I had originally signed for up for Raleigh 70.3 thinking it would be a key race and a good one to peak for before some bigger races in the fall. That all changed after a solid result at Florida 70.3 and taking 12 days off training at the end of April/early May for Mandy and I’s wedding/honeymoon. I did have intentions of doing a few easy runs while on the honeymoon but I just never got around to it with all the fun we had together. Once back from the honeymoon, I had 4.5 weeks until race day and get back the fitness I had for FL 70.3. One thing I forgot about was the effect the south FL heat/humidity has on you. I was fortunate to have some “cooler” weather in the lead up to FL 70.3 and I was running faster than I had ever had before. When I got back to training, it was a different story. I couldn’t hit my goal pace on any of my key run sessions and was struggling in the heat. Given I was trying to hit these paces during brick workouts and around 9-10 am right when things are starting to heat up. I had 1 session where I completely blew up and a few others where I ended up cutting it short as I wasn’t benefiting from slogging my body around in the heat. Needless to say, I was lacking a bit of confidence in my running going into the race. I knew I was fit and that’s what I kept telling myself to block out the negativity.
Mandy and I were fortunate to stay with our friends Ian and Emma once again who live less than 2 miles from the finish line. They were very gracious to open up their home to us. We flew in Friday, got done with athlete check-in, and then I got the bike built up and ready to go. It’s always stressful traveling with my bike but I take some extra precautions when packing my bike to ensure there is no damage during transit. On Saturday, I got in a quick run in early and then Ian and I got a short ride in before dropping my bike off. I had put on a new Ice Friction chain on Friday and when I put it on, I could not see the Shimano markings on the chain due to the coating that comes on the chain. The markings are there to tell you which direction the chain is supposed to be mounted (at least on a new Shimano HG901-11 chain). I have previously ran CeramicSpeed coated chains and they were kind enough to mark the direction with a twisty tie in their packaging. Ice Friction was not as kind. I ended up just installing the chain and didn’t worry about it. After the tune up ride, some of the coating had wore off so I could see some of the markings on chain. Sure enough I had it on backwards but I didn’t have the tools with me to swap it around. I figured I’d bring the tools with me race morning and I could swap it around before transition closed.
For those of you curious, see the instructions from Shimano below on mounting your chain:
Ian and I got up at 4:45am in order to get to T1 to drop off our run gear bag and hop on the bus at 5am. We were moving a little slow in the morning so we didn’t get to the buses until 5:15am or so. We made it to the swim start/T1/Jordan Lake with about 45 minutes left until transition closed. The lines to the bathroom were already long but I figured I could wait in line once my transition area was setup. I got my chain swapped around during which I got a bunch of weird looks while I was doing so. Some lady was nice enough to let me use her pump (thank you!) and then got everything else setup and ready to go.
Swim – 25:36
To my surprise, there were only a few people lined up with me at the front of the start. Everyone else seemed content with hanging back behind us. All signs pointed to a very clean start without any contact and that’s exactly what happened. I took off from the start and tried to settle into a strong pace right away. I found myself swimming alone by the first buoy and then eventually started running through the waves before me. The lighting was perfect which made sighting fairly easy. I did notice that a lot of people were swimming way wide of the buoys which helped me have somewhat clear water. About half way or ¾ through the back stretch, I was met with some huge chop. I still have no idea where it came from. I got tied up with some traffic at the same exact time which elevated my hr a bit trying to maneuver my way through. On the home stretch, I was swimming up to someone and my hand came in contact with their foot and my wedding ring came off. Good thing it was only just my silicone ring that I bought just for training/racing and not the real thing. I was very happy with the swim as it was one of my best executed 70.3 swims. My effort level stayed control, didn’t burn any matches, and I swam the shortest line possible.
