Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Raleigh

It was fun. It was exciting. It was hot, VERY HOT! My finish time was almost 45 minutes slower than I wanted, but the entire experience was a real blast.

Last August, after completing my first Olympic distance triathlon, the “Tugaloo Olympic Triathlon,” I found myself in an impulsive mood one Saturday and said “why not” and I signed up for Ironman 70.3 Raleigh, otherwise known as the “Raleigh Half Ironman.” That season I met my time goals in the sprint (1:30:00) and the Olympic (3:00:00) distance triathlons, and figured – why not, it’s eight months away and there’s plenty of time to train (in another impulsive mood a few weeks later I signed up for the October 2018 full Ironman in Louisville, Kentucky, but that is another story).

Previously, I had based my training solely on the expert advice found in books, magazines, and the Internet at large. That resulted in some significant overtraining which led to injuries in the Spring of 2017  – an experience that helped me decide that I needed to mix up my training and go multisport. To go for the Ironman distances I knew that I needed a coach, so after signing up for the Louisville full course, I perused the available coaches on ironman.com and at the top of the list was Wendy Mader. She lives nearby, outside Atlanta. She’s got an impressive background, having been the 2008 top female amateur finisher in Kona, completing the full course under 10 hours. I spent quite a bit of time listening to her podcasts and reading her Web site before I reached out to her. A few days later I had a coach! And I'm proud to say I have a very darn good one!

You can’t understate the benefits of investing in professional triathlon coaching. For one thing, it takes the pressure off of laying out your training program. Second, daily feedback from a coach will help you avoid overtraining and injury. For some reason, human nature makes it difficult to take a day off, or to dial down the intensity, unless an “expert” tells you “it’s ok.” Since working with Wendy, I’ve not (knock on wood) felt that I’ve been injured or suffered from overtraining. Third, having a coach gives you someone to be accountable to. When the tough gets going in a long swim session, hard bike ride, or at the end of a tough run – I try to focus on the fact that getting the most out of training is about how you perform during the last third of an activity. There’s a purpose to every training session, and longer efforts typically are about your coach pushing your thresholds to higher limits. When the RPE drifts up to 8, 9, and 10 – that’s the moment where one really has to focus on form, economy, and “gritting it out.” You get stronger by continuing when RPE is at max, not when it is at 6 or 7. Since I started working with Wendy last October, it’s been a real pleasure and honor – and I feel that I’m in the best shape of my life. I can swim, bike, and run faster, longer, and with greater economy and focus.

My training program is designed to comfortably get me across the finish line of the full course in Louisville, Kentucky on October 14, 2018 – just four and a half months from now. The half course in Raleigh was designed as a checkup, to see how I would perform when once again “stretching the distance,” essentially doubling the distance of an Olympic triathlon. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how I finished. My swim was stronger than I expected, finishing in the top half of my age group. I am thrilled with the bike, finishing just over three hours with very little of the neck, back, and rear end pain that I was expecting and worried about. And the run was solid, but nothing special – finishing just over 2:30:00 for the half marathon. My watch had the air temperature exceeding 92 for most of the run – so I’ll take that time at that distance given the conditions.

Pre-race Setup

I decided to make the event a three day holiday, so I packed my truck with my bike, gear, and other essentials and I departed for Raleigh at 7am on Friday, June 1st. It was an uneventful drive, about 7 hours. Though it was much more expensive, I stayed at the event hotel right at the finish line. I’ve got too many bad memories of walking to a cheaper hotel off the beaten path for a long distance after the New York Marathon. After getting all my gear into my room, I went to the conference center to pick up my registration packet.

Ironman events are produced by the same company that puts on the Rock ‘n’ Roll running events, so if you’ve ever been to one of those, the signup process is similar. First I had to pick up my bib number (1378) and then I had to sign all the liability and medical waivers to hold the corporation harmless if something goes wrong. Then you’re off to a table to pick up your bib, your swim cap, your bike labels, and other essentials – including a durable wristband which identifies you as an athlete and gets you into all the places you need to go. The event provided a top of the line dri-fit t-shirt, and after picking up that and my timing chip, I was done.

