Building Community Through Cycling

Blue Sky Velo
PPD Beach to Battleship

Race Report by BSV Member Greg T.

Hi fellow BSV-tri members!

I just wanted to write a race report for my first-ever iron-distance tri, last weekend’s
PPD Beach to Battleship in Wilmington, NC.

Overview:
In my opinion, this event has a fantastic location and was probably the best experience of all my triathlons due to energetic volunteers everywhere and supportive fans. On top of that I loved the small downtown metro, great beach/water, excellent roads, etc.

Perhaps we got super lucky with weather, but it was the most perfect day in so many respects and I finished in 10:26:37.  Broken down, I had a 52:04 swim, 5:27:40 bike and 3:53:56 run plus approximately 6 min. each for T1 and T2.  That put me in 30th place overall (650 total), and 5th M40-44 to cross finish, but technically a SECOND PLACE age group finish because of the roll-down of awards as others in age group place top-5 overall. Every aspect of my day was essentially perfect!

Much more details:

1)  The swim started near the ocean inlet/channel that is the Intercoastal Waterway and was timed to coincide with *incoming* tide so that super-fast swim times were expected.  I am certain I cannot swim 2.4 miles in 52mins, so I would have to agree.  With a mass start, I had more bumps and one kick to knock goggles off my eyes than any triathlon I’ve done, but it was still OK and I found lots of time when I wasn’t bumping into others.  It was a straight shot north (2/3rds), then west (1/3rd) to a boat dock, then a somewhat lengthy 300-yard jog out of the marina area to a grass T1 area across the street.

Changing tents, gear bags, bike racks, etc. were all done well in my opinion.

2)  The bike started a little tight with turns on various streets but only a short distance before reaching a good roadway and all flat as a pancake.  In relatively short time, we were outside populated areas and onto a section of interstate.  This was the only part of the bike that was a little uncomfortable because they routed bikes to the LEFT lane, rather than right lane.  Cones separated left lane riding bikes from fast-moving right-lane cars and the road surface was impeccable but the sounds of cars racing by was unnerving.  Now, anyone who exited the water in a reasonable time would have found a pretty wide open road, but I read reports of others having to deal with much larger packs of bikes due to half-iron athletes mingling with the full distance.  I saw one small non-injury bike crash and read of a couple others – but with 1800 total
participants, surely some one is going to have an incident.

Once off the interstate stretch of road, the remainder of the bike was rather uneventful, entirely flat terrain, a little industrial to start but eventually entering rural areas with a bit more scenery.  The course was VERY easy to follow with plethora of volunteers the entire time.  Traffic was extremely well behaved, even though I saw a few getting impatient as I came back towards T2 among hundreds of backed-up cars waiting to shoot the gaps between bikes – under
good direction of police.  I thought they were quite well behaved.

Essentially I fueled with a 350 calorie bottle of Ensure Plus in T1 and pretty much fueled with 330 calories per hour on the bike using one Macrobar plus one gel over each hour period for 5+ hours.  Also used Amino Vital Endurance in one water bottle each half plus added salts, besides the extra large water bottle on aerobars with water only inside.  It seemed like I was fueling
non-stop on the bike, but I was determined to take in calories all day long, which I have not been too good about in the past.

I never pushed my legs hard.  I knew the entire bike that I could push harder, go faster, but I was just aiming for about 20.5mph average for the entire ride, knowing that would help me keep consistent on the run rather than tail off miserable on the last 13.1 miles.  Essentially I had to remain patient on the bike, which was hard because I wanted to ride faster.  The first bike half had minimal headwind, then very near the half point, there was a slightly stronger headwind (from the west) before the course turned more east, then mostly south-southeast and we got a light tailwind and I found myself going 22mph without really working hard.  3)  The run started in downtown’s T2 inside the convention center, which was many miles from the bike T1.  There was a brief 1/2 mile spur north, quick turn-around back to near T2 behind the building and I glanced at my watch and saw that I had a 7:43 first mile split.  I gasped!  It was too easy.  Must be sea level, I thought.  But, I also knew immediately that this would be a bad idea to keep this pace.  So, I purposefully told myself to be patient and accept what seemed like really easy jogging.  The next 1-2 miles were about getting a running rhythm that felt good, taking in a gel or two, and try enjoying the extremely energetic crowd!  At this point, I was among a whole bunch of half-iron athletes and it was difficult to know who was on which number lap of half or full.  I quit worrying about lap number because I was absorbing energy from the crowd’s enthusiasm as they cheered a lot of the half-iron on towards the finish line.

