RR: 2008 Beach2Battleship Iron Distance Race

This is my race report for the 2008 Beach-2-Battleship Iron Distance triathlon event I did with my friends and co-triathletes Jay Stanley and Erik Van De Meulebroecke. For an alternative view see Jay’s race report.
Race: Setup Beach-2-Battleship Iron Distance
Date: Saturday Nov 1, 2008
Location: Wilmington, NC
Race Type: Triathlon – Iron Distance
Age Group: Male 45-49
Time: 12:14:56 S=00:57:51 T1=00:11:19 B=06:03:04 T2=00:11:55 R=04:50:50
Overall Place: 157/337
URL: B2B 2008 Results
I don’t know where to start. The banter two years ago about who’s going to “lay down the gauntlet” and challenge the others to do an ironman is an obvious starting point but I’ve lost the email train. The buildup and disappointment of trying to sign up for IM Lake Placid is another obvious point. But we knew we were committed to training for, and attempting, an IM. Another obvious start of this odyssey is when Erik VanDeMeulebroecke, Jay Stanley, Will Colston and I signed up for the Beach2Battleship iron-distance race in January. This decision resulted in significant training requirements, especially monthly 100+ mile bike rides. But this decision point was so long ago and resulted in so many salient training sessions, that I’ll just not get started there. So I’m going to start on Thursday night when I dropped my bike and gear off at the the Van’s house; Patricia had agreed to drive us to the race in Wilmington NC. We needed to pick up our race packets and prepare our bikes on Friday for a dawn start Saturday morning. Her presence and participation was always welcome. After the race, it was necessary. We met at the Van’s house on Friday morning and started driving. The drive down was fast and uneventful so we arrived about 2:30. We first went to the USS North Carolina Battleship to check it out, then over to packet pickup and the pre-race meeting. After that we had a great Italian meal but I was too nervous to really enjoy it. Then we checked into the hotel. I stuffed all the things I would need into the various race bags (six in all) and went to sleep. I awoke at 4am, before the alarm went off, and started eating breakfast. Jay, my silent-sleeping roommate of many races, was still dozing. I say “silent-sleeping” because I was warned how loud his snoring is; I’ve never heard it. Erik knocks on the door and we carry all our stuff down to the hotel shuttle that would take us to the transition area. We get off the bus and drop off our race bags in the correct corrals. One thing about Jay and race day: he usually has a crisis moment. The only question is how bad will it be. This time he forgot his carefully prepared nutrition bottles. As I was loading everything on my bike I heard him say “I’m going back to the hotel.” And off he went. I met up with Erik and we wandered over to the shuttle to the swim start. I was starting to shiver, partly from nervousness. He peeled off to go to the bathroom so I jumped on the next shuttle and sat next to some equally quite guys. The shuttle drove us to the swim start at the end of the spit that creates a narrow boating channel with the mainland and we pile off. It hits me: I’m scared and cold and it’s really dark and the stars are really pretty and I’m not sure if I can do this thing. Someone says “it’s really cold.” I talk to the guy for a little, he’s older and it’s his first IM too. Erik gets off another shuttle and I call to him. We sit. He finds a pair of clippers and starts trimming his toenails. Jay gets off a shuttle and we call to him. He explains: no water bottles until the first water exchange at mile 20. A guy says “Alright, racers need to move to the beach.” It’s 6:45 and still night. We get in our wetsuits and walk with the pack. The sand is really cold. We take off our warm clothing and put them in our respective drop bags (that will be taken to end of the race in the far future.) We tread into the water and it’s surprisingly warm. Nice! We walk out and stand shivering, waiting for the race director to say SOMETHING. Finally he says, “We’re waiting for sunrise. The race will start immediately after that.” We all shuffle into the race area and then spread out to get a good spot to start. My strategy is to go really wide on the first turn bouy and swim into the middle of the channel to get away from the crowd. “One minute”, “30 seconds”, I set my lapwatch, the horn blows. I wait for the young turks to charge off into the water and then jog in. The water is warm and I start to swim. I bump someone, another person, sight and see I’m where I want to be and then keep swimming. I swim straight for a while until the water becomes really cold and then sight. I see the main pack to my right so I turn a little and start swimming parallel with them. I sight on the people so I don’t need to look up. My mind races as I try to figure out where I am but I know we’re moving pretty fast. What seems like impossibly soon, we come upon the “Crazy Man” boat, the turnpoint into the harbor. I turn and hear the marshalls on the boat start screaming. I look up in panic but they’re screaming at someone else still swimming straight. I continue on. The power of the current is apparent as I try to swim across current to the ladders at the end of the swim. I have to work the hardest of the swim just to fight the cross currents. I get to the ladder and climb out. I look at my watch and see it’s less than an hour from start time. Excellent! I strip my wetsuit and then run barefoot across several parking lots (my feet are too numb but I can feel the gravel would hurt otherwise), grab my bike gear bag and enter the changing tent. It’s packed. I pull out my helmet. Wait, I don’t have a red helmet. I look at the bag and realize it isn’t mine. So I run out and exchange the bag for one I know is mine. I’m shivering and my hands are a little numb. I put an all my biking gear, including a windbreaker, dump my bag, grab my bike and I’m off. Oh yeah, my