I missed the initial race registration in the fall of 2012; after registration opened the half-iron race sold out in only two weeks. At the time I didn’t think much of it, and mostly decided I didn’t need to pay that much for a branded half-iron race. As time wore on I realized I wanted to race the Raleigh half-iron and tried to figure out how I could get in. Finally, with an email from Inside-Out Sports, I found my opportunity. For $703 I could buy a gift card and get a comped race registration to the sold-out event. Score! I wound up flipping a few Garmin 910s, and eventually broke-even on the whole deal, meaning that my race registration cost me virtually nothing. (Downside- I wasn’t registered early enough to have my name on the participant’s tee).
Prelude: Finish Strong FS Half-Iron & Raleigh 70.3
Ironman Raleigh 70.3 was my second half-iron distance triathlon. I completed my first, the 2012 Finish Strong Half Iron Triathlon, the preceding September. My splits for that race were 24:35/3:19:45/2:33:47. So after a blazing-fast swim the race came back to me on the bike, and I slowed down even more on the run. Since I signed up for this race only a few weeks out- without a training plan or any grand idea about race-execution, my results weren’t too surprising. Well, the swim was surprising, but my time was aided by my wetsuit and a reportedly shorter-than-advertised overall swim length.
The weeks leading up to the race were not exactly dialed-in for peak performance. During the second half of May, Katie left town for a business trip, leaving me with the kids solo (and effectively curtailing most of my exercise time). And that is the tip of the iceburg. We bought a new house, we moved into the new house, and then immediately went on a week long beach vacation, wrapping up two days before the race. Instead of shutting down for a proper taper during the beach vacation, I opted to get in as much cycling & running as I could get away with. Truth be told I wanted to extend my streak of 200 miles/month of combined biking and running, and I needed to make up a big April deficit in that last week of vacation- about 70 miles total. Consequently I pushed hard on several 2+ hour rides, rather than take it easy. Furthermore, what carb reserves I had leftover from these longer efforts were further depleted by a stomach bug halfway through vacation. Fortunately everything settled down just in time for race weekend.
Packet Pickup & Bike Drop-Off
I took the kids to the convention center for the packet pick-up & race expo Friday afternoon. Presumably since I was a late add to the registration rolls I had to fill out some additional paperwork to get my number. I was disappointed to see that my name didn’t make it onto the back of the participants shirt either.
Ironman had their own branded store in half of one conventional hall, selling shirts & other (overpriced) race gear, including the afore-mentioned participants shirt. The rest of the expo was housed in an adjoining conference hall, and seemed to consist of a small group of local vendors (like Inside-Out Sports) and nutrition companies like Nuun.
Saturday afternoon was bike drop-off at Jordan Lake’s Vista Point, a race spot I have become familiar with after racing last year’s Finish Strong Half-Iron and this year’s 1.2/2.4 mile Finish Strong Open Water swim. Although I didn’t arrive at Vista Point immediately when the transition area opened, I did arrive early enough to find a close spot to park. Seems like good advice to go as early as you can to drop-off so you don’t have to worry about getting your things settled before they close the area.
Ironman Raleigh was my first point-to-point race, which meant that T1 (the swim-to-bike transition area) is not the same as T2 (the bike-to-run transition area). Also the first race where I had to drop off my bike the day before. Another lesson: if you have to take apart your bike during transport, make sure you bring all your parts with you. When I opened the trunk to lift my bike out at Vista Point I realized I had absent-mindedly left my quick release pin back in the garage at home- a 30 minute trip. I didn’t panic too much, since I thought I might be able to attach the quick release pin on race morning, but I wasn’t positive how much time or access folks had to T1 before the race started.
