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Many folks come into triathlon with a running background.  Having done lots of road races, they look for a new challenge and give triathlon a go.  That was not my story and therefore, I don’t have a lot of experience at running races.  Actually, I have only done two running races…..a 5K (my first ever race) and an 8K.  That is all.  I have done the half marathon distance plenty….having completed 4 half Ironmans and a full Ironman, I think people are surprised when I say that I had never raced an open half marathon.  I have only done the distance in training or after swimming and biking! 

I have had a goal for quite some time to race one.  I signed up for the Kiawah half marathon in December 2015 and I had to cut off my training at the end of October that year due to injury.  I planned to give that race another go this past December, but decided that it made more sense to start the year with a 13.1 rather than end my 2016 with one.  With a May 70.3 scheduled, it seemed to be a good idea to get some early run fitness and hope that it translated into some gains for Chattanooga 70.3.  My main for Tobacco Road Half Marathon was simple….sub-2 hours.  During the last couple of weeks of training, I added a stretch goal…sub 9-minute/mile average pace.       

Race morning started like many others….an alarm that goes off way to early, getting into my gear, eating a good breakfast and trying/getting out the door by the planned time.  This race is local and several of my team members were racing as well.  With a large majority of the parking being at a remote lot and having to be shuttled to the race site, we were fortunate to secure a parking pass that allowed on-site parking.  Tony and I met three others so we could carpool and all take advantage of the convenient parking.

Sunday morning ended up being a few degrees warmer than forecasted.  It was supposed to be in the upper 30 and was closer to mid-40s when we left the house around 4:40am.  It changed my attire plans only slightly. 

When we arrived to the race site at 5:30am, we had so much time.  We were close to bathroom facilities as well as the start line so we actually just sat in the car for a while to stay warm and passed the time talking.  Before we knew it, it was time to get moving and get our pre-race done and to the start line. 

This local race has been happening since 2010 and has become very popular over the years.  It hosts a full marathon (1500 participants max) and half marathon (2500 participants max and sold out) and is considered to be a generally flat course.  The majority of the run (8 miles for the half) takes place on the American Tobacco Trail which “is a recreational rail-trail located on an abandoned railroad corridor of the Norfolk Southern Railroad. Constructed in 1906, the original railroad traveled from Duncan to Durham near the New Hope River, transporting tobacco leaf from farming communities in Wake, Chatham and Durham counties for processing at the American Tobacco Company in Durham” (from the race web site).  The trail is mainly compacted dirt surface that is a combination of flat or slight inclines/declines.  The first and last 2.5 miles is on the road with a few rolling hills.   

Due to the crowds and me not claiming a spot early in the lineup, I was further back that I originally planned when we took our spots in line for the 7am gun start.  This did not concern me at all.  I had not planned on running with a pace group and was just going out to do my thing.  It was definitely crowded at the beginning.  Since I have not run a lot of running only races, I am not used to having to account for lots of other runners around me.  In triathlon, by the time you get to the run, there is plenty of space to find.  I planned to go for a solid first mile.  It is key for me to get the legs really moving and start strong.  Of course, the key is finding a good balance of not too slow/not too fast.  Plus mile #1 contained the first hill, so I had to keep that in mind. 

I did a good job of executing my plan of starting strong.  I actually followed my training partner for a first bit as he weaved in and out laid a path.  I knew he would have a strong start, faster than I needed to go, but good to hang on out of the gate.  I felt good and was excited to get going (mile 1 was an 8:39 pace).  As previously mentioned, the first 2.5 miles are on the road with some rollers.  I got into a solid groove early on and didn’t feel the impact of these rollers too much.  I was happy for that!!!  Before I knew it, we were taking the turn onto the American Tobacco Trail.  This is an out and back stretch.  I had started farther back than planned and I passed people, and people passed me.  Early on, this was not much of an issue.  However, as we got deeper onto the trail and the first runners had already passed the turn-around point, it became more narrow.  Since we needed to start allowing for two way traffic, it became a bit more difficult to maintain a clear path.  At some points the trail is naturally narrower but then widens in sections.  There was really only one point where I felt that the traffic was really clustered amongst us, but that didn’t last too long and was able to get back into my personal groove.  Overall, I was continuing to feel good.  My heart rate was definitely higher than where I had been training my long runs, but this was race day and I felt strong! 

After I passed the turnaround point, there was one pace group just in front of me.  I had made up a lot of ground to them and when I was able to pass them, there was actually a lot more open space on the trail….which was really nice.  Overall, I felt that time has passed relatively quickly.  Between my tunes and all the people “keeping me company”, I was not glancing at my Garmin too often.  I also saw my training partners along the course, all except for one.  This is always a nice boost! 

Eventually, my quads started feeling the effects my strong run.  I don’t particularly remember which mile, but I am thinking it was around mile 9.  The way they were feeling is not something I was used it.  Typically, I feel my glutes and hammies more during my long runs.   My plan was just to hold on.  Well, mile 10 was an unpleasant surprise.  I am not sure if I had just let up some, lost my concentration, or what, but when my Garmin showed me a lap pace of 9:18, I had a quick talking to myself to keep pushing.  I had goals that I wanted badly and I needed to finish what I had started!

As the route on the trail ended and my time back out on the road started, I knew I had some rollers between me and the finish line.  I kept thinking about what a friend of mine said about one of the early downhill sections going out….”remember that hill you go down in the beginning because it will be the one sucking the life out of you at the end”!  In reality, it was not horrible, but MAN did I feel it!  As the road makes the final turn back into the park, I knew it was downhill from there.  This section was very tough on my quads, but I was just trying to stay strong until that final step over the finish line. 

Almost to the finish line!

I knew I had met main goal of sub 2-hours as well as beating my stretch goal of a sub-9 minute/mile pace average.  I was so thrilled!!!!

I gathered my medal, rang the PR bell and found Tony to share my excitement.  

Finally found Tony!

The hard work was complete!  What a day!  I pushed hard….I raced!  I raced myself to complete what I had worked so hard for.  While there were thousands of others on the course with me, it was ONLY ME that I was racing against.  The self-pride that I felt was undeniable.

YAY! Feeling great about my race!

Some of my awesome teammates from Oak City Tri!

Post-race, we socialized a bit and after everyone finished we met up to head out for our brunch reservation.  We celebrated our accomplishments and had lots of fun sharing our unique race experiences.  What a great day and even better to spend it with awesome people!

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How did I spend the morning of my birthday?  Racing of course!  My last triathlon of the season just happened to fall on my birthday (October 1).  The Battle at Buckhorn is a great local sprint distance race and this was the third year I have participated.  Calendar-wise, it fell much later in the season…no complaints about that, because it has been known to be a pretty hot race!  Last year it was in August.  Also, last year, I had a pretty fantastic race with a couple of PRs associated with that.

At the beginning of the week, the water temperature was posted to be 77 degrees.  With cooler morning/afternoon high temperatures, it seemed likely that the swim would be wetsuit legal.  A few of us even did an open water swim Wednesday morning to get in one with the wetsuit prior to Saturday.  It has been several months since my wetsuit was in the lake! 

 The race had an 8:00am start and the venue is about 40 minutes away. Early alarm, but luckily, not crazy early!  The morning was uneventful and Tony and I arrived at the race site about the time I planned.  My teammates April (she was racing) and Bill (acting as support crew since he was in taper mode for IM Louisville) arrived just a few minutes later.  Good timing! 

April and I rode our bikes down into the park since it was a bit of a walk.  Participation wise, it was a bit smaller race this year since there was another triathlon by the other local production company in the area.  I got all the logistics taken care of…packet pick-up, body marking, transition set-up etc fairly quickly.  I was able to get a decent spot on the rack and I did notice that there was more room between the bike racks this year which makes navigating in and out much easier.  The water temperature was announced and unfortunately it had crept up just enough to NOT be wetsuit legal.  It was a cooler morning and predicted to be a nice day, but the morning fog was lingering much longer than expected.  The pre-race announcements including some words of caution since there were some pockets of fog still out on the roadways. 

April and I ready to race! We were the only reps from #oakcitytri, but I think we represented well!

This year all the women started first for the swim.  YAY!!!  Last year, it was a mass start with the men and I did not prefer that format, especially for this small race. 

