Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Beach2Battleship on October 29, 2011 was my first iron distance triathlon.  An iron distance event is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run for a total of 140.6 miles.  Athletes typically have 16-17 hours to complete the event, depending on the race director. 


Before the race 

We drove to Wilmington from the Raleigh area on Thursday morning after dropping off Emma with the pet sitter. We got to the UNC-W area by about noon and stopped to get some lunch. Then we headed to Greenfield Park for a little course recon. I remember that that I felt like I was in the park forever during the half last year and I wanted to walk the park section to get some landmarks in mind. Also, I wanted to take a good look at the trail since I would be running at least one section of it in the dark. All of the sections along the road were in very good shape as were the bridges. During the race I'd need to pay closer attention to the few sections that went away from the road.

After the park, we headed to the Hilton to park, check in and walk two blocks to packet pickup on Thursday. On Thursday night went to Fish Bites for a steamer and then I put gear into various bags (a project unto itself!).

We met Ron and Alex for a short swim on Friday morning -- the last 800m or so of the course from channel marker 16 to the finish. This was a good refresher to sight on channel marker 19 and then on the SeaMist.

After the swim, we visited with Ron, went back to the hotel, had a late breakfast and headed over to the athlete's meeting. Then checked out the layout at the Battleship/T2 area and headed back to Wrightsville for bag/bike drop off (I kept my T1 bag as well as my morning/after bag). Then we went to the swim start for a viewing.

We relaxed for a few hours on Friday afternoon and had an early-ish dinner at Mellow Mushroom before going back to the hotel to watch the Carolina Hurricanes game.

Race morning

On Saturday morning, I got up at 4:20, lubed up liberally and then ate a bagel with peanut butter and a banana and drank a bottle of CamelBak Elixir. Caught the bus to T1 at 5:00 am.

I uncovered my bike (had drive train covered due to forecasted light rain), filled my aero bottle and put on a disposable sportscap water bottle (both with CamelBak Elixir), loaded my Bento box and mounted my Garmin. Then I went to body marking, dropped off my T1 bag and got on the bus to swim start.

The Swim

After all of the athletes arrived at the swim start area, we made our way onto the beach for the start.  The announcer said that the Coast Guard had given the OK to start in three minutes.  He started to count down.  We had a mass start -- 750 athletes entering the water at the same time --  to Eminmens "Lose Yourself."

Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?
The swim was great! I started about 2/3 of the way back on the left just as I planned. I swam more or less straight out and the current pushed me around the start buoy as expected. The swim was more congested than I expected which is good because it meant I was swimming faster and was with people! Woo hoo! About a 1/3 of the way into the swim I was kicked in the right goggle. Goggles stayed in place so all was well. My zipper pull was looped when I started and became dislodged at the start. The long tail thing annoyed me the entire way. Towards the end of the swim, I realized that my neck was getting a wetsuit hicky. At that point, I just wanted to get out of the wetsuit. Thankfully, the docks were in sight. Channel marker 19. SeaPath. Go for the first ladder. Careful, don't fall. Wetsuit strippers. Shower. Mylar "cape." Carefully make my way 300-400m to T1.

I did a good job with Body Glide/Aquaphor on the underarms and heart rate monitor areas but I totally missed the back of my neck which is what caused the chafing on my neck.

I wore a sports bra and tri shorts under my wetsuit for the swim. They had wetsuit strippers and I used them.  The wetsuit strippers pull the neoprene wetsuit off of you which is much faster than doing that yourself.  I changed to dry tri shorts and added a bike jersey, arm warmers and vest for the bike. Of course socks, headsweats, gloves and helmet. Port-a-john stop and then on to the bike. 

The bike
Last year I did the half iron distance event here and I wrote, "The bike was good. I loved riding on 140. It was FAST!" This year someone wrote, "I-140 will forever be known as the highway of death, cold, and misery." What a difference a year makes!

I did more or less the same thing as for the half last year. One bottle of fluids done before the first aid station, refill with bottle from cage, drop empty at aid station and get a replacement bottle.

I stuck to my nutrition plan pretty well. After I was on the bike for a few miles and had settled in, I had a Fig Newton. Then at the one hour mark and the two hour mark I had a Clif bar. At about 2:45 into the bike I decided I wanted a Honey Stinger Waffle. Then at 3:30 and 4:30 I had a Clif bar. After this, I got worried about the waffle and the calories on the bike and stopping solid food with one hour left in the bike, etc. This was a little bit silly on several counts (I routinely have fig newtons and honey stinger waffles before running being the main one) -- but my original plan had been for five Clifs on the bike. Then I did the triathlon math and realized that 200+100 > 240 so I'd be fine having a Fig Newton with on hour left and a Hammer Gel just before the last aid station (so I could dump the sticky wrapper). That puts me right at 1600 calories on the bike. I had about 4.5 bottles of water (about 90 ounces) plus two bottles before the race started.