I was lucky that a race briefing was happening in a few minutes, so I stayed around to listen. One thing I was confused about is these three bags: one for pre-race clothes, one for the bike, and one for the run. Through the briefing, I learned that each bag is for my clothes and gear for those parts of the event. I would pack my bike gear (shoes, socks, helmet, nutrition) in the bike bag and it would sit under my bike in T1. During T1 my bike gear comes out of the bag, and my used swim gear goes into the bag. The run bag works the same way. The pre-race clothes bag is for the shorts and other items that I wear before the race begins.

After the race briefing, I bought the customary t-shirts you purchase at these events, and I also bought a very nice blue “finisher” polo shirt for wearing after the event. Then the most critical part of the day: a nap. During the evening I enjoyed a good meal with some friends who live in the area. But it wasn’t too late of a night: I was in bed by 8:30pm.

I was fortunate to get about eight and a half-hours of sleep, but when you go to bed at 8:00 that means you’re up by 4:30am or so. That was the case, so I used the time to eat breakfast in my room (consisting of coffee, bagel, banana, and Clif bar – which I brought with me from home). I packed my event bags, and double checked the contents of each. I also put my racing numbers on my bike and helmet. One of my worries was either forgetting or losing the batteries that go with my bike’s groupset. Earlier this year, I switched to an all-electronic setup for shifters and derailleurs. My bike, a Trek Domane SL 6 modified for triathlons, didn’t have shifter buttons on my clip-on aero bars and switching to the SRAM eTap groupset allowed me to add gear shifting capabilities to my aero bars while also keeping them on the shifters. The system works like a charm, but you don’t want ever to forget or lose those batteries. I must have checked for them two or three times a day to make sure I had them for setting my bike up in T1.

The Raleigh swim course isn’t near the finish line, in fact, it’s about 50 miles away at Jordan Lake (to the west of Raleigh). This is what is called a “point to point” course. The day of the race, you get up very early, and the event organizer buses you out to the lake for the swim, and afterward, you ride your bike to town where T2 resides near the finish line. There’s not much parking out at Jordan Lake, so you have to signup for a time to drop off your bike the day before the race. Your bike and bike gear bag stay at T1 overnight. My dropoff time was 11am – 1:30pm on Saturday. It was still early at this point, around 6am and the sun was just up. So, I did my pre-race run and bike ride downtown before heading out to the lake. I first got my run gear on and headed out for a 1m run to shake out my legs. Then, I got all my bike gear on and grabbed my bike and headed out for a 20-minute spin. Raleigh is a beautiful area, and circling the downtown area several times on my bike allowed me to make sure everything is working as planned. Not everything was working – my bike's power meters wouldn’t come on. I use pedal-based power meters from Powertap. They communicate with my watch, and they help me understand the precise amount of effort I am expending at any given time – which is critical if I am going to maintain about 85% of my threshold capability during the bike portion of the course. I had changed the batteries in the pedals before leaving my house, and apparently, I put one of the cells in incorrectly. It takes a special sized hex wrench to remove the battery caps, so I had to ride back to the hotel and take the bike back up to my room to fix the problem. Again, this is not something that you want to be doing during the race. Pre-race equipment check-outs are essential.

After resetting the batteries, my power meters turned on, and I headed back out and took my 20-minute bike ride. Everything was working like a charm at this point. So, back to the hotel where I once again checked the contents of each of my event bags. I also made the strategic decision to store my groupset batteries in my bike nutrition bag – which I certainly wouldn’t forget to take with me to T1 on race day. I didn’t want to leave the batteries in my derailleurs overnight for fear that someone would walk off with them. I stored the bike nutrition bag in my pre-race clothes bag which would stay at the hotel and go with me on the bus to T1 the morning of the race.

After showering, I loaded up my bike and bike gear bag and headed to Jordan Lake. I stilled needed to complete a pre-race swim to gauge the lake's water temperature. I stopped off at one of the larger beaches (the lake is enormous) and got my swim gear on and headed out for a 400m swim. The water was warm, exceeding 80 degrees. There would be no wetsuits or core shorts for the swim portion of the event.

After cleaning up and changing clothes, I drove a short distance to T1 and dropped off my bike.

