Monday, September 20, 2010

Outer Banks 70.3 Weekend

Race: Outerbanks 70.3
Date: Saturday, September 18, 2010
Location: Manteo, NC
Race Type: Triathlon - Half Ironman Distance
Division: Age Group 45-49
Time: 7:11

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Race Report:

Before the race

Friday morning ...6 AM...3 AMAIZING women (Becky, Ginger and myself) left for a wonderful trip to North Carolina. Along the way we picked up Ginger's mom and Spanky the "killer" dog! Once we got to the Outer Banks we found our way to the house where we would spend the weekend (THANK YOU, GINGER!!!) then headed off to check out the race course and go to packet pickup. 

I was pretty impressed with the race from the beginning. I had several email and phone interactions with the race director and he was always right on top of things. Meeting him and some of the other volunteers on the day before the race just confirmed my opinions that even though this was a small race I could tell it was going to be good. This was the first year for the 70.3 distance so the race participation was low (45 people) but it was truly a very well organized race and one I will attend for many years to come.

We took a drive on the race course and were concerned about a few things - like a big hill on the bridge. We couldn't really tell how steep a slope it was but after driving it didn't think it would be that bad. Come to find out, we were right. We were also concerned about a pretty bumpy road on the bike course but as it turned out it was okay, too. You had to dodge a few pot holes and raised places in the road but all in all the course was fairly easy to maneuver.

The funniest thing about checking out the race course came when we tried to drive the run course. It started from transition and went...of all places...on the edge of an airport landing strip! We followed the flags that had already been placed the day before (after getting approval to do so, mind you...) and we ended up in a location where we could go no further...unless we wanted to DRIVE on the LANDING STRIP! We were a little confused so we turned around, went back, and asked for approval again and specifically where the trail went when it collided with the landing strip. We were told to open a 12-foot gate, go through the gate, close the gate behind us and that was where the course went. So...we did it! We felt we were doing something "wrong" the whole time but apparently it was okay for us to be checking out the course. I'm still quite concerned about FAA regulations, though!

After our exploration of the course we headed back to the house, had a good dinner and went to bed around 9 PM. None of us had been getting very good sleep the few days before we left so we were all pretty tired and went to bed pretty quickly.

Race morning

My race morning began with a 4:45 AM wakeup call. After a little problem with my smoothie maker I was very thankful to have been spending the weekend at a fully furnished home with a blender. Don't know what I would have done had we been in a hotel. My nutrition from Eagleman (my last 70.3) worked out well so I stuck with the same plan and it continued to work for me on this race.

The race venue was beautiful. When we arrived it was still dark. My Amaiza girls were THE BEST "race crew" ever! Since their race wasn't until the next day they kindly helped me carry my bags to transition (although there were signs everywhere saying they couldn't BE in transition)! But because of the small size of the race there was a lot of leniency of the normal "rules" of a triathlon. Because there was an Olympic and Sprint race the next day and they were expecting about 300 people they had all the bike racks available for the 70.3 folks to use. So, just about everyone had their own bike rack. It was AWESOME to be able to spread my stuff out all over the place! 

Swim (1.2 miles): 51:09

I wasn't super impressed with my swim. I just couldn't find that good rhythm that I typically do. I'm not exactly sure what the problem was either. Swimming to the first buoy felt okay. I noticed most of the people were swimming to my right but I felt I had a pretty good straight line to the turn around buoy so I kept swimming on. Turning at the first buoy and heading to the second I couldn't see squat! The sun was in my eyes and I struggled just to determine if I was on course or not. I did get a little off but didn't need too much course correction to get back. Heading into the finish line I started to feel a little cramping in my legs and felt like I was wearing down a little. All of a sudden I realized I hadn't taken a gel before the start of the race. UGH! The water was getting a little choppy after the last turn so I found myself swallowing a considerable amount of water. But, my swim time wasn't too far off what I expected it to be. It's hard to judge whether it was similar to my last 70.3 or not since Eagleman was 0.3 miles longer than it was supposed to be.

