Last December I participated in my first Christmas Light Run where a massive crowd of 500 people ran through the streets of DC singing carols while dressed up as elves, Santas, reindeer and Christmas presents and just plain ol runners. The run ended at a bar on Capitol Hill with great drink specials and the cold beer was flowing. After the bar, a group of DC Tri folks went to Good Stuff Eatery for some epic burgers. The year was coming to an end and I had had an amazing first year of triathlon, finishing 3 Olys, making friends in DC Tri/NTP and pushing myself. I got home that evening and signed up for my first Half Ironman, Longhorn Ironman 70.3.
2009 consisted of my first marathon, Walt Disney World, in January. It was a nightmare and I was a humbled and broken man at the finish. Oprah had run a faster marathon and I was at the happiest place on Earth shuffling 10 miles to the finish. That ugly day made me question my newfound interest in endurance events, but after I sorted out some ITB issues I was back into training. I felt good for the Capitol Hill Classic 10K in May. In July I survived a tough century in North Carolina, the Hot Doggett 100, but had hip bursitis flare up and sat out for a couple weeks. I had average showings in the Northeast Tri in August and the Nation’s Tri in September. I was at the Columbia Brick-nic, a Training Tri, the RCP Brick-nic. I volunteer at some races and tried to make every club happy hour that I could. I ran a half marathon, the Army 10 Miler and stayed out of the pool as much as possible. At times I was motivated and pumped up for triathlon and others I was exhausted and burnt out.
We had 7 DC Tri people on the same flight to Austin and we watched from the terminal to make sure that our bikes made it safely into the plane’s underbelly. I’ve never flown with a bike, but I think we all had a good experience with Southwest Airlines. It’s $50 for a bike box each way, and I’ve heard of other airlines charging considerably more. Sandy scored a radical rental house near downtown Austin with a picture perfect view of the skyline. Rachel flew in from Cali and stayed with us. We rode our bikes around downtown and stopped in Mellow Johnnys to drool over bikes, buy CO2 and schwag. Bryan’s sister opened her home to all of us for a spaghetti dinner on Saturday night. When we got home from dinner my girlfriend, Elizabeth (NTP Class of 2009), was at our house and she had flown in to surprise me and cheer us on! It was a huge boost to have her there. Sunday morning we were about head to the race when my brother from another mother and training partner, Michael, showed up at the house. He had flown down to Austin to see family and surprise me as well. Another huge boost and I was ready!
I don’t consider myself a swimmer. It’s not fun. I’m not confident. I hadn’t swum since Nation’s in September. Seriously, it had been over a month since I swam. That is huge no-no. I really hate swimming that much. The morning air temp was chilly but the race announcer said, “it’s a good day in Austin when the air is colder than the water” and I silently agreed with him. As I walked into the water, I was certain swim-suck was about to happen. I said my pre-race prayer and positioned myself to the back right of my wave. It was a standing-in-the-water start. The gun went off and I started walking about 15 feet and I told the guy next to me I was going to walk the whole swim and he chuckled. Then it got deeper and I had to swim. Closer to the shore there were “fields” of the water plant, hydrilla, and it’s scary stuff. Water visibility was decent so I looked down into the hydrilla and I thought a monster was about to jump up and eat my face off. Also, several strands of the plant got caught on my race wrist band and for about 15 strokes I was flinging hydrilla everywhere. I’m infamous for swim-panic and flopping over on my back to chill out. Another surprise – I wasn’t swim-sucking! I felt fine. Comfortable. I was having FUN?! I was catching people from waves in front of me. It was an uneventful swim. As we came back to shore we had to swim through the forest again and my fear of the monsters made me motorboat on into the swim exit. I stood up and as I was taking off cap & goggles a volunteer reached over and unzipped me. That’s service folks! I ran 20 feet and flopped down for my first wetsuit stripper experience. It was awesome.
Swim Time: 44:15
Swim Age Group Rank: 132 of 179
Longish run uphill to T1. I’m slow in transition. No surprises here.
The bike is usually my strongest discipline, but I was in a training funk for a while before the race and I hadn’t ridden my bike more than 5 miles in a couple weeks. I knew I couldn’t drown on the bike so I’d be fine. Severe drought created dangerous cracks in the pavement throughout the bike course and focus was pertinent. Overall, I thought the course was marked well. It was not an easy bike ride. Fairly windy and some decent rollers. It sure was quiet out there. I talked briefly to one lady from Dallas and it was her first 70.3 too. I drank my liquid too fast but there were plenty of aid stations. I had to pee so bad I thought about attempting my first on-bike pee, but about a mile before T2 I pulled over and found some out of sight bushes. I ran into T2 to Elizabeth and Michael cheering me on and taking pictures.
Bike Time: 2:59:24 (18.7mph pace)
Bike Age Group Rank: 111 of 179
Different location than T1.
3 miserable loops with hills. I walked up the hills, ran down the hills and ran through the areas with more spectators and cameras. DC Rainmaker was out on the run course prodding all of us along and taking pictures. My chest was tight and I had trouble taking deep breaths, but my legs felt fine. Great spectators and volunteers with popsicles, sponges, wet rags, candy, coke, etc. It felt good to see other DC Tri people out there. When I finally ran into the arena, my parents, Elizabeth and Michael cheered and I spotted them immediately. Over the speakers I heard, “Neal Carlton from our nation’s capital” and I don’t know why, but at the finish I nearly burst into tears. Kind of lame, but it’s the truth. I was done.
Run Time: 2:15:26 (10:20/mile pace)
Run Age Group Rank: 109 of 179
Finish Time: 6:08:47
M25-29 Age Group Rank: 112 of 179
Overall Rank: 821 of 1991
I really enjoyed this race and I thought it was run well. I will do another 70.3 next year and I will train better. Maybe an full IM in 2011. It’s a pain to travel with your bike. I love Mexican food and cold beer in Austin. Special thanks to Elizabeth and Michael for surprising me and spending 9 hours out on the course cheering. My housemates, trip organizers and fellow DC Tri Longhorn racers: Sandy, Bryan, Natalie, Lindsey, Rachel, Ty, Casey and Julia – proud of you guys! Thanks also to Mike L. for letting me borrow his bike box. Many thanks to my parents, family and friends for your love and support.
Pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ncarlton/sets/72157622690454868/
Awesome Job.. and Awesome pictures. I was drooling over the Team Radio Shack store, aka Mellow Johnny's. Sweet bike.
Neal congrats on a great year and a great race.