IM Raleigh 70.3

6 weeks prior, I PR’d NOLA 70.3 with a 5:52:06, and yet, I was going into Raleigh, shooting for a 6:15 due to the difference in the courses.  The race started with the Pros at 7AM, and my swim wave wasn’t scheduled to go off until 7:56.  About 7:15, I drank my 3 scoops of Ucan.

SWIM:

They were telling us as soon as we had arrived that the swim was not wetsuit legal.  I was disappointed in this since swimming is my weakest event, and I need all the help I can get.  I did have a new swimskin though that I brought, and what better time to try it out for the first time than on race day.  😉  Pfft…. nothing new on race day takes the adventure out of things.  The time went by pretty quick, and before I knew it, it was go time on an absolutely gorgeous morning to race.  For the swim, you walk down the beach under the timing arch to an in water start by waves.  I lined myself up to the inside of the course which was a triangular shape.  I found a bit of room here where I felt like I wouldn’t be immediately swam over by others in my wave.  They sounded the horn, and we were off.  I actually remembered to start my watch for the first time ever in a race at the start.  I tried to hug the inside of the course since it was pretty open space there for the first section.  As we rounded the first turn, I moved a bit wider since people moved to the inside on the turn, and I stayed out a bit for the first 200 yds or so of the back stretch.  The water had been pretty smooth until this back stretch, and suddenly, I had waves smacking me in the face, and I was getting mouthfuls of water.  I switched my breathing to the right for a few strokes and it seemed better, then the big waves seemed to disperse.  The next issue was the younger & faster men that started behind us were starting to catch me about this time, and I was in the middle of the course instead of either side now, so I made my way to the inside right next to the buoys because it seemed pretty open until a guy came from inside the buoy line and sideswiped me.  I stopped and let him go then continued on.  The back stretch seemed to go on FOREVER, but I finally reached the second turn buoy and headed into the final stretch.  Going down this stretch, a fast guy came up on my left, and as he bumped me once or twice and I moved to my right, he continued and then pushed me, so I switched to the breaststroke, and yes, I did try to kick him.  There was no sense in how aggressive he was being, and there was plenty of open water.  I caught his arm a bit, but I wanted to catch his face at the time.  Approaching the final two buoys, I caught up to a guy who was backstroking, and I left him plenty of room if his stroke was anywhere near where it should have been, but rather he grabbed the top of my head when I was in line with his shoulder and pushed it.  I’m still not sure if that was intentional or not, but it seemed to be as he practically dunked me, and the position would have been a REALLY awkward spot to be able to grab someone’s head in the backstroke unless you were just skimming the top of the water with your stroke all the way through.  The swim exit was up a boat ramp that had mats on it and was easy to exit.  I was simply glad to be done with this swim that seemed to take a lot longer than normal.

swim exit

They caught me removing my ear plugs, but the look of exhaustion is about how I felt at this point

I stopped by the wetsuit strippers who now had very little to do, and one of them unzipped my swimskin for me, and I headed to my bike.  Arriving at my bike, it looked like everyone in my age group had already left…. geesh, I must really suck at swimming is what was going through my head.  My swim time was 49:00, and I was 86th out of 151 starters in my age group, got to work on that.

BIKE:

I grabbed my bike, headed to the mount line, remembered to press the correct buttons on my watch, and was off.  Goal was warm up and ease into 80-85% FTP.  Again, that seemed a bit high, and my quads had definitely not recovered because they were feeling tight for some reason, but I figured I’d just see how they loosened up.  56 miles was a long way to go, no need in getting in my head this early.  We had a little bit of climbing in the first 5 miles that seemed to help loosen up my quads, and I quickly found myself settling into a good rhythm and feeling better.  The next 25 miles or so had more elevation loss than gain and was an extremely easy ride. I had been told that the second half of the course was a lot hillier, and the elevation profile showed that it should have a total gain of 2700 feet, so I was prepared for the course to get difficult.  The next 5 miles presented a bit of a climb, but nothing that I thought was significant, then the final 21 miles had more loss overall than gain again.  The bike course was fast!  Yes, there were some hills, but they were rollers and not hard climbs.  I kept looking for the hills that people were referring to, but I didn’t see them.  I know there were some changes to the course this year due to road construction, so perhaps that was why it was easier than expected.  I ended up with an elevation gain of just over 2200 on the bike instead of the 2700 shown on IM’s site.

If you are from Atlanta, this ride was easier than the Silk Sheets route, so train there, and you’ll think it’s a breeze.  Silk Sheets’ hills are definitely longer, slower climbs than this.

The only issues on the bike course I had was traffic.  The officers did a great job of stopping and directing traffic for the riders, but there was one stretch where cars were really backed up coming towards us, and a driver(seemingly annoyed) whipped out in front of us going in our direction.  The driver then proceeded to ride right on the back end of a slower cyclist, but they stayed towards the right edge to prevent us from passing him and the other cyclist.