My spot was at the end of a bike rack, which gave me just a little bit more room to set up my bike gear for the transition. The race briefers recommended that we drop off our bike gear bag with our bike, so I took their advice and did so. Though there was not a lick of rain in the forecast, I brought trash bags to cover my bike seat and handlebars. I also put a towel under my front tire so that it wouldn’t sit on the hot pavement all day (you never know what that might do to a tire). I also took special care to make sure that my bike gear bag was turned over so that if it did rain, there was less chance water would get in the bag. It’s good that I went to such lengths to protect my gear – as a series of isolated thunderstorms dropped close to an inch of water over T1 later that evening.

After setting up T1, I texted my coach who was on her way to compete in the event herself. She was twenty minutes away, so I waited for her and did get to meet her face to face. We forgot to take a selfie (next event), but it was great to meet her and her husband face to face.

Back to town for me, though I stopped off and had a pre-race dinner at Panda Express. It was a perfect high carb, high protein meal. After getting back to the hotel around 4pm, I figured my day was over and I could get off of my legs and get some rest. After swimming earlier, I noticed that the battery on my Garmin tri watch (a Fenix 5X) was under 70%, so I put it on the charger and took a nap. About 90 minutes later I woke up and grabbed my watch – and was surprised to see that it wasn’t charging. In fact, the battery lost another 2% or so while I slept. Figuring I didn’t connect the charging cable firmly enough, I hooked it up again. The watch indicated that it was charging, but over the next hour, my watch battery continued to drain precipitously. Great, a busted watch charging cable.

Now I began to worry – I wasn’t sure if 50% battery life was enough to get me through the event. And though we always talk about how “focusing on the watch” takes the fun out of exercise and racing, I worried that if I didn’t have my watch during the event that it would prove to be one of those unexpected mental annoyances that would make the race more frustrating. At a minimum, it would make it more difficult to focus on my race plan. So what to do? I pulled up Google maps and found an REI store quite close to downtown. So, at 7pm and instead of resting, I got into my truck and drove over to REI on the hope they might have charging cables for sale. Of course, a watch specific charging cable is such an exotic piece of gear, no store carries them in stock. So, I plunked down my credit card for a brand new Fenix 5X and used its charging cable overnight. Then later, I would pack it back up and take advantage of REI’s generous return policy and return it to the local REI store in Atlanta. Lesson learned – before any big event you need to test your equipment and make sure it really works - all your gear, even the tiny things you take for granted. For stuff like watch charging cables (or groupset batteries) that are difficult to replace, you need to thoroughly test them a week before the event and consider carrying spares.

Crisis averted, so at this point I once again checked my two remaining gear bags, double-checked to make sure I had my groupset batteries in my bike nutrition bag, and then I turned in for the night.

Race Day

I’ve learned that you catch up on your sleep two nights before the event because the night before tends to be, for me, much more restless. True to form, I was up an hour earlier than necessary (about 3am) and I ate my pre-race breakfast (again coffee, banana, bagel, and a Clif bar – about 100g of carbs). I also showered up, double-checked my gear bags and groupset batteries, and then headed over to T2 to drop off my run bag. Because isolated thunderstorms continued to be in the forecast, I didn’t lay out my shoes, race number, and hat on the pavement – I just put the run equipment bag in the spot under my number on the bike rack. I again turned the bag over to help make sure that if it did rain my gear would remain dry. I then hopped on the bus and rode out to T1.

I purposefully planned to leave early enough to be on one of the first buses headed out to the lake. Upon arriving, the first thing I needed to do was to top off the air in my tires, and I didn’t want to be stuck in the very long bike pump lines later with hundreds of others. Everything at T1 was soaked from the overnight rains, but remarkably my bike and gear stayed dry because of my advance planning. After airing up my tires, I loaded my nutrition on my bike and pulled out the groupset batteries and installed and tested them – everything was perfect! My nutrition plan called for an odd mix of things. At the start of the bike, I would take a Roctane gel (about 40g carbs) to get going after the swim. My two water bottles have a 50/50 mix of Gatorade and water. Then, I try to eat something about every 40 minutes. The first time I will eat an entire Clif bar (60g carbs) and drink from my water bottles. Then, after the next 40 minutes, I take a Roctane gel and drink. Then back and forth alternating Cliff bars and Roctane gels. All I know is that this works for me, I get about 100g carbs an hour which is just about right.