After the initial 1-mile north spur of the run course, the remainder was essentially  an out-and-back-twice path.  But, another odd layout of the course was something a lot of people called the “Bermuda Triangle” because there was another diversion in a triangle street neighborhood to get proper distance by running it once on outbound, then return back to a  lakeside to finish the full outbound direction, then return to the triangle and repeat it, before heading back in direction of T2.  Thank goodness I went to a “mandatory” event description meeting because it was very clear to me that full-iron athletes would run that triangle 4 times total and half-iron athletes would go around the triangle twice.  It was clear once you heard it.   But the confusion of this triangle was the subject of many problems by some racers.  Regardless, the volunteers were *very* clear in directing people if only athletes asked for help because they
missed the pre-race meeting. Anyway, departing the immediate downtown region, the course was a mixture of roads and asphalt paths and adjacent to a lake with lovely shade trees except that triangle diversion.  It helped take my mind away from tiring legs to have that shade.  I simply tried to take in all the positive comments from volunteers and race watchers and ignore the legs.  It worked.  I just constantly kept willing my legs to churn.  I stopped at aid stations in a very intermittent manner.  I sucked down about 2 gels per hour when in sight of an aid station so I could follow with plain water.  Other times, I’d just grab a cup of cola, then Heed or water.  I dumped a cup of water over my head once in a while.  I never felt over-heated, but the water over my head did seem to boost me.  At the near 7-mile turn-around, I hit the spot-a-pot for #1.

Finally, I listened to coach who implored me to keep hydrated to point of needing to take a  potty-break.  I listened so well, that I stopped there on the second lap also! In each and every case that I slowed to a walk for aid stations, I simply willed my legs to restart the run with a few meters after tossing my drink cup.  I really thought I would have found that specific item harder, but I just told myself that this day was going so super, just start churning the legs and you’ll be done sooner.  So, I did.  My leg muscles talked back, but my willpower to run was stronger and I truly started to believe I would run the ENTIRE 26.2 distance with only
walking about a third of all possible aid stations.

There was a small moment of doubt as I came back into downtown and saw the finish line only 200 yards ahead, but I knew that I had to do a second lap of 12.2 miles longer before that finish line would be MINE! I reached the run special needs bag and refilled my waist pack with
my gels and swapped water bottles and just turned my back on the finish line to start lap#2.  At this point, I saw the timing clock read 8:30 and I was suddenly so euphoric that I could actually finish sub-10:30 for real.  The new goal simply became running a half-marathon in 2 hours.
This is easily in my grasp on any given day of training, but I knew it would take much more to finalize the 140.6 distance.  Somehow, deep down, I just knew I had sufficient will and legs to push very nearly the same effort on lap#2 as I did on lap#1.  Perhaps it was just the sugar (gels) speaking.  In nearly every other race I’ve ever done, I don’t seem to keep enough fuel to finish a 2nd portion as strong as the first.  I neg-split in training, but rarely on race day.  I doubt my actual marathon split halves were equal or neg split, but they were darn close from about mile 22 to the finish line, I never stopped at another aid station and just started pushing harder and harder.  As each road intersection passed, I just kept imagining what the finish line looked like and how good  it would feel.  That last 300 yards to the finish will remain in my memory
forever as I was just so elated and euphoric to see the chute and the clock was still multiple minutes under 10:30.  A race volunteer was directing various runners, all of them towards their start of 2nd lap.  He rolled his arm/hand in that direction for me too – but I smiled so widely and pointed to the left – towards that final chute into the finish line.  He
said: “Great Job!” and saw my huge grin and that is exactly how I finished the race – a MASSIVE GRIN on my face!!!

Final thoughts:
Most of all, I want to thank my wife!  Her tireless support for my crazy amount of training and having to hear me constantly talk about this workout session or that, the race preparation, the travel preparation, the *everything*!  She was my biggest supporter and I will work many
months to years to re-pay her with my support.  My kids also deserve thanks for sticking through it all and not seeing me much on weekends.  I’ll be rewarding them with trips to the ski slopes this winter.

Next, I thank Jim Hallberg for the fantastic coaching plan and helping me realize dreams I never thought possible:  1st place age group Longmont Tri; a top-10 age group half-IM finish; and a top-5 age group IM finish.  If you want to see where I started this from, go back through the Longmont Tri results in 2006 – which is now laughable.  Jim has done me very well
and I have all my workouts logged and can clearly show that I reached this IM dream with a single highest maximum of 14.5 hours one-week maximum training workload.  Most of the longer weeks were typically 12 hours – a target I told him to use for me back in January.  I hope some of you readers will decide to train with Jim, because I think you will find it very rewarding!  Thanks coach!

And, I sincerely thank all those friends around me who supported my goals
and provided encouragement.  Thank you so much!
–Greg

 

 

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