2017 Raleigh Half Ironman Race Report

Key Take-Aways

  • SWIM
    • My Garmin watch calculated that I swam 1.25 miles which, for me, is the most accurate, on-course swim I’ve had to date. However, I need to continue to work on improving my swim technique, efficiency, and speed.
  • BIKE:
    • The 404/808 ZIPP wheels that I rented for the race were fun and fast. I don’t think that I would have averaged 19.43 miles on the bike portion without them. I want to prioritize getting a power meter before I get carbon wheels, but when I do get some wheels, I’m going with FLO.
    • Although I had a great bike split, I had some major cramps on the run. I need to avoid expending too much energy and effort on the bike portion, in order to have a good run. Perhaps I should invest in a power meter for my bike?
    • I lost my Base Salt tube 3 miles into the bike portion. In the future, I should bring an extra Base Salt tube and store it in one of my tri-suit pockets.
    • I have a small skin burn/friction area on the inside of my left bicep. I noticed this as I was preparing for the run portion. I tried not to irritate it as I was running, but ended up making it worse. In the future, I should consider wearing some type of sleeve during the bike and run portion to avoid the friction irritation.
  • RUN:
    • As mentioned above, I had some major cramps during the first two miles of the run. I’m sure that pushing too hard on the bike, plus not having/taking my Base Salt during the bike portion contributed to the cramps. I need to invest in a good nutritionist to help me better plan my race day nutrition strategy.

Pre-Race: Friday

I headed down to Raleigh, NC (3 hour drive) on Friday morning, after completing my last pool swim workout (1400 yds). My goal was to arrive as close to 12pm as possible to check-in, get my ZIPP wheel rentals put on my bike, and to get some souvenir gear.

I ended up arriving around 1:45PM. I ran into my training buddy, Truong and his family as soon as I walked into the Ironman Village (Expo area). Truong and I have been training together over the past few years since we met at a local triathlon in 2014. He has been a great source of motivation and inspiration. He’s fast too! This is our first time doing a Half Ironman race together. We’re both excited to get race under our belts.

After catching up with Truong, the first thing I did was take my bike over to the RaceDay Wheels booth to get my wheels switched out. I expected it to take a good 30-45 minutes before my bike is ready.

Next, I went to the merchandise area and purchased some gear. Since I was familiar with the merchandise from doing Raleigh 70.3 last year, I knew exactly what I wanted: a “name shirt” ($29) and a “name” zip-up jacket with a hood ($55). The “name” products are unique in that all the names of the race participants are shaped into a large M-Dot 70.3 logo on the back of the shirt/jacket. Last year, they ran out of my size in the color t-shirt that I wanted, so this year, I made sure I got my gear as soon as possible.

I checked in and received my wrist band, race chip, and other race gear.

Pre-Race: Saturday

  • I got up around 6:00 AM on Saturday morning, and did a low effort 20 minute bike ride, and an easy 30 minute run.
  • I wanted my breakfast to be the biggest meal of the day. I focused on carbohydrate rich meal with, a belgian waffle, and toast. I finished by 9am so that my body would have plenty of time to digest.
  • 10:30 AM – I met with Truong and his family to make spectator signs for the race.
  • 11 AM – I drove about 40 minutes out to the Jordan Lake T1 and dropped my bike off.
  • 2 PM – For lunch, I ate a turkey sandwich at Chili’s.
  • 4 PM – I met up and had a coffee with my high school buddy who lives in the area. Coffee was probably a bad idea, since I had trouble sleeping later on.
  • 5:45 PM – I had dinner at McCormick and Schmidt’s with two of my friends local to the area. I kept dinner light, and ate some lettuce chicken wraps, mainly eating the chicken pieces.
  • Before bed, I checked, and double-checked that I had all of my gear ready for race day. I ended up going to bed around 9:45 PM, but I don’t remember going to sleep until well past 11:30PM! It was kind of a restless night.