I came in from the bike with a time of 3:02:12, and I headed into the somewhat weird transition.  Transition is split into two sides by a bit of a zig-zag due to shrubbery.  Odd, but it wasn’t that big of a deal.  I racked my bike and proceeded to put my socks and shoes on.  As I was putting my stuff on, I was rather annoyed when I saw a fellow age grouper run in while a male volunteer pushed her bike and racked it for her as she started putting on her shoes.  After getting her shoes on, he told her to go, and he then put her gear in her bag for her.  I guess volunteers aren’t technically outside assistance, but I think this goes against what the rules allow.  Volunteering so you can provide unequal assistance to someone you know is cheating if you ask me….just my $.02.  I will say that I was very pleased with the lack of drafting I saw by competitors on this course.  I never saw any groups fly by who were obviously drafting.

On the bike, I consumed 50 ounces of water mixed with 6 scoops of Osmo and a 200 calories Kind bar.

RUN:

Out of transition I headed, and up a hill…… a hill that lasted 3 miles.  Ok, there were a few breaks, but overall, the first half of the loop was uphill.  I HATED this.  There just wasn’t a good chance to get your legs to relax off the bike and find them for the run in that first 3 miles.  With my calves getting tighter by the minute and trying to cramp, I took some Base Salt (ok, I took a quick triple dose).  The aid stations were all well stocked with ice, water, Gatorade, Coke, pretzels, oranges, bananas, Gu, sponges, etc.  I have to say, the volunteers and race rocked at keeping the supplies going on the course!  Kiddie pools had ice in them with sponges, and many of us were grabbing ice by the handfuls out of the these.  The volunteers were on point with keeping cups filled and offering stuff to you as you passed.  I hated the run course, but LOVED the crowd support and volunteers!  As I got close to the 3 mile mark, my calves were starting to loosen FINALLY!  After the turn around, the course was more or less downhill back to the loop start before having to start the wonderful climb again.  Around mile 8, I ate an orange slice (again, new stuff, why not?) because I was just starting to feel hungry.  My left hamstring started tightening up on me on this uphill, so again, I took a bit of Base Salt (  http://www.baseperformance.com/ ) and lots of water to wash it down, and soon enough, my hamstring loosened back up.  Base Salt rocks!  After the turn around, I again picked up my pace on the way back, but continued to walk the aid stations to make sure I got water, ice, and other needed items.  Feeling hungry still, I grabbed pretzels around mile 11 before my last push to the finish.  My run time came in at 2:10:31 which was 1 second faster than NOLA.

run

Gu and water, fuel and hydration

 

On the run course, in addition to the Base Salts, orange slice, and pretzels, I had 2 Gu’s, 1 Roctane, and 2 scoops of Osmo along with lots of WATER.  The run course had very little shade and the weather was pretty hot, but the humidity and temperature didn’t seem as bad as the NOLA 70.3.

post race

Glad to be done!

 

Another great race in the books thanks to the guidance of Coach Charles Sims.  I couldn’t do it without his help!  My overall time came in at 6:09:01 which was below 6:15, so I was happy with my performance.  My “A” race this year is the Augusta 70.3, and I look forward to testing my limits with that race.  Go big or go home!

 

IM Raleigh 70.3 (Pre-race)

I’m beginning to realize that this season may be more about me gaining confidence in myself than anything else.  Preparing for my first 70.3 last year, my biggest concern was getting physically able to complete the distance.  I now know that I can complete it but figuring out just how well and where my limits are this year is now my challenge.

After NOLA, I had 6 weeks to prepare for Raleigh, and Coach Chuck ( http://peakracingteam.com/chuck-sims/ ) decided to change up a few things to help improve the run.  I have flaws (yeah, I know, you never knew), and one of those flaws is the stupidity to continue to push when my body is screaming at me that it needs rest even when my coach says to rest or gives me optional workouts.  Needless to say, the continued push started to catch up with me around May 9th (about 3 weeks before Raleigh).  At the end of a long day of riding in the Gaps, I felt pretty beat.  Coach C said we were doing a drop down week that coming week, and then hitting it hard one more week before Raleigh.  I should have taken advantage of the drop down week and skipped (oh yes, I am admitting sometimes skipping a workout is necessary….finding my limits) a workout or two, so I could go hard the next week, but my stubbornness didn’t allow that.  The drop down week ended up not allowing for the recovery my body was screaming for, and the ensuing hard week was miserable culminating with a double brick scheduled on Saturday with Coach C of a 25 mile ride, 3 mile run, 25 mile ride, 4 mile run.  I showed up at Silk Sheets feeling like I’d been hit by a mac truck that week, and apparently I looked just as bad by the end of the workout which I shortened.  Afterwards, I told him I was beat, and my Training Peaks may be red all week.  He said to just do what I felt like and to recover….for once, I heeded his advice.  I honestly didn’t think I’d recover in time to do much of anything at Raleigh how I felt.