heart-rate monitor. I unzip my jack and put the chestband on; I see my HR is 100 – good. I start pedally too quickly and pass a guy in a fullblown aero bike and helmet. So I back off a little. I get in a smooth cadence and pedal along for a while. After ten miles I feel like I should eat, so I have a couple of those clif snotblock sugarcube things. I look at my HR: 140. Too fast! My target is 130. The shotblocks taste really good. So I have a couple more and, oh what the heck, I finish the bag. Now I feel a little nauseaus so I drink a good amount of water. After the mile 20 bottle drop I really have to go pee so I stop. After the mile 40 bottle drop I really have to go pee so I stop. At the mile 60 special needs drop, I stop and get off my bike to (of course) pee and stretch. The volunteers can’t find my bag until one of them comes back from the road carrying it; she was waiting on the roadside to hand it to me. So I pull out a couple things, including a banana (yummy!) and throw in my biking gloves. Then I see Erik on the other side of the area stretching. I walk over and say “Hi!” He says “You’re looking good” and, before I know it, he’s back on the road. So I reluctantly follow. I see him about 200 yards in front and then he picks up the pace and disappears. My neck is really starting to hurt from being in the aerobars for so long. I felt this on the last couple long rides but could always relieve it by resting my hands on the hoods. Now, the wind is in my face so aero is the only way to go. I look at my HR: still 140. I have a feeling I’m going to pay for this on the end but, right now, I don’t feel like dialing back. I try some neck exercises but the pain keeps getting worse. I’m now looking for an excuse to stop – hey, I need to pee! So I stop next to a couple of other guys and relieve myself. I hop back on and continue. Mile 90 comes and goes; I stop at 95 and pee. The mile 100 rest stop is a big ole’ party but I blow past it. There’s a tailwind now so things aren’t so bad; I can rest on the hoods occasionally without dramatically slowing down. I a sign indicating the battleship is 3 miles away; car traffic picks up and several bikers are around me. Where were all these people twenty miles ago? I hear “Dave” and see Erik running up the causeway bridge. 115 miles into the race and I’m still seeing this guy! I turn into the battleship access road and coast to a stop. Someone takes my bike and hands me my bike-to-run transition bag. I stagger to the changing tent and sit down. My feet really hurt. I take off my bike shoes and socks, put on my running shoes and socks, change shirts, put on bandaids, put on sunblock someone left. I then go to the port-a-potty and exit. I look at my watch. I’ve been in T2 for 10 minutes! I guess I should start my marathon now. So I run across the timing mat and hear the beep. I expect bad things starting the run but, to my surprise, I feel pretty good. Let me re-phrase that: I feel damned good. So I keep running, periodically checking my HR. It’s at 144. Okay, let’s settle down. So I try to slow down so it goes to 130 but I’m barely moving. I speed up. I run with this 26yo guy named Tim: ex-Duke swimmer, married to his college sweetheart, etc. The pace is too quick so I tell him I’m dropping back. The whole first loop is great and I feel strong. Coming across the bridge to the battleship I pick up the pace and go strong into the run special needs area. I grab my bag, go into the changing tent and sit down. Now what? Well, I decide to change my socks. I check my nipple bandaids but they don’t need fixin. I pee and then, well, nothing left to do but go back out. I look at my watch and it shows I’ve been in the T-area for almost 8 minutes. What!!! So I cross the timing mat and start running but feel really stiff. I run for a little and then have to walk. Am I hitting a wall? At the first station I eat some endurolytes and a lot of HEED. At the next, I eat some Cheez-its and bananas but can’t seem to get the engine going again. So I walk and run for the next ten miles or so until getting a second wind around mile 23. A guy who is running at a pace I think I can sustain passes me, so I latch on to him and follow him across the final bridge. We pass a couple people and then he pulls away from me. On the access road, I see the end is near and give it a burst of energy to cross the finish strong. Jay and Patricia meet me in the finish chute; Erik is sitting. A woman comes in just after me and almost collapses. I get out of the way. I sit in a chair for a little while in a daze. Jay and Erik seem to be doing the same. Patricia and Erik’s sister (who came to the race from Raleigh) coordinate how to get us out of there. I am deeply thankful I don’t have to think. We collect our gear and sit around talking, waiting for Patricia to come with the car. When she returns we load up everything and head to the hotel (stopping to pick up some chinese food.) At the hotel we eat quickly and then go to bed. The next morning I wake up at 5:00, get dressed and go downstairs to see the sunrise. I ask the hotel manager for a paper and he says only the NY Times has been delivered and “you know it’s 4:30 right?” I forgot about the time change on Sunday. I read the paper, wait for coffee to be put out and generally wander around. The sunrise is beautiful and I sit out on the balcony taking in the ocean. Erik and Patricia wander out to the hot tube and I go down to talk with them. Eventually we go out to a great breakfast. The results are posted and Jay reads them from his blackberry. We all did very well. We go back to the hotel, pack and checkout. Both Patricia and Erik (don’t know how) drive; I can’t do anything but be comatose or sleep. A part of me would like to improve on my course management and run experience but I’m not sure I would do another iron-distance race. The training time is critical and pervasive; one needs to structure family life around 6-8 hour training sessions.