Friday, June 5, 2015

Ironman Raleigh 70.3 - Inching closer

Disclaimer:  This post may seem like I am making excuses for what happened in the race.  I wanted to say up front, that they may sound like excuses, but that is not my intent.  I wrote this based on how I felt about what was going on.

All of the knee problems that I dealt with are a result of me taking a turn too quickly on a wet day and banging my knee hard.  I could have been more in control on that day to prevent that, but I wasn’t(my fault).  I may have had cramping on the run, but I need to either train harder or figure out nutrition to prevent that.  The swim may have been long and that definitely hurts a poor swimmer like me, but I can do something very simple to make that a non-issue, get better in the frickin’ water.  There are always things that you can’t control in a race, but these were things that I could.

2015 Ironman Raleigh 70.3 is my sixth Half Ironman.   I have been fortunate enough to have improved every result from the previous one, and going into this race, I had big goals to make that happen again.  With every distance of Triathlon, there is this unspoken finish time to which you can start being considered legitimate.  With Half Ironman, it seems to be the 4:30 mark.  This was my goal going into the race.  I felt with the training that I had put in and the numbers that I was putting out in training that this was a real possibility.

The months and weeks leading up to the Race, everything was going great.  I had a ton of confidence in my training.  I was putting in more miles at faster paces than I ever had.  Swimming was going better.  I had done a few race simulations where I followed up 90 miles of biking(with half at Race Watts) with 15.5 miles of running at a few seconds faster than my goal running pace.  I was more fit and ready to go than I ever had been.

Then, about two weeks out from the race, I was on my bike on a route that I have ridden dozens of times when I hit a wet patch of leaves and slid out.  When I looked down at my knee, it looked and felt like a rock had somehow gotten under my skin.  It was a weird feeling and it definitely hurt.  I finished my ride with some pain and did my transition run with a bit more pain before trying to look at it again.  By that time, it was the size of a small walnut.

I definitely freaked out a bit.  I called everyone with a medical background that I knew to see if they knew what it was.  About 3 days later, the swelling had gone down and I was hopeful that the pain would be gone as well.  During the 3 days, that it was swollen, I was able to bike and swim every day, but had not tried running.  I finally tried to run on the 4th day, and stopped about a mile in.  The swelling returned and the pain was intense.   I am not one who curses frequently, if ever, but there were definitely some choice words that were thrown out after that mile.

Thus, the next two weeks leading up to the race, I did not run much at all, maybe 9 miles total in 14 days.  I was a bit worried that I had thrown away all the work that I had put in and dug myself a hole for this race.  However, Coach Liz, as well as my other friends Amanda, Liz(different from coach Liz), and Steph were good sources of confidence and venting during those times, and I was able to make it to Raleigh with confidence and a knee that was tolerable.

This year was my first time ever making the trek out to Raleigh, NC.  I had heard great things about this race, and it was good timing for an early season test.  My mom and I arrived on Friday.  We got my bike set up and ready to go.   I had a 25-30 minute run which I did early in the afternoon.  I quickly noticed two things: one, my knee was going to still hurt on Sunday, and two, it is really frickin' hot/humid in Raleigh.  I got back in the car and drenched the seat in sweat and continued to smell below average in the remaining 30 minute drive to the hotel.  Sorry mom.

Saturday was another nice/hot day.  I woke up, found a stretch of the course that seemed like it would be a good place to ride, rode for a bit, and then went to the bike drop off with the plan to swim the course.   However, when we got to the bike check in, we found out that the beach was closed for the day because of the race and no one would be allowed to swim.  However, I really want to get in the water especially since they had announced that it would most likely be non-wetsuit for the swim.  We asked some of the volunteers and found out about a beach across the way in the same lake.  It was far from ideal as they had a 300 yards-ish of tube surrounding the beach that contained about 200 people.  I just swam around the outside and no one seemed to mind.  

We grabbed an early dinner and got back to the room to relax.  Blackhawks also won to make it to the Cup Finals which made for a bit later night, but I was definitely as relaxed as I have been going into a 70.3.

Sunday morning, I was up at 4:15am.  I packed the bags, walked down to T2, set up my run gear, and hopped on a bus to T1 which was in a different location.  By the time we got to T1, we still had about 30 minutes to set up and I had about 2 hours until my wave start at 8:15am.  I have never been able to see how the pro’s exited, so I got a good spot by the swim-out.  I met the dad of one of the first year pro’s in the bunch.  Very nice guy.  I quickly noticed two things:  one, the top pro’s run really fast out of the water, the other was that the 25:00 minute mark had passed on the clock and no pro’s had exited, and there were definitely some 22-23 minute swimmers in that group on a good day.  In fact, everyone was coming in about 3 minutes slower than usual.  This was not so great news as longer swims are bad news for bad swimmers.  

I waited and waited and waited until they let our young group to the line.


My wave consisted of about 145 guys.  I lined up on the far right and front row.  From the siren, I took off at what felt like a comfortable speed.  I was passed by a few people quickly and just kept sighting and keeping my line on the inside.  I figure if the swim was long, that my best chance was to keep as short of a line as possible.  My AG scattered pretty quickly and things got congested the rest of the way.  I was having to sight a bit more that I like and really zig-zagging my way through the groups of swimmers.  I don’t remember thinking about much during the swim.  Even though my time was not fast, the swim seemed to go fast.   We made the final turn to shore.  More congestion, but I was able to make it to the timing mat with little issues.

