When I started triathlon 3 years ago, an iron distance race, 140.6 miles consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and then a full marathon of 26.2 miles seemed like a pipe dream. I didn’t know how to swim. The furthest I’d ever biked was 35 miles and my road bike was way too big for me. The longest I’d ever run was 7 miles. An iron distance race wasn’t just scary, it was intimidating. If you’d told me that 3 years later I’d be doing one I would have laughed in your face. My how times change.
October 2012 I did my first triathlon, the Rex Wellness Knightdale super sprint. September 2013 I did my first Olympic triathlon, the Outer Banks Triathlon. October 2014 I did my first half iron triathlon, Beach2Battleship. I must have liked B2B so much that I signed up for it again for 2015, this time for the full.
On the advice of my physical therapist, a triathlete herself, I signed up with a coach, Marty Gaal of One Step Beyond. This turned out to be a great idea. While I could have found a canned training plan and tried to fit it to my life, more likely I would have screwed something up or possibly skipped workouts at times. But with a coach, I could confer with him and work things around my schedule. Also, unlike in previous training cycles where I’ve had a few days where I skipped workouts, knowing that a coach was waiting to see that I’d done my workouts turned out to be a surprisingly good motivator.
So, after training all summer, I headed down to Wilmington the Thursday before the race. I made it there in time to pick up my packet before the expo closed that day and then headed over to my hotel, checked in then joined a group from one of my tri clubs, the Inside Out Sports Tri Club, for dinner that evening.
Friday morning I headed down to Wrightsville Beach to do an easy practice swim with the tri club. The race swim starts at the southern tip of Wrightsville Beach and continues up Banks Channel before turning left near a water tower and heading to some docks. It’s done with the tide so the portion before the turn you can mostly just let the current push you along but once you turn the current doesn’t work for you as much. For the Friday morning swim we essentially simply swam from the swim turn to the swim exit pausing every now and then to check where the current was. This gave us a good idea of what line to take for the race.
The rest of Friday was spent getting my various bags together to turn in for transition 2, post race clothes, and bike and run special needs. I went to the athletes dinner Friday evening and then arranged to meet my friends for the 5:15 AM bus to transition 1. I set my alarm for 3:45 AM and attempted to get some sleep.
Saturday morning came bright and early. I woke up before my alarm went off and got ready then headed down to the bus to meet my friends. At transition one I set up my bike transition bag then headed over to drop shoes off at the swim exit. I had not brought shoes last year when I did this race and really wanted them when running across the road. After doing all that I got on the shuttle to the swim start. At the swim start I walked around a bit trying to see who was around and to keep warm. I ran into several friends and spent a while hunkered down between two cars trying to avoid the wind. A little after 7 AM my wife and son showed up on bikes and we headed down to the beach to the actual swim start.
As expected the swim was congested but I managed to stay out of the worst of the scrum and avoid getting hit or kicked. Several times, though, I did have to pause and let swimmers by when two swimmers converged on me. About halfway through the swim the chop became more noticeable. It wasn’t too bad but it was enough to bounce you around a little bit. But I was able to make the turn and then cut the corners heading towards the swim exit. I finished the swim in about the time I expected to and headed up the ramp to the wetsuit strippers. After getting my wetsuit stripped off I grabbed my shoes and headed towards the warm showers passing over the timing mat. Total swim time was one hour five minutes exactly.
I then ran across the street, waved to my wife and son, picked up my transition bag and headed into the changing tent. In the changing tent I quickly stripped down and dried off and started putting on dry clothes. I put on tri shorts, my optical heart rate monitor, arm warmers, bike jersey, shoes and gloves. I also applied sunscreen to the places I thought would be uncovered. I tried to go quickly but slow enough to make sure I did everything correctly. It ended up taking longer than I wanted, however, and I finished transition 1 in just under 15 minutes. I then dropped off my T1 bag, grabbed my bike and headed out on the bike course.