After double and triple checking my T1 setup, I began to wait for the race to begin. I was lucky that my age group was one of the first to start (at 7:24am, the 50 – 54 aged males), so I only had to wait about an hour. I found some friends sitting near the start of the swim, and I sat next to them and had a good conversation for the next 30 minutes or so. At this point, I ate another Clif bar. Then, 30 minutes before my start time I went ahead and got into the lake and swam 100m out and back to warm up. Then, I sat in the water to get acclimated to its temperature while waiting for time to line up with my age group. At this point, about 15 minutes before I began the swim, I took another Roctane Gel. That gave me a total of approximately 175g carbs that morning before racing. I felt that my tank was full.

After the singing the national anthem and watching the pro men and women start the race, it was time to line up with my age group. The air was a little chilly coming out of the water, but the water temperature, even at this time of the morning, exceeded 80 degrees – so the swim was very comfortable.

In studying the swim course the previous day, I observed that there were two turns and that there were six buoys from start to the first turn, then another 7 buoys to the second turn, and another five buoys to the finish line. Each, I guess, was about 150m apart. That’s how I’ve learned to break up the long swim. While many people find long, open-water swims to be both intimidating and sometimes scary, I just break them into smaller segments. During the swim, I just focus on getting to the next buoy. There were about 100 or so men in my age group in the water to start. I purposefully stayed to the right of the pack as my strategy was to try, if possible, to swim inside the buoys and avoid the main packs. I’ve not yet mastered the art of swimming in packs – I find it difficult to keep close to other swimmers, so I feel like I am continually pulling back to get out of their way so they can swim past me.

The Swim

At the sound of the horn, we were off. My focus was on form and economy: slow cadence, full reach with my arms, core tight, and hard pull past my hips. As an added twist, I also wanted to minimize my kick to avoid unnecessary drag. What seemed like a quick six buoys later I was at the first turn. Other athletes were bunched up around the turn buoy, and since I was swimming to the inside, I had to swim over and tread water a bit before I could navigate the turn. At this point, while fully confident that the swim was going well – I noticed the different colors of the swim caps around me (each age group wears a different color). Only about half of the colors were the same as mine, which means that lots of other swimmers were catching up to me given that my group started earlier. That bothered me a little bit. Though my swim times have improved under Wendy’s coaching, I’m still a slow swimmer. Since I can’t see without my glasses, and I don’t have prescription swim goggles, looking at my watch was no help with understanding my pace and time. So I tried to stop worrying about it, though every time I looked up, I tended to see others passing me with different colored swim caps.

Seven buoys later and we’re turning again onto the final leg of the swim course. The second leg was really long and seemed like I was slowing down (though the data doesn’t bear that out), and a general weariness came over me. I was getting tired. At this point, once again, I started to get an acute headache type pain above my right eye – just like my last Olympic distance triathlon a few weeks earlier. That pain made the last 500m of that swim unbearable, so now I’m thinking that at some point I will have to tread water and adjust my goggles. Two buoys later, three to go, I stopped and floated on my back for a few seconds so that I could pull my goggles and adjust them. That helped. I turned over and started swimming again, and before I knew it the swim finish was in sight and then I was coming out of the water. My time was 46:37, for 2309m (by GPS). Though the course was 2100m by the book, my GPS watch had me swimming an extra 209m. Again, by previous performances that wasn’t bad – maybe, my strategy of swimming inside the buoys helped me to avoid racking up a lot of excess distance.

Transition 1

Nothing significant to report here, other than I did take the opportunity to make a bathroom break knowing how long the bike ride would be. I did not want to have to dismount my bike until I was at T2. My T1 time was 4:20, but there was a lot of ground to cover from the end of the swim course to my bike, and from my bike rack to the start of the bike course. The only thing different I did during this transition, was to go ahead and take the time to put on socks – at the recommendation of my coach. This helped me avoid blisters, which would make it difficult and miserable to finish both the bike and run (as I learned from watching others in that prior Olympic distance triathlon). I’ve not yet learned to mount my bike with my shoes already clipped into the pedals, so with my shoes in my left hand and my bike in my right I ran the 100m or so from my bike rack to the bike mount area. Once there, I had volunteers spray me with sunscreen. I’m glad I did – for most of the bike (and run), there was zero cloud cover.

