Beach 2 Battleship 140.6
I suppose I should start by saying that up until 3 or 4 months before the event, I had no intention of competing at Beach 2 Battleship. I had originally planned to race IM National Harbor 70.3 in August, and have that as my final long race of the year. Beach 2 Battleship was only my 4th ever triathlon, as this is my first year in multisport, and I've been calling myself a "triathlete" for approximately 9 months or so now.
When IM National Harbor was cancelled, I kicked around the idea of racing IM Augusta 70.3 or Poconos; I also considered getting into IM Louisville but felt that 6 to 8 weeks probably wasn't enough time to get myself ready. After a glass or two of wine, and a couple glasses of Scotch later, I found myself checking my calendar for the month of October for conflicts and entering my credit card number into the race registration page. I guess I was committed to the race. Now it was time to change my training plan from a 70.3 focus to a full 140.6.
Race Week Pre-Race
The days leading up until it was time to drive down to Wilmington, N.C. were rather uneventful. I did an easy swim on Monday and Tuesday mornings, as well as an easy three mile run Monday afternoon and a an easy 45 minute ride on the trainer Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday was spent packing my race gear and making sure I had everything together. Wednesday also required a trip over to Fresh Bikes in Bethesda to pick up a set of Zipp 808s that I had reserved for the race.
I arrived at Freshbikes around 11am or so, right when they opened. I more or less had approximately 90 minutes to get my cassette switched onto the new wheels, take the bike back home, and then get back to work; I had a client meeting that I needed to attend. Arriving at Freshbikes everything was great; my bike was taken back to the service area along with the 808s that I'd be riding. 10 minutes later, one of the staff said there was a problem, that the 808s has been triple booked for this particular weekend; busy weekend for racing. The person I was working with asked if I would be willing to accept a set of 404s to race on, and also mentioned that there would be no charge. How could I turn down an offer like that? I couldn't, and left with the 404s, dropped off the bike, and make it back to the office with about 20 minutes to spare. The rest of Wednesday was uneventful, and I went to bed around my normal time of 9pm.
I was up at 5am on Thursday morning; I wanted to be on the road headed to Wilmington by 6am. My plan for the day was to arrive in Wilmington early, pick up my race packet, get my transition bags packed, and then relax. I'm not sure if it was the day/time that I left in the morning, or just an abnormality, but I didn't encounter any traffic issues leaving the Metro D.C. area and arrived in Wilmington by noon; made the 380 mile drive in a little under 6 hours. Arriving in Wilmington, I went over to the race hotel, the Hilton, checked in and unloaded the items from my vehicle. After parking, I walked down to the race expo to pick everything up. With everything picked up, and back at my room, I went for an easy three mile run, cleaned up, and found something to eat for dinner. Post dinner, I packed my transition bags, and decided to skip the special needs bags on the bike and run; I had no intention to stop at either place.
Friday was a little more eventful. The day started with a walk over to the Wilmington Convention Center where T2 would be located in order to drop off my T2 bag with the items I'd need for the run, and listen to the pre-race brief. I was able to time everything so that as soon as the race brief was over, I would head over to the airport to pick up "Household 6," more commonly referred to as Sarah, my wife. Picking up Sarah was quick and easy, the only things left to do for the day were drop off my bike at T1 and eat lunch and dinner.
Sarah and I found a place across from the hotel to eat lunch, and then went over to T1. We got over to T1, about a 9 mile drive from where the finish line would be; the swim is a point to point course over to T1 in the Town of Wrightsville, then from there the bike is a single loop finishing in Wilmington where the run starts. So anyways, arriving at T1, everything was well organized and marked, and very low stress. I found the rack where I'd be putting my bike until we met again in the morning and checked out the "swim in" and "bike out" locations.
Leading up to the race, there had been significant talk on different forums and message boards about the run from the swim exit over to T1. More specifically, it's about a 300 yard run and most questions and comments were about whether or not to put a pair of shoes / sandals at the swim finish to put on your feet for the run over T1. A lot of people commented that the pavement is pretty rough. I decided to check it out and make a determination for myself. That rough pavement a combination of smooth sidewalk pavement, a boardwalk, and a standard asphalt parking lot. Anyone that needs shoes to make the run from the swim exit over to T1 should just go on ahead and turn in their "man card." I decided to turn in my T1 bag on race morning.
Leaving T1, we found a bagel shop and some peanut butter (race morning breakfast), and then headed back to the hotel. Getting back to the hotel, we more or less wandered around Wilmington for the rest of the afternoon, found a place to eat dinner, and then made it back to the hotel to relax for the night.
