Monday, November 7, 2011

Beach2Battleship Iron-Distance Triathlon 10/29/11

This will inevitably become a novel as I type out the experience, if you are just looking for the meat and potatoes, skip to the end.

Thanks to:

The Gee Oh Dee for blessing me with the opportunity to do this stuff and the best life I could want.

My wife for making me put down the smokes and start running last year. I still remember hating every single one of our 3/week workouts. This is all her fault. I remember her telling me Ironman was insane and she would never do it. Well, we can't do things just a little can we, doll?

My parents for making me the man I am despite my best efforts to avoid it.  And, of course, for their love and continued support regardless of the progressively more insane nature of my hobbies.  As lucky as I am to have you as parents, I'm even more blessed to have you as friends.

Day before the race.  Just left of the
USS NC is the finish island.
Coach Larry Baskin for spending so much time helping this non-swimmer make the cut-off. He really did magic on us both. Anyone interested in dropping their swim splits should look him up. I started with him at a 2:00/100 for a 20 minute TT. he got me down to a 1:53/100 for a solid hour TT at a comfortable, sustainable effort in just a few weeks. Coach also helped me develop a great ironman marathon strategy that lead me to an easy 3:37 run split.

Dr. Brent Scott, D.C. in Tuscumbia for checking me out, getting me into for an MRI on the same day, and giving me the green light for race day. Dr. Scott is a triathlete himself and understands how important training is to us. He knows that saying "you need rest" isn't what will work for us. He is great with sports medicine issues and is my first stop for injuries.
Dr. Eric O'Neal, Ph.D. at UNA for making me aware of how poorly I was hydrating. His hydration study really had a huge impact on my training. I was able to train harder and recover faster by simply implementing a proper hydration strategy. Dr. O'Neal also gave my the tools need to establish my hydration needs at various temperatures.

Dr. Stephen Bolt, D.M.D. for telling me that 10 min miles were weak, and I should just stop trying. For telling me that I would get beat by most of the women at the local 5k. For telling me that I wasn't athletic. For telling me I shouldn't go for the marathon in my first year of training. For telling me that there was no way I would qualify for Boston in my first marathon. I can't tell you how much this got me through my first year of training. Honestly though, you really have been a big help. Thanks for answering all my n00bie questions and providing me the perfect amount of motivation.

My Injury:

I missed the last 7 weeks of cycling due to a knee injury. I only managed to limp through ~200 miles total over those last 7 weeks. Considering I was banging out ~160/wk average for the 18 weeks leading up to the injury, 200 over 7 weeks was a drop in the bucket. Those 7 weeks saw a lot of titty-babying, laying around feeling sorry for myself, and whining. Ultimately, I decided I could adjust my goals and have a go at sub-11 despite my knee injury. I was stuck with no real way to estimate effort/pace for the ride considering I had no way to measure the lost fitness without compromising my taper. After reviewing my data, I noticed all my race rehearsal rides were at a heart rate of 122. I have never trained by HR, but I always wore a monitor during training so I could evaluate the day if it turned ugly. I felt very fortunate to have the data and a new, attenuated goal.

The venue:

Wilmington, NC.

Amazing city with lots of history. Beautiful brick and cobblestone streets throughout the city set along side the Cape Fear River. Amazing food, lots of live entertainment and great restaurants. We absolutely loved Wilmington. I just wanted more time to enjoy it.  The pic is from our pre-race week dining.  Good omens, right?

Race Day

Pre-race 3 hours of sleep, 850 liquid calories between 3 & 5am.

With 10 minutes to kickoff, we had been in the cold darkness for 2 hours. At this point, I am in a uni-tard trisuit with a full wetsuit on, and the port-a-john is calling me. I learned a valuable lesson here. After stripping the wetsuit, the sleeves are inside out. It is important to fix them before sitting in the port-a-john and dipping the inside of the sleeves into the floor stew.

Back outside, I dash to the beach and seed myself in front of the soccer moms but behind the old guys. Everyone is in the blank nervous gaze phase. Me and Emily are just chatting and enjoying the moment. Eminem's "Loose Yourself" starts playing and I heard a rather muffled bang as the vocals start.

"Look, if you had, one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted-One moment
Would you capture it, or just let it slip?"

After the bang came the rush of the entire crowd as a solid push into the water. I gave Emily one last good luck smooch and told her I was proud of her for making it to the start, then off we went.

All over the beach the day before
 the race.  None on race day
7:15 AM 2.4 Mile Swim
Air Temp 51F
Water Temp 69F
Goal : sub-0:60

I figure I'm a 1:10ish swimmer with a non-current, wetsuit swim in ideal conditions. I knew we would have a current, but I had no real time goal today, so I was just going to go easy and try to enjoy the day.