One thing that I did was use a label maker to make a label that listed the mile markers of each aid station. I stuck that on my aerodrink bottle for easy reference.  This came in handy.

Regarding the actual riding, 140 was the worst with gusty winds and nothing to break them. 421 was better but still bad. After getting on Blueberry Road at least we had trees to break things up a bit. For a while on 210 my hands were really cold but that cleared up after 20-30 minutes which is handy because it's really hard to open wrappers when your fingers are still. I had on fingerless gloves because have no hope of opening wrappers (even pre snipped ones) with full finger gloves. The main thing on the bike was that I was just trying to get to mile 70 (well, 73). I kept on telling myself get to 70. I knew I'd have a tailwind after getting back on 421. The only time that I stopped was at mile 73. I had to pee and I was unable to completely void my bladder without stopping.

As expected, the final 40 miles was fast! 15+ mph tailwinds will do that for you!

My meteorologist friend Ron said, "winds were 12-18 mph with gusts to at least 23 mph for the morning, but peaked at 25 mph sustained, with 33 mph gusts around 2pm. There was a slight lull in the wind from 11am-1pm when most half-ers were on their way back, but the strongest winds were after that, when full athletes were coming back."

Forgot about the dismount line! Thankfully the volunteer there ordered me to stop and I made it!

The run

Took off arm warmers and vest, swapped CBC cycling jersey for CBC tri top, changed from Smartwool cycling socks to Balegra running socks and cycling shoes for running shoes. Added my running hat, hit the port-o-johns and I was off!

In the months leading up to the race, I knew what to do on the run but this did not solidify for me until I read I knew that I needed to walk the aid stations because that's the only way I can get fluid in without carrying it. For me, dixie cup + running = spillage. Very little actually makes it down untils I walk a few stops to drink. This article really helped because it laid out some rules that I could live by: (1) Run through the aid station to the last water, gel, coke, sportsdrink guy/gal, whatever your needs are for that aid station and (2) Giving yourself permission to walk the aid stations, beginning with Mile 1, becomes a reward for continuing to run between the aid stations. The mental conversation becomes “Body, STFU. Keep running, don’t slow down, and I will reward you for that effort over the next mile by letting you walk 30 steps at the next aid station. That’s the deal and we only have to play this game for another 6-8 miles. Suck it up.”

That is what I did with a few exceptions. On the second loop, I walked up the hill on Ann Street. I had pretzels about three times and I found that while they settled my stomach, I could not run and eat pretzels at the same time. Finally, on the second loop, I got broth at the final aid station. The cup was full and it took more that 30 steps to drink it. I was partway up the big bridge. I had been thinking about walking the big bridge on the final lap and I decided to go ahead and walk the rest of the way up.

I started the run at 3:07 pm according to my Garmin. This is important because it means that if I did a five hour marathon, I'd finish after 8pm and sunset was at 6:15. Some was someone sunny -- especially compared to that morning when it was overcast and misting/raining. I wore my tri top and sunglasses. I was comfortable for the first bit but by mile 10 or so, I the cold wind was starting to make me feel chilly. I ended up counting down, 3 miles until I get my long sleeve tee, 2 miles until I get mu long sleeved tee. Needless to say, I really wanted that shirt! At run special needs I pulled on the long sleeved tee, and gave my sunglasses to the volunteer to put into my run special needs bag. I hit the port-o-john *again* (I was well hydrated!) and was back on course just like that.

Overall, I was happy with my run. Before the race, the run was my biggest concern -- the biggest variable for me. I was hoping for a 5 hour marathon but that was based simply on the "open marathon time plus 30 minutes" formula.

I was very pleased to finish Beach2Battleship in 12:42:09, finishing first in my age group.

Post race

Find husband! Get Crocs. Pizza, two slices of pepperoni please! I started to get cold shortly after eating the pizza, I started to get pretty cold. There as a band and some other activity but I was chilly and I really wanted a shower so we headed out to the shuttle bus area and went back to the hotel. Kevin went to Front Street Brewery and got take out for me and we watched the end of the Carolina Hurricanes game. I called my mom and my coach while Kevin was getting food.

I really enjoyed this event and I will be back. Other events have a lot of work to keep up with this one!