Thursday, October 29, 2015

Beach 2 Battleship 140.6 Race Report

It's funny how you look back on a big race once it's completed and think how fast it came and went. My whole year or at least summer for that matter was focused on one big task - taking on ironman distance race #2. After Rev3 Cedar Point last year I was disappointed. Sure, I was a finisher but I knew I had a bad day and was disappointed in my time. This left me wanting redemption so in December of 2014 I signed up for Beach 2 Battleship in sunny Wilmington, NC. I had heard wonderful things about the race so I figured it would be a good experience.

Countless hours of training and racing went into the biggest race of my season. An Iron distance race requires commitment and focus to be successful. I am pretty happy with how my training progressed but of course there are variables that one cannot control...such as getting very sick a few weeks out from race day. Several doctors visits and procedures left me wondering if I would even be able to race let alone meet my goal of a big PR. I battled with myself because at first I did too much and was not getting better and then I had to be honest with myself and rest and allow my body to heal. That is not an easy task for me but after a couple weeks I was feeling much better albeit not 100% and really just needed my doctor's approval to race pending some test results. I pretty much had decided I wanted to at least attempt the race. I had worked hard for months and it would have been depressing to sit out the biggest race of my year. I figured if worse came to worse I could do as much as possible and DNF. Fortunately my day went better than expected!

Prerace Thursday:

View from our condo on Water Street
Steve and I packed up the car and started the drive to Wilmington around 6am. With a few stops along the way and after hitting the expo we arrived at our condo downtown around 5:30pm. The place we rented from Trip Advisor was perfect. We had a full apartment right on Water Street overlooking the Cape Fear River and conveniently located a couple of blocks down from the expo. After unpacking we headed over to a local Brewery to have a pint and then later we met our friend Elisa for dinner at a local place downtown called Fat Tony's, which the locals rave about. After getting back to our condo Steve and I took on the big task of getting our race bags (transition, post race and special needs bags ready). After that it was time to call it a night.

Prerace Friday (Race Eve):

There is a certain energy you wake up with the day before you take on an Iron distance race. So we were up to have a coffee, eat and get everything organized for the day. We did a shakeout run and bike. We checked in our T2 bag and special needs bags at the convention center. We checked our bikes and T1 bag in at the beach transition area. Beach 2 Battleship has two transition areas because it is a point to point race. This makes the logistics a little more challenging but doable as long as you are organized.

After we checked the bikes in Steve and I headed to Wrightsville Beach for a little while to enjoy the sun and sand. We had a nice relaxing walk on the beach and then headed back to town to the condo to get cleaned up for dinner. We ended up eating at Fat Tony's again and it was a very nice low-key prerace dinner with lots of carbs including a dessert! One must eat well before 140.6 miles! After dinner we walked back to the condo and headed to bed. I slept reasonably well for the night before a big race.

Race Morning:

The alarm went off at 4:15am, which was actually not that bad. I woke up right away and so did Steve. After a cup of coffee, some food and a shower it was time to get dressed and put on the race tattoos. Our plan was to meet our friend at the Hilton where the race shuttle would drop us off at T1 by the beach. We were right on schedule for the shuttle, which was a trolly. I was in a very chatty mood and feeling pretty excited that I had made it this far despite the challenges over the last few weeks. This was happening! We arrived at T1 to finish setting up and then we had to catch a second shuttle over to the swim start a few miles away since this was a point to point swim. When we arrived at the swim start it was dark and chilly and there were not many athletes there yet. We hung out and stayed warm with some throw away sweats and shoes. After about an hour or so later it was time to chug some beet juice, eat one last snack, ditch the throw away clothes and walk over to the beach.

The Swim: 2.4 Miles - 1:05:01 clock time (1:01 watch time)

As we positioned ourselves for the start at 7:30 the race director played "Lose Yourself" by Eminem
Swim start photo by race photographer
and this got us incredibly pumped up. I was jumping and dancing and ready to get this thing started! Steve and I lined up close together and walked up to the water. It was go time. I ran in as long as possible and then started into a freestyle stroke right away. With it being a mass start of about 800 people there were no shortage of bodies around me throughout the whole swim. In fact it got a little physical a couple of times but I quickly repositioned as needed. It was a fast swim with the current in our favor especially for the first 2000-2500 meters. Once we made the first big left turn though the wind was not in our favor and the water was choppier. This wasn't too big of a deal since we had been practicing in good old Lake Erie a fair amount over the summer. My goal was to try to finish the swim in about an hour. At the end of the swim you have to climb a ladder up to the dock. I glanced at my watch time and it said 1:01 so I was almost exactly on pace. After the swim you have to get your wetsuit off and run through the showers to rinse the salt water off then you run a couple hundred meters across the street before you hit the timing mat. This added a few minutes to my time but no big deal.

T1: 9:29

This was a little longer than I planned but T1 is a pain. You are soaking wet and a little discombobulated from a long swim so it takes longer to change, get a snack, etc. Then you go grab your bike and wait a few seconds for the people in front of you so that you can mount your bike.

The Bike: 112 Miles - 6:26:23 clock time (6:12 watch time)

On the bike fighting the wind!
The start of the bike was slow as there was a good bit of weaving in and around roads and people until we finally made our way onto a straight-away when I was able to focus on hitting my pace and getting in some nutrition and fluids. My goal was to average around 18 mph for the race.

