BEACH to BATTLESHIP IRONMAN

 The final event of the year was the Ironman Beach to Battleship in Wrightsville Beach, NC this weekend. I have been preparing for this event since July, but with a different approach than I have with my previous ones. I had to purposely under-train during these months since my work schedule has me constantly on my feet and often at 6 days a week. But I twisted this to my benefit with the following plan – get a majority of my training done just before going to work and using the time at work as a continuation of a workout. Thus, I was also preparing mentally for the length of an event like the Ironman by spending an additional nine hours at work.

I trained everyday and focused on frequency and intensity and never biked more than 70 miles in a session and never ran more than 16 miles. All my swims came courtesy of my UBE for the past 2 months since they closed the pool for the winter. But it was tough.

Thanks to the watchful eyes of Gina, who monitored my demeanor, weight, sleep, and certain eating selections, I maintained a focus and energy level (and enthusiasm), that left me fresh and prepared to “battle”. She also made me sign a contract through Christmas of no structured workouts once the Ironman was done. She had done a great job as usual taking care of maps, course outlines, transition set up, and schedule times to make sure logistics were in order. The Sherpa was dialed in and I know I always have the best at the events we travel to.

The week before the event left the area with chilly morning temps. It was in the low 30′s and the bike rides to work were a taste of fall, but a fear spurred that the Ironman was not going to be hot and humid the way I like it. Sure enough when we left on Thursday, the weather was predicted to be the same. I spent most of the week planning out different outfits to wear over the course of the event. What to toss, keep, change into, etc. But my mind had to stay focused too and only when we got in the car did I really start to think about the race’s allure. I couldn’t waste any mental energy during the week while at work worrying about that day. It helped me stay sane and confident. I’ve done too many of these and in similar weather.

We got there in about 4 hours – a one road shot. Our typical Holiday Inn choice was nicely situated on the beach. Ahhh -  the sight of water. Well it was breezy and cool so from a weather standpoint, it wasn’t desired. The forecast had to low 30′s and getting into the 60-70 range, but not until later morning/afternoon. That doesn’t help when the water is 67 degrees too. Layer up.  We attended the check in and I have to admit, the shwag was top notch. All the proceeds benefitted the local YMCA campaign and when volunteers outnumber racers, you can be certain the event will be awesome to race in. I tried on a new trisuit at InsideOut Sports and got a great deal. Bob and Melissa were there assisting a PC athlete and couldn’t thank them enough for helping me with the new FELT. Granted with my lack of outdoor riding the true potential of my bike won’t be seen till 2009, but I am enjoying it.

We walked around and got a sense of the area – it is a mix of Portland, Clearwater, and Long Beach bundled up. We liked it. We’ll visit again to check it out. The IntraCoastal Realtors sponsored the event and Gina made quick friends. We ate dinner at a local spot and afterwards while looking for a grocery store for bananas we spotted a RITA’S!!!!! This was a good sign. Slurped down a Gelati and man, that was nice!! After laying out our plans, we passed out exhausted, but very comfortably in what was probably the best hotel bed we ever stayed in. Maybe it was because we had a getaway from the everyday and needed it.

Friday was usual pre-event day: early morning workout, a nice leisure breakfast on the deck in the sun overlooking the beach, then off to attend the race meeting. Gina was sharp and took notes. Most of everything we had to the tee. You could feel the tension and nerves in that room. There was a half-ironman to be raced that same day so the meeting was packed. The Sherpa was ready. We made our way back to the hotel and settled in for checking all the bike and gear. It was close to our hotel so that was easy. We met Bill, a rookie who often came into the store for advice, and I had to help settle his nerves. He was all over the map. I think he calmed down after some tips and encouragement. Also met Sean, also a first-timer, but he was more laid back and had the “looking to finish” type attitude which served him well. Then it was back to the hotel for some early “breakfast” dinner and Gina sewed a bootie together that I could wear on the swim to keep my feet warm (it was allowed). Listen to the Sherpa.  

That night I slept maybe 3 hours. I had an immense “heat release” that left me burning up and either opening the patio door or turning on the AC (note –  it was 35 degrees outside overnight). My mind displayed images/dreams of everything that was going on back in Charlotte, back home, the fear of the event itself, and I could not sleep. But I had to pray and to accept it. The alarm would eventually go off and if I just let things be, I’d be ok.  Sure enough, 4am came. The weather was 39 degrees. I ate my bar and placed 2 skinsuits on and bundled up. Gina read off the checklist, scanned my equipment, and we kissed/hugged and prepared for a long day. I did all the pre race stuff – body marked, check the bike, double check the clothing bags, and then I had to board a trolley without G to the start. That was tough. 