The Bike

Unbelievable! Within two minutes of starting to pedal, I have this nagging and not insignificant pain in my lower, right part of my back. The first part of the bike was at a slight incline as we navigated and left the state park. My first five-mile split was 19:14, not much better than 15mph, but to start there was about 165 feet of climb. Things sped up quite a bit during the next five-mile split, which took just 14:54. Given the downhills, I started spending some time in the aero position to minimize drag. Eventually, the course gave way to some straightaways, and I began staying in aero as much as possible and cranking up the power. Times for the next few five mile splits were 17:28, 16:37, and 16:42, and 15:13. Somewhere along the way, I would say between miles 5 and 10, I started to focus on keeping my core firm and tight, and that seemed to alleviate the back pain. By the time I was approaching the half-way portion of the course, the back pain had subsided.

Another area of focus during the bike was to keep my weight balanced across my arms, legs, and rear end. During a previous 60 mile ride a few weeks earlier, saddle pain made the ride miserable during the last 20 miles or so. I did not want to relive that experience this time, so I was always cognizant of the need to protect my rear end and not wear it out with rough riding or unbalanced weight load. I also focused on the follow-through with my cycling stroke, so that I wasn’t driving the pedals down so much as keeping a constant circular motion where effort is even throughout. By the end of the ride, and really becoming apparent starting at mile 45 or so, there was some discomfort in the saddle – but nothing atypical for long-duration bike rides.

Regarding nutrition, my plan seemed to work. Every 40 minutes or so I would ingest some form of carbs, alternating between Cliff Bars and Roctane Gels. My on-bike 50/50 Gatorade and water mix was good too, though I found myself wanting more water which I grabbed when going through the support and gear (SAG) stops which occurred about every 15 miles. Something to think about in the future: either water down my Gatorade / water mix to say 30/70 or keep one bottle filled with water and the other with a Gatorade / water mix at 50/50.

Overall, I found the SAG stops well organized with ample volunteers who knew how to operate these stops. During the entire ride, I never had to stop during these points, I just slowed down enough to grab a bottle of water and ingest it and then throw it down before the end of the stop. If there was any complaint I had, it was that the SAG stop area was not long enough to drink an entire bottle of water and then discard it (you can only dump trash at these stops).

By mile 40 or so, well into my second hour of the ride, my mood brightened quite a bit. I’m not sure why, there wasn’t anything particular that I was thinking about, other than I was starting to have a good time. It was hot, sunny, humid, and there was little shade. But, I was having a good time, an enjoyable time. Along the way, I had the chance to chat with lots of other riders and interact with the hundreds of families and children who were cheering us along the way.

While I am pleased with my overall bike time of 3:13:23, it was slower than I had hoped (17.23 MPH avg). But it was a hilly course, with a total of 2784 climb throughout. Until the end, I was being passed much more frequently than I was passing others. Like my last triathlon, everyone passing me was riding a specialized triathlon bike and were considerably leaner. Those that I passed, regardless of their equipment, tended to be much heavier than myself. During the past few weeks, I had been thinking about buying my own specialized triathlon bike; and during the ride, I made the decision that it would be ok to pull the trigger and make this purchase when I got back home.

Starting at about mile 50, the riders began bunching up into small groups. There were lots of smiles around; everyone was happy and ecstatic that the bike portion of the course was quickly coming to an end. This is the point where I did not let up with my effort, and I began passing lots of people. Not sure if they were just tired, or if they were slowing down to ready themselves for the run. I need to think about that some, but my focus the last mile of the bike has always been less power but much faster cadence – so to prepare my legs to match my running form. The bike dismount area was about 150m from T2, so when dismounting, I took off my shoes and hung them on my aero bars and ran sock-footed to position 1378 in the bike racks. Again, my spot was right in the middle of the transition area.