Race Day

I got up at 3:30 AM after a fairly restless night of sleeping. My morning clothes bag, bike bag, and run bag were all packed and ready to go, so I put on my clothes, loaded my SUV, and grabbed a coffee from the hotel lobby. After arriving at the parking garage (not even a block away from T2), I unloaded my gear and stopped by T2 to drop off and set up my run gear. Next, I headed about 50 yards over to the charter bus brigade to catch a 40 minute ride to Jordan Lake, where T1 was located (as well as the swim start/finish). I ate my bagel with peanut butter on the ride over to T1 and just tried to relax a bit. I brought my little GoPro-like action camera to take pictures before the swim start, but I neglected to charge it the night before, thinking that it still had enough battery charge. I turned it on and it promptly turned itself back off. Oh well.

After unloading at T1, my first order of business was to get some air in my bike tires. I intentionally deflated them a bit to avoid any issues with the tire tubes expanding and potentially popping from being outside all day yesterday and overnight (we were required to check our bikes in the day before). I ran into Truong while I was at my bike. He had just finished getting his tires fully inflated. I dropped my bags off by my bike and grabbed my bike to go have the bike techs put some air in my tires. There was a long line of triathletes waiting to get air in their tires too, but it didn’t take as long as I thought it would (less than 20 minutes).

Once, I finished setting up my bike with my drinks, nutrition, bike computer, and tool bag, I went to the body marking area to get my bib number marked on my arms and my age marked on my left calf muscle. I was specifically looking for ClarLynda, who I knew was doing body markings this year. I met ClarLynda at the Raleigh Half Ironman last year, when she was a participant in the race. When I found ClarLynda, she was standing next Alexis, who I also met at this race last year when she was a participant in the race. We’re all a part of the Black Triathletes Association (BTA) and its Facebook group, where I initially met most of the athletes.  Alexis and ClarLynda both gave me some encouraging words and assured me that the lake waters were calm today (unlike last year), and told me that today I would have my best Half Ironman performance ever!

On the way to my bike, I briefly spoke with Scott and Joe, two incredibly fast triathletes from our Roanoke Triathlon Club. Next, I headed back to my bike to finish getting ready for the swim, and to take my morning clothes bag to the bag drop-off.

The last major order of business was to use the bathroom. The lines were ridiculously long! I probably had about 40 minutes until my swim wave started, so I was able to use the bathroom (15-20 minute wait) and also get a swim warm-up in before my wave started.

Swim (55:28 mins – Goal: 45 mins)

Glad and relieved to get out of the water!

Real reason I was back in Raleigh this year was the swim. Last year’s DNF in the swim was disappointing. My swim goal last year was to complete my swim around 45 mins. I ended up finishing in 1 hour and 15 minutes, and missed the 1 hour and 10 minute swim time cutoff. Although I finished the race last year, it wasn’t really satisfying for me since it was an unofficial finish.

Today, my main goal was to have a much faster swim, and of course, not to DNF the swim. To help with my timing, I decided to set an alert for every 20 minutes on my Garmin 920 XT. I felt that this would help me gauge how long I’ve been swimming and would also help me to swim with more intensity. The alerts were definitely a good idea, and something that I’ll use moving forward in my triathlon events. The water was relatively peaceful during the whole swim, however, some of the swimmers were not. Halfway through the swim, some guy started yelling at me. He said something to the effect of, “Come on man, I’ve passed you like three times now, watch where you’re going.” Mind you, this guy had been swimming into me. I just yelled back, “Well stay out of my way!” It ticked my off, and I started swimming a bit harder and further out from the buoys. Not too much longer someone else swam pass me and hit me on my head. It was so hard, it felt like a fist! I kept moving, I was on a mission and none of this trivial stuff mattered. Closer to the swim finished, I was actually shoved too.  Some of these triathletes are jerks in the water!

I heard two 20 minute alerts from my watch during the swim, and I was swimming hard to avoid a third 20 minute alert. When I emerged from the water and crossed into T1, I saw 55 minutes on my watch, I was relieved.  Today was going to be a good day!

T1 (4:08 mins – Goal: 4:30 mins)

I was happy to be done with the swim as I jogged to my bike. I sat down, dried off, took a gel, sprayed on some sunscreen, and put on my gear.

Bike (2 hr 52 mins – Goal: 2 hr 57 mins)

The bike leg is a fun and fast point-to-point route. I averaged 19.43 mph.