My strategy for the race was to keep my bike pace between 21 and 21.5mph, and keep my run pace between a 7:30 and 7:45 per mile average. The swim, well, my only pacing strategy for that is to go out there and swim; it'll figure itself out.
I was up at about 4am, the race started at 7:30am. I quickly ate two bagels with peanut butter, drank some water, and then let everything run its course though my system. I decided to take advantage of the shuttle transportation set up by the race organization, so I walked down into the lobby of my hotel, boarded a bus, and got a ride over to T1.
Entering T1, I made my way over to my bike to tape my gels to the frame and put a couple Cliff Bars in the box. I also needed to put a couple bottles on the bike. My hydration plan was to alternate water and Heed, drinking 20oz of liquid every 16 to 20 miles. I started with 24oz of water, and a bottle of Heed with 3 scoops. As for nutrition, I'd eat a Cliff Bar at miles 20, 40, and 60, and take a gel at miles 10, 30, 50, 70, 80, 90, 100, and 110. This seemed to work out pretty well for me; I didn't have any stomach issues on the bike or run.
Getting everything on the bike, I grabbed a pump that was floating around and pumped the tires, and then dropped off my T1 bag in the appropriate place.
At this point it was starting to get to be about that time, so I, along with many others, boarded the transportation down to the swim start at Wrightsville Beach. I got to the beach about 75 minutes early, so I stood around BSing with a lot of the other racers. About 60 minutes out I had a protein bar and some water, then decided to get my wetsuit on to keep in some of the body heat. The air temp on race morning was 52 degrees with a 70 degree water temp. Wetsuit on and 15-20 minutes to go we started to move down to the start, at this point I took a gel with some more water, and got ready to do combat with 800 sets of arms. We all got lined up in the start corral, listened to the National Anthem, then "Loose Yourself" by Eminem started playing and the horn went off.
Being that this was a beach start, you might expect a short run through the surf and a couple of dolphin dives. Well, not at this race. It was more like diving into a swimming pool. I learned that real quick when the guy in front of me took two steps into the water and then fell in. After about three feet, the beach falls away like a ledge.
My swim plan was simple, get though the washing machine into calmer water, turn right, and swim down the middle of the channel until I have to turn left at the orange buoy. I swim was fairly uneventful. I had no idea how fast I was swimming, I couldn't really tell my speed, just the occasional person that I would see on my left as I swam past. It wasn't until I reached the dock that I realized I came out in 53:34; this was according to my GPS. Officially my time was 54:45 which included getting my wetsuit off and running about 100 yards over a timing mat on my way to T1. I was out of the water with the 122nd fastest swim split out of 415 males in the 140.6 race.
Swim times were fast; we had the tide coming in with about a 1 foot rise in tide level, approximately. For a more realistic swim split, add about 10 minutes onto the time.
I grabbed my T1 bag and headed into the changing tent. I had no plans to change, but because the air temp was only 52 degrees I wanted to sit in order to dry my feet and put on a pair of socks. Seven minutes later, dry feet with socks on, tri shoes, arm warmers, and a helmet and sunglasses I was on the bike.
From the first pedal stroke on the bike, I could tell that picking up race wheels was a good move. Getting up to and maintaining speed felt effortless.
I started to make my way out of Wrightsville and out to the highway. Right from the start I was quickly passing people, a lot of people, and found a nice spot where I could get settled in and ride my race. Around mile 18 or 19, I saw a pack of riders that I was quickly catching up to, probably 15 or 20 strung out in a line; whether they were drafting or not is debatable I suppose. I took me another mile or so to catch up and get ready to make a pass. I pulled onto the left side near the white dotted line and started my pass. I got past the first 10 or so riders and was continuing to quickly move up and pass the others.
I had one more guy to pass, and then I could be back out on my own again, just me and the road. This guy was a real douche; he noticed that I was coming up and going to pass, so he decided to speed up and block me. Where was the race official when you needed one, unbeknownst to me, he would appear shortly. I wasn't going to be able to pass, so I got in behind the DBag, and slowed my pace in order to get out of the draft zone and keep three bike lengths between us. My plan at this point was to make a pass when he wasn't paying attention. Probably within two seconds of getting over, because I wasn't going to be able to pass, I see the race official riding parallel to me.