As we waded into the water, it felt CHILLY!  A wetsuit would have been great, by my standards!       

swim-1

Feeling chilly to me!!!

swim-2

Easing in!

April and I had one more cheesy moment for the camera!

The 750 meter swim was a triangular counter clock-wise course.  At go time, there was a little bit of congestion, but only for a short time.  From the start, I felt good and I found my groove…which is always a good thing,  I noticed that the fog was hindering my sighting, but I just aimed to keep an eye on the other pink caps and look for the orange buoy as best I could.

After the first turn as I was beginning to search for the second buoy….it was nowhere to be found.  I could not see it at all!!  The fog had gotten worse since we started.  I sighted more frequently in hopes to get a glimpse, but it was quite a while before I could see the buoy again.  I kept my eyes on the other pink caps and kept my fingers crossed that we were all headed in  the right direction!  As I rounded the last turn to head toward shore (and hoped that the orange buoy would be in my sight path), there was no improvement in the fog situation.  I continued on, as best I could, and was happy when I was able to see the buoy to guide me to shore.  I swam until my fingers hit the bottom and felt good as I ran out of the water.

Swim done! Notice the fog in the background.

Headed to T1

The run into T1 was short and I made decent time in transition.  Out to the bike course!!!  The 17 mile course is fairly typical for our area.  A few rollers, and few flats and one memorable hill.  As I was settling in I noticed that my sunglasses were definitely hindering my vision.  The fog was still thick.  I slid them down my nose and that helped, but realized that I could not ride the entire way like that.  The small pockets on my tri top would not hold them and my bento box is not large enough.  After a few minutes of trying to figure out what I do, I decided to tuck them down into my top….which worked perfectly!!

The not so good news though, is that my bike legs were not there.  I was working, but just not generating the power and speed that I am able to.  I kept hoping that they would snap out of it and wake up to the fact that I was racing!  Despite my best efforts, I did not deliver the ride that I know I could.  I was nowhere close to my average speed from last year on the course.  I had been riding well lately, so I am not so sure what happened.

Onto the 5K run, where I was actually quite nervous as what I was going to be able to do.  The last two runs leading up to my race were cut extremely short due to some muscle pain in my left inner thigh.  This had started a couple of weeks prior, but I immediately saw my PT and the dry needling helped right away.  I had a session at the beginning of the week which should had been thing to ensure there would be no pain on race day.  I was surprised that I felt pain on the on the taper runs leading up to the race and it made me very anxious as what to expect on Saturday.

Headed to the turn around point on the run. Tony was there cheering me on!

As I started out, I thought I would know within the first couple of minutes, generally how things would go.  It started MUCH BETTER than I anticipated.  As I continued on, I was realizing that it seemed that I was in the clear on this run.  I ended up pushing more than I thought I would be able to and was pleased at the outcome.  I did not beat the 5K PR that I clocked last year that this event, but I was faster than even I thought was “best case scenario”.  I’ll take it!

Big smile as I crossed the finish line.

We hung around for the awards because I had placed first place in the 40-44 age group.  Last year at this event, I had placed third with a faster time.  Last year was also my first time to win a belt buckle, which is the unique prize given out to the winners.  I wanted to pick up my second buckle! (The overall male and female winners get a super fancy buckle.)

My belt buckle!

When we were hanging around, I was SUPER surprised when I heard my name called for first place Masters’ female!  I was even more pumped that I won a $75 check for this placement.  Woo hoo!!

My $75 check!

“Spectators” along the race course!

Overall, it was a pretty good day, race wise.  Definitely not the bike performance that I am capable of, but I gave all I had that day.  There were some unexpected outcomes which contributed to the excitement (I have NEVER finished first in my AG on the swim!).   We celebrated the day with post-race pancakes (thanks to my teammate April for the treat!!)!

battle-at-buckhorn

battle-at-buckhorn-2

As far as the real birthday celebration, I wanted something very low key.  Tony and I met friends for an Italian dinner and on the way home we all stopped by a local bakery for dessert “to go”.  We enjoyed our dessert with a glass of wine while relaxing on our screened in porch on a beautiful evening.  It turned out to be a great birthday!

 

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The morning began extra early (4:30am) since our drive was around 1 hour 45 minutes.  We left at the time we planned (5:15am) and Tony was sweet enough to act as driver, race Sherpa and photographer for not only me, but my teammate April as well.  Race start was 8:00am and we arrived with plenty of time to setup transition and perform all other final preparations for the race. 

Team photo – only missing one here, I think!

Our team had a good turnout participation wise and this was the first “team race” in our new team kits.  Unfortunately, the new kits did not arrive until late June, so we were excited to have this event to show them off!    

me and April

April and I worked together on creating the design of the new team kits! We are excited to finally be able to show off the final product!

The swim took place in the Pamlico River which is  a river off the Pamlico Sound.  The water is slightly salty and has little current.  The swim exited onto a sandy beach that is less than 25 yards from transition area.  The swim was changed just prior to the event to be a two-loop course of the sprint tri that started 30 minutes later than the Olympic.   Due to some algae issues in the water that had been monitored all week, this change in course was made.  Honestly, I didn’t mind the two-loop set up.  It gave me a better idea of when I was exactly half-way, which is just a mental game I tend to play.  I felt pretty good in the water and concentrated on all the things I needed to….form, sighting, etc.  During the swim I felt as if my sighting was good.  I lapped my Garmin as soon as I stood up to exit the water (I try to remember to always do this during a race in order to get a “true” swim time and not a time that includes part of T1).  Upon first glance, I was happy.

Into T1, which was close, and my transition was fine.  I was closer to the swim exit end versus the bike start end, which seems to be more my luck this season.  I would prefer (as most would) to be closer to the bike start side of the transition area.  At least is was grass.  I didn’t hear or see Tony as I was in transition, which is unusual.  I figured I would see him soon enough. 

I jumped on my bike and headed out of the park area, which included a few speed bumps.  As suspected, I saw Tony comfortably sitting on a beach on the side of the road to catch everyone as we exited the park.  The bike course was a two-loop of the sprint course on flat roads with minimal turns.  The worse part was coming back into the park area to start lap #2 because you had to cross the speed bumps again (both in and out) and make a sharp turn around, therefore losing your momentum.

Starting the second loop

I felt good on the bike and due to the two loop design, I saw my teammates frequently.  Our kits really stand out with all the bright colors and the one colored band design on the shorts.

Earlier when I was on the outbound section of the bike, there was an ambulance and other emergency vehicles on the side of the road.  I just focused on the road so I could stay safe.  However, as I was coming back in on the final few miles of the bike, I noticed something very scary.  One of my teammates was the one surrounded by all of this.  Fortunately, though, when I did get a quick glimpse of him, he was standing and appeared to be ok.  Even though my heart sank, everything appeared to be under control.  (Later on we all learned that he was side swiped and then cut off by a driver than was pulling into her driveway.  He was completely on course which included local law enforcement performing traffic control at intersections.  He was beat up and he bike basically totaled, but SO lucky to walk away with only lots of bandages and soreness.)

Into T2 and made a decent switch and actually ran out with another one of my teammates where we had a quick conversation about the bike accident and our friend (and that he appeared to be ok). 

RUn

Starting the run

As expected, the run was a HOT one!  It was also a two-loop design through the downtown waterfront area with hardly any shade.  As with the bike, the course design allowed me to see my teammates and share some words of support during the run.  This is what makes the team events THE BEST!!  I think all of us were very happy to see a few little girls standing out in their yard with a water hose offering an opportunity to cool off.  This “unsanctioned” aid station, was awesome!  The start of the second loop took us back into the park near transition/finish line where I saw Tony and other team supporters again. 

RUn2

Starting the second loop – Inside the park was one of the only areas with a touch of shade

I knew my run had started well, but since I had turned off the lap time notification on my Garmin, during an earlier training session, I was not able to monitor my individual mile pace.  That may have ended up being a good thing since I was focused on drinking/cooling at the aid station and maintaining a consistent pace.  The heat and sun were tough, but I was TRYING to not focus on that alone.  I feel like I stayed strong throughout the run and was so excited to cross that finish line and immediately find some shade.          

Run3

Just before the finish line!

Team 2

Team Photo – still a couple missing!

The Girls

The Ladies!

Garmin Times:  Obviously “unofficial”, but it is important to me because it always gives me a better gauge of my true times, since the distances tend to not be “exact”.   Also, it gives me a better opportunity for analysis. 