T1: 3:23
I felt pretty good coming out of the water but my transition time wasn't all that quick. It was about a minute slower than Eagleman. I did eat a gel and get something to drink but didn't think it took me that much longer. Oh well, I'll need to practice that one a little more.

Bike (56 mi): 3:20:01 @ 16.8 mph

Seven minutes slower than Eagleman...but I'm not too shocked. The first part of the bike I didn't push it too hard. I remembered from Eagleman that I cranked it almost the entire way in my hardest gear and my legs were dead by the time I had to run. So, I didn't want to repeat that. The first 2 miles I just let my legs warm up. When I reached "the bridge" I wasn't sure what to expect. Once I hit the bridge I started cranking a little harder and got up to about 25 mph going across. Once I hit the other side of the bridge and into the nature preserve I thought I was going to die. Wind was hitting me from all directions! I figured it would stop when I got to the turn around...but it didn't! I knew I didn't want to push it too hard because I would wear myself out and I knew I didn't want to push it too easy because the bike is typically my strongest leg. So, I kept my pace somewhat high but not killing it. I did 20 miles in my first hour. UNFORTUNATELY I hit the bridge about that time on my way back across in headwinds. OUCH! My speed immediately dropped to about 15...then 12...then 10 mph!!! Well, there went my average! About 2.5 miles of headwinds and not being able to get faster than 12 mph. It stunk!

We biked back to the transition area then did the whole loop all over again. This time I was a little more prepared. Going across the bridge I kicked it in and got about 30 mph as long as I could. Where I had done a little slower paces the first loop I really tried to push it on the second. Of course, hitting the bridge the second time I was still not prepared enough but I did have the energy to at least not allow my speed to drop below 12 mph this time. 

I tried standing several times during the bike just to kinda shake out my legs and not allow the cramps to come like they had in Eagleman and that seemed to help. On a pancake flat course you have to do something!!!
T2: 1:01
At Eagleman my T2 was 3:42 so I was super impressed with this result. I was even 1st place in T2 - even beating all the men! My closest T2 competition (a man) finished in 1:06! Pretty rockin! 

Run (13.1 miles): 2:56:07

This is where I made up the bulk of my time from Eagleman. Obviously I still have a lot of work to do in getting faster at the run. But, my biggest accomplishment on this race is that I didn't walk at all. Yes, I stopped at the water stations but other than that I did no walking. There were times I wanted to walk...believe me. The most difficult part of this race was the fact that there were only 45 people in the race and no real crowd support. You were out there on your own most of the time. You had to be mentally strong as well as physically strong. The mental game was horrendous. You have nobody out there on the course to push you - no competition around you (unless you were lucky enough to find someone near your pace) and no crowds to push you. You had to do this all on your own. Thankfully I had two amazing cheerleaders who drove the course, found me, and cheered me on for a while both on the bike and the run. But they couldn't be everywhere all the time and that was really tough.  

Post Race:

I knew from the start of this race that as long as I finished it I would be on the podium because there were only two women in my age group. And since the other lady ended up with second overall I was awarded the first place age group award in the 45-49 year old category. I was obviously excited about the award by the bigger accomplishment in my eyes was that I didn't walk the run and I had a 20 minute personal record. 

I am so thankful God has allowed me to be able to race the way I do. I am thrilled that he has given me the drive, the dedication and the ability to do what I do. I may not be an elite athlete but I am who God made me and I'm excited to be able to participate in races like this for His glory! It was such a blessing as I was on the bike course to see a sign on a local church that said "...let us run with endurance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith..." Hebrews 12: 1-2. This was actually a scripture I put on my shirt the last time I ran a marathon. Perfect!

Summary and lessons learned 
Continue to practice open water swimming so I don't get off course as much and practice spotting while looking into the sun.
Don't forget pre-race nutrition!
Focus on getting stronger on the run after the bike.
Practice T1 transitioning

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