Great I thought. I'm going to get a drafting penalty and this guy in front of me is going to get by after blocking me. Apparently the race officials definition of 22 feet 9 inches and my definition of 22 feet 9 inches are too different things; oh well, just take it and move on. Sure enough, I became a victim of circumstance and ended up with a 6 minute penalty. I got pretty pissed, found another gear I didn't know I had, and blew by the douche until I had some considerable separation and could bring my pace back down to where I wanted it.
The rest of the ride was for the most part uneventful. I was keeping my pace right where I wanted it, and continuing to pass people. Special needs was at mile 55, I blew right past, there were only a couple of bikes in there, and it looked like a sea of bags. I knew at that point that must have moved way up in the race as far as official position.
Through the half way point, things were all business and I blocked out any thoughts from my mind. I was having fun and my legs were still feeling fresh. I let my mind wonder for a bit somewhere out there on the second half of the course and thought about the path I had taken over the course of the past year (I swam competitively in high school but then hadn't swam in 11 years until January 2012, I hadn't been on a bike since I was in elementary school and now I own both a road and tri bike and am very proficient on both, and well, running is running).
As I continued along, I started to think about my wife and how great she's been during everything. If working full-time as a Management Consultant wasn't enough time spent away, I'm also a graduate student and spend at least two nights a week at the University for Class. Now throw in 15 - 18 hours of training per week and there isn't much time left. I should probably put it out there that we're used to spending time away from each other from my time in the Army when you factor in deployments, field training exercises, and long days and nights at the office, but I'm not in the Army anymore. Through the whole training cycle my wife has been great, never complaining if I come home after work and then go out for a run or a ride, only to get back home with enough time to shower, eat and go to bed; ohyeah, and she would always make sure to make enough food and put some aside for me to eat when I get home. When I started to think about everything my wife has done and sacrificed for over the past months, I started to get a little teary eyed; I'll never admit it though, Army Rangers don't cry, they kill and show no mercy. Then I dismissed it all and got back to business, crushing the bike course.
Still crushing the bike course, somewhere near mile 80 or so, I started to feel a nagging little issue every now and then along the edge of my left foot. Not really sure what it was, I pushed on. I figured it'll work itself out on the run, probably just a cramp in a small muscle I told myself; it was interesting though, I've never had any type of physical issue on a ride before, no matter how long or short. Either way, it wasn't something I was going to worry about; I made the final right turn, picked up a tail wind and had a fast 30 miles into transition.
As I neared transition, I started thinking to myself about where I might fall in the standings. I had a good swim, and was having a great bike leg. If I could keep my run pace where I wanted it, between 7:30 and 7:45 per mile, I knew that I would finish around 9.5 hours, give or take a few minutes, and more likely than not win my age group and possibly place overall.
I came into transition, legs still feeling fresh, saw Sarah waiting for me at the bike dismount line, and handed my bike off to one of the volunteers. I had a great bike leg, official time of 5:13:54 and had the 2nd fasted bike split in my age group and 18th fastest overall. As I would learn later, at this point in the race I was about to start the run in 2nd place in my age group, and according to Sarah about 14th over all.
I ran over to where the transition bags were hanging and got changed; tri shoes off, running shoes and race belt on.
Time for an easy run, be back in 3:15:00ish or so I thought.
I moved over to the "run out" sign and got started on the run. The run is a 2 loop route through downtown Wilmington. From the first step, that pain I felt on the bike in my foot was with me, except multiplied by about 100. Still hoping it was just a cramp, and that it would work itself out, I continued to push on. I got through the first mile at a 7:47 pace (not bad for just coming off the bike and getting my legs under me); now it was time to get after it.
As I continued on, the pain continued to grow worse and worse. I continued to move forward, and as the pain increased, my ability to push off with my left foot became less and less and by mile 12 I was nearly brought to tears from the pain, and I knew it wasn't a cramp or muscle strain; it had to be something with one of the bones. By this time in the race, I was reduced to a walk due to the pain, and continued to move on toward the turn around and then the finish line. I ended up finishing the marathon in 4:59:09. Not exactly the result I was looking for on the run, but I suppose it could have always been worse.
Looking at the results later that night, my official time with the 6 minute penalty was 11:25:25, while the time certainly could have been a couple hours faster, the important thing to keep in mind is that I was at least able to cross the finish line, and before it was dark out. I went from 2nd in my age group at the start of the run to an 8th place age group finish by the end. I suppose I can't really complain about a Top 10 age group finish in my 1st Iron-distance race and 4th ever triathlon. There's always the next race...
The race itself was great. It was professionally run and well coordinated. The volunteers and staff were fantastic, and I would highly recommend the Beach 2 Battleship 140.6 or 70.3 to anyone.