The Race That Wasn’t

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Hey, hey, hey! We are back and unpacked from a marvelous week-long vacation in the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina. To say we had a good time is an understatement. The weather was damn near perfect and we had a blast spending time with friends and family for the week.

But before vacation could officially start (and the drinks could start flowing) there was a little thing called the OBX Half Ironman that I had to finish. I’ll be sharing plenty of our vacation details in subsequent posts but for now let’s talk about the race.

We arrived in Nags Head, NC (where our rental house was located) around 11AM on Friday morning, the day before the race. After some food, a little beach time and naps all around we headed over to Manteo located on Roanoke Island for packet pick-up and a little pre-race informational meeting. I collected all my swag, which included a shirt, towel, visor and water bottle (all awesome) and wandered around a bit getting myself oriented to the set-up for the swim and transition area. At 5PM there was a Q&A session with one of the event organizers and a USAT official. I stuck around for the beginning but didn’t stay long. We had friends coming in from southern NC and we still had to hit the grocery store before going back to the house.

That evening we had food from a little joint down the road called Fat Boyz (I had the crab cake sandwich, so good!) and I headed to bed early. After a long overnight drive and not much sleep I knew I needed some rest before race day. The alarm was set for 4:30AM so I needed every minute I could get.

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Race Day

Where to begin… I got to the start early, so early that they didn’t even have the lights on in transition yet. But I wasn’t the only one, there were many of us there, eager to get our transition areas set up and prep for the race to start. I wanted to be there early so I didn’t have to jockey too much for a space on the rack. The last tri I did I had to squeeze in between other people asking them to move over to make space, I didn’t want to be in that position again. Each row of racks consisted of 3 separate racks and the row was assigned a range of numbers. As long as you were racked in the row you were OK. When I got there the end of the row was already taken but the middle section of rack was completely empty so I chose the end of the middle (if that makes any sense) so I had some room between the racks to spread out. Once I had my transition area set and had got body marked we wandered around a bit chatting to people waiting for the race to start.

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The Swim
Distance: 1.2 Miles (or 1.4 as measured by my Garmin probably due to my inability to swim in a straight line…)
Time: 43 minutes 23 seconds

Harrison stayed with me until I was off on my way in the water and then he went on his way back to the house to rescue Doug and Patty (our friends who were visiting for the weekend and who had agreed to stay at the house with Owen in the morning). I have to admit, knowing that I wasn’t going to see his face, or Owen’s face for the next 7 hours, not having their support, was a little bit tough. I knew it was a sacrifice I was going to have to make, that’s what happens when you have a toddler, but mentally it did make me a little sad. But I knew they would be at the finish waiting for me and Harrison supported me along my journey to get to that point so that gave me motivation to keep moving forward.

My performance for the swim was right on par with what I expected it to be. My goal was to beat 45 minutes and I made it with a minute and a half to spare! I was nervous going into the swim because it was my first time doing a distance swim in the ocean, but we lucked out with calm water the morning of the race. There were only 2 swim waves for the half ironman, I was in the first wave. We entered the water up to about our knees and started from there. Once moving it was a struggle to break free of the pack. It seemed rougher than swims I’ve done in the past, but I managed to gain a little personal space after the first turn around the buoy. I exited the water not even knowing what my time was, I forgot to look at the clock and hit the lap button on my Garmin before seeing my time. I felt good and figured I had done reasonably well. Off to transition I went!

The Bike
Distance: 56 Miles
Time: 3 hours 26 minutes 6 seconds

While I’d like to think that I was ready for the bike with the riding that I did this summer, nothing could prepare me for a flat bike course when I’m used to riding hills. While I don’t like hills, per se, when you train on them you get used to getting a break on the downhill and using the downward momentum to your advantage. To say the bike course for the OBX tri is flat would be an understatement. It’s flatter than flat. While there is a bridge that you cross (4x’s), the hump in the middle of the bridge is like the size of a snowbank in the northeast. All I did was pedal, and pedal, and then pedal some more. By the time I got off the bike my legs were just done. I was not prepared to have to work so much during the bike. That said, I liked the bike, and I did well on the bike. My time was again exactly where I wanted it to be. My goal had been to finish in 3 and a half hours and that was what I did, with (a few) minutes to spare :-).