I loved the bike route for Raleigh 70.3 last year. I felt that it was a fairly fast route, and that the climbs weren’t really too hard. This year, the route was exactly the same as last year’s route. Although I trained pretty hard on the bike, I felt that I lost some bike fitness within the last month due to missing some of my key bike workouts due to travel and other commitments. Truong, my training buddy, and I had been talking about getting carbon wheels for the past few months. I wasn’t really up for paying $2200 for a carbon wheel set, especially without knowing if they are worth the hype. So, a few weeks out, I decided to reserve a 2017 ZIPP 404/808 carbon wheel set from Race Day Wheels, who had a booth at the Ironman Village. I paid about $185 after adding the $25 insurance. Not only did the wheels look awesome on my bike, but I really do feel that I was faster throughout the whole ride. My speed goal was to finish with a 19 mile per hour average. I ended up finishing with a 19.43 mph average. I don’t think that I would have accomplished this with my stock bike wheels.

About 2 miles into my bike ride, I lost my Base salt tube. That was a huge lost! I heard it fall out of my partially zipped nutrition bag, and was wondering if I should try to go back and find it. I opted to keep moving and try not to push myself too hard on the bike. I experience some very minor leg cramps on the bike, but nothing I couldn’t ride through. I knew that not taking salt during my bike ride was going to negatively impact my run.

Overall, the bike ride was awesome. I met my speed goal, and I had a great time throughout the whole ride. I really like this bike course.

T2 (5:55 mins – Goal: 5:00 mins)

After dismounting my bike and heading into T2, I made my way to my run gear, racked my bike, and sat down to put on my gear. I was a little nervous about my shoes. I purchased the Hoka Claytons in the Fall, but always had blister issues in the arch of my foot after running in them for more than 6-7 miles. I spoke with a Hoka rep at the Ironman Village, and he recommended that I change the insoles. I purchased some Dr. Scholl’s sport insoles and tested them out a bit the day before. I’m happy to report that I had no blister issues at all during the run!

Run (2 hr 34 mins – Goal: 1 hr 58 mins)

The run was a tough because I pushed too hard on the bike and lost my Base Salt tube about 3 miles into the bike leg, so I didn’t replenish all of the sodium that I was losing from sweat.

During the first two miles, I had major quad and hamstring cramps during the run. Most likely from my lack of salt intake during the bike (since I lost my salt on the ride). Fortunately, I had a separate Base salt tube for the run. I was downing quite a bit of salt to “catch up” on my sodium lost, and to help relieve my leg cramps. Things got a lot better, but the run portion in general was a challenge. It was so hot, and I was tired from the swim and the bike. My new plan was to just run from aid station to aid station.

Throughout the run, I noticed that I hadn’t seen my training partner, Truong. I thought it was weird that I hadn’t seen him, because the run was two out and back loops. I tried not to worry about it. I eventually ran by him as he was walking around mile 10. Truong had been having some major cramping issues throughout the race, and was still experience some major leg cramps. I told him, that I wouldn’t leave him. We started this journey together in November, and we were going to finish it together too. I remember when I was training for Raleigh last year, Truong would get up at 5am to go swimming with me 3 times a week, and would go on long bikes with me too even though he wasn’t doing the race.  That spoke volumes to me. There was no way, I was going to leave him out there to suffer alone through the finish. Together, we ran/walked until we got to the end. We talked about how the idea of doing a full Ironman seemed so ridiculous at the moment. Much respect to people who have completed Ironmans!

Overall Time (6 hr 30 mins)

  • Male 35-39 Division Rank: 117 out of 163
  • Gender Rank: 687 out of 1036
  • Overall Rank: 925 out of 1,750

 

I was glad to receive my medal and finisher hat. Today was a tough day, but I’ve worked hard for months to cross the finish line as an official finisher. This year it was all about redemption at Raleigh 70.3. I’m happy with my results, happy and blessed that I didn’t suffer any injuries or mechanical issues on my bike, and happy to be done with the busy training schedule that I had to follow for the past 5 months!

My family had some other obligations this weekend, so I was solo. I had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory with Truong and his family. Chicken fettuccine alfredo has never tasted so good! For dessert, I order the Salted Caramel Cheesecake, which was also delicious.

I don’t want to think about any triathlons for the next few days, but I know that this won’t be the last.