Now was the time. Stay warm. I put my wetsuit on early. Jog a bit. It was still dark. Some 500 people now made there way to the beach. The sand was cold. I had a ChapStick with me that I just layered all over my hands and face. I met Bill again and he was still nervous. Calmed him down some more. As we gathered for the mass start I couldn’t believe they had us aiming for a buoy 150 yards out to make a right turn. It was gonna be a fight now too. I knew the water was cold, but I had been in colder (Lobsterman up in Maine). I had a moment to pray, take 3 deep breaths, see the sunrise, and lay the day to my mind. Feed off the Fear -it was Ironman time.

 And cold it was. I didn’t take a wide line as usual in a mass start since I knew I could knock a few heads by going up the middle. I didn’t get hit and made it to the turn no problem. It was tough to navigate since the buoys where not visible yet with daylight and the goggles fogged up a bit with the cold air. Just swim baby. I had 2 swim caps so my head was warm and honestly just rode the current and kept sight. A nice swim overall.  The end was at a dock so you had to climb a ladder of about four steps and this is when you got an idea of how cold it really was. They had volunteers helping you remove your wetsuit so once this came off, forget it. Then it was a 300 yard run to the bike.

Dadadadadadaddadabrrrbrbrrrrbrbrbrbrbroooooooooochhhahahahhaaaachaaaa.

Into the changing area and it was a swarm of chaos. I had to change standing up but had it replayed in my head so it was easy. Take your time. The grass was wet and so were the feet. Got to the bike and saw Gina – she knew I was cold but kept shouting the right things – “Stay warm, got out easy.” Listen to the Sherpa.    

I kept one of my swim caps on too. Spin easy, get focused. By mile 20 I was numb in my hands and feet. Everything else was fine, but I couldn’t take any hydration since I couldn’t grip anything. The course was mostly flat but windy. It was in the first 40 miles that I struggled. I couldn’t force it and didn’t want to. I battled within and faced a few dark spots. This is what it is about, dig deep, confront, exit stronger. By now, the sun was up, it got warmer, and thanks to my GelBot, I had some drinks/gels in me. At mile 60 was a changing zone. I shed everything (literally too). Now I meant business. It was warm, I was warm, and eager. I cranked.

My second half bike split was way faster than the first. I was passing a lot of people. Staying collective and focused under the ArubaSports shades, I didn’t think a sliver about the run. (I didn’t loose my pump either since I listened to the Sherpa.) I just wanted to get this part done. No fear. With the Battleship in sight some 6 hours later, I was ready to roll. Gina was there and kept on the shouts. I had a 2 minute change and was out ready to pac-man everyone. The heart rate was steady, the course was nice a smooth, and I knew it was my time. A two loop 13 mile course was scenic, so I got an idea of how things were laid out on the first lap and made sure my pace was fine. Body check. Mind check. I passed Bill on my second lap as he started his first – he was smiling and right on. Sean too. By mile 21, I started to pick it up. Got faster each mile, and the last few under 7 minute pace. The new self had shed the old one and I was nailing the coffin shut on that one. This was done!!!

I crossed the line in 10:33! The long awaited hug and kiss from Gina made it all the worthwhile. We both endured a big one and in a great time. We battled and won. We had enough energy to walk around for another 3+ hours as we celebrated, snacked, and simply watched others come in. Both Sean and Bill did great. Gina met more people than she ever met at an event and had plenty of stories as we rehashed our days. The organizers did a fantastic job pulling this one off – sponsors, volunteers, the city as a whole (you should have seen the traffic jams at some intersections). Awesome.

We loved it all. I never felt better after an Ironman as I did today. Though I am not allowed to think about it yet, 2009 is going to be lit up. We stayed at the race until 10pm and with the extra hour to our advantage with daylight savings, we were in no rush.   

The stats were:

2.4 mile swim: 53 minutes

112 mile bike – 6 hrs, 15 minutes

26.2 mile run – 3 hrs 15 minutes   (2nd fastest overall)

 25th overall out of 500

5th in my age group out of 90

All results are on www.setupevents.com – link to Beach 2 Battleship website

After a year which saw me race well in 2 half-ironmans, win a few 5K’s, and a top 3 in a half marathon, this last race was icing on the cake (note – all my main races this year fell on mine, Gina’s, the sister’s Anjie’s and Lisa’s birthdays). I now look forward to the holidays to celebrate and recover. So does Gina. That contract is now active. But she even hinted at 2009 and what’s possible. Listen to the IronSherpa. 

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