Garmin Screenshot

For instance, I learned from my Garmin that even though I felt like I was sighting well, I still swam too far.   I am pleased with the swim pace, but not my true distance.  The buoys on one side of the triangle were spaced pretty face apart…certainly not like in an Ironman event, where they are close together.  I have had this issue for a long time and despite feeling comfortable with my sighting, I have some things to try and work on.  As far as the bike, I was able to hit a new PR, which is exciting.  As far as the run, I didn’t quite hit the pace I was hoping, but I know I gave it all out there and gritted out the run that I could given the conditions. 

FS Results

FS Results 2

All in all I am happy with the day and was pleased that my official results had me at third in my age group.  We had several from the team that placed in their respective age groups as well as the overall winner for the day!  Great day for Oak City Tri!! 

HAppy

Happy!!

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Pre-Race (Friday):

The logistics of this race require some additional planning to be sure to best use your time.  In the past, I have taken the Friday off prior to this race, but I could not do that this year.  During my lunch break, I headed downtown to the Convention Center for packet pick-up.  Since it opened at noon, there were plenty of other people that had the same idea.  Several of us had planned to meet up and I only ended up seeing a few folks.  Getting through pick-up took longer than it has for me in the past.  I hit the IM store for some shopping and spent some money in NO TIME!  I had a couple of minutes left for some pictures, but some people in our group had already left to go back to work and some were still in line, so the planned group pic didn’t happen.

Bill was ready for his first 70.3!

Balloons 2

Tarina has had many road blocks, but has worked so hard for her first 70.3!

Pre-Race (Saturday):

Saturday morning was low key.  I prepared homemade blueberry pancakes to kick-off my pre-race day eats on the right foot.  While I was cooking, Tony was putting the last minute touches on my bike. 

Bike

She is ready to race!

After breakfast there was lots of chatting and texting with some of my teammates about preparation, meeting up for bike check, etc.  The morning flew by and before I knew it, we were eating lunch.

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.

I met up with two of my training partners for check in.  It went smoothly.  We checked out the lake and the swim buoys …all looked good.

We arrived home and I completed all my race prep while Tony started cooking a pasta dinner.   After dinner we actually watched 2015 IM World Championship coverage from Kona to get in the race spirit and then got into bed at a decent time.  Unfortunately, it took me a very long time to fall asleep (which is not usual) and before I knew it, the 3:30am alarm sounded.

Race Day:

Back to the logistics of the day, I needed to be downtown at T2 in order to catch a shuttle that would take us out to the swim start (about 40 minutes away).  Several of the team members arranged to meet at 4:45am in order to ride over together.  Tony was a real trooper and got up with me, had breakfast and then dropped me off.  What a supporter!  The road to the swim start is closed to traffic therefore, any spectator wishing to go out to Jordan Lake, must also take a shuttle.  However, they are not shuttled back until the last swimmer is out of the lake and has progressed out onto the bike course.  Tony and I had agreed that I would see him on the run.  Trying to navigate the bike course for spectating can be challenging with traffic backed up and at least one road closure.  It is a lot to deal with for a quick glimpse.  I knew I wanted him to be out on the run….that is where he could provide me the support I would need.  Like last year, he took out his mountain bike in order to maneuver quickly to various spectating spots.

The line for the shuttle went quickly and several of us from the team were on the same shuttle.  The ride out went extremely quickly.  We arrived around 5:45am….plenty of time for final preparations until T1 closed at 6:45am (pro start at 7:00am and my wave started at 7:56am).

Swim:

The swim was definitely not wet suit legal.  The four years that this race has taken place, the first two were wetsuit and last two not.  Last years’ race was actually May 31 and when the date for this years’ event was announced as June 5, I figured it would most likely be over the 76.1 degree mark. 

I was feeling good as the swim began.  I had a huge goal for myself which was to really work on sighting and trying my BEST to maintain as straight a line fairly close to the buoys.  This is a big weakness of mine and I knew that IM would have lots of buoys which obviously makes it easier to sight.   As the swim started out from shore, things were going well.  I did not have a lot of contact and I continued to see yellow caps around.  I was able to get in a draft for a short time once or twice….something else that I need to work on.  The right turn at the first buoy was a game changer.  Within a matter of seconds, I felt the chop and waves change completely….for the worse.  This was status quo for this long stretch of the swim.  I also felt like I was being pushed out from the buoys close to the support kayaks.  I continued to stay focused on the sight buoys.  There was more contact with other swimmers on this stretch.  I also saw a some back stroking, which is not unusual.  As the chop continued, I just maintained course as best I could and fought on.   The next right turn would be the one to lead up into shore.  I was so hopeful that the chop would settle some and we would have a kinder last leg.  My wish did not come true.  It might have even been worse going in.  I don’t know….I was focused on the shore and finishing.   As I ran out of the swim, I lapped my Garmin and my time of 52 mins showed.  Instant disappointment.  This was my slowest Raleigh 70.3 time.  I had planned for better execution.   I was happy to be running out about 10 steps behind one of my friends that is a stronger swimmer than me.  That really surprised me.    

I swam the entire swim and did not stop along the way.  I felt like despite the crappy conditions, I stayed strong and consistent as I could.  So, what I didn’t realize is that these conditions had really proven to challenge more than just me.  Apparently there were people everyone stopping for breaks with support crew and people that were being asked to be taken to shore.  Also, there were folks that I know that did not make the swim cut-off that would normally never have any problem doing so.  Jordan Lake was no one’s friend on Sunday.  My huge personal accomplishment related to my swim for the day was that I ended up as rank 49 out of 121.  This would put me as top 40% versus bottom 40% from last year (93/151).  I am always looking for the indication of personal improvement at an event.  While a better time is always great, it can be tough to compare a race from one year to the next due to differing conditions, true distances,  or other variables.  While the age group field is also different from one race to another, I think it can be helpful as everyone that is racing that one particular day are all dealing with the exact same conditions that the day brings.  Also, when I looked at my Garmin stats post-race, my GPS track on the swim was fairly straight.  Two personal victories!          

On a side note, Tony was actively tracking me.  He knew that I would not be happy with my swim time when I saw my Garmin when I exited the water.  However, he knew that my overall placement coming out of the water was much better than where I typically am, which would be good news.  He called my mom who was waiting to see me around mile 6ish of the bike and asked her to try to communicate to me that I should be happy with my swim.  He had correctly predicted that I would be thinking about it as I progressed on my bike. 

T1:

Nothing too interesting to report.  Honestly, I was feeling a bit bummed.  I did my thing which include a thorough spray of sunscreen.  The distance from my rack spot to the bike mount was far.

Bike:

The first 5-6ish miles of the ride are not pleasant.  The road is not smooth and there is an additional out and back section which is tacked onto the ride out from the lake to the main road.  There are clusters of people and it is not easy to get into any kind of rhythm at this point.  My approach each time I had done this race is to focus on (1). drinking and (2). eating.  I did just that.  At the end of the lake access road is where my mom always hangs out during the race.  This is just a matter of a few miles from her house, so it is super convenient place for her to cheer!  I yelled to her and she cheered and then I heard….”blah blah blah blah SWIM….”.   Then more cheers….GO GO GO LEE!!!    What?  Did I hear her say something about my swim?  Little did I know that she was trying to send me a message at the time!!!!  Love her for trying!!!

As soon as that turn is made off the road that accesses the lake, the real riding begins.  This stretch of road is flat is smooth.  Great, great, great!  This is the first place where you can really fall into aero and get a solid rhythm.  My goal was to ride by feel…push where I thought it was smart to and ride easy where it made the most sense.

As in years past, one of the most important things for me to do on the bike was DRINK!  With the temperatures to be (at least) in the mid-80s for the day, staying current with hydration was important.  I started with one bottle of Gatorade (the same they were serving on the course) on my bike, as well as water,  and I planned to restock at each aid station. I had all the nutrition I needed with me…Honey Stinger Waffles, Honey Stinger Chews, one Bonk Breaker and goldfish.  I also had salt tabs which I took several of during the ride.  #hshive

While I was drinking just fine, I did not have the feeling that I wanted to eat.  I had a larger than normal portion of oatmeal for breakfast at home around 4am and then I have ¾ of a PBJ around 7am before the swim.  I wanted to start with the Bonk Breaker (I typically can only eat those early on during a hot ride) and then switch to normal option of waffles and throw in some goldfish for a change of taste.  I also had the chews if I felt like I wanted them.  I had about half of the Bonk Breaker early and then the next time I ate, it was part of the waffle.  Overall, the idea of food was just not appealing to me.  I didn’t feel bad at all, just uninterested.  However, I knew it was important to get in the calories!!

