Racin’ in NC – Lake Norman Tri

How do you get into a race that closes back in January?? The Lake Norman Tri is a sprint triathlon about 30 minutes north of us and was a perfect “tune-up” for the Duke Liver Half-Ironman. Problem was, it was already closed out and I had to wait until one day in August, at 7am sharp, to get onto their waitlist. Even then I wasn’t assured a spot. So I planned my training to focus solely on the Duke race, while hoping to do some type of race before then. I timed it right to get #12 on the waitlist but still wouldn’t find out if I was in until a week before the race. All the while I’ve been training well and Curtis has helped me get sharp in my run with our long tempo-type Saturday morning workouts. The weather hasn’t let up – near 100 everyday and hardly a drop of rain, meaning a customary swim almost everyday just for some relief.
Sure enough, I get in the race. Awesome!! But how do I plan now a race that would be the shortest distance-wise that I have done in triathlon for almost 10 years (a 1/2m swim, 17m bike, 3m run)?? A hard workout all-around? Tempo? Pace? Kind of like when I go into Dunkin’ Donuts and get JUST an iced coffee even though they have the chocolate coconut/butternut sprinkle donut.
I got some good tips about the course from Julie Gayheart – my boss at CRC Dilworth – who also is my go-to person for ideas and routes around the area. She’s also been great at getting me up to speed on the whole sneaker retail business. SO the plan is:  try to swim hard, really push it on the bike, then test how long I can get into half-marathon pace for Duke. I bought a set of Zipp wheels from Polar tech guru Wayne and finally will be able to give them a good spin. I never had race wheels – ever, so a good hard push should give me a good idea.
It was hard not to taper for this race since I structured the week for lower volume before 3 full weeks of training which includes an actual taper for Duke. But this included a 2hr plus training day the day before the race. Still I was confident to go about my plan and with the weather to be upper 70’s-80 at 7am, I just was going to wear tights the whole race (what a difference compared to Ironman).     
Typical race morning that Gina and I are accustomed to – the 4:15am wake-up. We made a deal to finally change Gina’s cell phone alarm. Use to almost give us a heart attack with its sound and though I love the song “Numb” from Linkin’ Park – I don’t care for it to blast suddenly as an alarm (maybe “Wake Up!” from Lost Prophets?).  Off we went, arriving at the Lake Norman Y before 6. Easy walk to transition and was a nice overall setup for 600+ athletes. Since it was still dark (sunrise now at 6:45) we did the routine – body marked, transition check, chip, bathroom. Met up with Julie and friends and she was vibrant as usual. She helped ease the tension a bit and we bid each other good racing. Gina checked out her spots and with a final kiss I was off to the water.
I was the second wave, the 30-39 age group, while the Elite wave of 15 or so people got first dips. I contemplated entering this wave, but I feel elite is just like a Pro – you earn your living in the sport. There was no prize money either. It would be a floating start and the water was 86 degrees!!! I loved it. I positioned myself right in the front of the wave. I think my swim is good enough, but I think I miscalculated the anaerobic-ness of this ½ mile distance. I looked to my right and left and was flanked by a good number of people. If this was a mile or longer race, I would question the sanity of my position. I now questioned it even more. “Dude you better really move.” I thought. The horn blows.
Immediately I find myself churning for safety – at full steam ahead. If I stop even for a second I get pummeled. No joke. At this point I’m thinking of the fastest speed metal song I know to help me go faster and keep it up. I get a bit of water in the goggles and then drink some of Lake Norman. No time to think – get to the turn buoy, maybe people will drop off. Problem is, I think some were drafting me. I get around the turn and head for – the sunrise right in the eyes!! I tailed one guy the whole way back. My arms were heavy but good enough to know I got out ok in about 12-13 minutes. Heading to transition, you had to run about ¼ mile over sand, grub, and concrete. Tip-toe to the bike and strap on Polar, shades, number, helmet, and shoes. Off I go. Nice work, now time to Zipp.
The course was rolling, calm, and reminded me of Lobsterman in Maine. No aid stations, so I just kept in my big gears and spun with my heart rate in the 135-150 range the whole time. I actually passed a few people!! Breathing was good, I knew it was humid since you could only tell how much you were sweating by kissing your shoulders. Confident, I played “Seek and Destroy” on my internal MCpod and reeled anyone I could in. Mainly on the rollers was I able to make up ground. It was a nice course and said “thank you” to each volunteer at turning points. Closer to the end a bunch of 4 were within reach and I knew I could catch them on the run. After 45 minutes the ride was over.
Easy mild transition as I only changed shoes (no socks) and grabbed a Polar tank to put on – backwards I later found out. The run went through a development and lovely real estate. I passed a good bunch and stayed within range clicking off 6:40, 6:35, and a 6:11. No sooner did I attain this groove that bang – it was all over. “That was it?? All 1:22 of it. Wow! A great race workout indeed!! No medals, but the cold wet towel was better. My left hamstring was a bit sore, but they had BioFreeze at the ART tent and I was ok. I met Gina and we then waited for Julie to finish. By the time we were all done it was only 9:30 too. I think the Y put on a great race and certainly with the numbers involved, did a fine job overall. After finding out I missed an age group award but a few minutes, we had to head back to home since I was scheduled to work a few hours that afternoon  (some customers wanted to know why I was numbered), then we had to get to Mass. Blitzkrieg day!      
I am more confident now in how Duke will be. It was a pleasurable first time race as a resident of Charlotte. As Gina said, “It was odd to hear the announcer say – finishing is Mark Carbone from Charlotte!” Doesn’t have the ring to it as maybe “from Brooklyn” use to, but it was comforting.
Results: I finished 32nd overall out fo close to 600 people. I placed 5th out of 46 in the 30-34 age group with individual placings within the age group of 6th in the swim, 10th on the bike, and 2nd on the run. A minute faster would have etched me 10 spots!! Oh man am I psyched. And this was a sprint!!!

Special thanks to LesserEvil for their new Krinkle Sticks snack. They sent me a comp 4 pack after a recent contest and they sure got a new snack on. Also to Great Harvest Bread where Gina and I continue to test a new loaf each time we go – the Pecan Swirl is the bomb (thanks Lisa for the gift card!!!!).
- MC

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