I signed up for this race because I was looking for something to do late in the season after Lake Placid. I figured 'North Carolina in late October, it'll be flat and cool!'. Well, I was more or less right.
My wife has a high-school friend in Raleigh who was also doing the race, so it was all serendipitous. We drove down Friday morning, did packet pickup, dropped my bike and t2 bag at t1, and met her friend Steph out for dinner. Mediocre pasta, oh well.
The forecast had been looking like mid-50s with high winds and maybe rain, so I bought a windvest in case the bike was cold.
Up at 4:45. Ate a bagel with cream cheese, a small yogurt and a drank a cup of coffee. Took the 5:30 shuttle over to T1, and got my nutrition on the bike and laid out my T1 setup. It was really cold, so I just chilled and listened to some tunes on my iPod.
Took the 7:00 shuttle from T1 to the swim start. OK, now it was seriously cold. I put on my wetsuit, then put my clothes back on on top of that. Still cold. Hung out with Alec, Damian. Saw Aldona, Robin, Raminta and the other MMTC ladies. Spent alot of time huddled in a ball trying to stay warm. An hour before the swim start I took my Sportslegs (placebo?) and Beta-Allanine (also placebo?). At about 7:30 the first of the 140.6 swimmers came by. That means they had covered the first 1900m in 15 minutes. They were flying. 20 minutes before the swim start I took a caffeinated gel and washed it down with a bottle of g2. I checked my pre/post clothes at the last second, and got into the water (much warmer than the air) about 5 minutes before the swim start. It was really cold. Really cold. I was shivering heavily.
The Swim 31:05 (350/544 OV, 81/103 AG)
Another poor and embarrassing swim. Yes, the time is blistering fast, but
the current was extreme. By the time the swim started, I was shivering uncontrollably. With the current, everyone needs to exit out through a bit of a choke
point into the channel, and it was a bit of a rough start. Also not used to swimming in salt water, so with the rough start I swallowed quite a bit of salt water. Ick. Did a couple seconds of breast stroke. Flipped on my back and did a couple seconds of back stroke as well. Seriously contemplated whether I wanted to be out here at all. Eventually I decided I'd just stick with it until it became seriously unbearable. I was on the right side of channel, near the docks, where apparently (according to some posters on ST) the current is a bit less strong. My race plan had been to swim pretty hard, but with my lack of desire to even be out there at all, the swim until the turn buoy was more z2ish. After the turn buoy, as we moved out of the channel, I was back in my sorts and started to swim harder.
Sighting was really hard, with a combination of moderately heavy fog and a complete lack of buoys on the course. That, combined with my own swimming limitations made me the guy that the seemed to go 50m wide on every buoy.
Out of the water at the back of the pack, up a ladder, got my wetsuit pulled by the wetsuit stripper and glad to be on to something else (at least for now).
T1 was a very long job (probably 300m) barefoot across asphalt roads. In transition I toweled off briefly, got my shoes, helmet, glasses and vest on, then decided with the cool air temperatures to take the time to pull on my arm warmers and gloves before I headed out.
The Bike: 2:41:07 (64/544 OV, 7/103 AG)
I have never been as cold as I was on this bike ride. Cold, very windy (18mph headwinds), completely overcast and drizzly (some guy on ST claimed there was sleet, which I think was possible). The temperature actually dropped as the ride went on, bottoming out around 46. My goal had been to ride around 220w, which I stuck to. I was actually concerned that if I fell out of zone 3 that I would go hypothermic.
The headwind was incredible, and with the point-to-point nature of the course, you had to ride into it for the first 38 miles. I struggled to average 20mph against the headwind, even putting out good power. There were a number of overpass crossings with high wind that were sketchy, and there was a weird off-ramp section around mile 30 that had us riding through a very narrow coned-off 'chute'. It wouldn't have been technical if it wasn't so cold and windy.
This was one of the first races I've done where I was in the first wave, and by half-way through the bike, I was almost entirely alone the whole time. That was interesting, and the challenge was just in maintaining focus and keeping my power up. I passed Alec around mile 45, and he was the last person I saw until I got to within a mile of transition.
I also had to pee like a banshee. After a couple of failed attempts to pee on the bike, I finally managed to go around mile 48 or so. Good god that was nice.
I was moving fast enough that I didn't see anyone in trouble, but apparently there were a couple people taken off the course with hypothermia.
To quantify the wind, I averaged about 20mph for the first 40 miles, almost 25 for the back 16. That was with pretty consistent power across the ride (219 normalized watts, VI of 1.03).
Nutrition was a 3 hour concentrated bottle of Infinit, hit every 15 minutes on a timer. I made it through a little more than 2/3 of the bottle. I was drinking water from my aerodrink, which i refilled at the first water stop, skipping the other two.
If I did this race again under similar conditions I would take a soft-shell instead of a light wind vest. Maybe leg warmers too.
With the cold, I decided not to f*** around with a flying dismount, which meant I had a long hobble to the changing tent. In the tent, the volunteers were great. I couldn't get my hands to work well enough to get my watch on, so my volunteer buckled my watch and snapped my belt. The sun had started to come out, so I dropped my vest but kept my gloves (which I would soon take off). Then it was off to the run.
The Run: 1:47:33 (92/544 OV, 23/103 AG)
My plan was to start out in something that felt 'easy' and stick with that for the frist 3 miles, not letting myself go faster than 8:15, regardless of how I felt. I ran the first 3 miles at 8:15, then let myself go a bit faster. The weather was beautiful for running, and I had the gloves off by mile 3. The course was suprisingly hilly, with two large bridge crossings in the first 2 miles, a section of cobblestone followed by a short steep hill in Downtown Wilmington, and then another climb and descent before wrapping alongside a lake to the turnaround.
I tried to kick up the pace a bit after mile 3, which I did for a bit, but I didn't want to let my hear rate go above 165 yet, so I held myself in around high zone 4. I made it to the turn-around in 52:13, which if I had matched it on the way back would have matched my open half mary pb.
I grabbed a gel at water stop 3, then ate it about 100m before water stop 4 (so I could wash it down with water), then did the same at mile 6. I also took water at every water stop until mile 9. I needed to pee so badly. I didn't want to stop though, because I knew that even though I would run faster on an 'emtpy tank', that I wouldn't be able to make up the 90 seconds or so that a pit stop would take me. I wanted to pee on the run. I tried. I fantasized. but I just couldn't make it happen.
With 3 miles to go, I tried to kick up the pace but got hit in the face with crazy winds on the bridge crossings. Then it was back into transition, where the last quarter mile wound around and through the area. I made the final turn, passing a guy who I then got into a sprint finish with some dude. His age was obscured by his socks, so it wasn't till after the finish that I learned that I lost 16th place in 35-39 to him by one stride length. The lesson here is always fight to win.
I met my family at the finish line, it was great that they could see me race this year. I was so cold from the bike that it's only now on Monday evening that I'm starting to fully recover from it. This was a good race; well-organized and supported. They can't help the weather, so I won't hold it against them. The point-point-point nature of the course means that your transition items are transported from you. Make sure you label all your bags very well with permanent marker. I didn't lose anything, but other people did.
My swim needs serious help. Alec took first in our AG in the swim. If I had swum his swim, I'd have been in the top 10 and gone 5:00:00. I was happy with my bike - I wasn't sure that I'd be able to run a good run after doing the ride at 220w, but I did. My run can use some tuning, but is coming along. I think I can run faster - I need to embrace Mike Matney's advice and "not be afraid" of pushing myself harder. All in all, I was happy with the result.