Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Carolina Half Iron Race Report

Sunday, May 4, 2014
Davidson, NC

Swim -           31:20  (1:29/100 yards)
T1 -                4:59
Bike -             2:54.42   (19.2mph)
T2 -                1:05
Run -              1:50.24  (8:26/mi)
Finish Time -  5:22.32

3rd OA Female

Pre-race:  I've been highly anticipating the start of my 2014 race season.  Over the past few weeks, it seems like everyone except me has been doing some early season racing.  When I planned my season, the Carolina Half became a key early season race due to its close proximity.  Last year's inaugural event had received a fair bit of criticism for the difficult course, but it was promised to be an upgraded course that was faster.  I felt confident about the bike course since I had the opportunity to ride it the weekend before, but I had only run a small portion of the run course.  By Thursday of race-week my legs were finally starting to come around and my pre-race brick on Saturday seemed to go smoothly.  At the last minute, Cannon Cyclery provided me with some extra speed with a pair of Cognation wheels.  Now if only I could actually afford a set of my own.

The logistics of the race itself was more challenging than usual due to the point-to-point design.  Despite extensive planning and list-making, I still managed to forget something - my aero hydration bottle.  Race morning I made the 30 minute drive to Davidson, dropped my bike at T1, drove the 10 minutes to T2, dropped off my run gear, took the bus back to T1, gathered my wetsuit and goggles, and finally made my way to the water.

Swim:  Water temperature was 68 degrees, making it a perfectly comfortable wetsuit-legal swim.  One of the benefits to racing the open category is that you have a first wave start and a smaller group of people.  It was a beach start and quite quickly we were off and swimming.  I had a good running start and quickly settled into a rhythm, letting two people with extensive swim backgrounds take off ahead of me.  Fortunately, I was able to otherwise hold my own and had perfectly clean water for the entire 1.2 miles.  I did some zig-zagging in the final stretch back to shore due to mis-sighting, but was otherwise please with my 31 minute swim.  3rd female, 19/111 overall.

T1: There was a long uphill run on gravel from the swim exit to T1.  Due to the gravel, they recommended we put shoes at the swim finish to put on for the run.  My length T1 time can be explained by the process of wetsuit off, shoes on, a one-third mile run, packing my swim gear into a bag for transport to the race finish, and then the usual T1 activities.  3rd female.

Bike:  Things got off to a bumpy start when I crossed a speed bump within the first few hundred yards of leaving transition and one of my nutrition bottles popped out.  It didn't change my overall  race significantly, but it was still frustrating to have to stop, turn around, grab the bottle, and then get back on the bike.  The course is largely rolling hills with several more significant hills, and is particularly more challenging during on the back half of the route.  In total, my Garmin shows nearly 4500 feet of elevation change over the 56 miles.  Normalized power was 171 watts, which was exactly my race goal, despite being a bit slower than I anticipated.  I still need to work on my bike fit to optimize my comfort on the bike and minimize the time I spend out of aero.  I thought I took in a solid amount of nutrition (300 calories of Heed, 250 calories of gel), but hunger pains struck just as I was getting off the bike.  3rd female, 45/111 overall.

T2:  Piece of cake, in and out.  2nd female.

Run:  This is where my good race day took a less than desirable twist.  My legs felt sluggish and heavy as they always do during the first mile off the bike, but then my leg turnover improved and I settled in to my goal pace - 7:43, 7:34, 7:33 - for the first few miles.  We ran through a neighborhood and one significant downhills section, which would remain etched in my mind as the monstrous climb I would have to make at mile 12 en route to the finish line.  Since it was getting quite warm, I was consistently alternating a cup of water or heed every mile, and even grabbed a couple peanut butter crackers and coke at mile eight when I needed the extra energy.  The double-loop portion of the run allowed me to keep an eye on where I was in the field, and it was readily apparent that I wasn't the only one having  a rough run.  I was also struggling with some right foot pain over my first metatarsal, which was nothing I've faced in training, and made me a bit nervous.  Initially, I was thinking it was the new laces in my shoes, but it got worse with each mile, and eventually, running uphill just wasn't happening.  I'm not really sure how to explain this run other than the combination of hills, heat, hunger, and general discouragement which led to a half-marathon split more than 10 minutes slower than my goal.  3rd female, 20/111 overall.

Post-race:  Crossing the finish, I knew I was the 3rd female, but I wasn't confident that this would be my final placement since I had started in the open wave - ten minutes before the age-group female wave.  Unlike many other races which leave me with a queasy stomach, I was almost immediately in search of food.  Pizza never tasted so good!  After gathering all of my gear, I made it back to the live results scrolling on a TV and was happy to see that I maintained my 3rd place finish by a very significant margin.

Not long after a hot shower, I planted myself in a chair, legs elevated, and fully compressed in my 110% recovery pants with ice packs, and spent hours on end catching up from a very busy weekend at work.

For those who haven't raced with Jones Racing Company, I'd highly recommend that you check out their events.  Their organization is impeccable and the race was smooth from start to finish.  Now if only there were some more enticing prizes for overall winners!

I have a few weeks until my next race - Tomahawk Tri - which will provide for some fun shorter course racing.  After some recovery this week, I'll back to consistent training and gradually building volume.  Learning from this race, if I'm going to be successful in Chattanooga, I have to continue to get stronger on the bike and need to make running hills my passion.  Not to mention, more solid food on the bike so that I'm not left with a growling stomach on the run.

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