Recap: Raleigh Half Ironman 70.3

Raleigh 70.3 IM Race Report

raleigh-ironman-2016I was fortunate enough to complete my very first half distance triathlon (only my third OWS triathlon out of 6 total) this past Sunday at the Raleigh Half Ironman. Although my finish was unofficial because I DNF’d the swim by missing the time cutoff, I’m still very proud of my accomplishment and enjoyed the experience. I’m a little disappointed, because I felt completely prepared and ready for the event, but all in all, I know that I gave it my best shot and learned some valuable lessons along the way.

It was GREAT to meet some of my friends from the Black Triathlete Association in person over the weekend. I saw many of them before the race began and even on the course!

TAKEAWAYS

  • For future half distance triathlons, I’ll set a swim time alert on my Garmin (every 20 mins for example). This will at least give me an idea of how much time is passing by.
  • I ended up swimming around 1.5 miles instead of 1.2 miles due to a combination of the choppy water, and my already poor sighting skills. As a result, I missed my swim cutoff by 5 minutes. I’m going to use a combination of the breaststroke (my favorite stroke) and freestyle. I had it in my head that freestyle is faster than the breaststroke, so I should ONLY do freestyle. Well, swimming fast is not good if you aren’t swimming in the right direction! I spent too much time over-correcting my path.
  • Now, that I think about, I need to start swimming bilaterally again. I favor breathing on my left side and hardly ever breathe to my right side any more.

Quick Stats

Overall Time: 7hr 7min 55sec

  • 1.2 Mile Swim Time**: 1:15:32 | Pace: 3:54/100m
  • Transition 1: 3:41
  • 56 Mile Bike Time: 3:11:14 | 17.57 mph
  • Transition 2: 5:37
  • 13.1 Mile Run Time: 2:31:51 | 11:35/mile

**Note: Unfortunately, I missed the swim cutoff by 5 minutes. I actually swam 1.5 miles (Garmin stats) due to poor sighting and choppy water.

THE SWIM

Again, this was only my third open water swim triathlon. The swim portion was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The only time I’ve been in water that choppy was the wave pool at Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, NC (and that was way more fun). Based on my pool swim times, it was reasonable for me to complete the swim leg somewhere between 45 to 55 mins. There are a few things that I recall from the swim:

  1. I felt like I was swimming nowhere. The first 3rd of the swim was fine. I got swam into/over a few times, but nothing major. Everything was fine leading into the first turn buoy, and I was still on course. I’m not sure what happened after that. I noticed that the water was getting a bit rougher to swim in, but I wasn’t sure if it was due to the nearby volunteer boats/kayaks/jet skis or if it was the water itself. No worries, I just kept on plugging away.
  2. It’s like I had no concept of time or location…I was just swimming. At some point a kayaker told me that I was too far from the course and that I need to get back closer to the buoys. I treaded the water to get a better view and saw that I was definitely far from the buoys. I switched to the breaststroke and tried to make my way closer to the buoys.
  3. The “calm” waters of Lake Jordan were EXTREMELY choppy! I felt like every stroke I went forward, I got pushed two strokes backward! When I finally corrected my path and made it to the last turn buoy and last 3rd of the swim, I knew I was on the right path because I was getting pummeled, kicked, pushed and hit repeatedly…in addition to the challenge I was having with the ocean-choppy waves. Bad thoughts started creeping in my head. “wow, how long have I been out here?, Am I going to DNF the swim?, What if I DNF?, I hope that dude in T1 this morning didn’t take my bike tube, because he forgot his…Am I going to DNF?” but I stayed positive and kept swimming.

After a while, I knew I had made it to the swim exit when I was getting swam over, pushed, hit in the sides, and face. It’s like everyone was fighting their way out of the swim exit. I was literally shielding my face and nose! I finally got on my feet. I pulled off my swim cap and goggles. Next, I looked down at my watch 1hr15mins. I was like huh? The swim cutoff is 1hr 10mins! All the while, I was running into T1 kind of confused. No one pulled me aside or said anything about a DNF. After the race, I heard that some people actually had their chip taken immediately after the swim exit.

THE BIKE

After a quick transition, I grabbed my bike and ran towards the bike out. I pretty much knew that I DNF’d the swim based on my watch time. At that point, my thought was just to enjoy the experience. The bike course was beautiful, mostly rural with a good mix of rolling hills, and even views of a nuclear powerplant. I had some fun going downhill. I got up to 41 mph! There were so many nice, encouraging, triathletes on the bike. The spectators were great too. I made sure to say thank you to anyone that remotely looked like a volunteer or law enforcement. Also, I was fortunate enough to not have any issues with flats or anything major (my chain popped off around mile 55, but that was a quick fix). However, I discovered some new pain points on my left foot from pedaling. I couldn’t get off the bike fast enough. I average 17.5 mph and finished in 3hr 11mins. My goal was to finish under 3hrs 15mins.

THE RUN

The run was extremely hot and humid. My original goal was to try and run it as close to 2 hours as possible. My first mile was 9:36. After that, I decided not to push myself to the brink for an event that will be an unofficial finish for me. I ran and walked throughout the run leg. At every aid station, I took two base salt licks, drank a cup of water, and dumped another cup of water on my head. I got a cup of ice and dumped it inside my tri suit. I even experimented with running 4-5 strides with my eyes closed, glance ahead and repeat. That worked like a charm and got me to the finish in 2hrs 30mins.

Next week, it’s back to training and improving!