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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.