I was feeling good and felt like my pacing was spot on.  I was not feeling hot and took fresh hydration at each available station.  I did check my average speed a couple of times, but I didn’t want to focus on it too much…just continue on by feel.

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 lookout for them, but I was not certain that everyone would be out.  I saw my brother and his three kids along with an awesome poster!!

Kids Cheering

Could not ask for more adorable cheerleaders! They make me a new sign every year!

Very shortly thereafter, Kelly and Sean spotted me at about the same time I saw them!  So awesome to see everyone out just to support me!

The last 12 miles of the bike continued on really well.  My legs felt good and I felt like I had been riding smart.  I continued to drink and the eating was not quite where I wanted, because I was still not wanting to eat, but I ate ok.  As I neared T2, I felt confident with a new PR and was feeling as ready as I could to start the run.

T2

The dismount off the bike and run into T2 was not a short stretch.  I thought about leaving my shoes on the bike, but was concerned about how hot the pavement would be.  It was not a pleasant run in bike shoes, but did ok.  It was much better than my T2 fiasco from 2015!  I changed shoes and grabbed my visor, race belt and hydration belt from my soft sided cooler in the transition bag.  I was certain to generously spray the sunscreen.  Stopped for a bathroom break and I was on my way!  Big smile when I passed some friends as I ran out of T2.

Run Out

Friends on the race course are the best!

Run:

Right away, my stomach felt off.  It felt ick!  WHY???  Who knows!!  As I was running, I just didn’t have the umph to push.  I didn’t know what to expect during this half marathon.  I saw Tony right away and he was saying that I looked good.  I just wish I felt better!  Very soon after I saw my good friends Tim and Nicole.  They are awesome supporters and tend to choose great words to help motivate.   Like he did last year, 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.

This race is definitely a journey of aid station to aid station.  I was wearing a hydration belt of Gatorade Endurance and I had goldfish and Honey Stinger chews, so that allowed me really focus on the cooling aspect at the aid stations…ice in the sports bra, water over the head and shoulders and some for drinking.   I will say that from the four times this race has taken place (I raced three of those and volunteered at a run aid station the other), this year stood out as having fabulously stocked aid stations (ICE EVERYWHERE and more cold sponges than ever).

Smiles for Tony

As I continued on my first loop, my stomach stayed about the same.  Didn’t get worse, but not better either.  It was just off.  It was great seeing lots of others from the team.  Having strong people out there that you train with that are enduring the same tough conditions makes a difference.  I walked more than I ever wanted to during a race.  I am always open to walking the aid stations in order to get everything you need, but always plan to run otherwise.  I needed more breaks, but tried to get them as short as possible.

As I was nearing the end of the first loop, Tony asked how I was doing.  When I told him “about the same”,  he asked if I had taken Coke.  NO!  It simply had not crossed my mind, since I was focused on staying as cool as possible.  I took it as soon as I could.  The end of the first lap goes down close to the finish line and loops around to start the second lap.  During this section I passed the cheering section for the team and they were out and loud with lots of high fives!  LOVE THAT!!  I saw Tony again and Tim and Nicole.  They all continued to tell me that I was looking strong…they are so sweet…I wish I felt strong!

Run 2

Trying to hang tough!

Within 10 minutes or so from taking the Coke, my stomach started feeling better.  GOOD!  I took it at every aid station thereafter and I was so glad Tony had suggested it.  The second lap still was not great, but more consistency in the run than before the Coke.  It was hot with really no relief from the sun, but I continued to focus on cooling myself regularly.  I continued to see teammates which is a big boost.  Everyone was working so hard and giving it their all.  What awesome people I get to train with!!

As I hit the last mile, I was just so focused on finishing.  I was so ready for that chute…I remember it so well from previous races and it is GREAT! 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.  I finished strong and savored that awesome feeling of crossing the finish line.   I love that feeling of giving your all and the pride for your accomplishment.  I received my medal, finishers’ hat and considered any food that might appeal to me (nothing really).  I quickly saw Tony, Tim and Nicole and met them at the fencing.   I was thrilled that my fourth 70.3 distance was done!

Post race is always fun. Beaming from the excitement and chatting about everything that happened.  I knew that Bill and Matt, whom I have spent most of my training time with this season, would be finishing soon, so I was on the lookout.  This was their first 70.3.  Also, another close friend of mine was racing in her first 70.3, so I wanted to bet there when she finished.  Fortunately, I was able to pair up with the guys after they finished.

Post Race

Two awesome training partners!

I totally missed my friend Tarina, but we caught up about 30 minutes after she finished for a big sweaty hug.   I could not have been any more proud of my friends that completed their goal of finishing their first 70.3.  What a tough day, but they DID IT!!!

The team had a post-race cookout.  During the cookout, we learned that our team, Oak City Tri, took second place in our team division overall.  How cool!  We are a new team….we don’t even have our team kits yet.  Our visors and t-shirts were completed prior to race day, but we are still a few more weeks out for the kits.  Very exciting!

Award

Second Place for the Team

Team Photo

Part of our team, Oak City Tri. Some of us raced and the other were awesome supporters!

Summary:
I had a very attainable goal heading into this race.   Even though every race is different, from my experience at this race and training this season, this is something I was aiming for.  Unfortunately, I did not hit my goal.  There are some things that I am especially proud of though.

While my overall, swim and run times were not better than last, my age group placements did improve.  I was also able to secure a new PR on the bike!

2016 Overall Gender Rank = 153/664 (23%)  2015 Overall Gender Rank = 189/699 (26%)

2016 Age Group Rank = 26/121 (21%)  2015 Age Group Rank = 38/151 (25%)

2016 Swim Rank = 49/121 (40%)  2015 Swim Rank = 93/151 (62%)

2016 Bike Rank = 23/121 (19%)  2015 Bike Rank = 42/151 (28%)

2016 Run Rank = 26/121 (21%)  2015 Run Rank = 38/151 (25%)

2016 Results

2016 Results

2015 Results

2015 Results

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.  I am also thankful that I am able to participate in this amazing sport and that I strive for big goals and continue to challenge myself in this way.  I am so incredibly lucky to have had the support from family and friends that I had that day. SO AWESOME!

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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I vividly recall during my run at the 2015 IM 70.3 Raleigh when I decided that I would not do this race in 2016.  Well, fast forward one year and I am upon my third start at Raleigh.

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The decision “made” in 2015 was in the midst of a very challenging part of my race…the run.  The heat has always been a tremendous factor at this race….specifically during the run.   This year looks to bring very similar weather conditions, so I am very familiar with what to expect.  It certainly won’t make it any easier, but I know the EXTREME challenge it can be.

This will be my fourth 70.3 distance race.  My very first half iron distance was Beach 2 Battleship (now Ironman 70.3 NC) in 2012.  That race was my time PR for this distance at 5:53:43.  However, that course is a fast and flat with a current assisted swim.  The weather that day in October was also a beautiful 70-something degrees.  Raleigh 70.3 is a far more challenging course and historically tougher race conditions with heat and humidity that Mother Nature has not given us time to acclimate to prior to the race.  One of my big goals for Raleigh 70.3 last year was a sub-6 hour finish.    My finish time was 6:02:12.  While this was my best Raleigh time (plus the first year it had not been wet suit legal), you can say that I have some unfinished business on this course.   

Try

I have trained hard this year.  I feel I have also trained smart this year.  On Sunday, I want to combine the two and go for my goal.  With the heat, I know it is super important to listen to my body and respond appropriately.  That is the most important thing…the forecast shows a very tough day!  But hopefully the day will be a good one for me and all my dedicated efforts pay off!           

Raleigh 70.3 2015 Race Results

2015 Race Results

Raleigh 70.3 2014 Race Results

2014 Race Results

 

 

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As I mentioned in my last post, I was uncertain if my race season would start on April 30 with the Beaverdam Olympic Tri.  I was hoping that it would, but since I am highly impartial to cold water swims, I had to determine if the water would seem to warm up enough for my liking.  Generally, I think I am NOT ok with less than 70 degrees.  That makes me whatever that makes me, but I am a Southern girl and cold and I are not besties! 