With a week of more red than I think my Training Peaks account has seen as a total over a few months, I showed up to Raleigh unsure of how the race was going to go.  I told Coach Tony on Saturday that if someone told me I couldn’t race the next day I wouldn’t be upset.  I enjoy races, and I look forward to them.  I don’t usually get nervous, and I wasn’t nervous about the race.  I just wasn’t excited in any way, shape, or form to be there.  I just didn’t care.  I was hoping I had recovered, but I wasn’t sure since I missed so many workouts.  I was hoping I could pull off 6:15 or better, but if I didn’t it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  The time in my mind was more about me not wanting to be on that freaking course any longer than that on Sunday.  It had nothing to do with PR’s or any logic to that number.  It was simply a number pulled out of a hat that was mentally as long as I felt I could stand to race Sunday.

Saturday morning, Angela and I attended a breakfast with Base Perfomance ( http://www.baseperformance.com/ ). Angela is sponsored by them, and she was able to bring a guest, so I went with her.  It was a fun start to the day meeting the owner Matt and learning a bit more about the company and products.  I had Base Salts and was using them for the first time during a race(more about that later) for this race, but I hadn’t tried any of their other products.  After learning a bit more about the Base Amino and hearing some reviews though, I think I’m going to give them a try soon.

After breakfast, we took our bikes out to T1 to drop off.  It was about a 40 minute drive both directions, so it ate into the day more than I thought it would with a lunch stop along the way at Chipolte.  After a bit more running around, we ate dinner at Mellow Mushroom with the Peak Racing Team (http://peakracingteam.com/ ) before heading to our room to prepare our bags for the next day and go to bed.

dinner

Peak racers at dinner

 

Up at 3AM, I prepared my nutrition, packed it in my bags, and was off to head to T2 where I needed to drop off my run bag and catch the shuttle for my 40 minute ride to T1.  For some reason, we couldn’t lay out our stuff in T2 by where we’d rack our bikes, but instead we had to leave it all in our bags on the ground.  Seemed odd, but you have got to roll with it, so we did.  With nothing left to do at T2, Angela and I loaded the shuttle bus and headed to T1.

Arriving at T1, I got body marked, and we both made a quick porta potty stop before heading into transition.  We were again told that we had to leave everything in our bike gear bags here as well, so I basically dropped my bag in front of my bike, poured my hydration in my Speedfil, and headed out to go chill.  That was the last time I saw Angela before the race.

pre-start

I found the Peak Racing Team, and we headed to the shoreline to watch the sunrise and hang out as we waited for the race start.

sunrise

Up next, the race……

 

 

IM 70.3 NOLA

Yes, I’m a slacker….once again.

My goal going into New Orleans (NOLA) was simply to meet maybe slightly beat my IM Augusta 70.3 time, so I needed to beat 6:25:39.  I would have been happy with 6:25 flat.  The weather was going to be hot and humid, and there was a possibility of rain leading up to the race, so I kept my expectations low.

First thing we did upon arriving in NOLA was check-in to the hotel and head to packet pick up.  It had been moved to the Hilton Riverside, so it was within walking distance from out hotel.  Packet pickup went smooth, and at athlete briefing, we were informed that mandatory bike check-in on Saturday was now optional due to possible storms on Saturday.  Times for check-in had also been shortened to 3PM-8PM on Saturday, and transition would open early at 4:30AM on Sunday due to the non-mandatory bike check-in on Saturday.

peak

Peak Racing Team in NOLA

 

Skipping ahead to Sunday, since I decided to wait and take my bike that morning, I got up at 3AM Sunday to eat an early breakfast at IHOP and to head to transition at opening at South Shore Harbor.  With a few delays at IHOP(drunk people in NOLA at 3AM, go figure), and a small accident on the highway, we arrived pretty close to transition opening.  A few others had decided to arrive early as well, but overall, there weren’t an abundance of cars which surprised me considering the lack of a mandatory bike check-in meant that there would probably be close to double the number of vehicles coming to that area that morning since bikes can’t go on the shuttles.  I also like to arrive early though anyway to get my stuff settled, then relax and watch the morning rush, so maybe my expectations are just off.

Race time was set to start at 7AM, but due to traffic back up leading into the start area, it was postponed until 7:30AM.  If there had been a steady stream/backup of cars since transition opened at 4:30AM, then I’d have been understanding, but knowing there wasn’t, I was rather annoyed.  Luckily, I don’t drink my 3 scoops of Ucan until 45 minutes prior and I was in the last wave, so I had the luxury of waiting until almost race start to drink it.  Some people I am sure were not so lucky, and even though it was only 30 minutes, it could throw off their nutrition.  It also meant that I was getting pushed 30 minutes later into the heat of the day simply because people didn’t plan to get to the race in time by planning for unexpected delays.  Nothing I could do about it, so I dealt with it by drinking a ton more water and peeing a million times more than usual.

pre-swim

Waiting…..

