Monday, October 22, 2012

Beach2Battleship: The Return Trip

So here is the thing...  You all know there is no way to make this short.  You have been warned. 

The weird thing about this race and Augusta for that matter is I really did not feel as prepared as last year.  It probably was just one of those mental things.  I had trained more with groups this year and less on my own.  Last year I followed "the plan" a little more rigidly out of fear and this year I let go on that a bit.  I still put in the work but was more flexible in how that work was completed (i.e. group training camps and rides versus taking the whole thing solo or with a training partner).  In the end, whatever I did must have been just fine so I really did not need to spend last week obsessing over what had or had not been done and whether there was enough hay in my barn.  :)

Thursday, CR and I headed out on our road trip to Wilmington.  We stopped at South of the Border in South Carolina where you can pick up the latest in Mexican Souvenirs.  It makes no sense to me.  It is quite the complex of restaurants and touristy stores all with the South of the Border theme.  CR said they used to stop here back in the day when he would visit NC from FL with his parents.  Apparently Highway 301 was the best way to get there back then... 


If you remember, last year CR wasn't able to come up until the night before the race so it was nice to have him along from start to finish. We arrived later Saturday afternoon and went straight to packet pick up.

I got to meet the fabulous Tonia manning the Tough Chik booth, picked up a few race shirts and treats from the expo and was on my way.  We went to a Facebook meetup for dinner so it was a quick check in at the hotel and off to check out the swim start then head to dinner.  

It was nice to meet so many people in person who I had been chatting with on facebook for the past several months.  I think CR soaked up a few tips here and there as after the dinner he was offering me tidbits on things he had heard that might help me on race day.  (You know, peeing on the bike and that sort of thing...).

All packed and ready!

Race day nutrition.  I used about 3/4 of this.  I overestimated on the bike because I wasn't sure of my time. 
I took in everything except for the energy blasts and a couple of bonk breakers for the all three legs.

Friday was the usual whirlwind.  You think you are going to have all this time to relax but somehow the day ends up being a constant stream of dropping off this and that.  Thursday night I had transferred my gear into the various swim to bike, bike to run and special needs bag so those were ready to drop on Friday.  The biggest tip I have to offer for anyone who is doing their first iron distance is this...  separate all your gear and pack it up in bags at home.  When you get to the hotel, all you have to do is transfer the things from your bag to the official race bags.  It saves A LOT of stress.   

Friday we met up with Sarah and Kristi at the noon pre-race meeting.  There was some explanation of the changed run course.  I remembered at the time thinking it sounded confusing and hoped there would be signage.  *ahem* 

We parted ways with Sarah and Kristi to go get some lunch and drop off my bike.

... and a couple of hours later met back up with them for dinner.  Sarah likes pre-race sushi so we went to a Hibachi type restaurant so those of us who prefer our prerace meals to be cooked could eat as well. 

Back to the hotel to try and get some sleep....  I think I went to bed about 9:00 and then my eyes popped open again at 1:30.  There was no going back to sleep so I laid there and waited for the 4 AM alarm.  UGH.

CR drove me out to T1 where I dropped my gear, pumped tires and then left him as I got on the trolley to the swim start.  I don't know why but that part choked me up last year and did this year as well.  Sort of the final farewell I suppose.  Spectators can't get to the swim start easily so there are a lot of good byes and last minute good lucks at the trolley stop. 

As you get off the trolley everyone just sort of gathers outside the beach entrance since it is still dark.  I chatted with people around me until it was time to put on my wetsuit.  I finally saw Sarah right as we were ready to head to the start.  She hung to the back of the pack for the start and I made my way more to the middle.  I found myself starting right in front of a guy who had both arms amputated.  I later found out his name, Hector Picard (  I am told he finished the swim in 1:09.  It was one of those "what is your excuse" moments.

They played Eminem and we were off.  My swim wasn't the greatest in terms of sighting.  My goggles fogged up as usual so between that and the grey caps, I was having a hard time figuring out where we were going.  I was so far right at one point, the paddleboarders had to corral me back in as I was about to miss the left hand turn.  I only got caught up in a pack for a few minutes here and there, got kicked once in the face and had my feet grabbed about 500 times (but who is counting).  Got stuck by a guy with the most awkward stroke ever and was thinking he might pull me under with that thing for a few seconds.  Finally broke free of that and could see the dock.  Ah - freedom from the water!

Swim:    57:42 (I should say the race is known for fast swim times - there is a current much like Augusta)  4th in AG

Got the wetsuit stripped and rinsed off in the heated showers.  So awesome.  As I was doing the quick rinse, some guy who was also racing looked at me and said "that was a fast swim for you".  I assume meaning because I am a girl.  (the race is 70% men, 30% women).  Uh, what?  I think he meant it to be a compliment but what a weird thing to say...

Ran across the road to T1.  I decided not to change this year.  It was warm enough that dry clothes probably wouldn't help one way or the other with the temperature so I just pulled on my garmin, helmet, and shoes and headed to the bike.     