The bike started out good. I was aiming for 65 to 70% of my FTP so I kept watch on my power meter values. The first 20 miles while we were on the freeway went quickly and then we turned on to 421 N. and the headwinds hit. The headwinds were strong enough that all I wanted to do was crouch as low as possible to try and slip through the wind as easily as I could. From mile marker 20 to mile marker 51 though it was a struggle. Finally however we turned off 421 and headed west. At this point the wind became less of a factor although with anything north or east we still had to deal with wind. I stopped briefly at most aid stations refilling my water in the front container on my bike. I made a mistake at one aid station however and accidentally put Heed into my hydration container instead of water. I ended up having to pull my hydration container off, dump it out completely and refill it with water and that cost me a short amount of time but it was worth it. Every 20 minutes I would take two sips of Infinit from the bottles behind my seat and two sips of water from the hydration bottle in front of my handlebars. At bike special needs I swapped out the two bottles of Infinit behind my seat with two new bottles and fill them up with water. It would have been quicker to have the bottles already filled with liquid rather than powder but I was worried that they would spill and leak so I waited to fill them in till I got to the bike special needs aid station. Somewhere just after mile marker 70 I had an ambulance with lights flashing speed past me. A few minutes later I went past the ambulance that had now stopped and noticed them loading a cyclist onto a backboard. I found out later he had a concussion and facial fractures but it look like he would be OK. I heard later that he ended up in the ditch by trying to avoid a water bottle on the road but he doesn’t remember and no one knows for sure. I had two incidents during my ride where I almost ended up hitting traffic cones and could have easily crashed but thankfully I was able to avoid them. Around mile marker 100 we turned back onto 421, this time heading south, and picked up a very nice tailwind. With the tailwind I was able to average well over 20 mph at only 60% of FTP 10 of the last 12 miles. This was a welcome respite heading into transition 2. Finally, though, I reached the convention center and gave my bike to a volunteer. Total time on the bike was six hours 17 minutes and 11 seconds.
At transition 2 I changed out of my bike jersey and arm warmers and into a tri top. I was very glad I had the arm warmers on the bike but didn’t want to wear it for the entire run. I also switched my heart rate monitor since the optical heart rate monitor I use is only good for eight hours. I quickly applied sunscreen, used the bathroom and headed out towards the run. Transition time was again too long at 12 minutes 6 seconds.
My goal for the run was to stay in zone 2 for as long as I could. I probably should have started out a bit slower, however. The 1st mile I ended up being under 10 minutes which was way too fast for me for this race. My next 2 miles were closer to 11 minutes/mile and then I dropped down closer than 12 minutes/mile which would have been a more sustainable pace. Every 20 minutes I filled up one of my bottles with more Infinit and refilled my water bottle and continued on. I was trying to run the entire first lap of the race, 13 miles, but somewhere along mile nine my muscles got sore enough that I had to walk some. For the next 5 miles I averaged between 13 and 14 minutes/mile with a mix of running and walking. I stopped briefly at the run special needs aid station to swap out nutrition. In hindsight I should have also put a jacket or some extra arm warmers in my run special needs bag because I got cold when the sun set. But, I didn’t so I just continued on. At this point I was walking more than I was running and my split times showed it. For 4 miles I averaged closer to 15 minutes/mile at which point walking started to hurt just as much as running did so I switched back to running all the time except when going through aid stations. Finally, with 3 miles to go my Garmin popped up a low battery notice. At that point I decided I needed to get to the finish line quickly before my GPS died so I picked up the pace. My last 3 miles were all closer to 12 minutes/mile. I finally crossed the finish line with a run time of five hours 44 minutes and 35 seconds. My total race time was 13 hours 33 minutes and 29 seconds.
In general I have to say I was pleased with my swim, pleased with my bike, and somewhat disappointed with my transitions and run. On transitions I need to work on being faster and perhaps not switching out as much things. For running I think I need to concentrate on getting down to my ideal race weight as well as more practice running off the bike or in a tired state. Overall though I had a good race and I was very glad I did it, especially now that Ironman has bought B2B and changed the name to Ironman North Carolina. I’m looking forward to doing Ironman Chattanooga next year and now I have things to work on for it. For Chattanooga I also think I will need more hill training and getting down to an ideal race weight will also help with that. All in all, though, it was a good race.