Practice Swim
I didn't rock the bonnet,
the little one did.  Neither of
us were cold
The beginning of the swim was rather uneventful. I never even noticed the cold. There was a lot of jostling around the first buoy, I took turns getting my legs smacked and smacking legs. I tried to just doodle along and enjoy the swim. I noticed right away that I was moving through the field pretty easily. I remember thinking that Coach would be proud. I swam over some clown swimming a perfect right angle to the course. I put my head down and thought "what a moron." As fate would have it, my next siting had me perpendicular in the opposite direction. I got back on course and continued weeding through folks. Visibility was basically nothing between the dense fog and the darkness, so I began really focusing on front quadrant swimming to protect myself from the folks I was encountering. Unfortunately, I ended up catching a heel to the right Speedo Vanquisher. I thought my eye had popped out. I stopped cold and reevaluated my need to have move through the crowd. Getting kicked in the eye has a way of really "gentling you down." It wasn't until I got clubbed in the back of the head that I became motivated to continue. The rest of the swim was a comfortable uneventful-ness.

Swim Chip Time: 54:59
Age Group rank 48/61

Transition 1.  It's a hike on
cold asphalt and toe sickles.
Transition 1
Chip time: 6:21

I hit the ladders and there was a fluster-cluck of folks meandering through the showers, wetsuit strippers, and showers again. It was a ~300 yard dash across concrete and asphalt to T1. It felt like I was running in jello because of frozen feet and cold concrete. I scampered through the changing area, stuffing my wetsuit into the sack, donning arm warmers and my helmet. I ran to my bike and realized my gloves were still in the grass at the tent (not IN the tent, it was full of guys huddled up around the heater). I ran all the way back to grab the gloves, back to the bike, across the mountain-lion (bike mounting line for the non-tri readers) and onto the course I go.

8:25AM 112 mile Bike
Air temp: ~51F dropping to 41F over the next 2 hours
Winds: 15-20 NW with 30mph gust
Goal time: 5:30ish, just stay below 122 HR, and take what I get.
Nutrition goal was 1700C and I completely abandoned it.

So, less than an hour into the day and my race fell apart. Within the first mile, my water gets shot out of my cage. Great, my mouth is full of salt water and all I have to drink is a 10:1 calorie slurry. Mile 2 sent my calories off the back of the bike at a speed bump. As I retrieved the bottle, I got trapped on the shoulder by a parade of my competition. No worries though, I have no real expectations on the bike. It was cold, but I "knew" the forecast had it warming up by 10:00am, and I "knew" I had 90 minutes of suck-it-up so I could rock the fast race kit. I started evaluating my heart rate to try to stay below my 122 ceiling. With a 129HR for the first hour, I realized that I never had a 2.4 mile swim preceding a 5 hour bike before. My metric was essentially useless, so I just went by feel. I just pedaled along, easily. I had removed the MPH from my cyclometer, so I wasn't freaking about the crazy winds cramping my style. But it was the worst wind I have ever been in. It was just dangerous. If Kona is worse, I'm not cut out for it.

After 90 minutes, I was cashed out. I was defeated. I was dressed for a high-50s dry ride and was in the middle of a 41F rain/sleet mix. I had played through every scenario of quitting. I prayed for a flat, for my knee to start hurting, maybe I could just ditch it. I knew I would have to have abrasion to justify a DNF or get pulled from the course by an EMT. At mile 35, I mentally bagged it. I pictured myself with an M-Dot tattoo on my calf with the DNF below it. I imagined wearing my B2B shirt with "QUITTER" in sharpie across it. I was fine with that. I didn't care if I had a (i) drawn on my forehead, I just wanted to be warm.

My Life Saver which was covered
with a "like new" garbage bag.
Lady Clamdigger hung out
of the back of my garbage bag
for everyone I passed to read.
I pulled off at an aid station, tossed my bike down, and sat in the only port-a-potty until someone made me leave. Then I hunkered down behind it and just shivered. Eventually one of the cheerleader volunteers came over and gave me a tee-shirt. I asked her for a garbage bag to put over the shirt as a wind breaker. I set back down and shivered in the rain on the roadside waiting for my SAG wagon savior. Another aid station worker walked up and asked me to sit in a heated trailer where radio dispatch was setup. I thought, finally someone was going to take me out of the race. I climbed in and listened to all the calls. 2 guys went to ER with hypothermia, 1 guy was picked up huddled under a bridge, there were a few wrecks with bloody triathletes scattered about. I was thinking this day was done. I could see down the road from the trailer, and I decided to just watch for Emily and tell her I was out. Another 10-15 minutes went by and the radio operator was ready for me to leave. I decided to head up the road to Bike Special Needs and wait on Emily, so I got back on the bike. This whole deal ended up being 21 minutes.

