After a hard three month build and some serious blog silence, I’m here to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my first iron-distance triathlon. There really are not any ways to describe the emotion, the pain and the mental fatigue that have occurred over the past few months of my life. There have been a couple weeks that completely fell apart on the training plan and left me questioning my abilities to even get to the starting line; days riddled with body image issues and the entire spectrum in between. The adage of “the race is the reward” could not have been more true for Beach 2 Battleship.
Waking up at 4:00AM is never fun and on race morning it wasn’t any more pleasant. We woke up to 36* temperatures and a slight breeze. The weather took a turn for the cold two days before the race and improved the day after; typical. I scarfed down a couple bagels with peanut butter and drank a delightful french press before getting ready to head off to T1. The music selection was pretty crucial for the pre-race routine: lots of Black Angels, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, some current hip hop and some electronic to get the blood flowing. All in all I felt pretty good, then we got to transition and I froze. B2B is pretty unique due to the “point-to-point” nature of the race and the logistical nightmares that brings to transitions. We checked in bikes the day before in T1 (Wrightsville Beach) as well as T2 bags (Wilmington Convention Center). This isn’t really a big deal for me and I just rolled with it. It’s less stuff to carry on race morning, honestly. After making sure everything was groovy with Cera the Cervelo and checking T1 and special needs bags I boarded the (heated) trolley to head to swim start. Once at swim start, a bunch of us sat under a gazebo and froze while nervously chatting. Swim start is located on the southernmost tip of Wrightsville Beach in an estuary; it’s easily the most beautiful location for a swim that I’ve ever had.
Swim – 56:05 – 19th Overall
Whoa, that actually happened. My goal time was 1:05 for the swim since there would be a slack tide on race morning (it was definitely slack) and we would be swimming into the chop of a Northern wind. Right at the start, after taking off my sweats and “donating” them, my left nostril begins to bleed. Awesome. I guess the salt water stopped it and I didn’t really ntice after 200m of swimming. Honestly, this was the largest question mark in my race in terms of pace and timing. I knew I had the breakaway speed to stick with the first couple groups, but I had no idea how well I could get “attached” to that group or how I would end up feeling past the halfway mark. I did have a lot of confidence due to the last month of my training, though. As I started to shed bike workouts, I added long swim sets in their place with a lot of 6×500 main sets. I was swimming these in a very particular way: fast for the odd 100s and medium for the even 100s. This strategy was my way to simulate the breaks that happen naturally in a triathlon swim. In my experience, when you’re drafting and working with a group no one knows how to maintain an even pace due to the lack of metrics in the open water and the pace jumps all over the place. I figured that I would need to be able to swim hard after the 90 degree turn at 1.8 miles (I did) and that the last half mile would be a total sprint (it was). I got kicked in the face at the turn buoy due to one of my group mates trying to sight from a breast stroke and my left goggle filled with lovely salt water. I swam on, one-eyed. I ended up working with 5 other swimmers and we exited the water together around 54:0x. Climbing up the ladder to exit was 0% fun as my left calf said, “Hey, it’s time to cramp!” It shook out quickly and I was off to the wetsuit strippers to take off my Xterra Vortex 4. After a nice, warm, freshwater shower it was off the races and T1.
Xterra Vortex 4 wetsuit, Aqua Sphere Kaiman clear/chrome goggles, Garmin 310xt
T1 – 5:52 – 19th overall
After the swim I saw Alex, Mom and Dad, Dad yelled out “top 20!” and I was instantly energized to keep on pushing. Frozen toes, arms and fingers were the typical vibe in T1. I absolutely flew through due to the lack of a change of clothes (good decision) and my general attitude of: “this is a race”. This was my first race in my Castelli Body Paint Tri Suit and I couldn’t be more pleased with how well it fit, dried after the swim and just, plain “worked”. I threw socks, arm warmers and some DZNuts “InHeat” embrocation balm on in T1.
Bike – 5:24:35 – 33rd overall
I’ve never been so cold on a bike in my entire life. Coming out of 71* water and into 40* air temperature was a huge shock to my body. The first twenty miles I was borderline hypothermic (I’m guessing at this) and was shivering so badly I had a hard time handling my bike (which is actually one of my strongest skills) and actually had thoughts of needing to ditch. The air temperature was compounded with a gnarly headwind for the first most of the ride, making things worse. I had planned to negative split the entire bike due to the wind and my feeble knowledge of the course. I rode well within myself the whole way and had very few problems the whole way. I didn’t hit any of the aid stations except for the special needs station at mile 55. The volunteers were incredible and even refilled my water bottle for me as I was standing over my bike replacing other bottles and flasks. This was a truly fast “pit stop”. I rolled out of the special needs area and passed a couple guys ahead of me. I had given up a couple spots early on in the race to some speedsters, but had also passed four other guys before special needs. I figured I was around 18th at this point and felt really comfortable. I got freight-trained by a pack of three guys around mile 70 and just felt dejected, I dug deep and kept them within sight the rest of the way, though. I was looking forward to my Blue Red Bull that I had in my rear bottle cage that was planned for mile 90. I had been toying with Red Bull during training and, I must say, it does “give you wings”. I took the drink down and my heartbeat slowly rose from the 150s to the 160s and my legs felt alive for the last 22 miles. I rode the last 22 in just under 1 hr. Unfortunately, I got another nosebleed (other nostril) and had to wipe it all over my awesome pink arm warmers. I passed more guys up the road and started downing all of my nutrition for the run in hopes of catching a few more. We caught up to the back of the half iron race that was happening and I turned into a cheerleader for each person I passed. For me, triathlon has been a life-changing activity and I want other people to feel the positive emotions and uplifting spirit that I feel when I race. I don’t care if I’m winning by a mile or losing by a mile, it’s something that I feel I have to do to continue growing the sport in my own, small way.
