Raleigh 70.3 Race Recap!

Late last summer, my coach emailed our team and asked if anyone would be interested in racing in IM 70.3 Raleigh. I was excited at the prospect of racing a new venue for a 70.3 after racing Syracuse the past two years and jumped on-board. Then, I promptly put this race on the back burner in my mind – my focus has really been on getting myself to a point physically and mentally where I can successfully swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles without having a break down.

I have to admit it was a strange experience to throw a 70.3 race in the middle of my Ironman training. I’ve been so focused on training for the 140.6 miles at the end of July, this race crept up on me. I had my first realization that the race was coming up quick a couple of weeks ago and had a mini freak-out session with my coach. I just felt like the winter was so cold, that I hadn’t had the chance to get where I wanted to be before this race. My swimming has gained a lot of strength in the pool, but my biking and running has been much slower than last year since the focus of my training has been endurance and building distance rather than working on any speed.

Luckily, my coach did a good job of talking me off the ledge (while also admitting she was having similar feelings about her own training… she raced with us Sunday and took 3rd in her age group!) and we threw in some speed work during the past 2 weeks. The workouts leading up to the race built up a bit of my confidence with some really strong (and fast) swims, a couple stronger bike rides, my solo century ride, and my half mile repeats that were at last year’s fast(er) pace. It seemed like everything fell into place the week before I started my taper – it was amazing!

Last week was taper week – i.e. low volume of workouts, focus on nutrition, and trying to rest up prior to the event. Starting on Monday, my coach had us cut out all veggies and almost all fruit from our diet. Also, we had to avoid fiber sources and whole grains. The focus was to eat simple carbs and increase healthy fats in our diets to help build up energy stores in our bodies for race day. Turns out, it’s really hard to eat in this manner – I think this was the most difficult part of preparing for the race… by Saturday I was crying for a salad. (And all I wanted post-race was a giant salad!!)

Anyhow… on Friday my coach and a couple of the other T2 athletes met up at my coaches house, packed up the car and started our trek from Syracuse to Raleigh. After an entertaining 12 hours in the car (traffic held us up in DC a bit…) we made it to Raleigh just in time for packet pick up. We had a blast driving down south, I was amazed at how quickly the ride went! We may or may not have raced a couple of guys in their little Subaru with bikes on top, found inspiration for packing our next road trip, missed taking pictures of almost every state sign, and were in awe of some things that could be purchased in c-stores in the south. It was a good day. (see pictures below…)

Saturday was hectic for us, turns out that competing in a race that was a point to point race (verses a closed loop) that has 2 transitions makes for a busy day. For IM Raleigh, the start and finish line are about 40 or so miles apart which made for a lot of time running around back and forth between the two transition areas. After we did our final workout near transition 1, headed back to Raleigh to check in some more of our teammates, drove back to transition area 1 to drop our bikes, grabbed food for the evening and got back to the hotel we had spent a solid 10 hours running around. Once at the hotel, we had the fun task of sorting out our transition bags – we had to figure out what to pack for each site.

The way the course was set up, we started in Jordan Lake which was located west of Raleigh, after swimming we would come out of the water and get our bikes. Then you biked the 56 miles from the site at Jordan Lake into downtown Raleigh to a second transition area where you would leave your bike and grab your running gear to start the 13.1 mile run. This means you had a bag in T1 with your bike gear (helmet, shoes, sunglasses, food, etc.), and a bag in T2 with all your run gear (sneakers, visor, food, etc.). Also, unlike Syracuse 70.3, you were not allowed to lay out your gear – everything had to be contained inside the bags – if you left anything outside of you bag it was an automatic 5 minute penalty for each transition area. This type of transition and course definitely took some planning and thought – I have to admit, I struggled with it a bit!

Alright, I’ve definitely gone on enough about the preparation leading up to the race, so let’s get down to the ACTUAL race recap…

Sunday morning, our alarms went off at 3:30 am so that we could leave the hotel by 4 am and head into Raleigh to park and drop off our T2 bags with our run gear. Transition in Raleigh was only open until 5:15. After we parked, unloaded our stuff and found the rest of our team, we got in line for the shuttle bus to take us out to Jordan Lake. That whole process took a little bit of time but we were at T1 by about 6 am. Then we set up our T1 gear (bike gear, including any water we needed for our bikes). T1 closed at 6:45 am – by the time I had filled my water bottles, found a bike pump to borrow, and had things set it was time to get out of transition.