The first 60-70 miles were mostly flat and into the wind. I thought that flat would be easy but in all actuality you never really get a break to coast. If you let up on the cadence you lose power and slow down. I was pretty much on pace as we hit the first aid station at mile 25 or so. Unfortunately my aerobar mounted drink holder cracked and broke so I had to lose one of my two bottles. This was not ideal but I refilled my bottle and then chugged some water before I was on my way. I probably only lost a minute or two here.

At the next aid station around 45 miles I had to use the porta john. Unfortunately there was a line so I racked my bike and took care of my drink refill and then waited a couple of minutes to go. I maybe lost a few minutes here because the clock doesn't stop for you to pee.

Around mile 60 we got the special needs bags. I had a vanilla iced coffee in mine and some gummy lifesavers. Weird combo perhaps but it got the job done with a sugar burst. Then I used the bathroom again. So here I lost maybe 3-4 minutes as well but worth it.

I ended up hitting one more aid station for a third potty break so at least I was hydrated and this was around mile 75 or 80 and was my last stop. The wind had become more of a tailwind at this point so that was a good thing but of course I was ready to be done.

My last hour was my fastest hour I think. We were on a flat highway with a tailwind so I was averaging 19+ mph in that section. I was stoked to see the bridge at mile 111 and coast into the convention center for T2.

T2: 5:02

At T2 they had bike catchers, which was nice and then there was a decent 200 meter or so run to the bags. From there I hit the changing tent and changed from my Powerbar bike jersey into my Powerbar run singlet. I also took in a Powerbar energy blend gel and hit the restroom quickly before starting the run.

The Run: 26.2 Miles - 4:31:16 clock time

Starting 2nd lap of run
I felt pretty good for the first hour of the run. Maybe too good. My GPS watch died right around then which may have been a curse or a blessing - not sure yet which it was. I had felt pretty good on the run through mile 13 and then I kindof bonked. I walked a little to the special needs bag and was very happy that I had put a redbull and some Aleve in there as I needed both. My left achilles had started bothering me around mile 8 or 9 so the Aleve definitely helped. I also rubbed on some Biofreeze as well. That stuff is magic.

I got back on track for a little bit but started to feel the pain again around mile 18 from some pretty gnarly blisters on both of my pinky toes. My Hoka Cliftons were not kind to me late in the race. Luckily the aid stations had vaseline so I was able to stop a couple of times to coat my toes.

I made sure to take in a lot of salt from Base as well as the chicken broth and water. This definitely helped keep me from cramping. I tried to keep my walking to the aid stations or very short little 30 second breaks a few times in the later miles. I had hopes of being closer to 4 or 4:15 but it just was not happening this time. While running is definitely my best sport it is also the hardest thing to do when you are sick and I was still not 100% so this did not work in my favor.

One thing that was great about the run was that I got to see Steve and all my Cleve Tri Club friends that were racing several times, which was a real boost.

The Finish & Post Race:

CTC 140.6 Racers & fans!
My last mile of the run was a good one and emotional. I went from not even knowing if I would be able to race, to not knowing if I could finish to a PR! I was pretty close to my goal of hitting 12 hours. I ended up with a 12:17 and if it was not for the bike stops I would have been 12:03 or so. I ended up 6th in my AG out of 18. This was a big improvement over the mess that was my first 140.6. And I was recovering from being ill. I will take it. I was teary-eyed at the finish so Steve was worried and I just explained that I was happy. Happy to be done with the race. Happy to be done with this big goal. Happy to be strong enough to do this.

Steve had brought me some warm clothes to put on and a Fatheads Trailhead beer. I downed some pizza and a hot chocolate and then walked back to the condo to get showered. Shortly after we headed back to the finish to meet up with our Cleveland Tri Club friends and celebrate and wait for our friend Elisa to finish her first 140.6! She had a tough day but she finished and I was ready to call it a night when we got back to our condo at 12:30 or so in the am.

Unfortunately I was very sick after the race. I was in bed most of the next 36 hours but did make it out for one celebratory beer and food with the CTC/Bicycle Hub folks. Then it was back to Cleveland the next day. Then back to work the day after. How quickly it came and went.

Final Thoughts:

On the Race:

The race was awesome! It is very well organized. The swim is fast and I like the point to point swim layout versus the old double loop. The bike course is windy and flat at around 1400 ft of gain. Flat and windy hurts. The run is a nice course albeit hilly in some sections, was a little warm in heat of the day at around 70s. The aid stations were fantastic. Setup Events and the volunteers make this a great race. The town is scenic and fun with lots to do. The beach was nice too. I wish we had more time before or after the race to enjoy it!

On Racing my 2nd 140.6

Your health is more important than anything. I probably pushed myself beyond what I should have but my Dr. gave me the go ahead because even he knew how hard we train to complete an ironman distance race. I had debated sitting it out and playing it safe but that's just not who I am. I definitely paid the price after for a few days. I am now well into my recovery and want to thank my husband Steve for all his love and care, my friends who raced with me for the cheers, my friends I raced and trained with all year, my mom for her support and encouragement and also to Powerbar for being a top-notch sponsor once again this season.

After some thinking I will not be competing in a 140.6 next season. I need to give my body and mind a little break. There is a good chance I will do another in 2017 or beyond but for next season I am looking forward to some long run races, olympic and 70.3 triathlons, and some new stuff like bike time trials and cyclocross. This old girl needs some variety and more recovery. I plan to space my big races out at least 4-6 wks apart next season because taking on a BQ marathon, 70.3 and Ironman in five weeks time frame was just a little too aggressive for me. Lesson Leaned. Now it's time to enjoy the off season! Finally! Horray!

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