 

SWIM:

The swim was on the verge of being cancelled on Friday due to some rather frightening readings of bacteria levels in the lake in various spots, but WTC requested a sample be taken from the actual swim site in the harbor, and the results came in late Friday that it was 374.  I don’t know all the details, but there were some comments regarding the EPA listing safe swim levels below 200 and USAT’s standard as 450.  I guess USAT knows more than the EPA…..well, the EPA is managed by the government, sooooo…..  Either way, the swim was on, and we were happy, and maybe a little concerned.

Sunday morning, we all started in age group waves by time trial, so basically, each age group went off in groups of 8 jumping in from the dock.  This actually went much faster than I had thought, and we were all in the water within an hour I believe.  The course was an “N” shape, and the first line was down the side of the harbor by the seawall.  The water inside the harbor was very smooth I thought and cold enough for our wetsuits.  SCORE!  I basically sighted off the wall for the first leg of the “N.”  The diagonal was a bit harder to sight.  The lack of buoys other than one in the middle and one at the end made it hard to tell where you were going other than following the crowd and sighting the last row of boats since I knew the turn buoy was there from checking out the course the day before.  After the last turn, I was able to sight using the ends of the rows of boats until I got close enough to see the last buoy to turn and head in.  The exit is made of metal steps, but they were easy to maneuver.  As we made our (extremely long) way to T1, I stopped for the wetsuit strippers, then proceeded towards T1.  My swim time was 35:01. Augusta was 30:11. The swim was about 300ish yards short though from everything I have seen posted and from everyone’s Garmin that I know.

swim

FINALLY!

 

BIKE:

The bike course is kind of a “Y” shape out and back which was nice because we had the roads to ourselves for the most part.  My race plan said some non-sense about slowly building to 80-85% FTP.  Umm, yeah, I thought around 75% sounded more reasonable for me, so I tried keeping it around that, and I seemed to end up around 77-78%, so I split the difference with my coach. 😉  Part of the reason 80-85% concerned me was seeing my 5 mile split times over the first 15 miles or so showing under 15 minutes per 5 miles, and I wasn’t even to 80% yet.  I knew that was over 20mph.  I had never averaged anywhere near that pace on any ride, and I psyched myself out a bit on the thought of maintaining that power level much less increasing it.  The wind was behind me & my power was where it was supposed to be for the start, so I tried not to think about it, but I did, and so I stayed closer to 75%.  Towards the end of the bike, the wind was in my face and slowed me down & my power increased to that 85% range, but I was also trying to get away from a cluster of girls drafting that were playing leapfrog with me & pissing me off.  I’d say my biggest gripes about the bike course were the ridiculous amount of drafting going on and the rough bridges.  Otherwise, I was pretty happy with the bike.  During the bike, I drank the 40 ounces of water mixed with 7 scoops of Osmo I carried, ate a Kind Bar around mile 20, and picked up and drank about 8 ounces of an extra water bottle from the last water stop.  My bike time was 2:56:05.  It could have been a bit faster maybe, so I might eventually try that 80-85% range my coach suggest.  He’s probably correct, but I also have to not psych myself out with the pace that means.  Augusta was 3:29:53 (um, yeah, my cycling has come a LONG way!)

RUN:

nola run

Heading out

 

It was H-O-T!  The run course doesn’t have ANY shade on it since it runs along Lake Pontchartrain.  It is an out and back one loop course.  The sun was beating down on my shoulders, and I could feel them baking in the sun.  I decided I’d run and just walk the water stops to make sure I got what I needed, and I think it was a good plan.  I was able to grab ice and cold water at pretty much every water stop.  I drank the 2 scoops of Osmo I carried, took salted caramel Gu at mile 2, Gu chews around mile 5, and a Roctane around mile 9 which was almost a mistake because I felt a bit sick after the Roctane, but I made it to the end with negative splits and a strong run.  My time for the run was 2:10:32.  Augusta was 2:15:34.

caddies

The best support crew around

GOAL RESULTS:

I crushed any expectations I had and went under 6 hours with a 5:52:06.

Would I recommend NOLA 70.3?

Hard to say, I liked it, but many people on my team weren’t thrilled with it.  I could definitely tell this was handled by Premier rather than WTC due to little things here and there as well as the delay.  I enjoyed hanging out in NOLA the two extra days after the race that we stayed.  It’s definitely not a great family race to bring the kids to, but it was a fun weekend, the course was fair and flat, but it was hot.  I probably won’t race it again, but that’s just because there are too many others that I want to try.