We were able to have some warm days (in the 80s) and that translated to the lake temperature rising.  I signed up on the Monday prior to the Saturday race (most of the week had temperatures forecasted in the 80s) and I knew of a few people that had already ventured out for their first OWS, so I was taking their word that “it was not that bad”!

In preparation for race day, a group of us did complete an early morning OWS on the Wednesday prior.  I was ready to get this first lake swim under my belt for the season.  My wetsuit is sleeveless (this I what I am most comfortable in) and I believe the water temperature was around 68 /69 degrees.   Honestly, it was not horrible, but it was still cool enough that I never felt like I warmed up.  We did an out and back which totaled a bit over a mile and at the turn around, I was still chilled.  I seem to have trouble getting deep breaths when I swim in cool water.  I definitely experienced that and had a less than stellar OWS season opener.  I am very glad that I did it and it was awesome to have a good group of teammates to meet for the swim.

First OWS of the Season 2016

My first OWS of the season!  Everyone could not fit in the photo!!! #oakcitytri

So, the Beaverdam Olympic Tri takes place in Wake Forest (just one town over from Raleigh) and the event is held at one of the Falls Lake Recreational areas.  It is where I prefer to do most of my OWS training, so I am very familiar with the area.  I have never done this race, but it was one that I had been wanting to do and since it occurred a week or two later this year, I was able to give it a go.  The gates did not even open to the park until 7:15 with a start time of 9:00.  There was also a sprint distance that started at 9:30.  This later start was nice in that the alarm did not have to be set crazy early!! 

When we left home Saturday morning there was light rain, but nothing on the radar, so I was hopeful that it would clear very soon (which it did).  We arrived at the race venue around 7:40 (about a 25 minute drive from home) and parking was very easy and convenient.  It was just a short walk to transition to set up.  There was a good number of folks from the tri team racing which always provides an extra bit of excitement to the day.  Everything was well marked and easy to navigate….my only suggestion for improvement would be to add more space between the bike racks as it was a tight squeeze.   

After getting body marked, my chip and transition set up, the crew started coming together for pre-race conversations.  It was in the upper 50s and it seemed like it was going to be a good day to race.  Even better, it was announced that the water temperature was 73 degrees!  YAY!! 

Part of the team racing (this wasn't everyone) #oakcitytri

Part of the team racing (this wasn’t everyone) #oakcitytri

Because my Wednesday OWS was not a good one, I had decided that I would get in a warm up swim.  Even though I knew it was warmer, I wanted to get as comfortable as I could before it was go time.  Well, I was super glad that I did.  The water felt so much better… what a pleasant surprise!

The Girls!

As the time approached, it was great to have some female teammates to hang with as we prepared for our swim time (the guys were divided into two separate groups before us).  Before we knew it, it was go time!  I felt like I got a great start and pretty much continued with the momentum.  There was one point for a very short time that I wondered if I went out too hard (not typical), but the feeling passed.  With only one OWS so far, I have not had sighting practice this year (which continues to be one of my weaknesses), but I felt like with only a few exceptions, I was on conservative path for my swim (and not swimming to much off course).  Overall, the 1500 meter swim was good, I found my rhythm, swam until my hand hit and sandy bottom I got it done!   

Out of the swim

The run up to T1 was a bit uphill and Tony ran with my the entire way (it was a smaller race, so this was not a problem nor did it interfere with anyone else).  My bike was racked on the end next to the fencing, so he was able to stand outside of transition and talk to me while I did my thing.  My transition time was good.

The bike course exits the park and proceeds out through the county.  As per the race description….” The course will feature fast flats, small climbs, and rolling terrain”.  A majority of the route I had ridden before so it was familiar.

The first few miles on the bike I was feeling my quads, but I focused on getting some good hydration early on and settling in…which I did.  Traffic was not too bad.  There was only one intersection where I had to pause longer than I would have liked, but the officer quickly told me “YOU DON’T STOP”!  It was just more congested that I would have liked and wanted to make sure I made a safe decision.  The sheriff deputies at this event were really great (there was one that even clapped for me)!!!!  I feel like I rode the 24-mile course fairly well and it was about what I expected.

T2 was ok.  I had to stop for a few seconds as I was about to go down my row to re-rack my bike because there was a little traffic jam (that’s why I mentioned the racks were too close together).  I always take time to put on socks in T2 which add a little more time, but it is a necessity for me.  I grabbed my visor and race belt and put those on as I was running out of T2.  Once again, Tony was just by the fence talking to me while I transitioned.  He always pushes me to work toward a faster T time.

start the run

As per the race description for the 6.2-mile run…” The run course will be totally contained in the Beaverdam Recreation Area.  The course will be a 2 lap out and back.  The run will have a rolling design with 2 aid stations.  The first aid station will be at the 1st lap turnaround and the 2nd aid station will be at the out turnaround.”  This was a perfect description! 

As is typical for me, my first mile ended up being my slowest, but when I saw the lap time during the run, I was happy with how I started.  Throughout the run, my legs were definitely feeling the “rolling design”, but I pushed on the downhills and flats.  Because of the course design and there were lots of teammates there, I saw lots of friendly faces the entire time.  Our team cheerleaders were at the turn around which is always a boost!  Overall I pushed on the run…maybe too hard, but I just figured I would put it all out there.    

About to cross the finish

Headed for the finish!

Since this was a last minute sign up, I really didn’t consider specific goals that I wanted to aim for.  That is unusual for me, since I typically set out specific goals when I race.  When I was pushing on the run, it was not because I was gunning for a specific time.  I knew my swim time, I knew my bike average speed and knew each of my run lap times, but I didn’t know overall run time.  I didn’t have an overall goal, but I pushed to finish strong.  I ended up sprinting to the finish line because there was another girl right there.  I didn’t think she was in my age group and I guessed she was doing the sprint, but I didn’t know any of that for sure, so I wanted to hit the line before her, just in case.  Crossing the finish line is always so wonderful.  My biggest supporter was right there to watch me finish and he knew as well that I had a good day.  I started to look at my Garmin for overall time….I realized that I lapped my Garmin when I finished, but I hadn’t stopped it.  I had about 51 seconds more to my Garmin time.  However, since Tony timed me, he was able to tell me right away that my time was 2hours 47minutes!  REALLY?!?!?  I was thrilled!!!   

Me and Tarina

This was only my third Olympic distance (odd that before this race I had done more 70.3s than Olys).  My first Oly was back in 2011 when I was over the 3-hour mark.  Last September I raced my second and had a huge new PR of 2:52:04 and  placed first in my age group out of 19.  This race I was able to secure yet another new PR by 4.5 minutes.  You can see how my results fell overall in my age group.    This race had some stellar competition…especially the runners!

                

Gamin Times:  Obviously “unofficial”, but it is important to me because it always gives me a better gauge of my true swim time.  Most races the swim “time” captures some part of transition, based on where the timing mats are placed.  I am always very diligent about lapping my Garmin as soon as I stand up being done with the swim.  This has proven to be a better tool for my swim analysis.

All in all it was a great day.  We had several from the team that took a podium spot in their age group.  I am glad I raced!!

Many of us joined together for a post-race lunch which was a lot of fun.  The afternoon consisted of a GREAT nap and a quiet evening with dinner in (except for a quick trip out for my typical race day treat of a milkshake)!  This was a great way to kick of the tri season and it was even better to share it with great teammates!   

More of the team…we could never find everyone to get in one photo! #oakcitytri

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Tony had said for several years if he ever decided to run an open marathon, it would be the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM).  With his other two marathons coming as part of Ironmans, this would be a different challenge with the focus solely on running.  Since the interest for MCM is so high the opportunity to register is only available through a lottery system.  Unfortunately, he was not one of the lucky ones to get in through the lottery, so he investigated other options, which included charity slots.  He decided to get involved with Project Zero, which is a charity to raise awareness for prostate cancer, and fundraise to be able to race.  He also convinced his brother, Johnny, to participate through the charity, so they could register for MCM together.

As with most endurance race training, Tony had his share of ups and downs with his training.  However, the last several weeks were plagued with knee pain which resulted in him not able to get in the volume and speed work that he wanted.  He was determined to race though!