Although I feared the bridge going into the race, it turned out to be my favorite part of the bike course. It was a little sketchy because there was basically no shoulder on it to ride on, and there were these metal joints every so often but they didn’t cause an issue and the traffic was so light that not having a shoulder wasn’t bad. The scenery from the bridge was beautiful and although there was a “hill” you were up and over it so quickly you barely realized it. The part I disliked the most about the bike was the 12 mile stretch after the bridge. Once over the bridge the course turned right down a desolate road for a 6 mile out and back stretch. While you got to see other riders going the opposite direction it was just a boring stretch of road. I was happy every time I saw the end was near (the course was a double loop so we had to go down this stretch twice).

The Run (or shuffle, or walk… whatever you want to call it)
Distance: 13.1 long, long miles
Time: 3 hours 6 minutes 20 seconds

The run was where things turned ugly, really ugly. I had a lot of time to think during the run, 3 hours 6 minutes and 20 seconds, to be exact, in which time I came to 2 conclusions about the run. 1) I needed to train more. It’s pretty simple, really. I didn’t train enough, especially when it came to the run. I was in no way prepared to run 13.1 miles after swimming 1.2 miles and biking 56 miles. 2) I failed miserably with my nutrition. Like, so bad that near the end I was fairly certain I was going to pass out in the middle of the field you had to run through for the last mile and just die there. I imagined the ambulance, sirens and all, racing across the field to pick me up. It was that bad. Unfortunately I realized after the race was over that I made a fatal flaw when I made up the bottles I was going to carry on the bike with me. I was using a Hammer Nutrition product called Perpetuem, which I had used during training and really enjoyed. It was easy on the stomach and I liked the taste of it so I knew it would be good on race day. What I didn’t realize when I was mixing my bottles the night before in the chaos of kids running around was that a serving of Perpetuem was 2 scoops of powder, not the 1 that I put in each of my bottles. So in my mind I was thinking that I had 270 calories per bottle when in fact I was only consuming 135…. REALLY BAD MISTAKE. So while I managed to drink 2.5 bottles worth plus about a bottles worth of water during the bike, along with eating a honey stinger waffle and a package of honey stinger chews, it wasn’t nearly enough to sustain me through the run. I knew it, I was hungry on the bike and I knew that was a bad sign, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I consumed everything I had with me. On the run I was drinking Gatorade that was offered at the water stops along with a little water and I consumed a package of sports beans and near the end another half a package of honey stinger chews, but again, still not enough to help my body recover from the deficit it already faced. Unfortunately the water stops on the run did not have any food to offer other than Gu’s and I can’t stomach those so I was out of luck in the food department.

The last mile of the run was bad. Really, really bad (seems to be the theme for the run). The race was located at a small airport and the last mile of the run was on a gravelly road across a large field along the side of the airport. I could see just how far I had left to run and it seemed like I would never get there. I just wanted to lay down on the ground and sleep. I stopped a couple of times to rest my legs and while leaning over to stretch I realized if I did it for much longer I was going to be laying on the ground, passed out. I was eating some honey stinger chews at that point because I had to. My body didn’t want to physically spend the energy needed to chew, but again, I knew if I didn’t eat I was going to pass out. Never a good feeling to have. Between those and the nice woman who caught up to me and walked part of that last mile with me I was able to get to the finish line. With it in sight I somehow mustered up the energy needed to slog the last little bit to the finish line. I crossed that line, so happy to be done, and in dire need of a seat.

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Total Time: 7 hours 20 minutes 6 seconds

Harrison was there waiting for me with a big smile, proud of what I had accomplished. He handed me a towel, which I had asked him to bring me, and we made our way to a picnic table. I sat down, placed my face in the towel and burst out into tears. I’m not sure what the tears were for really. Perhaps they were tears of joy because I managed to finish, or perhaps they were tears because I hurt so bad. Whatever they were for it felt good to get them out. I then managed to scarf down half a banana and eased into a granola bar and started to feel slightly better. I made my way to the ground to lay down just as the rain drops began to fall. Harrison went to transition and packed up my gear while I rested. As it started to pour my desire to be soaked dwindled and I made it to the car.

A nice hot bath, some nibbles of food and I was feeling almost normal by dinner time. I look back at this race as a learning tool. I know what I did wrong, and hopefully can use that to help improve my racing experience next time. But for now I’m going to stick to the shorter races (at least in the sport of triathlon). I’m signed up to run the Disney Marathon in Orlando in January and then participate in the Pixie Challenge which is a 10k followed by a half marathon the next day in Disney Land in CA in May. Other than those races my focus for triathlon next year is going to be shorter distances and more speed. I had so much fun participating in the VT Sun Sprint Triathlon this past August and that makes me want to do more short races. It’s hard work but in less than 2 hours you are done and partying, that’s my kind of race.

Someday I will be back to race a 70.3, someday…

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4 thoughts on “The Race That Wasn’t

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