It was again miserable on the way to Special Needs. I knew that they would have a better setup, and I could find some way to catch a ride back. As soon as I got there, I started looking for SAG (Support and Gear.) There were a few guys huddled into corners that were rocking their race gear, but what I mostly found was a lot people whose goal was simply to finish, dressed very appropriately, and having fun. It occurred to me at this point that I had until 5:15pm to finish the bike. I can't remember how many times I figured up how easy it was to finish if you just didn't quit going into this race, and here I was waving the white flag. I started thinking 17 hours is a long time. I was at mile 50; I could sit at SN until 2:30, make the bike cutoff, take a 2 hour nap and still limp through the marathon. I would just wait out the rain. So I dallied a bit at SN, but then when a big crowd came in and I was soaking up all the fun, so I left again.

I'm loosing some Tri-Karma points
for posting this hijacked picture.  It just
makes the story so much better.

I stopped at the next 2 aid stations to visit, pee, see the goodies, and wait for warmer weather. One guy commented that my garbage bag wasn't very aerodynamic. I explained that I was using it as a fairing over my tie-dyed tee. At this point I realized my tee read "Women's Rugby" on the front, and hanging out the back was "Lady Clamdiggers." No way I was taking it off. I had full intentions of rocking this outfit all the way in. I was owning my defeat. I wanted my race photo to be a reminder that I was a quitter.

Around 12:30, the sun popped out for about 5 minutes. Those 5 minutes gave me some clarity. I reassessed my situation. If I could get off the bike before 2:30 without blowing up, I could still make a sub-11 finish. I was around a 4:30 ride time, I need to average ~20 mph for the rest of the ride. That just happens to be what I estimated that 122HR to be on a flat course. Since I had been doing all this resting, my HR had become a rather useful number. I refocused and dialed in a steady ride back. At this point, I knew I had beaten the course. I had a sense of victory. I felt like Rocky. I took the beating of my life, but I just need one more round.

Bike split Chip time: 6:04
AG rank: 30/61
Total pedal time: 5:36
pouting time: 27 minutes
Bike data

T2 2:17

This was a photo I found of the bike racks. 
This is not 2011, note the blue skies, ours were grey.

This should have been fast. I came in hot and started yelling 474! 474! The volunteer was dazed by my attire, I am sure. I said "it has a big red bow!" thanks Emily. I started stripping as the volunteer was dumbfounded by the red slip knot bow on my sack. I jerked it out of her hand, dumped out my goods, and handed her my helmet with my gear and I was off.
T2. So glad to be off the bike.

2:31pm The Marathon, 26.2 miles of fun
New goal is a sub-11 finish. So I think I need a 3:44 marathon.
400C out of the planned 500C goal
600mg of Caffeine out of the 650mg planned

Heading out from T2.  The clock is on the 70.3 finishers time
I had read that the run was hilly and on rough roads. Hilly isn't the word. There are 2 massive bridges with a crazy, insane wind that blows right in your face throughout the North climbs. On top of the bridge is a metal grating with metal studs for traction. The course is 2 out-and-backs, so you get these bad boys 8 times. The roads are a mixture of brick and cobblestone with one 100' climb steeper than a ladder. Awesome choice for a marathon.

I hit 1/2 mile and I was shocked at how hard it was. I realized that I hadn't actually done a big brick (combo bike then run workout) in 7 weeks, of course it would be hard. I was in the middle of a 7:15 mile, so I just stopped and walked. I checked my watch until I hit 8:30 and started running again. By mile 3 I was in run mode and feeling great. I clicked through a few 8-flats and I started doing the math on my finish time. I knew a I had a 3:30 in my legs, but I have a marathon in 6 weeks, so I don't want to spend all my mojo. I realized an 8:30 average would give me plenty of cushion on sub-11, so I just settled in. 8:30s were impossibly slow, and I kept seeing 8s while trying to hold back. I just felt great. I was a monster. I was finally getting to let the animal eat. I had this ironman crap whipped.

I saw Emily just before the turn around for the second lap. We exchanged a high-5 as we passed. I knew I was going under 1:45 for the first lap, so I needed to see the race clock below a 9:15 to squeak under sub-11. As I rolled in, I saw an 8:45:XX and started pumping my fist in celebration. This was my third time to slay the ironman dragon, and I still had a half-marathon ahead of me.