Race day was Sunday 10/25 and we drove up to DC Friday evening after work.  Saturday consisted of a good breakfast, packet pick up, exploring the expo, lunch, rest and a pasta dinner.  Tony’s philosophy (and mine as well), includes staying off the feet/legs as much as possible the day before a long race…no shake out or short runs the day before.  Everyone has different philosophies, but this seems to work for us.

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Tony and Johnny at the expo

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Race ready!

Sunday morning was a super early wake up call.  Tony is not one to get to a race site super early, but based off what we were expecting and the volume of runners, we left early!  Fortunately, we had scoped out the metro the evening before when we went to dinner and figured out what line we needed to take to our desired stop.  The Metro Center stop was super convenient since we could connect to the station from access through our hotel (Grand Hyatt).  Upon exiting the Pentagon stop for the race start, we were not able to walk too far until we were part of the massive line waiting to go through the security check.  The line moved at a snail’s pace.  It also started to rain, which we were expecting.

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All smiles before the race, despite the rain!

The time ticked by quicker than the line was moving.  Tony started to get anxious about having adequate time to make it through security and then get all the way up to his coral.  It finally got to the point that the Marines that were manning security, called for the racers that were empty handed.  I gave him a quick kiss, wished him luck and off he went, along with his brother.  We (me and my sister-in-law, Quinn) did not have to wait too much longer to make it through, but I feel Tony never would have made it to his coral before the start had they not left when they did.

It was total chaos!!!!  Racers were literally sprinting to attempt to make it to the start line.  People lined up at the bush line for a last call of nature before race time.  I have never seen anything like it!

There are a few things that make this race special.

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Great way to kick off a race!

I was thrilled that I was able to see the paratroopers with American flags falling in the sky and then the fly over by the Osprey.  SO.VERY.COOL!

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Since it takes so long for all the runners to actually start the race, we were able to spot Johnny prior to his coral beginning.  We did not have a lot of time though, so we wished he final “good lucks” and off he went.

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Quinn and I had a spectating game plan.  We did not wait long to head off to the first spectating point.  We knew there was plenty of time, but wanted to go ahead and find a good spot, which we did with lots of time to spare.

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A couple of the hand cycle participants

We were able to watch the leaders of the race pass by which is always exciting, in my opinion.  Tony’s game plan was to basically be in the pack between the 3:10 and 3:20 pace groups.  SOMEHOW, I missed him at the first point.  I could not believe it!  I have spectated so many races, so I was surprised when it got to the point I knew he had long since passed.  I knew I had to head on and this is when Quinn and I split.  There was no way for us to stay together and watch for both guys.

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Marine Corps Band along the race course

My second point was quite a hike and I was navigating in an unfamiliar city.  I quickly learned though, that it is a benefit to spectators, as well as the runners, to have the pace groups (not used to this since triathlons can’t offer this).  When you see a pace group pass it helps you better gauge where you runner may be.

Fortunately, I spotted Tony at this spectating point, very easily.  It was a bit over the half way mark and I was carrying an extra pair of his running shoes in case his wet shoes were causing issues (he has forever battled blisters).  He looked strong and his pace up until then was on point.  However, he told me that his knee was starting to hurt and he decided that he did not want to take the time to change shoes.  I was so glad to see him and passed along my words of encouragement.

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First time to see Tony!

Point three was not too far away and not too long after I just saw him, but I wanted to be there as much as possible.  I was able to enjoy spectating a bit more since I was playing the waiting game there.  As he passed, I got more photos and shared my cheers.

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Go T!!!!

I decided to try to get to one more point to see him.  It was going to be tight based on the distance I had to walk and when I suspected I would see him based on current pace.  I was also a little uncertain on the best way to get there.  However, I got to just where I wanted to be and could not tell if he had passed that point or had not yet arrived.  I was around mile 19ish.  I quickly asked a lady if she knew what pace group had last passed.  Based on what she told me, I thought MAYBE I has just missed him.  In a very short time, I saw him.  YAY!!!!  He was not in a good place and I just tried my very best to give him positive words and lots of support.  I would see him next at the finish.

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Glad I made it to see him this last time

The walk to the finish line was much easier to navigate as I had an exact point of interest I could enter in Google Maps.  (GPS navigation makes life so much easier!!!!!  I probably depend on it too much!)  I will mention that MCM provided an app that I downloaded on my phone and used all during the race to track him.  I found it extremely helpful!  I also signed up to receive text messages when he passed certain timing mats.  Those seemed to work very well.

As I approached the finish line area, I struggled initially to decide where to wait.  I could not get really close to the finish line because of the way it was deigned/setup, but I did find a point that ended up being perfect!  I had to be fast with the camera though because I would not have a lot of advanced sight time before I needed to snap for photos.

The point where I waited was at a left hand turn the runners take where they climb a hill that takes them across the finish line.  (A hill to a marathon finish line….not nice!!)  I saw him and snapped three pictures.  He did not see me but I patted him on the arm as he ran by.

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So close to the Finish!

Somehow we were lucky enough to find one another very easily after he crossed the finish and was navigating the exit area.  I was so proud of him and knew that he had to dig deep for this race.  It was not the race he wanted, but with the circumstances he had to contend with, I could not have been more pleased of his accomplishment.  I wished it would have been different, but he pulled out so much more than I thought his knee would allow.  What a badass!

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He completely earned that awesome medal!

We had time before his brother would finish, so we found a place for him to rest and have a little something to eat.  We did try to walk down to the beer tent, but before too long we realized that it involved too much walking and then we would be back tracking to get back to the finish line.  This is one of the disadvantages to participating in a large race….everything is very spread out.  We finally decided found a good place to chill as we waited for Johnny.

During this time we talked about his day and chatted with other runners that would stop along the way for a short rest.

So proud of this guy!

After we knew that Johnny had finished, based on the tracker, we had our eyes peeled as not to miss him.  We finally all gathered with the exception of my sister in law, because her phone had died and we did not know where she was!

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Brothers share their accomplishment

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After dealing with the logistics of metros and trying to find everyone, we all eventually ended up back at the hotel for some rest. It was neat to hear Tony and Johnny chat about their races and their experiences of the day.

The evening consisted of meeting up with some dear friends from home that now live in southern Maryland.  They came into DC and we all celebrated with a sushi dinner and then enjoyed good times with after dinner drinks.  It was certainly an adventure filled day!

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China Town

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Fun night of celebrating!

The next day was filled with lots of walking.  It included more than either of them needed, but it was a fun day of exploring DC.  I think it can be best told by photos!

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Beautiful day by the Washington Monument

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The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetary

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The Changing of the Guard

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Very cool ceremony

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If you have never been to Arlington, put it on the list!

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JFK

This was definitely a bucket list item for Tony and I am so happy that he was able to check it off the list.  I don’t think he is anxious to run another marathon of that size, but it was a new experience for us all!

first time

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This Olympic distance triathlon, held Saturday September 12, was located in the Outer Banks (OBX) of NC, so we planned a bit of a weekend get-away associated with the race.  I took ½ day vacation from work on Friday and Tony and I hit the road around 1:00 on Friday afternoon.  The drive was a little over three hours, so not bad.  It was a pretty day.  Water from Bridge

A slight delay on the bride as a boat needed to pass through

A slight delay on the bride as a boat needed to pass through

We arrived  a bit after 4:00, which was good timing, considering the draw bridge delay. We drove to packet pick-up and walked around some to get my bearings.  Tony nor I had ever raced this event, so the logistics were unfamiliar.  One of the cool things about the venue is that it is located beside the local airport, which Tony really got a kick out of, since he is a private pilot. 

From my experience, most race directors will post/announce a preliminary water temperature a couple of days before the event.  There was one post on Facebook stating that the race was typically wetsuit legal, but they did not have plans to announce water temperature until race morning.  I thought it would be nearly impossible for it to be wetsuit legal, but I brought mine just in case.  At packet pick-up, I put my feet in the water and I thought it felt nice and warm (and I don’t like cold water).  Before we left, I asked what the water temperature was and the word was 74 degrees (which would be wetsuit legal).  I could not believe it!

After checking into the hotel we paired up with one of my training buds, Bill and his wife Paige who was at the same hotel.  We decided to grab dinner and three of the four of us got fish tacos which were delicious.  We did not stay up late knowing there was an early alarm on the horizon.

