Mandy and I flew out early Friday morning with a quick stop in Atlanta before getting to Raleigh. I was pretty nervous flying with my bike again since my seat stay was cracked back in December on a flight to San Diego. Once we got to Raleigh, I tediously inspected the bike in baggage claim and luckily found no issues. Disaster avoided.
We were fortunate to have Ian and Emma hosting us for the weekend. They live about a mile from the finish line and T1 which made logistics extremely easy all weekend. We can’t thank them enough for opening up their home to us and driving us around all weekend.
Ian and I did packet pickup as soon as it opened on Friday which was quick and easy. I got the bike unpacked, built it back up, and threw on my new Ceramic Speed chain. We did an easy 45 min ride late afternoon to check out the bike and ensure everything was working with no issues.
Saturday came around and we did an easy 4 mile run and checked out T2 logistics. We got the bikes finalized and headed to T1 for bike drop off. We spent about 15-20 minutes outside dropping our bikes off and took note of how hot it was. We were both dripping with sweat. Ian had mentioned that in years past, people had tubes fail come race morning. Leaving the bike out all day in sun and the heat would over pressurize the tubes. So we both let a good bit of air out of the tires before leaving them in T1. We drove the bike course on the way back and I took note that first half was pretty easy compared to the back half. There weren’t any huge hills but there were a bunch of little hills. Maintaining momentum and keeping the variability low would be critical to a fast bike split and being able to run well off the bike. We met up with my parents for dinner who made the long drive down for the race. My usual chicken parmigiana went down smoothly and I feared I may have actually ate too much as my stomach was feeling it shortly after dinner.
Race morning came early at 3:45 am. My wave wasn’t going off until 8 am but with the two transitions (point to point race), we had to be up early to drop off our run gear at T2 and get on the shuttle to T1. I usually wake up about 3 hours before the race and quickly get breakfast. I had to time my nutrition a little differently with the race logistics, something I hadn’t exactly practiced before. I had two packets of oatmeal and a banana before leaving to drop off our run gear. On the bus ride to T1, I kept hydrating and downed a powerbar. We got to T1 with 45 minutes before transition closed (6:45am) and at first I thought that was plenty time. Needless to say the 45 minutes quickly passed and I barely made it out T1 before they kicked us out. Nothing went wrong, I am just very methodical in my setup and have to ensure everything is perfectly placed. I had another powerbar about an hour before my race and also downed 6 scoops of EFS Pro. I got in a long swim warmup to get the engine rev’d up. Within the first 4 strokes, I knew all systems were a go. I did notice my hips were low in the water. At first I thought it was my new swimskin but then remembered I wasn’t swimming in salt water which is what I’m used to in Florida. The swim wasn’t wetsuit legal so I had all the benefits I’d hope for as a “swimmer”. I hit the restroom one last time and got in line with the rest of my AG.
Swim (26:28 – Fastest Amateur)
I always size up my competition before every race and I’m pretty good at picking out the swimmers in the crowd. There was only 1 guy I took note of as we entered in the water. The horn went off and I started off pretty conservatively. I had one guy to my right and two others hammering off far to my left. The two to my left got out to a body length lead but I noticed they were sprinting pretty hard. We came together after about 200 yards and I hopped on the second guys feet. I knew immediately the pace would be too slow as they seemed to be slowing. So I got off their feet and went to the front. As I passed the lead guy, I saw him looking at me and trying to hop on my feet. About half way to the first turn buoy, I started catching the waves in front of us. It was crowded, really crowded. I made the first turn and was met with plenty of chop. I honestly thought there were boats in the water causing all the wake. I did a really good job of swimming good lines considering the chop and traffic. I think I only had to slow 2-3 times while swimming around everyone. I exited the water with the fastest amateur swim of the day (5th including the pros).
Bike (2:21:04 – FLATTED)
I hit T1 and found my bike pretty easily. I had a little bit of a problem getting my swimskin unzipped as I ran to my bike but eventually got it by the time I got to my bike. This was the first time I was wearing a sleeved tri suit. I prefer to keep it rolled down on the swim under my swimskin as I feel it will effect my swim if I wear it over my shoulders. I also think it will stretch out causing the aero benefits to be null. I got the suit on relatively easily on in T1. There were still a few wrinkles in the shoulders but I figured I could adjust while I was on the bike. I did a quick pause after I got my helmet and sunglasses on as I had to throw all my swim gear in the transition bag to ensure I got it back after the race. I felt like I was forgetting something, either on the bike or in the bag. But after a few seconds, I said screw it and went on my way onto the bike course.
