I had booked my hotel when I signed up for the race, which was nice because it was right around the corner from the expo and the finish line. I had planned originally on coming down on Friday, but had since decided to go down on Thursday to give myself more time. I booked a room at the Marriott closer to the swim start for that first night, which ended up working out really well. After getting checked into the hotel I went to the Convention Center to pick up my packet and buy some swag. I probably spent more money that I should have, but I got a few nice things that I'm happy to have, so I'd say it was worth it! We had a team dinner downtown on Thursday night, which was pretty fun, but since we were meeting up early for a practice swim, I left to go back to my hotel early so I could start getting all my gear bags together. Heather was kind enough to offer me a ride down to the practice swim with her family in the morning, which I greatly appreciated!
There were several of us that met up Friday morning, including Preston and Fred. This practice session was super helpful in learning what lines to swim and where the current was best. We also got pointers on areas to avoid. The current was really strong. In some places I could swim backstroke in place. Overall that practice swim was extremely valuable. When we were done, some nice folks let us climb out of the water on their boat since the ladders for the race weren't in yet. So many nice people! Derek and the kiddos picked up Heather and I near T1 after the swim and they dropped me by my hotel on the way back to theirs.
I got all my things together and checked out of the hotel then headed back over to T1. I was able to park without a problem. I did a quick ride/bike maintenance check down to the beach and back then grabbed the rest of my T1 stuff. It was just a short walk over to T1 from where I parked, so that wasn't bad. I got all my things situated, even had my stuff in Ziploc bags inside the gear bags they provided since the forecast called for some rain that evening. Once all that was good to go, I did a quick 20 min run along the same route I just rode, then headed back to my car. I drove over to T2 to drop off the rest of my transition gear (also in a Ziploc bag) then went to check in at the Best Western. It was still too early to check in since they didn't have any rooms ready, so I changed in the adjacent bathroom then went to have lunch at the Front Street Brewery. The rest of my teammates were all still getting there gear and such situated, so I ate alone, then headed back to the hotel to check in. The room itself was pretty big, and the view was great! It looked out over the river and part of the run course for the race. I met up with Preston and a friend later for a second lunch/early dinner before heading back to the room to chill. I ended up just having a light snack later on before calling it an early night. We did indeed have a line of showers/storms move through that evening, so I was glad I Ziploc bagged my stuff! The picture below is from the day after the race.
Now, as a meteorologist, I knew it was gonna be a chilly morning, and I knew it would be breezy. I didn't expect it to be quite as cold as it was, and I definitely wasn't prepared for the winds. I met up with Preston in the morning and we caught the shuttle to T1 together. Put the last minute things on our bikes and in our bags, then waited for the shuttle down to the swim start. Damn that wind. We were able to get on the first shuttle to the swim start and found a spot behind a moving truck to block the wind. That helped quite a bit, but we were all still freezing. It was comical watching all the triathletes finding spots on the perimeter of the parking lot that blocked the wind. It wasn't till much closer to race start that people were actually gathered out in the open. I put on my wetsuit kind of early because it helped me get warm. I also waited till the last minute to drop off my morning clothes bag. I don't think I had shivered so much in a long time. The water was gonna feel like a bathtub compared to the air. Thankfully, I was in the first wave of swimmers for the 70.3, so I didn't have to wait around forever before starting. I also didn't have other swimmers to inhibit my path. While we were all waiting to get in the water I started a little group hug, just to keep warm.
I think we all appreciated that brief warm up. I think we were in the water for about 5-10 min before we actually started the race, which was actually probably a good thing because it warmed us some. I lined up in the front so I would have a good shot at getting out front and not having to swim over people. The swim was tough. I'm so glad I knew where the best line/current was because that helped. I could also see another woman very close to me the whole way, so I pushed the whole swim. As I made the first turn the chop was now in my face. I swallowed more saltwater out of that inter-coastal than any human probably should, but I couldn't stop, couldn't slow down. I knew that woman was close. I could see her every so often. When I got to the ladders they were hard to spot at first, but I climbed out as quickly as I could and followed the pointer's directions up the ramp. I could here the beep of the timing mat, but had no idea where it was or if I had gotten out first. There were a couple of women who got out around the same time, and several people who were doing the full that I had passed or caught up to that were also exiting around that time. I made my way to the wetsuit strippers and then through the shower station. The pressure there sucked, but I tried to rinse the saltwater off so chaffing wouldn't be so bad. I finally made it into the transition area to pick up my bike gear bag and into the changing tent I went. Now, for a 70.3 I normally wouldn't have planned a full change, but given the cool air and strong winds, I decided to put on dry clothes. My transition time was long, but I did the best I could. Got some sunscreen on my face then headed out of the tent, grabbed my bike, and headed out onto the course.