Transition 2

Nothing special about T2, 4:48 was my time. The distance to and from my rack spot was about 150m from the bike dismount area and 50m to the start of the run. Plus, I had to unpack my run gear since I left it bagged to protect it from scattered thunderstorms. One observation from T2 was that lots of individuals were changing clothes – both their bottoms (with towels wrapped around them) and tops – to start the run with dry clothes. For this distance event, wearing the same tri top and bottom wasn’t a problem for me. But, when it comes to doing the full Ironman in Louisville in a few months, I expect I will change clothes at both T1 and T2. A few more minutes in the middle of a 13 – 14-hour event won’t matter much.

The Run

Coming out of T2 I felt great. I’ve gotten to the point where running on clammy feeling legs doesn’t bother me. I quickly dialed in on my planned wattage, 280, which is right about what I needed to average 9min/mi and finish the run under two hours (using a running footpod from Stryd for power data). My strategy was simple, break the run into 13 smaller pieces and take a shorter walk break after each mile. A half mile into the run there was a water stop, so I grabbed some Gatorade and walked through the stop. Then, I proceeded to run the next mile before taking the next water break. I took a Roctane Gel at this point and continued to take a gel about every 2 to 2.5 miles for the rest of the course.

At this point, I was able to stick to my plan, but I was starting to realize how hot it was. The forecast was for the mid-80s, but this part of the course was over a steel and concrete highway with no shade or cloud cover. My body was starting to heat up quickly. Right around mile 2, there was another water break, so I walked through that stop, and I made sure to pour several cups of water over my head to try and keep cool. The run course was two passes of a six-mile loop, so it was about three miles from the first water break to the turn around at the end of the circuit. Coming out of downtown at the start it was downhill, so returning to the finish line after my two loops would be uphill. The rest of the course featured a couple of bigger hills, which were along the entry and exit ramps off of this freeway that was blocked for the runners. After that, we had about 1.5 miles of running trails with generous shade and gently rolling hills. After 3.5 miles, I took another walking break, and at this point, it started to get difficult to stay at my planned wattage. Between miles 6 and 7, my wattage dropped by 5% and at mile 7, right when I started my second loop of the course, I began to see a precipitous dropoff in both pace and wattage. It was just too hot to stick to my race plan.

Short walk breaks were becoming more frequent at this point, every half to a three-quarters mile, with longer walk breaks happening around the water stations. By mile 10, where I was basically at the turnaround of the course circuit, my body was done. The heat was really getting to me. The best way to describe how I felt at this point, was to say it felt like the last three or four miles of a full marathon. All muscles are tight, and the heat was making it difficult to keep going at any reasonable pace. For miles 10 – 12 I did quite a bit of walking as we headed back up those freeway ramps and up the hill into the downtown area. The last mile was an out and back near the Raleigh capital building, and at this point the excitement of the crowds and the feeling that the end was close at hand got me going again – so I was able to marshall 240 – 260 watts for the last half mile. Though the heat was terrible, and the cloud cover was nill, considerable crowds were cheering us along the way.

The Finish

At the finish line, I picked up my medal, surrendered my timing chip, and picked up my finisher hat. There was a food tent with pizza and other carbs, but I avoided that for a while. I picked up a bottle of water and just sat down at one of the tables with others and enjoyed listening to their conversation. After about 15 minutes I felt a bit better, so I went back and got my own plate of pizza along with some Gatorade to get some calories in me. My insistence on staying at the event hotel made it a short walk to pick up my bags and bike from T2 and get up to my room where I was able to shower up and put on some dry clothes. Of course, I immediately turned to the data to see how I finished and both my wife and kids were texting me as they had been following me using the tracker on the Ironman Web site.

I had wanted to finish this event under 6:00:00. But that’s an awfully arbitrary goal. There are just too many variables: climate, course topography, equipment, how you feel. In the end, I had to ask myself what was I proud of and if I did it again what would I do differently? Not much, honestly. I was successful in sticking to my plan through the swim and bike phases and was in a position to get close to that 6:00:00 finish. But a half marathon under 2 hours is tough for anyone at my age and size, and there was little chance I could pull that off in 90+ degree heat after swimming and biking 57 miles. Had it been cooler, maybe I would have gotten close to a 2:10:00 half marathon, but thinking about that just doesn’t matter. I wasn’t intimated by the distance, I had a blast, I learned that I can really trust the training that my coach provided me. She really got me ready for the event. And above all else, it was an honor to do something like this and be cheered on by hundreds if not thousands of spectators along the way. What a gift.