Race Tattoos

My first experience using the race tattoos

The drive to the race venue was about 30 minutes.  That should have given me enough time to get woken up and in race mode, but still being that early in the morning, it took even more time…which is normal.  We arrived with plenty of time to get transition set up and everything taken care of.  Once we arrived, we heard announcements that the water temperature was over 78 degrees and therefore not wetsuit legal.  I found the “change” in temperature from the day before to be quite interesting!  

Transition closed at 6:45.  There was also a half Iron distance race, which started at 7:00.  The first swim wave for the Olympic did not go off until 7:45, so we had lots of waiting.  Once again, there was several people racing from the Trilife store team, so most of us congregated and passed the time. 

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As we were waiting around, one of the things that was on my mind was the choppiness of the water.  It looked as if I had a challenging swim ahead of me.  I tried not to focus on this, but it was hard not to. 

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Concentrating on the game plan for my swim!

One thing I had realized about this swim is that I was going to experience something that was so very unusual and unlike anything I had ever experienced before.  From watching several swim waves start before me, what we were seeing from the shore is that the water was very shallow up until about the first sight buoy.  Because of these, the swimmers were walking!  WHAT?!?!  YEP!        

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Bill & I just before the start

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Getting race ready!

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Tony gave me some pointers on how best to navigate the swim

 Before I knew it, I was lining up as my swim start time was approaching.  I knew these conditions were not to my favor and even though I am not a quick swimmer, I can hold my own in the water and I could handle this!  This is what I told myself and all of this is true.

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All ready to go!

As we started, my wave of white caps (pretty ironic given the choppiness of the water) did what most that had proceeded us had done.  We began by walking and I figured I would do just that until it made sense to start swimming.  The group all pretty much stayed together.  It then occurred to me to check my Gamin so I would know (for fun) how long we actually walked.  So, just before I started swimming, I glanced down and it was just shy of 150 yards.  Craziness! 

As I tried to begin swimming, the conditions of the water were quickly realized.  Swimming out was a real challenge.  Swimming freestyle included salt water splashing into my face as I took a breath (both sides) and as I tried to sight, I could not see over the wave that was coming toward me.  I started doing the breast stroke (or my version of this) and I felt like I was in better shape to take this approach for a bit,  I was not swallowing water and since I could see the waves with my head up, I could navigate the choppiness better and make progress instead of the waves pushing me back.  I would resort back to freestyle now and again and truly felt like I was fighting a losing battle.  There was a girl in front of me trying her best to maintain freestyle but she certainly did not gain any distance on me.  I noticed a boat (after first smelling the fumes) approaching closer to the swimmers and it appeared to me that they were pulling a swimmer out of the water.     

Swim

A view of the first side of the swim course

 As I made it to the first turn buoy, I was feeling ok.  Progress was being made and I was not feeling defeated.  As I made the turn, I started back to freestyle.  At this point, it was better since we were swimming in a different direction.  I was not fighting the waves as bad, even though sighting was still hit or miss (sometimes I could spot the buoy and sometimes my glance would not allow me to see over the wave).  I would feel some relief for a bit and then the churn would hit again.  Head down and just swim…this is what I did.  As I hit the last sight buoy, I was getting excited that I was making my way to shore.  The turn at the buoy was a very sharp one to get in line and in the right direction.  It took me several glances to find my direction.  I continued on and even though the swim to shore felt like it was taking forever, I was feeling ok.  As I took some breaths to the right I saw at least one person stop to take a break with a kayak.  As I neared the shore, the shallowness was not as far out as with the start.  I swam fairly close to shore, before finding my feet and the slippery ground.  I was glad to be heading to T1.  This swim was certainly one that I will remember!

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Done with the swim!

The run to T1 was not too bad.  It was rather long, but mostly on grass, so no complaints there.  A lady had taped a large silk flower on her bike rack, which was the one beside mine, so it was super easy to find!  I had the spot on the end as well, so all good in T1. 

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T1

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Heading out on the bike

The road going out was covered with pot holes.  I knew this from driving in the day before.  Orange paint had been used to mark them and they did a thorough job, so the road was pretty much covered in orange markings!   I was anxious to make the left hand turn off this road…when this happened, I thought I would have relief.  Well, the road was rutted, so there were regular cadence of bumping for a while.  Not fun.  This section came up to the bridge that was a few miles long that crossed the water.  This had the only real hill on the course.  I felt the wind on the bridge for sure.  I tried to keep my MPH up, but I was definitely affected by the wind.  A short bit after coming off the bridge there was a right hand turn and that is where I felt some relief in the form of a tailwind.  YAY!  It helped me cruise a bit before a right bend in the road made it disappear.  It was an out and back course, and I was fortunate to see others that I knew…the half course covered the Olympic (plus some), so there were plenty of people to see.   Coming in was much of the same, but I did feel some favorability on the bridge this time which allowed me to enjoy the views more.  Very pretty!

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Done with the bike

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Headed into T2

Into T2 and got ready for the run. 

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Starting the run

I did not really know what to expect of the route/course, but I had read there was a good amount of shade.  As it started, the run went on a path that was a combination of grass, sand and gravel.  UGH!  I did not like this.  It seemed to go on and on…I wanted pavement!  It was about a mile of that uneven terrain.  I was relieved when we finally hit the road.  I could fall into a more regular pace and not worry as much about my footing.  Had not yet found the shade that was advertised and was starting to feel hot quickly.  The aide stations were very regular and I took advantage of drinking Gatorade and pouring the (cool) water over my head.  Walked just a bit at every station to grab cups and drink/pour.  As we approached the latter half of the out and back course, there was finally some shade therefore, some relief.  After the turn around, the run back in was pretty much the same…trying to hold pace and being smart at the aide stations.  There were times where I wanted to walk, but I only allowed myself to do this for a few seconds at the aide stations.  I began looking forward to the grassy section in some respect, because I knew that meant I was getting close, but dreaded the terrain all at the same time. 

As I was within the last mile, I saw three folks that I knew, Colin, Derek and Heather, that were just starting the run course for the half distance.  That gave me a boost as I knew they had a more difficult test in front of them and I was close to completing mine. 

Into the finish chute

Finish Line

As I ran down the finish chute I spotted Tony and Paige, both of which were behind their camera.  Yes!  I was done.  Tony quickly found me and a cold drink was first on the agenda.  Within a couple of minutes I located a few of the guys that had already finished and learned that we could check for our times on laptops provided.  Tony and I did just that and I learned (and was SHOCKED) to see that I was the first finisher in my age group of 40-44.   WOOHOO!!  Results

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After everyone had finished we took a few pics of the Olympic finishers and then waited around for awards. 

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Olympic Finishers

I could not pass up the chance to enjoy a “podium finish”! 

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First place age group!

Post-race, a group of us grabbed lunch which included my traditional celebratory milkshake. 

Milkshake

My sweet treat!

Early afternoon was not as nice as we had some rain move through, which interfered with plans for some beach time.  Later in the day we headed out to a beach house where much of our group was congregating for some indoor fun.  We had some celebratory beverages and some good laughs.  The evening ended with the four of us grabbing a nice seafood dinner.   

Sunday morning started with a nice stroll on the beach.  I just could not pass up the opportunity to begin the day with my feet in the sand and the smell of the salt air. 

Beach Walk

Breakfast followed complete with eggs and pancakes and then Tony and I hit to road to return to Raleigh.  It was a great weekend and I am very pleased overall with my race.  Even though there are times when I look back and think I could have done something different…maybe pushed a bit harder on the bike or the swim, I know that I put my whole heart into the race and I more than met my goal of going sub-3 hours with my 2:52:04 time.  Even though I didn’t prefer this course and probably would not race it again, I was successful and had a super fun weekend!         

posted by on Race Report, Triathlon

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The Sunday of Labor Day weekend was the September edition of “Throwdown”.  If you missed my previous report of Throwdown, I will quickly re-summarize.  Throwdown is an event, open to all, that is produced by the owner of my local Tri Shop, Trilife.  It is a “mock race” that is a sprint distance triathlon.  This month’s event grew to 20 participants from 16 in August.  If it had not been a long holiday weekend, I know there would have been an even greater participation increase.   