Cervelo “Cera” P3C 58cm w/sram Rival/red groupset, 53/39 172.5 crankset, Vision Carbon Cockpit, Mavic Cosmic Carbone Ultimate wheels w/11-23 Sram Red Cassette, Bell Javelin Helmet, Bontrager Hilo RXL Shoes (size 47), Castelli “toe thingys” toe covers, Castelli Body Paint Tri Suit, Castelli 9 socks, Garmin 310xt
2 bottles – 4 scoops orange Gatorade + 4 Saltstick Capsules
1 bottle – H20
1 bottle – 1 can of Blue Red Bull
2 bars – Pro Bar Fuel
What a great bike mount! (not)
T2 – 4:37 – 52nd overall
I figured I was in a pretty good spot after the volunteer took Cera from me and my legs still felt pretty good. I ran through the convention center, grabbed my bag and got to work getting my arm warmers (now covered in blood) off, and putting on: my Skora Phase shoes, Chicago Bulls headband and grabbing my gel flask and electrolyte stick. I even took about 1:30 to run through the bathroom to clean off my face from some dried blood. Out of the convention center I went!
Run – 5:03:23 – 280th overall
For as strong as the Swim/Bike went, this could not have gone worse. The time is actually deceiving because it was really the tale of two polar opposite half marathons. I ran out of the convention center, saw Alex, Mom and Dad, and Dad yelled out “15th!”. This made me believe I was Kenyan and I took off, charging toward my competitors and trying to crack the top 10. Quickly, I passed the next three guys up the road and was running 7:40/mile pace. I knew this was about :30/mile faster than I wanted to run so I backed down a little bit. Knowing I was in 12th meant it was hard to hold back and I probably blew myself up in the process. After 4 miles, the lead female (pro) passed me and I hung with her all the way to mile 9. I absolutely messed up nutrition in 4 miles. At some point, my salt stick dispenser came out of my pocket, rendering me without some needed electrolytes and I didn’t take any electrolyte drink down through the first 4 aid stations (HEED, YUCK!). At mile 9, around 1:15 into the race I started cracking. My hips, legs and stomach started feeling empty and dead. Instantly, I knew it was a nutrition error from the first part of the race and an inexperience issue that came from getting caught up in “racing” over being smart. This burned me badly. I maintained a run/walk to the halfway mark (1:50-ish) and held 12th to that point. Then I had to walk. I walked most of the second half of the marathon in what can only be described as a “death march”. Even though things blew up and I completely imploded 8:30 into the race, it was the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had. I was on pace to be near my 10:00 super goal and was well within a high goal pace for 10:30. Walking through the second half gave me plenty of time to think and to reminisce about the first five years of my career as a triathlete. I’ve come such a long way from the guy that swam a 45:00 1500m olympic distance, the 1:15 10k and the death that I felt like on that day in May of 2009. I can’t wait to race this distance again and use the knowledge that I’ve gained to really compete.
Skora Phase Black Running shoes (size 12.5), Castelli Body Paint Tri Suit, Castelli 9 socks, Smith Pivlock V2 Glasses w/chrome lens, Chicago Bulls Headband
1 can – Blue Red Bull
HEED, Cola, Water and random snacks at aid stations
Death running, personified
Total – 11:34:02 – 98th overall (of 820)
Trudging to the end, covered in salt, sweat and feeling like death.
All photos from Alexandra Alcorn, for more pictures, check out: Alex’s Blog
Reflection, what’s next and gratitude.
I have so much to be thankful for after this odyssey. I am forever indebted to Alex for putting up with a, sometimes, crazy schedule of training and the mood swings that come with IM training. I’m thankful to have incredible parents that have supported me from the first race of my career and continue to do so. Having Alex and my parents out there cheering was all the motivation I needed to keep on moving and to try and give them a good show as a reward for their own sacrifices. I’m thankful for Setup Events putting on a great race and, some day, I will come back. As I said above, I can’t wait to race another iron-distance event. I’m currently looking to 2015, a spring race and having the hopes to use my last year in the 25-29 AG to qualify for Kona. It’s a huge goal, but I’m essentially taking two years of focused work to get there. Next season will be a little lighter (for triathlons) than the past couple. There will be a couple of half irons, a couple olympic distance races and maybe a random sprint. The goal for 2014 is to qualify for 70.3WC and race in olympic distance national championships in Milwaukee. I’m also going to get into some bike racing and keep building my bike engine to help my run. I’m going to run a spring marathon and (hopefully) take advantage of some residual fitness and BQ for 2015. Yes, that puts my 2015 schedule (in an ideal world) like this: Boston Marathon, June/July IM, July/August 70.3, 70.3WC and IMKona. Ambitious? Yes. Out of reach? Maybe. Good goals to have? Certainly. In the immediate future, I’m going to have some unstructured “training” for a few months alongside a focus on a strength program to do some body maintenance and preventative strengthening (I’m talking to you, ankles and hips!). I’ll start ramping up for my spring marathon in mid-January (yay, treadmill). Lastly, thank you for reading this blog and for keeping up to date with my trials and tribulations. I’m going to be a bit more diligent over the winter (because I’ll have time) to keep everyone in the loop on my progress.
Until then, stay active!