Thursday, October 30, 2014

2014 Beach2Battleship Half Iron Distance Triathlon - Racing My Race

I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in the PPD Beach 2 Battleship Half Iron Distance Triathlon about 5 or 6 weeks ago. I had some fitness from the summer but nothing like what significant half iron distance training yields, so I set out on a crash course over the 5 weeks... 


Details make the experience great...

From the second I stepped into the Wilmington convention center to the moment I dropped off my bike to be shipped home, I felt like everyone was there to help me.

The volunteers and staff of this event were A+ at every turn. 

Sign-up/Price:  Easy sign-up. I was fortunate to get a comp entry, but would be willing to pay any price to have this type of event experience, well worth the money! 
Pre-Event Communication:  Excellent communication from the event group with a detailed event guide delivered via email the week of the event. A very helpful participant forum on the event website that answers every question imaginable.
Packet Pick-Up:  Simple and straight forward at the convention center. A small but nice expo with sponsor brands on site, a good time to grab any last minute necessities.
Goodie Bag:  Disappointed in the standard plastic bag, but with half and full distance events it is hard to do anything else to accommodate special needs bags and transition bags. Great long-sleeve t-shirt.
Venue:  With this event being a point-to-point race, there area number of venues. All of them having unique qualities and showcasing the beauty of the Wilmington area. .
Course:  Excellent course. 
The swim was fast with the incoming tidal current with more than adequate room, sighting and water rescue personnel
A flat fast bike course took us on a tour up north of the city on some major roads and then some rural back roads, but man was the pavement smooth and nice, completely different from the roads in New York.  
A beautiful run course out of downtown out to a park with a picturesque lake. No real hills.
Course Markings & Volunteers:  Beyond excellent. I am not sure how this event got so many volunteers, but they were everywhere and vocal. From the abundant presence of lifeguards and water safety personnel to wetsuit strippers to transition helpers to aid stations...on and on, the volunteer presence was endless and extremely supportive. 
Clear signage along the course and well marked cone sections for bike lanes. A well staff split point for full and half bike course separation.
Unbelievable aid stations on the run course with every need know to triathletes. 
Awesome finish chute right in the heart of downtown next to the battleship - see first photo above.
Finisher Medals: Great quality.

Post Race Food:  Pizza, bagels, bananas, oranges, apples, water, etc...a well stocked buffet. 
Medical:  I had no need for it, but this could be a full post by itself.This is possibly the most impressive medical tent/set up I've ever witnessed. It was some expansive and innovative, I 'm sure they could conduct open heart surgery in this place.
Race Photos: Bummer... I'm all for purchasing my event photos to support the photographers and event if they are professional. No bike or run action shots from the course, all others were from near transition zones. It would have been nice to have shot from out on the course.  
Post- Event Communication: Registration for 2015 opens November 1

Travel: I had a pretty easy time traveling with a connection through Charlotte. The best part, as always, was TriBike Transport and how easy the make not traveling with your bike and the service at pick up and drop off...I love these guys and their service!

OVERALL: I love this event and cannot wait to make it apart of my yearly racing calendar. The specialness of a community event to the amazing volunteers to the great course, this one is hard to top.


Using what I had, cursing what I didn't have...

No excuse that I only had a five-week prep for the event, just fact and something that allowed me to learn from in the future. 

Race day came with clear skies, mild temperatures and no wind. I got up early and had a good breakfast, did some stretching, took care of pre-race business in my hotel room and drove to T1. Arriving at the race site, I gathered my gear and headed to where I had racked my bike the day before. I prepped my bike and area and headed back to the car to put away clothing and get in to my wetsuit.   

After getting into my wetsuit I made my way over to the line for the trolley to the swim start. This was an easy process and I got the chance to chat with a fellow racer on the ride.