During this time, we found out that the swim would not be a wetsuit legal swim. Whomp, whomp… total bummer but the water was extremely warm, so I almost can’t imagine how HOT it would have been with a wetsuit! I also was a little bummed because while the race started at 7 am, I did not start my race until 8:16 when my wave went off. However, this did give me time to meet the other Betty’s racing from Team Betty which was nice.

After waiting around with my teammates, watching them all take off on their waves, I warmed up for my swim and felt good! I was excited to tackle the swim course with how strong my swimming has been this year. The unfortunate part about Sunday’s race was that IM Raleigh was my first open water swim of the year – with the weather being so cold in NY this winter, the open water swimming opportunities in NY are JUST starting to become available but most of the water options are still quite cold (high 50s and low 60s for water temps) – and I had not had an opportunity to swim and practice sighting this year.

Before the race started, I was thinking I would nail the swim, hang on for dear life with the bike since I’ve not really rode very fast this spring, and then finish out my run at an easy pace considering the fact that the weather was supposed to be in the 90s by the time I would be running.

In reality, despite feeling confident when I entered the water, my confidence quickly faded after the first 500 yards of the swim. I think I got a little caught up in the front of the swim pack, and had a successful start but it was a little too quick. As soon as I realized this I slowed up a bit to pace myself – then I  started to run into the prior waves. I think my wave was number 20 of 22 prior waves so there were quite a few people in the water, and a LOT of people struggling with the fact that it was a non-wetsuit legal swim. A LOT. I spent the rest of the course trying to avoid people that were struggling from the previous waves and I had a difficult time staying on course and sighting. Additionally, on the long edge of the course, away from the shore we ran into some rolling waves which was a bummer. For much of the midsection of the course you were fighting against the rollers that were coming at us and getting pushed backward/sideways a bit. When I hit the halfway mark on the course my watch said 26 minutes and I was bummed. My coach and I had thought I would have nailed the swim in about 32-33 minutes with how strong I had been swimming. Mentally this was a bit of a blow, but with triathlon training, I’ve learned to never give up, and never give in. There is a lot that can happen during the day and you have to be able to take a set back or two, keep your head up and just keep moving forward.

Once I got past the waves in the course and turned the last corner to swim to shore, I kept my head down, kept my pacing a bit better and kept working to dodge the slower swimmers from the previous waves. It really was a crowded course the entire way which was not ideal. As I exited the water, my watch read 38 minutes. Not great, but nothing I could do about it now. Just had to run down the (very long, very narrow) transition to grab my bike and move on to the next phase. My bike was racked near the bike exit so I had a bit of a distance to run to get to my bike. Again, a little bit of a mess as I was trying to get around other people who were walking with their bikes and trying to get ready to leave the transition area.

From my warm-up the day prior, I knew the first 1.5 miles of the course was a climb and that most of the first 3.25 miles was uphill to a quick turnaround point before you really headed out toward Raleigh. I was focused on just trying to settle into my bike, lower my heart rate and try to keep my power numbers in check. Unfortunately, my bike computer was almost completely useless to me on Sunday. When I got on the bike, my HR was not syncing with the computer, my power meter kept saying it was connected but I had no readings coming through, and after the first 1.9 miles the speedometer stopped working. Around mile 5, I rebooted my computer and gained my HR reading. At mile 10, I again hit the reboot and then the computer managed to pick up my distance, but my computer was about 8 miles behind the course all day. At this point I realized that I just needed to go with what I had, keep an eye on my HR and go by feel. One hour into the bike I hit the 18 mile mark – which was a little crazy since with my training my speed has not been the focus and I’d slipped backwards from last year – lately I’ve been averaging about 15-16 mph on my rides so 18 was a bit of a jump. To be honest, I was a little worried that I was going to burn through my legs but decided to just try and maintain my pace as best as I could.

Overall, the bike course was beautiful! Compared to NY, the roads were in amazing condition (in the Northeast we have SO MANY potholes and damaged roads, they’re terrible), and the scenery was beautiful! When we had looked at the elevation profile of the course, we were thinking it wasn’t going to be bad from a hill standpoint – there were no really long climbs and nothing as steep as the Syracuse course – but it was a bit deceiving! Turns out that while the Raleigh bike course is just a series of rolling hills, you’re never really on flat ground anywhere, and by the end the legs were feeling it – especially with the last hill climb into transition before the run. At the end of the day, it was a fun bike course, the last hour was very hot with no shade to speak of and temps rising to the high 80s, also the bike course had about 1,000 more feet of climbing than the Syracuse course! My time on the bike course was 3 Hours, 11 minutes – the same as Syracuse 70.3 last year, which was great, all things considered.