The bike course. one word, HELL! That wind that froze us all before the race and created such a choppy swim was now the beast we had to fight on the bike. On a side note here, because of hurricane Matthew, there were still several roads closed on the full course, so they were shortened to 56 miles. That meant everyone was just doing the 56 mile bike course, which would mean a busier transition area and run. Okay, back to reality. The wind was out of the northwest/north-northwest at 18 mph. The first 40 miles of the bike course were mainly headed west or northwest. That's right folks, we had an 18+ mph crosswind/headwind for the first 40 miles of the bike course. When we were on the highway and had the crosswind it was everything I could do to not be blown to the left. I just prayed that no one got too close. All vehicle traffic was on our right (north) so we would get gusts of wind between vehicles that would literally blow us sideways. Thankfully I made it through that section without an issue. Not everyone was so lucky. From there it was straight into the wind for about 20 miles. I was getting passed a lot, but I didn't want to burn up my legs and not have anything left for the run. I kept a steady pace and just tried to get through it. I knew that my chance of getting close to a 6 hour finish was gone, and likely was a 70.3 PR. Mentally that's a tough thing to realize during a race. I just kept telling myself that I was still going to finish and that I may have even gotten the ROKA award. Where is the damn turn around? Every time I'd go up a hill or around a turn I'd think it would be there, but no. Finally I reached the turn around point. I put it into high gear and it felt damn good to go fast. I think I had averaged about 13-15 mph the first 40 miles, but was able to average 19-22 mph the last 15 or so miles. I did stop once just to eat a cliff bar and drink some water since the wind really didn't allow for much of that on the way out. I was so glad to be off the bike. I changed again into what was going to be comfortable, stopped at the porta-john, then headed out on the run course. Another long transition. Oh well.
The run wasn't bad and time really seemed to go by pretty quick. Saw several IOS teammates which always helps pass the time. My pace was pretty good on the way out, but shortly after the turn around point I started to get some tightness on the side of my knee. IT band issue most likely. I slowed it down a little, continued to walk through the water stations, and tried not to push or give up. The last 3 miles really hurt. I walked more than I wanted to and at my lowest point, around a mile from the finish I thought about walking the rest of the way. I didn't want to because I knew that, despite the crappy bike and transitions, I was close to a PR. Right around that time I passed an intersection where there was music playing. What song was on? Eye of the Tiger, of course. I thought of DeGaulle and how he would be trying to pump me up with that song and I knew I couldn't give up. I sucked it up and started jogging. I managed to jog the rest of the way into the finish, even though it hurt. I finished the run with a split of 2:14, which was just under a 10 min/mile pace and much faster than my run split at Raleigh last year. Can't be too upset about that. I got my medal and my PJ pants (let's be honest, they are the reason I wanted to do the race), then posed for the obligatory photo. On the way out of the finisher area the Beachbody tent was handing out protein drinks. I took one. It was chocolate. I knew it would be a bit before I could eat anything but that my body needed nutrition. It probably helped me more than I knew.
All the morning clothes and bike gear bags were at the finish, so I picked mine up and limped my way to the hotel with them. I rested for a bit, watched some of the runners go by, then got in the shower and cleaned up before heading back downstairs. I got some pizza and watched some of the awards ceremony, got some more pizza, then went to get my bike and remaining gear bag. I probably looked like an idiot trying to balance all of that while holding onto my plate of pizza, but I didn't really care at that point. I wasn't moving very fast anyway, so balance I did. Finally made it back to the room, dropped my stuff off, at a slice, then went down to the IOS tent to hang with the rest of my teammates. I saw David there, who had come just to cheer us all on. I saw him at the beginning and end of the run course with Dennis, who was taking pictures of all the IOS folks he could as they went by. Julie and Julie were also there, along with several others. I finally found my results (they weren't on the Ironman website and no one was able to track 70.3 athletes along the race). I didn't PR, but I did get first out of the water in my age group! Yay for achieving my goal and winning something for a change. Overall I'm happy with my race and glad to be taking a break from triathlon for awhile.