Last month when the event was held, we all started the swim together.  The idea for a while, has been that they would develop a handicap system whereas past race results dictate your start time and hypothetically anyone can cross the finish line first (not necessarily the fastest of the day, but cross first).  So, with this system, the fastest racer actually started last.  In this case, we are fortunate to have the Men’s Age Group 30-34 National Sprint Champion in Raleigh and he has a large presence at Trilife.  It was a given that he would have the fastest time of the day, so most of us were racing to try to cross the finish before he did.  Given the prior weekend was my last race (and I pushed hard) and the coming up weekend was my next race, I decided not to go all out and push too hard.  I still wanted to have a good effort, but keep everything at an appropriate level. 

Sept Throwdown 2

Photo from trithrowdown.com

 This swim course had improved as they added a site buoy and a turnaround buoy.  There were also THREE kayakers on the lake and at some points, this meant more serving as safety patrol than actual swimmers!  I started around 39 minutes after the first swimmer (don’t remember exactly).  Tony decided to not participate this month due to how he was feeling after his long run the day before, so he was monitoring the time in order to get each swimmer started correctly.  The sighting was decent and I felt good during the swim.  The swim was on a different section of the lake than the prior month and the run into T1 was a bit unfavorable to the feet.  Most of us ended up leaving our flip flops out to put on after coming out of the water.  I really didn’t want to get something stuck in my foot.     

I felt good on the bike.  I stayed with the plan and did not push too hard and found a good pace to maintain throughout.  I was lucky that I did not miss one of the turnarounds, like one of my training buds did.  The cone that had been placed was gone, but I did see the pavement markings.  T2 was weird.  I say this because I was the only person in transition and the “crowd” watched.  I don’t love T2, because putting on socks is always a struggle, but I definitely felt all eyes on me.  Everyone was cool and supportive, but I did feel a little pressure (from myself) for a fast transition.

The run out of transition is the least enjoyable part.   There is a hill that definitely puts you in check and I just took it smooth and steady.  I found my legs and as with the bike, I stuck to my plan on the run…to settle in a good pace.  The fastest guys on the bike came flying in as I was just under a mile in.  They were smokin’!!  I knew it was a matter of (a little bit of) time before I saw them again!  After the turn around, I saw our “speedy Gonzales” and even though I was still hanging on to hope that I would not get passed, it was inevitable.  The one thing about super quick runners, is that they (somehow) make it look so effortless…so smooth and confident.  He passed me at mile 2.75 of the 5K run, but somehow I did not mind because it is cool to watch someone like him run. 

Back down the hill for a strong finish and another fun Throwdown was in the books.  It was cool to have folks waiting to cheer me on and then we all cheered on all the other finishers. 

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Finished! (Photo from trithrowdown.com)

Luckily I wore my Gamin and was diligent in starting at exactly the right time and stopping at exactly the right time (even though I did not get all my other splits lapped correctly).  There were issues with the time for three of us (still working out a few kinks) and since they were just reporting total time, they used my Gamin as official finish time (1:26:53).  The after party was pizza and beer at a local brewery.  Already looking forward to the October date!           

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Most of the FInishers at the After Party! (Photo from trithrowdown.com)

posted by on Race Report

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Saturday August 29…Race day started like all others.  The alarm went off before anyone really wants to think about getting up on a Saturday, but no delay to get out of bed, as I did not account for that when I set my alarm.  Normal breakfast of oatmeal with bananas and walnuts.  This is a staple in my diet and it just works.  We pulled out of the driveway right around the goal time of 5:45am (and I had accounted for a slight delay in departure, as that is norm).  The race venue was located about 40 minutes from home, so just an easy drive to be there around 6:30.  The morning was beautiful with temperatures in the low 60s.  I allowed more time than typical for arrival at the venue as I knew there was more that needed to be done than I prefer (packet pick-up, picking up my new race kit, and (NOT PLANNED) a flat front tire). 

Parking, packet pick up and body marking were a breeze.  The store that sponsors the group rides that I frequent, coordinated getting race kits made for the team. Unfortunately, there were some delays in the kits being completed, so we were not able to actually pick them up until race morning at the site.  I know this goes against the cardinal rule of racing of “don’t try anything new on race day”, but since it was a sprint distance, I figured things could not be too bad.  I picked up my kit and got it on without issue.  (Overall, there were no major problems in racing with the new kit…just a few minor things to address in the future.)

Pre Race Group

A few of us in our new kits!

As I was getting transition set up, Tony pumped my tires and realized that the front wheel was not holding air.  Luckily, there was PLENTY of time and he and another friend of ours, got the tube changed and had me squared away in no time!  Thanks goodness for my awesome support…I was not worried in the least.

Racers begin to file into the water

There were 161 participants (55 of those women) and for whatever reason the race directors decided to start the men and women together.  Personally, I would have preferred the women go a couple of minutes after the men, but it was what it was.  The company that produced the race is one of the two largest in the area and I have not raced any of their events where it was a mass start.  Not sure if this is a new thing for them or not. 

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Just before the swim start

Anyway, the 750 meter swim was very congested at the beginning.  It was probably about 50 yards or so past the first buoy that I finally felt like I had space.  Overall, I was pleased with my swim.  My main goal was to focus on consistent strong pulls and really staying aware of my effort level and if I was pushing like I could.  I swam all the way in and lapped my Garmin as soon as I stood up and had a strong run into T1.  I heard a few friends cheering as that always puts a smile on my face.  Somehow, Tony had walked down the dock “looking for me” and totally missed me coming out of the water.  It was not until about 5 minutes later and someone told him I was long gone!        

Swim

Good swim!

T1 was solid.  I was trying to be quick and efficient and I think I did just that.

Onto the bike and I knew what to expect of the 17-mile course.  I raced this event a few years ago and Tony had even before then, so I knew there were a few rollers and a hill that was a bit of work.  I felt good early on and saw several guys from Trilife.  With the new kits, everyone was easy to spot!  It was fun to see folks during the race that I knew and could share words of encouragement.  I did not really concentrate on my Garmin.  I had a goal of over 20mph, but I really just focused on how I felt…pushed when I could and backed off if I needed.  All in all…good ride!      

Into T2 and the same goal to be quick and efficient.  I was on point.

The 5k run was generally flat (only a slight incline coming out of the transition area) and I wanted to start off strong and just build or maintain through the run.  I missed my first mile lap “alert” from my Garmin, but I knew I started well.  The course was a two loop and once again I saw lots of people I knew.

Run

Having a good run!

There were even a few guys that I saw when I really should not have, because they had finished the race and were running for cool down.  I saw my mile 2 lap and was at a pace of 8:00 on the nose.  My goal was to hit an average pace of sub-8:20.  Even though I was not certain of my first lap’s pace, I was confident I was well on track.  I remember at the 2.5 mile mark that I became super focused on maintaining…I did not want to lose momentum.  I told myself that I could do it for .5 mile!!  I was feeling it for sure, but with the slight decline down into the park and to the finish line, I had a super strong finish.

At the Finish!!

I was glad to be done but I felt like I had the race that I wanted…and this was before looking at all my times/paces.  What a great feeling it was to know that I pushed when I could and really delivered the race that I had in me.   Tony was there to greet me at the finish and the first thing I grabbed were orange slices immediately…so good!  I gathered with the group and the general buzz was that everyone had raced well and had fun.  I started reviewing my Garmin data and was even more pleased when I saw the numbers.    

Group

Group photo!!

As preliminary results started to come in a few of the guys had placed in their respective age groups and one had taken the overall win.  We took photos and I changed clothes.  Some of us had planned to stay after the race and cookout there at the park.  It was a beautiful day, so the plan really ended up being ideal.  Tony played chef and while he got the grill going, the awards began.  We huddled around to grab some snapshots.  When they started to announce the winners in the women’s 40-44 age group, I was shocked to hear my name announced as third!  WHAT?  I was thrilled that my solid race ended up with a spot on the “podium”…it was just the icing on the cake.  Nonetheless, I would not have changed anything, but third place age group was an added “bonus”!    

Collage

Matt and I showing off our buckles!

The “official” race results looked like this:

Stats

Splits

The Garmin results, which include the actual distance raced, looked like this:

Garmin Data

The cookout was a blast.  This is not something that I typically see at races, but the park venue was really perfect for a post-race event like we had.  I failed to take any photos, but we had lots of food and beverages to celebrate a great day by all!