After umteen months of training, race day finally arrived. In case you’re wondering umteen equals five in this context.
Originally, I was training for IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga, but unfortunately, it was postponed to sometime in August. I’m not one to waste good training, so it became quite clear in mid March that the only proper thing to do was to continue training so that my race form would peak on May 23. The original race date was May 17, but after the cancellation announcement I agreed to family obligations so we moved the race to May 23 and called it,
The TriRiot 70.5 Triathlon
70.3 was already taken by some other organization, hence the 70.5.
How It Went Down
I’m not going to claim that this race was completely unsupported. There was quite a bit of help from Lori, Hunter and Sami. However, aid stations were scarce (none) and tech support was scarcer. Competition in the form of other athletes was also in short supply. It was just me swimming, biking and strolling through hell… I mean running.
I did have the company of one friend whose name was written on my arm. Charles is not in very good health these days and I wanted to honor him because he loves this sport so much and has not been able to do it for so long. I talked a lot to Charles on the bike ride. Maybe that’s why my bike time was pretty good. Actually, I want to clarify that. I talked a lot to myself as though I was talking to Charles.
The Starting Line
Hunter, Lori and I arrived at Sami’s house exactly at 5:30AM. Her house is about 100 meters from the swim course exit and her driveway makes a nice swim to bike transition area. Unfortunately, lightning forced a one hour delay in the race start, so we just stood around in Sami’s carport for a while. Once the storm cleared, a beautiful morning came out and Hunter drove me and Lori and a kayak 1.5 miles to swim start.
The swim venue is under the jurisdiction of the town of Wrightsville Beach which passed an ordinance that limits parking as a measure of crowd control (COVID-19 precautions). To make matters worse, swim start was located on a private section of dock that belongs to the Hanover Seaside Club – No Trespassing! We’re not members.
I was nervous enough about starting the race, but having to quickly pull the car over, unload the kayak, and sneak into somebody else’s dock was quite unnerving, so I temporarily lost my mind. I didn’t notice the mossy wet ramp that leads to the water as Lori and I carried the kayak down. Wet moss is slippery. WHAM! I hit the concrete hard.
I helped Lori into the kayak and then swam out beyond the docks. The morning was starting to get beautiful with a mostly cloudy sky and rays of gold sun reflecting off some of the buildings in the distance. And as soon as I assessed the current, I started the watch and began the TriRiot 70.5.
There’s not much to say about the swim. There was a strong current and the water was calm. Boat traffic was minimal. Several times, I caught myself swimming in anything but a straight line. There were times when I was 30 meters from the docks and there was a time I almost hit a dock with my head. Sighting was tough because I used goggles that I had never before used in open water. I like the swede style goggles, because I can usually see very well through them. However, my only swedes were badly scratched so I used a pair of Roka goggles that are great in the pool, but I didn’t see so well with them in the channel.
After 41 minutes and 14 seconds, swim exit was right in front of me. It didn’t feel that long, and after a two month period of no swimming, I was happy to have just stayed afloat. The arms did get tired and my form fell apart near the end, but I was done and ready to move on to the bike.
Off The Island…
Forty four seconds is what it takes to run about 100 meters and mount a bike. Once on the bike it was just a matter of following the plan as had been practiced so many times. I did stop the timer when I had to walk over the metal drawbridge and whenever I had to stop at a traffic signal.
The nutrition plan was simple: consume 200 Calories per hour with Tailwind endurance drink. That came out to three bottles on the bike, each bottle fortified with Base Salt. I also had an aero bottle with 20 ounces of plain water. By the end of the bike ride, 500 Calories made their way into my gut which is 100 Calories shy of the plan. Sometimes, you just can’t fit enough nutrition in your stomach. I was on the verge of that sick feeling you get when you drink too much sweet stuff.
One big success is that I did not stop to urinate. That’s because I did it while on the bike… twice. Kinda gross, I know, but it saved time and I cleaned the saddle very well afterward.
One thing about me is that I don’t usually get bored on the bike. I have ridden by myself so many times that I enjoy the experience of just being out on the road. However, as I mentioned earlier, I did talk a lot to myself as though Charles were with me. I wish that I could help him through his pain as he deals with his current health crisis. Instead I behaved like a lunatic talking and arguing with myself.
The bike course ended in my driveway three hours, three minutes and one second after I left T1. That’s a pretty good time given where I was back in December.
…And Into The Frying Pan
By the end of the bike ride, the sun was out in full and the temperature was quickly approaching 30 degrees C (86F). You know how coaches and trainers will tell you that the bike is the longest segment of a triathlon?
There are exceptions to that rule.
I walked and ran through a humid 30C run course with very little shade. Thankfully, Lori rode her bike along to provide company and support. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. The heat is only a small part of the reason the 13.2 miles took longer than three hours and nine minutes. My half marathon best time is around 1:50:00, and based on my training for this race, I predicted 2:10:00. I wasn’t even close.
As soon as I ran away from the bike, I could feel that this was going to be a long half marathon. Right up to that point I felt great. My legs felt great. The pace for the first several miles was planned to be an easy 9:45 to 10:00 per mile. Instead it was a difficult 12:00 per mile.
That familiar feeling of doubt began to sink in at mile three. The feet were hurting. The hamstrings were hurting. I was afraid that if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to start again, but as I approached Bear Garden Road (mile 3.5), I knew I should stop and assess my physical situation.
The road is called Bear Garden for a good reason: bear live there. I’ve seen more than bear near this road. One time, on my way to work, I saw a huge alligator crossing the road near this spot. Did I mention that I live near a state owned game land? On this run, however, the only live wildlife we saw was a snake and a wild turkey.
Anyway, I stopped at Bear Garden Road and stretched a few muscles. Thankfully, I was able to start running again. The bad news is that I just couldn’t run by the time I hit mile four. The remainder of the race was a mix of running and walking.
I don’t know why I quit running. The pain was bad, but not so terrible. This seems to be a pattern with me. I do very well during training sessions and then when it comes time to race, the body and/or the mind forgets how to run. This is very difficult to describe.
Can I blame it on nutrition? Probably not. I should have had plenty of nutrition in me to at least have a good start on the run.
Can I blame the heat? Maybe, but not completely, because I can work outside in the middle of summer all day long. Also, I’ve trained by running several times in the middle of the day with long sleeves. I like the heat.
Can I blame my workouts? No. The physical workouts improved my running over the course of the training season. I should be able to run a half marathon in two hours or less.
Sow what can I blame? I believe I have a mental weakness that needs to be addressed. Whatever the reason for my poor run performance, Sami and I will get it worked out.
I was excited and nervous when we started the race and not once did I feel like this experience was second rate. Organized races with lots of people are fun and worth the expense to me, but this race took endurance sport to a whole new level.
I realize that I truly love the sport for the sake of the sport. I love the people and the rockstar fanfare, but without those, I still value the personal challenges that remain. One thing is for certain: I have a future in triathlon.
Next race: IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga on August 23, 2020