This was the first year for the Ironman 70.3 in Raleigh and it was a great event! Most of this report is about this race site and race itself since it was a first year and I want people to know about this event.
The race is in Raleigh and is a point to point bike so your T1 and T2 are in different locations. I am lucky to have a friend who lives in Apex (near the swim start) so my friend Eileen and I decide to do this as soon as it came out (it was to be her first half IM race). AS you all know, I just did IM Texas (That decision came later but in the end that race helped me with this one).
Sandi Delcore, Lisa Farias and I traveled down to Raleigh on Friday. We left around 11am and missed most of the NOVA traffic. We arrived in Raleigh in time to check in at the Convention center on Friday night. The check in was well organized, not crowed, we even found street parking! Cool back pack (nicer sling bag than before) and t-shirt and we were ready! We found a great Italian place on the way to my friend Kara’s house (thanks to Siri) and enjoyed a real dinner!
Saturday we had all day to get ready. We could not do a practice swim at the race site but found a park across the street and did our swim/bike/run practice. Racked our bikes (no issues) and drove the course. We were lucky to have Jim join us on Saturday am and he was great at keeping us organized and helping with everything! Best Race Sherpa yet!
We were able to drive the bike course and discuss the details. You could drop off your T2 bags in downtown on Saturday as well so that worked out so we would not have to worry about that on race morning. Got everything done and went back to my friend Kara's house where we were staying to relax and watch Lisa drive the tractor!
Race morning they had a shuttle you could take from downtown (T2 and finish line) to the swim start but since we did not need to bother with that Jim was able to drop us off at the swim start. He was actually able to park in the park area and stay for the start. The day before they were telling people that the water was going to be too warm for wetsuits but it worked out race morning that it was just wetsuit legal. Good for those that brought the wetsuit just in case but many did not and there was a lot of complaining. Lesson #1 - Always bring it just in case. Worse case your morning clothes bag is a bit too heavy! I did not bring mine but it did not matter to me. I have a nonlegal speed suit (since i bought it before the rules changed) and I never get to wear it so I brought it just in case.
There were plenty of volunteers in T2 to help pump tires and lots of people with pumps you could use. They also had lots of swim waves so no wave was really too large.
Swim - The swim is a rectangle without the bottom. You walk in the beach area and can basically stand until they start you. There were a lot of first timers (based on raised hands when the question was asked) and no one was really starting at the bouys at all, everyone was staying back a bit. This made for a nice easy start with little to no contact. The longest section of the swim is after the first turn. The map online looks like a triangle but it is not. The water is fairly calm and while not clear, you can see your hands but it is hard to see other swimmers so caution is still needed to avoid contact. It was cloudy to start so the sun glare was not a problem. Because it is an open lake, the kayaks were giving plenty of room. The only part that had some chop was the swim in (third leg) to shore and you can swim all the way up to the dock where you walk out. They had wetsuit peelers that were helping and all of that was part of your time, which explains why the transition times appear to be fast but really they only included time in transition not the run from the water or the wetsuit removal.
Bike - They had people putting on sunscreen as you ran out with your bike, which you needed. This is a very nice bike course. Very much a rolling course. No real long flat sections but no hills worse than Columbia or Half Full. The second half of the course has tougher hills so you have to be careful to hold back a bit and leave something in the tank. The aid stations were well positioned and seemed to have everything covered. I spent half of the race with an official riding near us so everyone was pretty well behaved. Did watch her DQ a guy for not wearing a shirt. I think we had a bit of a tailwind on some sections and we definitely had a few spots with a headwind but nothing terrible (remember though I am comparing this to Texas). Many of the roads were completely closed which really made this ride nice. you only had a few sections where you had to worry about cars. you come into transition up a hill so you need to be ready for that. Overall the road conditions were good but you do cross some railroad tracks and need to use caution in those areas. also two areas with curving, wooded downhills where you cant see around the corner (these are the areas I really dislike).
Run - This is where the fun was! The map looks like the first half is a gradual up hill and you get to enjoy that on the way back. it was warm out - probably upper 80's and many sections did not have shade in the beginning. You run for the first two miles in a gradual up hill but nothing like the hills in Columbia. You run through town so there are lots of people around. The aid stations were every mile but one issue was that only every other one had ice and cola. This is what I use to survive on my IM races and it was not clear they were going to do that so it was a bit frustrating. But as you learn on these races, you adapt to survive. Miles 2 to 5 are basically rolling hills, nothing too terrible. you run around the College and then head into the park. Having not seen this course before we were running it, this is where you encounter the unexpected...you are on a trail like Columbia (shade was nice) but the hills are like Columbia - Gatorade hill maybe 5 or 6 times - some a bit longer?? You also do a small loop from mile 6 to 8 - it is a one mile loop you do twice. The best part of this run is the last three miles. It is downhill and awesome! you run through town again and there are lots of people around. It is a great way to have a negative split on your race, I certainly did.
The finish line is awesome! right downtown and you can see it for about a 1/4 mile as you run to the end. it is lined with people and reminded me a lot of Louisville.
Bottom line - this is a great course and IM did a great job for the first year. They were well organized, the course was very nice and a good comparison to the areas where we train. It was hot for June but so it Eagleman so you just have to be ready for that. They even had beer for the athletes when you finished, along with the usual pizza. I skipped the pizza and enjoyed my beer!
Now on to the bay swim! I recommend this race for anyone looking for a great new Half IM or for their first IM!