At the swim start we watched the the full iron distance participants fly by as the incoming current was ripping, I'm not sure I've ever seen someone move through water that fast. I stood in the rising sun soaking up the warmth and relaxing before the chaos of the swim. About 10 minutes before my wave start I ventured into the water and got in a solid warm up. The water was a nice temperature and the combination between salt water and my wetsuit made me quite buoyant

The 40-44 age group start wave was called up and I positioned myself toward the front wanting to get a good line to open water. The horn sounded and off we went. I managed to sprint out of the fray and get some clean water and finding some faster feet to follow. The sun was rising on our right and made for tough breathing to that side (my preferred side) so I switched it up and went left side and was thinking how awkward it felt.

I felt like I was keeping a good pace, doing a good job sighting to the first turn buoy and seed to have joined a pack of three that stayed together the entire swim.. We made the turn, another and another before I got sight of the finish flag and set my sights on the water exit.

Quickly climbing the ladder out of the water and finding an open wetsuit stripper, I was pretty successful in making good time to the run to T1.

Into T1, I located my rack and bike, constantly reminding myself to breathe and remain calm, "just breathe, take your time, breathe."

Maybe a bit slower than most, but I was comfortable with the transition to my bike and set off to see if I could ride more than 40 miles since summer.

Once past the first grated drawbridge I was able to settle in, take on some Skratch fluids and ProBar bites. I was having fun ripping along on my TT bike. I always love the sound and feeling of this bike with the full disc wheel and stiff ride, just rocket-like. I was totally comfortable for the first 20 miles and then I started to feel some tightness in my hips, glutes and back. At about mile 30 I had to sit up and stretch out; this was the beginning of my struggle through a lack of training and 'hay in the barn'.

Making the split turn from the full iron distance racers on to a small farm road, I got a sense of where I was in the packand who was a half racer. Surprisingly I was virtually all alone. I could see to riders far up in the distance and a quick glance back reveal no other rider in sight. I was eventually passed by a couple guys and was not too concerned with my thoughts being on just riding my ride and maintaining a good speed while stretching and fueling. I made a turn on one of the roads and had another look backand I saw a pretty big group of riders.

Pedaling along, talking to myself, I was totally take by surprise by the 'train' that passed me like I was standing still. About 10-12 riders in a perfect drafting line ripped past me. I had a good chuckle and shook my head, saying to myself (and probably out loud), "sweet drafting cheats". I watched the group disappear ahead, just churning away, feeling the discomfort in the undercarriage creeping in and ready to be off the bike.

Hitting the last stretch into downtown Wilmington, I got a sense of relief that I would soon be off to bike. As much as I love riding the rocket TT bike, the position and effort was beating me up.

An excellent crowd had gathered as we rode into T2 (inside the convention center).

A quick dismount,run into transition,a little difficulty finding my run bag on the rack, but soon to the changing room and off on the run.

I hit the run course happy to be off the bike and feeling confident that I could put in a respectable run. The first little out and back had a good little climb and I felt strong. Heading out of downtown, I was happy to hear and see the wireless speakers with some good fun music playing; it took my mind off the building heat and pound of the run. One little hiccup at about mile two where I had a strange pop in my back and I stopped to walk a few feet raising my hands over my head to stretch it out. Nothing too wrong I proceeded to click off some fair mile splits, slowing to a quick walk through aid stations to get water in the body and dumped over my head. I had a nice little section where my wife'sand son's favorite pop song was playing over the speakers and I had a big smile thinking of them laughing and dancing around...anything to fight the fatigue away and motivate the mind.

Mile 6. BOOM! My hips, glutes, back, quads, calves, IT name the leg part, it seized. I fought for the next two miles at a much slower pace (not yet walking) trying to stretch and loosen up, but at about mile 8 I had to walk and try to pull myself together and summon the energy and muscle strength to push on. I did the run to walk to run drill to about mile ten where I forced myself to pick up the pace and power through. One brief walk through the last aid station and then I was determined to finish strong.

I passed a guy in my age group in the last mile and kept hammering home, so happy to see the finish chute!

So happy to be finished and a little proud of the effort I put out over the course of the race.

And, I'm pretty happy with breaking 5 hours on 5 weeks training although I am going to try and not make that a habit.


I enjoyed my post race beer and meal and feel I deserved it!

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