Usually I head right into race morning, but my story for this race begins at the hotel the night before the race. For background information, Raleigh is a point to point race. That means, there’s two transitions in two separate locations. T1 was at Jordan Lake about 45 minutes outside of downtown Raleigh where T2 was. Since there were two transitions and we all had to get bussed from T1 to T2, which was about a 40 minutes bus drive, transitions opened up at 4am. This is all going somewhere I promise. Since transition were open from 4-6:45am, I planned on getting up at 4, making my way to T2 by 5, getting my stuff set up at T2 by 5:15 and getting on the bus by 5:15 to make sure I was at T1/swim start by 6. This meant an early bedtime. After a relaxing Saturday in Raleigh, smooth packet pick up, and a mandatory bike check in the day before, I was in bed and lights out at 8:30.
This is where my story begins. At about 9pm, there was unbelievably loud music, constant doors slamming, yelling, and people running up and down the hall. Finally I went out there to see what was going on and four guys were all yelling in the hall. I politely asked them if they could quit slamming doors and be a little more quiet and they immediately got very defensive. After a few minutes of banter with them, my dad came up and they were just as confrontational with him. Before it got out of hand, my dad and I walked away from the argument and headed back into the room. It got quiet for about a half hour and then the noise came back on. Nothing was gonna change so we ended up talking to the front desk and they gave us a new room on the fourth floor. This was about about 12:30am, so about 3.5 hours before I had to get up. We made it up to the new room and I tried to get to sleep as best as possible.
4am rolled around quick and I was up, got some breakfast in me and was on my way to downtown Raleigh at about 4:30. Setting up for T2 was a breeze. All I did was drop off my shoes, TriToFinish visor, and my race bib and I hopped on a bus for Jordan Lake at T1. I had been there the day before for bike check in and a short ride. T2 was nestled into a small area park recreation area which provided for some beautiful scenery.
The swim a simple triangle. And I biked about the first 5 miles of the bike. After arriving, getting off the bus, I immediately got body marked. It was about 5:45 when I got there so i was ahead of schedule; very unlike me! Because they said that no one spectators would be able to leave the swim by bus until after the last cyclist was out of the rec area, my dad chose not to accompany me to the swim. While setting up in T1, I depended on race service to pump my tires of for air the morning of. Unfortunately because I ride 808s and my valves are 80mm stems not all bike pumps can catch the thread to pump up. This was an unfortunately time to learn this.
Just as I thought I was sunk, a girl walked by me with the same exact pump I own that I was positive could catch the thread without an extender. I chased her down and asked if I could use her pump and she graciously allowed me to! If for some reason, you ever stumble across this, random girl with SpinDoctor bike pump I still owe you a beer like I said! After getting air, I headed back to my spot and finalized my nutrition. I had Gatorade in my BTA with a one bottle of water on my frame. I kept another empty cage on my downtube so I wouldn’t have to toss a bottle at an exchange. For calories, I went with Huma Energy Gels. I didn’t want to try anything fancy and these always go down easy and I digest quickly. They are definitely the best tasting gels out there too.
My wave didn’t go off until after 8 so I had over an hour of wait time between transition closing and my start so I lounged around, got some food in me, and watched the pros take off. I went through my normal warm up routine, got my wetsuit on and the timing of everything was just about perfect. Entering the water I felt pretty secure about how I was feeling and my upcoming endeavor.
The horn went off and like most races, it was a frenzy for about the first 300 yards. After that the group broke up quite a bit but we started to begin to catch the waves before us. This really complicated things. I had a little zig zag problem before I settled into a group of about 4 or 5 guys, where I sat on their feet and got the best draft possible. The pace was fast, but comfortable and I felt pretty good about where I was at. About 600 meters in my shoulders really began to fatigue. This was alarming for how much I had tapered in the pool for this swim, but I pressed on and tried not to let it get into my head. We began to catch the end of another wave. At about 1200 meters or so into the swim I was still with the back, but for a second I lost their feet somehow and I couldn’t find my way back. After a few strokes I looked up and they had dropped me by about 10 yards and I could not catch them. I tried to smooth out the rest of the way back. A little zig zag occurred again, but got through the swim okay and was out of the water in 33:19. This was a little slower than expected, but something that I know I can build off of.
Coming into T1, I easily located my bike and had a pretty quick transition. I was not at all unhappy about T1. I got onto my bike and began to embark on my 56 mile ride section of the bike course. From previewing the bike course from the day before, I knew that there was a decent climb out of the state park area so I really didn’t do anything crazy until I made the turn at about mile 6 or 7. Once we turned onto the free way, I began to start pushing some bigger watts on the bike. A couple downhills really helped bring my average speed back up after a fairly slow first ten miles due to some of the climbing.