I woke up early, had a quiet breakfast, and made my way downtown. I wasn’t early, but since my swim wave was much later than the race start I wasn’t feeling the pressure to hurry along. Of course, that didn’t stop my stress level from inching up higher and higher as I had doubts about how much time I would have to park & board the bus in downtown Raleigh. After parking a few blocks away I casually walked over to T2… and realized I forgot my timing chip! Second silly mistake I had made before the race even started, and I wasn’t sure if the timing chip was in my car or all the way back at home. I hurried back to the car where fortunately I found the chip in my post-race bag. Big sigh of relief. I seemingly made one of the later buses to the swim start/T1, and chatted with an amateur photographer on the ride over to Vista Point/Jordan Lake.
Some folks were still chatting about the race director’s decision to keep the swim wetsuit-eligible; evidently most folks figured the water temperature would be way too warm for wetsuits. I didn’t think twice about using my second-hand wetsuit- I paid $75 for it, and I wanted to make sure it got more than one swim out of it.
The Raleigh 70.3 bike course used much of the same bike course as the FS 70.3- unsurprising since we used the same swim course and T1. On the up side that meant that I was already familiar with the course even though I hadn’t trained much in that direction, or even bothered to preview the bike course from the car.
My bike execution plan, such as it was, consisted of two parts: staying hydrated, and being conservative on the hills. I implemented the first part of my plan by drinking a ton of fluids. Mistaaaaaaaaake! I drank 1 bottle of perpetuem and another bottle of water only halfway through the race- and threw away both bottles for a deer park water and ironman ‘perform’ (aka Gatorade). Even with this amount of fluid I didn’t have to ‘dehydrate’ on the course, so I am not quite sure what the optimal amount of fluid would have been.
Regarding part B of my bike execution, I did spend more time holding back on the bike, instead of crushing it up every hill. Even with this more conservative effort I improved my bike split from the previous half-iron triathlon. Ultimately, even without a concrete bike plan, I felt like the bike went moderately better this time than the FS half-iron- in the end I improved my bike split by six minutes.
I had even less of a run execution plan than a bike execution plan, and the warm weather that afternoon ensured I paid the price. I got off the bike feeling good enough for the first mile to two miles. Soon enough, however, GI issues cropped up.
The best part of the race was seeing my family about two miles into the race, shortly before the first water stop. I got a chance to give Ellie a kiss and Noah a quick hug before I was off again. I wasn’t necessarily off to a great pace, but I was off. I kept trucking long enough so that my family would not see me walking barely a mile into the race, but by the time I reached the second aid station I was really battling my stomach. Instead of simply not drinking anything, which would have made the most sense, I kept drinking water at the aid stations, out of fear of dehydration. Predictably, with this inane plan, my GI issues stuck around for a while, forcing me to talk a fair amount of the first half of the run course from downtown to the art museum.
Ignoring my GI issues, the run course was a lot of fun, and I am sad m-dot changed next year’s run to a two-loop design that doesn’t reach the art museum. As much as I enjoyed running up and down Hillsborough Street without any traffic, the shade on the greenway was a nice respite from the 90°F weather.
On the plus side, my GI issues eventually went away by the second half of the run course, and I negative split the half-marathon. This wasn’t really that amazing of an accomplishment, however, since I “ran” the first half slower than a 12:00 minute/mile pace. Which is basically like walking 50% and running 50%.
I did wind up finishing relatively strong, closing out the last 5k at 35 minutes or so– or about a 10:00 minute/mile pace. (I said relatively! Relative to me walking!)
It seems a bit silly to say I felt I improved from my first half-iron race in September 2012 to my second in June 2013, but I can point to a few areas I conceivably did moderately better. Both my bike split and my run splits were faster the second go-around, despite the much warmer weather. And even on a tangible level, it is probably likely that my swim split from September was abnormally fast, due to a faulty (i.e. shortened) swim course. Assuming that swim course was bad, my overall time may have improved from September to June, if only slightly.
But the biggest lesson for me is to have a training plan and a race-day execution plan; I really had neither for the Raleigh triathlon. I could try and defend this by noting that the Raleigh 70.3 was a B race, with my first marathon in March being the season’s A race. Next time, however, I plan to be ready to conquer the 70.3.
Race Recaps from around the web: this guy finished much faster than me.