I got on the bike and got in my shoes with no issues. I knew the first 5 miles were going to be slow and full of traffic. I rode conservatively for the first couple miles, getting the HR down and keeping the power in check. On our way out of the park, 1 guy passed me who wasn’t in my AG. I stuck with him riding legally behind as we got out of the park. Once we got out of the park and onto the highway, it was game on. Speeds got above 40 mph going downhill on the highway. For the next 10 miles or so, I rode with 2 other guys (both not in my AG and I later found out one of the guys was overall amateur winner). We leap frogged each other several times and I think we all did a good job of riding legally on the flat and downhill sections. At around mile 18, I passed the 2 guys and then all of sudden I hear metal skipping across the ground and then pssssshhhhhhhhh…… I waited for a few seconds hoping my sealant would seal but then I felt my disc hitting the road. I yelled something I’d rather not repeat. At this point, I thought my day was done. I figured I would have to call Mandy to tell her what happened and then wait for a ride to T2. I always carry a spare but I almost always end up flatting multiple times. It’s rare for me to make it home on training rides when I flat. I was a bit flustered standing on the side of the road with everyone passing me. I took my time changing the flat to make sure I could make it to T2. A volunteer pulled up in a van and asked if I needed help. I asked her to call for tech support just in case I needed it now or down the road. I got the tube changed out and then used the co2 on my disc. I was pleasantly surprised that the co2 went in with no issues as I have never used it before on a disc wheel (luckily I had brought my disc adaptor with me). I threw everything back into my speedbox and hopped back on the bike. The flat cost me about 7-8 min according to my garmin. I know what people are going to say that it shouldn’t take me that long and they are ultimately right. There’s no reason I shouldn’t have changed that flat in 3-4 min. Lesson learned for next time. I got on the bike but I was pissed. I knew I couldn’t ride like a madman as that wouldn’t bode well for the rest of the race. Unknown at the time, I passed Kory Gray shortly after my flat but he stayed with me. It took me about 10 miles to realize it was Kory. I had just met Kory a day before at bike check in and knew he was going to be one of the guys to beat in our AG. We rode the rest of the way together sharing the work back and forth. I made sure to take in enough nutrition in preparation for a tough run. I took in 3 bottles of EFS Pro (6 scoops each), ~300 calories of EFS liquid shot, and half a bottle of Gatorade from an aid station. I thought this could be the first time I would pee on the bike but I never felt the urge to go.
Garmin showed my moving time as 2:14 with avg power 233 and NP 246. IF was 0.81 and VI was 1.06. My power was much lower than I was hoping for and my VI was quite high. The hills didn’t help either and riding with a few other riders affected the numbers as well. A couple times I tried getting away from them but couldn’t shake them without hammering. So I tried to share the work in order to conserve energy.
I started off the run trying to stay as controlled and relaxed as possible. I passed Linda Robb in the first mile and we gave each other some encouragement. Kory had exited T2 just a bit before me but I had him in sight. I knew it was a long run so I figured there was no rush to catch him. I kept him in sight for the first loop staying ~15 seconds behind him. I saw coach Eric at about mile 2 as he was coming back. We yelled that we had both flatted. It’s funny because a lot of our races play out very similar, even if they aren’t the same race. At around mile 3 or 4, I got the sudden urge to pee really bad. I figured I needed to learn to pee while running at some point so I concentrated for 20-30 seconds and let it flow. What a major relief as my stomach was hurting bad from the urge. I ran just under 7 min/mile pace for the first half which was right about target pace. Mandy told me I was in 4th at the turnaround but I already knew I didn’t have anything faster in me. I started the second loop which was slightly uphill and could feel my pace was slowing. I tried to trick my mind and just thinking about running to each aid station. I took water and ice at most of the aid stations. A few times I took in coke and redbull to try different things and see how my body reacted. I got a little energy from the coke and redbull but it would fade quickly. The 2nd loop was pure survival. I could tell my run fitness wasn’t where I wanted it to be nor where it needed to be to compete at this level. The goal was to run 1:27ish or at least under 1:30. My hr was slowly declining and the legs just weren’t there. I made one last effort on the downhill section into the finish and was happy to be done.
4:29:21 – 5th AG, 11th Amateur, 34th Overall
While the race wasn’t exactly what I hoped for, I was surprisingly happy with the outcome. I swam and biked very well. The flat is what it is. I would have won my AG if it wasn’t for the flat but that’s part of racing. I was just happy it didn’t ruin my race. My run was a little disappointing but in a positive way it was a slap of reality. We have been pretty conservative with my run training considering my hip and past injuries. To compete at the level I want to compete at, I need to run ~1:25ish. I have not put in the necessary training to do that but this was a step in the right direction. I had major hip surgery less than year ago and to pull out a 4:29 with a flat, is pretty freaking awesome.
Thanks to everyone that followed along at home on their phones and computers. Thank you to Ian and Emma for letting us move in for the weekend. Thanks to my parents for making the long trip down to watch me put my body through hell. Thanks to coach Eric for sticking with me and getting me back to this point. Last but not least, thank you to my fiancé Mandy for being the loudest cheerleader in the sports history. Everyone is sure to know when I’m racing.
Next up is the Palm Beach County World Championships (loggerhead sprint tri) where hopefully I’ll get bragging rights back after not having raced for 2 years. Then I’ll be racing Miami 70.3 in October where I hope to qualify for Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga in 2017.
Thanks for reading!