Completely Random Thoughts
  • What did I learn? My training program is working just fine; a strategy of breaking up extended events into mentally manageable pieces works; double- and triple-checking your gear works; pre-race swimming, riding, and running helps to make sure that you are ready for the event; that being careful in the saddle by balancing my weight across the three areas of my body helps keep fatigue down; and that at this distance, your time really doesn’t matter – just have fun, enjoy the experience, and trust that your coach has prepared you.  And finally, I learned that – hey, I can do this, my confidence comes from knowing that I invested the time and energy to prepare the right way.
  • What worked well? All of my gear setups; mentally breaking the events into smaller pieces; my training prepared me well; staying at a hotel right at the event finish; getting ample sleep two nights before the event.
  • What are you proud of? Finishing the event, having a good time, having a stronger bike ride than I anticipated; the ability to enjoy the event and crowds even though it was incredibly hot at the end.
  • What didn’t go well? Not much to speak of – need to add my watch charging cable to the list of items to double check before leaving for the event.
  • How did I respond to things outside my control? Either adapt, in the case of running to REI to buy an extra watch for the charging cable; Or not worry about it, in the case of raining over my bike and gear the night before the race.
  • What are my areas for growth? I would like to get faster on the bike and run; not sure yet how to really do that other than upgrading my bike (which I am planning to do as a treat for finishing this race). I need to get more comfortable when hitting the wall, and being able to continue without walking so much or dropping my pace below 220 watts; I would like to get more comfortable swimming / drafting in packs, but that is tough to train for by yourself in a pool.
  • What were my thoughts during the race? Swim – this is not so bad; hey we’re a third through this and that went really fast; I wish I could figure out how to stay in a pack without getting kicked, hit, without having to just get out of the way and let others pass me; hey, lots of folks passing me are in the younger age groups, how slow am I going today?; great, my right temple is starting to hurt; adjust your goggles, just float on your back and adjust them; there’s the finish line, my time’s not too bad. Ride – get some of that sunscreen from those folks; I can’t believe my back is hurting me this early in the race; focus on smooth circular cycling motions; here’s some downhills, get in the aero position; tighten up my core in aero, stay in aero – it’s helping with my back pain; hey, my back stopped hurting; ditch the trash, here’s the SAG stop; I need water, not Gatorade!; Offer to help that cyclist who had a flat and is changing a tire; here’s some straightaway, let’s get in aero and hit the gas; half-way there; man, we’re backing up traffic all over this town; I want a new bike, I’m buying it next week; interesting, either I’m finishing stronger than others or they are slowing down purposefully here at the end; there’s downtown, almost there. Run – whoo-hoo, here we go! It is hot. Drink Gatorade and dunk water on my head at every stop; It’s hot; finally some shade; ok, keeping 280 watts is getting tough; hey, my hat fell off at the water station, I’ve got to go back and find it; there’s my coach, she doesn’t seem to be that far ahead of me; there’s some other friends, they aren’t that far ahead of me either; ok, these on and off ramps on this highway are getting really old; ok we’re at 12 miles, it’s a short distance to go; whoo-hoo there’s the finish line. Got it, done.
  • What was effective, ineffective about my mental game? Strategy worked, though I would have liked to run faster at the end I accepted that it was not going to happen given the heat. In the middle of the bike, I came to the realization – with great joy – that my training really had prepared me for this event.
  • What was helpful, less helpful about pre-race planning? It all worked like a charm, triple and quadruple check everything. 
  • Did your hydration strategy work? Absolutely, at no point did I feel that I was out of energy. If anything, I probably need to carry one full bottle of water on the bike along with one bottle of 50/50 Gatorade, water mix.
  • What were the circumstances of the day? Hot, very hot. Water temp was > 80; Little if any cloud cover during the bike, and only about 1/3 of the run had shade. Raleigh in June lived up to its reputation for humidity and heat.

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