Transition 2 was the one I was least impressed with on the course. Again I was racked at the back of the area, near the run out. This meant that I had to run my bike through 2 parking lots and over a major curb between the lots. I’m not kidding when I say it was hard to even see the bike in sign from my spot in transition. However, this was something completely out my control – but I do think these transitions were a bit un-even for those that ended up slotted near the back end or each of them just due to the length and obstacles. (I’m done complaining now… moving on).

As I was finishing up my bike I could feel that my shoulders were starting to feel a bit scorched. I was starting to wish I had thrown my sunscreen in my T2 bag… normally I would not stop to reapply during a race, but I felt like the sun was especially intense and I knew I was not likely to PR this course. I have to admit I was very happy to see that they had volunteers at the exit applying spray sunscreen to any athlete that wanted it – I hopped in line and then I was off to start the 13 mile run!

Ugh. The first mile of this run was an uphill battle (literally and figuratively). My legs were feeling tired but I knew that I had survived these runs before. Both years that I have competed in Syracuse it’s been a bit of a death march in the heat. So mentally, I was prepared. My plan was to try and settle in at a 10 minute pace, stop at every aid station for water and ice – I was a bit dehydrated coming off the bike… I failed to take in enough fluids and knew I was potentially in trouble – and just slug through the run.

Mile 1: 10:03. Right on pace. Mile 2: 10:01. I was still good. Mile 3: 9:51. My legs were starting to feel better despite the gradual incline. I could tell I had some pep left in them, I just wasn’t sure how much I could push. I had seen some of my teammates from Syracuse and a few of the Betty’s and cheered them on. I find it’s easier to trick my brain into continuing to think I’m ok if I am more concerned with cheering on others… also, around mile 2.5 or so one of my teammates caught up with me and started to run with me so that was fun. Mile 4: 9:29. We had made the turn at 3.5 miles and now were coasting downhill a bit – stopped at the aid station and ended up losing my teammate in the craziness. Continued to push on and I felt good. I mean, really good! Mile 5: 9:49, Mile 6: 9:23. Was back in town and ready to start loop number 2… Mile 7: 9:02 – probably a bit too fast, but it was hard to not get caught up in the excitement of the crowd. Mile 8: 9:35, Mile 9: 10:04, back up the hill in the blazing sun… Mile 11: 9:34, made the turn to return back on the final leg of the course & still feeling strong. Mile 12: 9:10, starting to push it a little but try to remain smart and still stop at the aid stations for water/coke/ice. Was going to pass by the final aid station in the race but was feeling a little light headed so played it smart. Mile 13: 8:15 to finish! A strong finish for me – I’ve been averaging 9 minute+ miles lately so to nail an 8:15 at the end of my half marathon to finish was great!

Total time start to finish on Sunday was 6 Hours flat. Just 3 minutes slower than my time in Syracuse last June. I was hoping that my swimming would have let me go a bit faster, but it just wasn’t in the cards Sunday. Despite the fact it was not a PR, I’m feeling pretty good about it. This was one less month of preparation compared to Syracuse and it was treated as more of a “pit-stop”/training event rather than an “A” race in my training. Also, I am finally starting to feel like my calf is back to being repaired after my injury last Fall, which is a BIG win (now I just have to be smart as we ramp up running mileage over the course of the next 7 weeks (EEEK – this Ironman keeps getting closer and closer!)).

Sunday’s 70.3 race went really well from a nutrition standpoint (the fourth element of endurance triathlon that can make or break your performance) – I managed to eat what I needed to on both the bike and run despite the super high temperatures. I also raced using Salt Tabs for the first time and that went really well – I felt like I was able to manage my electrolyte/salt loss without any huge issues (I’ve struggled in the heat in the past). The biggest area of failure was my fluid intake on the bike. My coach said we should go through about 5-6 bottles on the bike with the heat we had – I managed to get through 2 bottles of scratch and about half of my speed fill which means I only took in half of what I should have. I definitely felt this on the first few miles of my run. This is something I need to focus on as I work on my Lake Placid training – I won’t be able to make it through the run if I skimp on my fluids during the 112 mile bike. Lucky for me, I have 4 more 100 mile+ rides to practice on before July 26th. (Yes, you read that right. 4 more 100+ mile rides. I already know what I’m going to be doing for 4 of the next 6 Saturday’s of training…)

If you’re still reading this, congratulations. You deserve a gold star. I’m done rambling through my recap and you’re still hanging on! I feel like I’m still trying to decipher and digest the race because I have yet to return home this week… I’m working on my third hotel room since Sunday. Yes, it’s only Wednesday. Super fun.