At about mile ten I noticed some minor back pain, but dismissed it quickly. At about mile twenty, it was growing and not just a small pain anymore. The constant climbing out of the rolling hills worsened the back pain and by mile 30-35 it was almost unbearable. I was constantly standing up and trying to stretch it out, but nothing was helping. I spent nearly the last 15 miles or so out of aero in a great deal of pain. At this point I didn’t know how my back would react to the run, but I cared more about just getting to T2 than anything. It was really demoralizing watching my average speed just gradually decline for the last half of the bike leg and put me in a negative mind state. I did my best to dismiss these thoughts but as it dropped below 23 and then 22 and then horrifically dropped below 21, it was almost enough to really ask me what I was doing out there.
The final half mile back into downtown Raleigh was humbling and desperate. I just needed to get off my bike. By now my lower back was at a point of numbness so I really had no way of telling what type of condition it was actually in other than very poor. T2 wasn’t as smooth as T1. I ran past my spot, which probably cost me about 10 seconds or so. I racked my bike, changed shoes, threw my visor on and grabbed my bib. I headed out to the run course not knowing what to expect at this point. It was really hard to focus on having a solid run performance after having such poor swim and bike legs. I really didn’t know where any of my age group was at this point or what place I was in so I shifted my goal to running solid, even splits and crossing that finish line on my own accord. The back pain went away quickly surprisingly but I could tell my core and stabilizing muscles had paid the price. I was flat footed, sometimes would have half a stumble and couldn’t run super straight and tall like a really fit runner should.
Because of my flat footed strikes, the pain in my foot came back in full force and by mile 2, the pain was now in my arch spreading all over my foot. I pressed on and tried to think about running tall and on the ball of my feet. It helped for a while but eventually I went back to flat footed strikes as fatigue set in. By mile 7 my left foot was asleep, which was kind of alarming for me to realize that this meant there was pretty much no blood flow going into my foot because of how swollen it was. I got through the run and cross the finish with a pretty even run, although it was about 30 seconds/mile off what I was hoping for. I really think the strength is there on the run, but all the limiting factors on my bike carried over to the run, which hurt my performance there.
My final time was 4:55:35, which was quite a bit slower than I had loosely guessed on. Like I said, no real expectations were given for this race. To my surprise, it was good enough for a third place age group finish in the 18-24 division. Since it was a smaller event, only the top two slots were given for Worlds. Had I been offered a slot I wouldn’t have taken it anyway, but it would’ve been nice to qualify on my debut Ironman event. It was a great experience and I look forward to continued success and experience in the distance. I think that it’s the perfect combination of distance and speed. At first I was really disappointed with my performance. I was pretty bummed with my times, but after looking at the pros and some of the top AGers and talking with some of them, their comments and performances made me feel a little bit better. Most people said their bike splits were 8-12 minutes slower than their normal bike splits for 70.3. Reflecting back on it, I am just happy to have gotten down and experience the atmosphere of such a great event. The course was beautiful, volunteers were excellent, and the crowds were amazing! And regardless of my finish, it was much better than my last go at 70.3
I am still pretty banged up from the race. My quads and hamstrings are very sore and walking is a struggle still. My left arch is still swollen and I’ve been closely monitoring it. Next up for me is ITU Chicago. If all goes well, I’ll be pretty much recovered by the end of the week and getting back into the swing of normal training. I’m not planning on tapering off too much for Chicago, if my health is okay. I’m really looking forward to dropping down the distance and getting something fast in. Look out for more updates soon.
I’d like to thank TriToFinish, Huma Energy Gel, Transition Rack, and Schaefer and Bierlein of Frankenmuth for the support and giving me the all the resources to perform as well as I can. Another thanks to everyone who gave me well wishes over the weekend. It means a lot to get support from all my family and friends. And finally, the biggest thank you for the weekend goes out to my dad for traveling down with me, and really doing everything and anything possible to make sure I had the smoothest weekend possible. I couldn’t have asked for a better support crew to be down there with me. From leaving Ann Arbor, to getting a new room for me in the middle of the night at our hotel, to driving me to race site at 4 in the morning, to being there to at the finish line for me, to driving me home, my dad was there every step of the way. This weekend, nor the success that I’ve had so far would have been possible without him. Thanks dad!
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