1st 13.1 @ 1:43:56 7:56min/M average

Cobblestone and brick roads
in downtown Wilmington
I knew I needed to slow down if I wasn't going to destroy my legs. I started walking the bridges and the hills. I saw Emily again, I stopped and hugged her, congratulated her and gave her a kiss.

At some point, I knew I was going to hurt a bit. I started wondering how much was left around mile 16. This was my first sign of fatigue. I darted by 18 and 19 pretty easily. When I saw 20, I thought this would be the easiest 10k I have ever done. Then the train came. Seriously, a train across the course. I saw it about 1/4 of a mile away and started walking. When I got to the train, I waited 92 seconds. I thought it was probably a good rest and it would make the rest of the 10k that much easier. This was a blissful ignorance. Once the train passed, I got right back on pace but it was no longer comfortable. 21 & 22 were progressively less pleasant. 23 was just painful. I decided to do a 4:1 run/walk dance and stay under 10s. I still had plenty of time, and I didn't want to dig a big hole that would drag out my recovery for the next few weeks. I hit 25 at the bottom of the last bridge. There was a guy just ahead of me walking so I stopped with him and asked if he wanted company. He had snagged a handful of those 6" pretzel sticks and shared them as we strolled up the bridge. He was already walking and just finishing lap one. The whole course was littered with poor-pacing-strategy athletes, and I was glad to not be one of them. Best walk ever, 3:24:xx-3:29:xx. Then it was a down hill jog to the finish. I kept thinking I needed to just enjoy the finish and slow down so I could remember it. But, it's all a blur.

Marathon Chip time: 3:37:12
Rank: 6/61

Overall 10:45:06 51/750
M30-34 20/68
76/750 did not start
38/674 did not finish

Race Evaluation:
I'm content with my swim performance. I accomplished my goal despite performing poorly relative to the field. If I would have had a genuine chance at a good performance at this race, I would have been more concerned with a slightly more aggressive swim strategy.

Of course this was a disaster. Regardless of the cards I was dealt, I went into the race with a bad attitude about the bike. I was beaten and didn't know it. Once I was challenged, I folded. Had I been in a better mental state, I could have handled the extra stress of the conditions.

This is the best picture we have of Emily's finish. 
I clearly remember you saying you would never do this.
I had a ~9 minute positive split. Under normal circumstances, I would say this was a pacing failure. Considering I lost a few minutes to the train and sandbagged a few minutes at the end, I probably paced it pretty well. Its really hard to assess the marathon performance when I bombed the bike so badly. Who knows if I how I would have felt if I would have turned in a well executed bike split.

Emily promises to write a report.

I really learned a lot about myself. There was a guy in line for the crapper at the swim-start talking about how Ironman changes your life. I know the training changes your lifestyle, but the race is just one, really long day. Well, this race definitely changed me, at least the conditions did. I had never been pushed so low as I found myself on the bike. I had never accepted defeat, but I was to the point of embracing it proudly. I left this event with a new perspective on myself. Thankfully, I also learned a lot about racing at ultra distance triathlons. I could have easily asked for help sooner and been warm. If I wouldn't have been so disgusted in my defeat, I wouldn't have repeatedly stopped on the course, I wouldn't have worn the stupid trash bag the whole time, and I wouldn't have allowed the "quit" into my "win." I learned a lot at Beach2Battleship, and I will be better prepared for my next attempt. I know have a lot left to give at this distance, and I hope that I learn as much at every race as I did this one.
The End. Meat & Potatoes.
Way to go, Love!

Thanks to the 'rents for race support. 
They had a tough day too.  I think we all were unprepared for the weather.

Clearly she is tougher than I am. 

She crossed the finish line still feeling great and looking good. 
I dont know how she does it.  I am always a wreck.

USS North Carolina
I am so lucky to have found such a good friend.  Thanks Dad.
Of course, the next day was beautiful.


  1. Thanks for posting this. I am doing Beach2Battleship this Oct 2012. It will be my first full Ironman. Your post really helped me to realize the challenges that lie ahead and that you can overcome them despite the crappy conditions.

  2. Glad you got something from it. I had heard "have a plan and plan to change it" but I wasn't mentally prepared to actually follow through. I had so many hours practicing my race day strategy that I almost blew the whole thing because I couldn't deviate.

    You'll love the course. The swim is awesome. The fog just hung over the water and everything was so calm and peaceful. Hopefully your bike will be much better since its 2 weeks earlier. And the run is amazing. Prepare to walk up the hill and some of the bridges. I saw a lot of folks run by me on the first lap only to crash and burn.

    Good luck!!!