Bike – 2:11:32
I had a slow T1 and as I was grabbing my bike, my teammate Brendan Loehr ran past me yelling “nice swim!”. I grabbed my bike and ran past Brendan as he was getting out of his swim skin and told him “lets go!”. I hopped on the bike and took off. I waited a little more than I usually do to get into my shoes. After the disaster at 70.3 Florida, I wouldn’t let that happen again. The plan was to push the bike hard and forget I have to run after. Once in my shoes, I went for it. I was feeling good and the legs were responding. A little before the 180 degree turn, I noticed Danny Royce (who is also coached by Eric Limkemann) coming the other way. Danny started a few waves ahead of me and is a very good swimmer. I wasn’t expecting to see him at this point of the race so I knew I was in very good position. At the same time, I heard someone yell my name going the other way. I didn’t see who it was but it sounded like my teammate Matt Barcus. I wasn’t expecting to see Matt at all on the bike course and figured we see each other sometime during the turnarounds on the run. I kept my pace strong all through the park as I wanted to get out of the congestion ASAP. The goal was to hold 260-265 watts for the entire ride and I was holding 280w during the first few miles. I got out of the park and onto the highway and noticed someone up ahead that looked like they were wearing an EMJ kit. Sure enough it was Matt and part of me couldn’t believe it. I set my sights on Matt to reel him in, which took a few minutes. I knew if I passed him that he would go with me and then we could push the pace together riding legally of course. Matt and I rode the next 30-40 miles keeping a safe/legal distance between us. We traded back and forth a bunch of times on who went to the front and we picked up a few riders along the way. One thing I focused on was to stay in aero as much as possible, especially during the uphills. I saw a lot of people on the basebars going up hills that really didn’t require it. One of the guys that we picked up along the way, went to the front and opened up a bit of a gap for a few miles. I made an effort to reel him in and was able to close the gap without killing myself. I was still feeling good and made a conscious effort to really work the last 10 miles. My power numbers were a little lower than I wanted but I wasn’t too concerned about it. I ended up riding away from the group and rode solo the last 10 miles or so (but I think that was mostly due to Matt almost getting hit by a cop which slowed him down). I drank as much fluids as I could handle for those last few miles as it was starting to get hot and the run has virtually no shade. I came into T2 solo knowing I had a very good split and I had set myself up for a shot at the amateur title.
RUN – 1:26:15
I set out on the run knowing this would be a test of mental toughness. I thought I was in trouble and in for a long/painful run within the first two miles. I felt I was working way too hard and my hr felt rather elevated. Unfortunately my hr monitor didn’t work at all on the run to which I still have no idea why it didn’t (it worked fine on the bike). Once on Hillsborough street, I was able to settle in to a controlled/steady pace. I told myself to keep it in check on the first loop knowing full well the second loop would be survivor of the fittest. Near the end of the first loop, I started running with an older gentleman from Richmond. We happened to know some of the same people so we chatted for bit trying to pass the time/distance. I had a really slow mile 7 which I’m still a little upset at myself for. I got too complacent with the pace where I should have been pushing. The rest of the run I focused on getting fluids in and trying to stay cool. I felt I had an advantage with the heat since I train in South FL. It was hot during the run but definitely manageable compared to what we’ve been dealing with in South FL. As I neared the finish line and much to my surprise, I heard the announcer say I was the first AG-er to cross the finish line. I had no idea I ran to the front of the AG race and had figured some of the guys in the earlier waves would have already finished. I crossed the finish with a big smile on my face knowing it was a great race regardless of where I placed.
OVERALL – 4:07:15 – 1st Overall Amateur/ 9th Overall (including the pro’s)
It took a while for the results to show up but I ended up with my first Amateur title at an IRONMAN branded race. It’s been a goal of mine for a few years and definitely felt gratifying with all the work I have put in and all the obstacles I’ve had over the past few years. I definitely couldn’t have done it without my best friend and wife; Mandy. She’s been my biggest supporter and she’s also a big part of my success.
I really enjoyed racing with my EMJ teammates. The encouragement everyone had for each other (especially on the run) was something I fueled off of and definitely had an impact. Thanks to those guys for pushing me. Also…big thanks to Ian and Emma for opening up their home again and letting us stay for the weekend. Next up – 70.3 WORLDS!