim at around mile .5 and 1. Tony was there just after mile 1. Tony brought down his mountain bike so he could get around on the course easily. That ended up being a great plan for him and I think it made the spectating more fun from his perspective.

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Starting the run

I expected my legs to start to loosen up. Well…..I was not getting the relief I craved.  I just needed to find my “pocket” and the pace that felt manageable. I remained hopeful, but as the miles ticked off, my legs were just getting heavier. I focused on the current mile and then being smart at the aide stations since it was super warm (mid to upper 80s). I walked through the aid stations (while trying not to slow terribly) taking water (one to drink and one over the head), Gatorade, and ice (for the sports bra and a piece or two to suck on). They ran out of sponges early, as I was only able to get on at the first station. I took Coke later in the run, which I found to be helpful. I took a few shot blocks during the run (which I carried with me), not at the planned time intervals, but I did get in a few.

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Focused on the first mile

After a few miles, I knew my sub-2 hour run goal was out of reach. My first mile was just what I wanted to begin the run, but I could not hold the pace I needed. I had trained so well to meet that goal, but that day was not the day. At that point, I just wanted to be as strong as I could and give my best.

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The support that I had on the course was crazy fun! The two loop design made it spectator friendly. Our neighbors were at a point that was closer to the initial turn around mark. They always have so much enthusiasm and huge smiles on their faces! I saw them four times. My mom and Kathy made it down to run course as well (I was not expecting that) and was kind of mid-point on the main road of the run course. I saw them three times and they were great! One of the other runners commented how the support from my mom was awesome (after their perfectly loud cheers), which made me smile again! I saw friends at the start of the second loop (which is super close to the finish line). The spacing of my awesome supporters out on the course was perfect! I lost count of how many times I saw Tony and Tim, because they kept popping up!! I also saw my friend/fellow racer, Daryl, twice during the run and he looked strong!

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Early on the second loop

Needless to say, I felt extremely LOVED and SUPPORTED at a time that was very hard. Tony said that I looked good and I tried to smile when I saw the camera, but as I mentioned a few times during the run, my legs felt like that were 3,000 or 30,000 pounds (I think I quoted both numbers at different times on the course). While it was hot (and really no relief at all from the sun), I think I hydrated well and keep my body temperature from getting too high (ice, ice baby). I tried to maintain the run and the few times that I walked (not at an aid station), I counted to 10 before running again.

Run by bell tower

Running by the Bell Tower at NC State University. This is where out neighbors were hanging out and cheering!

As I hit the last mile, I saw mom and Kathy and that gave me the final boost that I needed to finish strong. I was so ready for that chute…I remember so well from 2013 and it was spectacular! As I turned onto Fayetteville Street and followed the arrows to the right side (the left side is for the start of the second loop), I was relieved. A friend from the Tri Shop jumped out for a high five and I saw Daryl (he finished earlier) who was cheering with Tony and Tim.

Headed down the chute on Fayetteville Street with the State Capitol Building in the background.

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Excited to be near the finish line!

I crossed the finish line and there is no better feeling of accomplishment and pride for giving my all and digging deep.

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My got my medal, finishers’ hat and food and out of nowhere another friend from the Tri Shop ran up and gave me a huge hug. This was the first time I saw him, so that was a complete surprise. Tony and Tim were right there for soaking wet and sweaty hugs (I warned them, but no one cared). I was thrilled that my third 70.3 distance was done!

Done

Post race is always fun. Beaming from the excitement and chatting about everything that happened. Another friend, Michelle, made it out to the finish for support and congratulations. Mom and Kathy also made it to the finish line area (they did not make it to watch me finish, but I am glad I saw them so late on the run to give me the final push). I am so thankful to be able to participate in this amazing sport and so incredibly lucky to have the support from family and friends that I had that day. SO AWESOME!

me, mom and Kathy

Mom, me and Kathy

Summary:
I had many goals heading into race day. The first was to improve each leg over my race from 2013. Even though every race is different, this is something I was aiming for and accomplished. Secondly, I wanted to go sub-6 hours overall. I missed that goal by 2 minutes and 13 seconds, but I gave it my all. Third, I really wanted to run a sub-2 hour half marathon. This was a “stretch” goal, but I thought I may be able to get it, if I had a great race. While I fell short of the time goal, I know it I will hit it one day.

2013: 

Swim: 50:25   T1: 5:07   Bike: 2:58   T2: 6:50   Run: 2:13   Total: 6:14

2015:

Swim: 50:21   T1: 3:00   Bike: 2:55:37   T2: 5:53   Run: 2:07:21   Total: 6:02:12
Division Rank: 38/151
Gender Rank: 185/699

Probably like most, I do a lot of reflection after a race. I think about the things that went well and the things that I hoped would go better. But, I don’t have regrets. You make decisions over the day and you can’t second guess them days after. Those decisions are often made when you are feeling great or feeling low, but you have to have faith that you made the best decision you could at the time. I am proud of my day and thankful that I strive for big goals and challenge myself in this way.

I am thrilled to report that our house guest, Cait, finshed as the third pro woman.  Even more impressive is that she had the fastest run of the day by a female!  We thoroughly enjoyed hosting her during her time in Raleigh.  She was so down to earth and fun to talk to.  She had some really great stories to share too!  I hope our paths cross again sometime in the future!

Kudos to Raleigh for another great showing at the IM 70.3.  The volunteers were amazing and the course was lined with supporters throughout Pittsboro, Fuquay, Apex and Raleigh.  I have read so many compliments from various racers and it makes me proud that my hometown can support this great event!

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