June 1, 2014-
It all came together finally, for my Ironman 70.3 Relay. I was taking on the run portion, and my two teammates from Asheville, NC, were doing the swim and bike portions.
Lindsay and Julie made there way to Raleigh on Friday evening after work. Staying with family here locally, we planned on meeting up on Saturday morning (the day before the race), to meet up for the first time, and attend the expo to check in our team. I woke up on Saturday morning to a text from Julie stating that Lindsay had been up all night vomiting. Apparently a 24 hour stomach bug had clamped down on her. Then, of course, was Julie’s concern that since they had traveled here together for four hours in the car, that she would end up getting sick at some point during the day. Stress!
We all had to check in together, so we met at Raleigh’s Convention Center at 10am, right when the expo started on Saturday morning. The plan was to get checked in, shop around a bit, and attend an athlete meeting at 11am, before parting ways until race day. I had to work Saturday night. Lindsay could barely hold it together long enough to get checked in, and then they left, so that she could go back to the house and rest.
So, needless to say our trip to the expo was a bit subdued. I couldn’t get any pictures of our team, and barely managed to get around before attending the meeting by myself. There certainly was a collective buzz around the room with athletes from all over preparing for race day. This being my first Ironman event of any kind, it was different to see swim, and bike gear at the expo.
The pictures above are of an event towel? Blanket? Not sure, but I thought it was cool that they produced an item with all participants names listed. Quite unique.
I gained some useful information from the athlete meeting before hitting a few booths, and eventually heading on to work. My thoughts were mixed. I was not even sure that we would be competing on Sunday, based on the sickness of my teammate. Julie assured me though that if Lindsay was too sick to swim, that she would do that portion too, providing that she didn’t get sick as well. So, as a result, my workday was filled with doubt and anxiousness about the race.
I called Julie about 8pm to check in, and make sure that she had gotten her bike out to T1, and to see how they were both feeling. Lindsay still down for the count, but Julie was feeling fine. We agreed that Julie would text me in the morning when they were on the shuttle from downtown Raleigh, out to the swim start at Vista Point at Jordan Lake in Chatham County.
Needless to say, after getting home from work at 10pm, grabbing a quick bite, and relaxing, my night of sleep was a bit restless. I lay my head down not knowing if I would be competing at all the following day. When I got up Sunday, thankfully there was a text from Julie stating that the two of them were on the shuttle, and that Lindsay was going to tough it out. And get that swim portion done. At this point all I could do was to trust that all would go well, and try to track my team online for as long as possible before having to head downtown for the run, and final leg, of our relay. Fingers crossed.
Here are a few shots of the swim start and T1. Lindsay, in good health, was hoping to swim the 1.2 mile leg in about 30-35 minutes. Because she was sick, and I give her all sorts of credit for even swimming at all, Lindsay came out of the water at 44:34. Not a great start for our team, which by the way, is named Fearl3ss Trifusion. With 65 relay teams competing, our swim leg put us in 41st place overall. A quick transition to the bike, Julie pulled out of transition at 9:04 am.
Julie, who competed in this event last year solo, was hoping to bike her leg between 2:45 and 3 hours. So, once I knew that she was on the bike, I knew when I would have to leave the house, make the drive to Raleigh, get parked and get over to T2 and wait for her to come in.
This is Julie and her bike. A 7th and 8th grade Science teacher, she has a great spirit, and positive attitude. It was really great to compete with her. I left home a little after 10am, knowing it would put me downtown and ready to head to the transition area bat an hour before I expected her to finish. Once parked, I got ready at the car, fueled up, and kept hydrating. The temperature was hot, upper 70’s, when I arrived at transition.
I met up with my friend Paula, who was also competing in the relay and doing the run leg. Since we couldn’t run with our phones, luckily a friend of hers was volunteering in T2, and looked up bike splits, and expected finish times for our bikers. Julie was having a great leg, and was expected into transition at 11:51. With 20 minutes to go, I made my way into place and kept my eyes peeled for Julie. Then she appeared. Her official time at the first bike split at 25.8 miles had put us into 25th place, and when she pulled into T2, her time was 2:54:08, putting our team into 14th place. We had moved up considerably during the bike leg. All thanks to Julie, a job well done.
I quickly removed the timing chip from Julie’s ankle, and placed it around mine. A quick high five, and a goodbye, I started my half marathon leg. Out of T2 onto the course downtown.
The run course is a loop from downtown out Hillsborough St., a turnaround at Gorman, and back. This is run twice, and is a gently rolling course. What I found most difficult was the fact that when I hit the course, it was midday, full sun and near 80 degrees. Very little shade at all on the course. I must have passed at least 200 runners in the first few miles alone. However, I was fresh. Most of the folks on the course were doing this triathlon alone, and were obviously more worn down. Plus because the run is a two loop course, you couldn’t tell who was running the first loop and who was already on the second loop. This made it very difficult to find a good rhythm and pace. I was passing so many people, and yet, I found it very difficult to keep that sub 8 pace with so many people slowly jogging or walking around me. I kind of blended in after a while, and my pace quickly dropped. I guess a combination of heat, and those around me didn’t help.
My splits- 3.5 miles pace 7:42. 6.6 miles pace 8:10.
you can see that by about the half way point, I had really lost a lot of time. I did however, now have the team in 9th place overall. I was not feeling really strong however, and really struggled on a few hills heading back out Hillsborough on the second lap. The next split we had dropped to 10th place. After a brief two mile section where I really struggled, I finally found some strength again. I knew I was having a really lousy run overall, but I wanted to finish strong. This was my 20th half marathon, and pace-wise I knew it was pretty disappointing for my standards. Again, This was new to me. Competing midday, in the heat was a challenge. This was Ironman though, I kept telling myself. Finish strong. I made my way back toward the finish. The city was packed with spectators, rooting us on along the way. Full support for us. As I made my way down the finisher chute, I enjoyed the cheers. I crossed the line in 1:52:06, for an overall pace of 8:33. My second to worst ever finish in a half marathon. Disappointed in that, but I did manage to improve our overall 14th place standing at the finish of the bike to 11th place overall after my run leg. Finishing 11/62 finishers. Not bad considering one sick teammate, and my lackluster pace.
Overall though it was a great day. A really unique experience. I have never before even competed in a relay, so this was all new to me. It’s usually just me out there on the course, but today there were three of us competing toward one goal. We did our best on the day. The team’s overall finish time was 5:33:53. Hat’s off to my teammates! I don’t even have any pictures of Lindsay, as she was too sick after the swim to stay, and retreated back to her house. Kudos for swimming though Lindsay. That is what being an Ironman is all about. True grit and determination.
After today, I have a whole new respect for triathletes. Just an amazing group of people.
Here are some final photos from the day. Not sure if I will ever compete again in an Ironman competition, but certainly enjoyed myself today.
This is Julie and I relaxing at the finish.