I looked down at my watch and was about 3 minutes slower than what I had expected to go.  

However, with this not being wetsuit legal and currently, not owning a speedsuit, I was not disappointed with how it went.  With a good bike/run, I could still reach my goal for the day.
I ran into transition with the goal to be as quick as possible.  It was a long transition area, but I recorded my fastest T1 ever.  That’s kind of a big deal.  I still want to learn the running/jumping getting on the bike technique, but not quite there yet.


I had driven this part of the course the day before and it started with a bit of rolling terrain with most of it uphill.  My goal was to stay conservative for this part and keep my power as even as possible.  About two miles down the road I was passed by both a male in my AG and a female who looked about my age but didn’t have anything on her calf.  They flew past me.  I started to question my numbers and debated on chasing.  However, the brain won out, and I let them go.  I was not ready to push my threshold only 5 minutes into the race.

About 7 miles into the ride, we took a right onto the highway.  The road was very smooth and we had a slight tail-wind.  I caught the two people pretty quickly who had passed me out of transition.  Pushing my planned race power, I was going about 27-28 mph.  This highway actually leads back to T2 if we stayed on it the whole way, but unfortunately, the fun had to end.  We took another right onto a side road for a bit of headwinds and rolling hills.  It didn’t feel that hot, but I could tell that it was humid when the screen on my PowerTap computer started fogging up.  I was right below my goal watts for the race, but was getting decent speed and knew that we should get a tailwind for the remaining 20 miles.  

The course was absolutely beautiful.  It has to be one of the greenest parts of the country.  Between the lakes and trees, the landscape was awesome.  I had to remind myself that I was racing a few times.  I rode with my Powertap Computer, but I looked at it far less than I typically do while both training and racing.  However, every time that I looked down my average power was exactly the same.  This was also about 10 watts higher than I have ever held for this distance.

I was able to pass a good amount of other athletes, staying smooth and relaxed.  I was taking in nutrition and was getting anxious for the run.  The last part of the course, where we were had a bit of a tailwind, had a decent about rolling hills.  However, I was able to stay in the big chain ring for the entire ride.   I rolled into transition with very little pain in my knee, and my legs felt as fresh as they could.  Also, a new bike PR for me.  

Rolling Hills...

I rolled into T2, racked my bike, ate a gel, drank some water, put on my shoes, and ran out with a new T2 personal best as well.  I am figuring out this whole transition thing.


The triathlon run and I have been in a fight the last few races, and right now, I am losing badly.  The last 3 races, I get a deadly side-stitch that feels like a knife in the side and makes it incredibly difficult to breathe.  I know I have a good triathlon run in me.  I know that I can go 1:23.  I know that I will figure this out.  It just has not happened yet.

I started off feeling pretty good, and maybe some adrenaline from the crowds.  I was averaging right at a 6:25-6:35 pace through the first 5 miles, with the goal of keeping conservative to hopefully avoid the cramps that had plagued me the past few races.  I was able to pass people and had not been passed myself.  

It was turning out to be a hot day.  About every mile, I would see a few of the athletes sitting on the side of the road with their head in their hands and nearly everyone was walking at one point or another.   I continued to chug along and tried to stay smooth.  I took in a lot of salt, water, and put ice in my hat at every aid station.

My plan was to take the first half easier and open it up the last half.  I hit mile 7 and quickened my pace by about 15 seconds per mile and my legs still felt good.  I saw my mom at the turn around and she asked me how I was feeling.

I replied with, "Ask me in a half mile."

That statement turned out to be foreboding.  No less than 3 minutes later, my knee started to hurt for the first time all day and I got a side stitch that felt like a knife in my rib.  I have played sports my entire life and have played/run through plenty of pain.  I feel that I have a pretty high pain tolerance, but for whatever reason I cannot figure this thing out and I can’t run any pace when it happens, and had to walk a few times from it. 

The one thing I did figure out, which made the last few miles bearable, was that if I dug my finger into the spot where it was cramping with a good amount of force, I could at least still run, albeit at a much slower pace.

So, I proceeded to do this for the remaining 5 miles.  I would alternate which arm I was doing this with because each arm would get tired of pushing into my rib about every half mile.  

It was on my right side, so try doing this: Reach your left hand over to your right rib, press just below your rib, and then try to run 5 miles while doing that.

It ruins running economy slightly.  As I came back downtown, it was a slight downhill.  Counter to most finishes, I did not pick up the pace.  I just wanted to keep on running.  And I didn’t want to make it look like I was suffering as much as I felt like I was….Fail.

Me trying to not look in pain for the photo


I knew I didn’t reach my goal for this race.  When I set my goal, a lot of things needed to go right and many did.  However, this was not my perfect race.  I have not had that race yet.  But even if I had, I would have already set my eyes on the next one to make it better.  I am very happy to get Race #1 done for the season and am ready to get back to work.

Starting with Ride the Rockies next week. 

4:37:34     8/110 AG      66/2239 Overall

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