Weekly Workouts// {Taper Week}

  • Monday – Recovery Ride – 1 hour, 15.4 miles
  • Tuesday – Swim with speed work – 31 minutes, 2000 yds
  • Wednesday – 1 hour, 15 minute Bike, 19.4 miles
  • Thursday – 30 minute Run, 3.1 miles
  • Friday – Rest/Travel Day to Raleigh, NC
  • Saturday –  Pre-race shake out – 20 minute bike, 15 minute run (we were not allowed in the water to swim…bummer.)
  • Sunday – Ironman 70.3 Raleigh – 1.2 (+.1?) mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run – 6 hours

Total Time: 9 hours 45 minutes

  • Swim: 4250 yards / 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Bike: 97 miles / 5 hours 50 minutes
  • Run: 17.75 miles / 2 hours 45 minutes

Photo Recap//

Memorial Day project – makeover for the front door!  Should have done a before and after pic but painted the trim to brighten it up and then went from a dirty white door to the grey! Also spray painted the knocker from the rusty gold to silver to match the doorknobs I installed when I moved in – love the way this came out!

IMG_1438

Memorial day also brought a nice quick recovery ride around my hometown. Really enjoyed the scenery and the chance to go for a nice relaxing ride. IMG_1433The other project that needs to be done at my house… changing out a timer switch to a normal switch in an attempt to get my front porch lights to work. So far, no dice. Project continues…

IMG_1429This is what packing for 10 days looks like when you have to go to work for 2 days, travel to NC for a 70.3, then head out to Kansas City for 2 days followed by 2 days in Chicago, looping back to Syracuse before actually returning home. …have I mentioned how much I love travel and packing?!

(Although I am actually getting better at packing only what I need… silver lining.)

Flipped my calendar to June before I left for the weekend. This is slightly awkward to have on your calendar at work. Yes. I enjoy looking at girls running on a beach.  Bronco continues to perfect his flop (and some of his “feel sorry for me” looks).     Raleigh or Bust!   Road trip games, spot and take pictures of port-a-potties enroute.   So we missed the state signs for PA and MD. Finally got one in DC while waiting in traffic…  And Virgina!   Then we realized we were doing this road trip thing all wrong…   And there was this. No, we’re not competitive. Not at all. Apparently you can buy liquor at C-stores in Virgina. For only $1.99! Such a bargain.   Missed the NC State sign, but we got this one!   My friend sent this to me on our trip down. Love it.  We’re here!! Checking in to the race!   Bikes in the lobby.

The boys in the background wanted to know why they didn’t get to bring their bikes to the hotel after seeing us roll ours out of the elevator and into the lobby. 🙂   Jordan Lake Saturday Morning. Too bad the lake wasn’t this calm on race day!     Ironman Village – take 2.   Checking out my spot in T2… if you squint you might see where I ran my bike in the next day… (the black arch in the middle of the background)  Picture of T1, standing near my bike… we ran in from the far end… yes I know you can’t see it. I was serious about these transitions being long distances from start to finish!!  Dropping the bike off Saturday afternoon.   Attempting to figure out my transition bags. I was tired, this took a lot of thinking. It was hard.   At the finish line with Heather and Tanya! These ladies rock!           At the start line with 3 of the 4 other Betty’s that raced Sunday. It was great to meet these ladies after talking with them online over the course of the past few months!    And another finisher pic, with Lynn this time! Ironman Raleigh is in the books!  Came back from the race to an email from my dog… you can see Roxie was super enthusiastic about cheering me on.

Post-race dinner. I was craving a salad ALL WEEK. Finally got to order one – this hit the spot!

Also, not sure if it was the pre-race diet, or the nutrition during my event, or the fact that my body is just getting used to all this crazy mileage – but this was the first time that I have finished a 70.3 and had an appetite after the race.

It was pretty amazing.

And if you’re STILL reading, hope you all are having an amazing week!

Thanks for following me and reading about all my craziness – the journey to Lake Placid continues!

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One thought on “Raleigh 70.3 Race Recap!

  1. Sounds like an awesome race! Congrats!!! It is always nice to have a tune up half before a full IM! Now you know what to work on…and hydration is huge!! Sounds like my luck with having to bike “miles” with your bike through transition!! That is the problem with big races!! ;(
    Good luck on your 100mile rides in the next few weeks!!

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