T1:    6:03

Grabbed the bike and ran the 10 feet to bike out.  (I was blessed with a super close spot!). 

See that aero bottle?  Yeah, I lost it on a bump about a half mile down the road.  Stopped to retrieve it and realized the bracket was broken so left it on the road.  I was down to the one bottle I had on the down tube.  Thankfully, there were frequent water stops.  I was using skratch mix and didn't think I could manage mixing it up on the go so ended up having to stop at almost every aid station to mix my skratch in the bottle.  Overall I don't think it added all that much time but did have me off my nutrition plan a bit.  It also didn't help that my bag of salt tabs flew out of my hand around mile 20.  Luckily the aid stations had enduralytes... 

The ride was so much better than last year.  All I can remember of last year's ride was hunkering down and trying to stay warm and not blow over sideways.  This year it was a little windy but nothing like last year.  The route was different this year too so am not sure how much of a difference that made in the wind.  I actually got to enjoy the ride which was a nice change.  I made my way from one aid station to the other.  Passing cotton fields, farms and a lot of highway riding.  I even passed a huge turkey coop at one point.  Thousands of turkeys were gobbling away looking out the window as we rode by. 

Bike:  6:52:33 (this is definitely the weak(er) of my legs - I dropped from 4th in AG to 18th in AG here to give you an idea of how I stacked up)

I headed into T2 and the volunteers took my bike.  I made my way through the convention center to get my bag and change for the run.  The T2 location was new for this year so I wasn't sure where to go although the volunteers did a decent job of directing us.  I did a full change out of my bike gear for the run.  Toweled off with my Shower Pill (LOVE these things by the way... they are like wet wipes but thicker and larger).  We also had the luxury of real bathrooms and running water so took advantage of that while I was changing.  Handed my bag off to the volunteer and I was out...

T2:  9:09

... on to the run.  The run course was different this year.  Mostly for the good but there were also some confusing parts.  To the good - we no longer had to run over the two bridges at the beginning and end of each loop (WOO HOO!).  To the bad - there was a new section that proved to be kind of confusing.  It would seem I needed to study the map a little more.

To be honest I had heard in the meeting that I needed to run a triangle section twice but the way it was laid out and the directions that were being given just didn't make sense to me when I got to that section.  I have since heard a lot of people screwed up this part of the run so at least I wasn't the only one who didn't "get it".  

Basically what was supposed to happen was this... you run this triangle once then at the fork bear to the left for an out and back section of 3ish miles.  You come back run the triangle again and then bear to the right to head back to the finish area (or special needs to begin the second lap). 

What I did was this...  I ran the triangle once then was told to go to the right (back to special needs) meaning I missed about 4 miles.  I was confused at the time but was even more confused when I started seeing the mileage signs that were about 4 miles off.  (for example, I knew I was on mile 8 but the sign was showing mile 12).  I just kept running and tried to figure out how I came to be so far off.  Were the signs off?  Did I miss something? How can I fix this without having to scratch this race as a learning experience?  I rolled up on special needs when I was on mile 9, grabbed 2 gels out of the bag and kept going.  

At this point, I kept thinking about the people who were tracking me at home and CR who was keeping up with me here.  I had crossed the mat at the turn around but had only gone 9 miles.  How can I fix this and not mess up this whole race?  If I couldn't figure out what I missed or fix it easily was I going to have to cross the finish without having really done the miles?  It was a little stressful but I guess it was good as it gave me something to occcupy my mind for 8 or so miles (ha ha not...).  It also got me off my refuel plan a bit as my mileage was all jacked up at that point.  I just kept going.  By the time I got to the triangle again, it became apparent what I needed to do to make up the missing mileage.  I ended up running the triangle three times on the last loop (to make 4 times total) and the out and back twice.  Again, I was thinking about the people tracking wondering what they must be thinking.  I was worried that CR wouldn't know where I was as I had not seen him since the first mile.  I was thankful it was a double loop course.  If had not been, there would have been no easy way to fix the missed mileage. 

On the last loop, I saw Kristi on her bike and she sent a text to CR to let him know where I was on the course.  Immediate relief because I was thinking he might be worried at this point.  On my last triangle loop, Kristi gave me a shout out and she took off for the finish.  Three miles to go! 

This year the course finished in downtown Wilmington which was SO MUCH BETTER than last year.  I made that final right hand turn and ran for a third of a mile or so past crowds of cheering people along the cobblestone road.  There was a wedding party on the left side of the road, a huge crowd of bar patrons on the right, they all cheered for me and I cheered back at them finally making my way to the finish line.  I had done the math in my head along the way but wasn't sure exactly where I stood.  I don't have one watch that holds charge long enough for the whole race meaning I have to change watches between the bike and the run.  I estimate my times and add them all together which at the end of a race can be harder to do than you might think.  I was hoping for sub-13 but didn't think it was possible.  When I came into view of the clock showing 12:46 I started choking up.  The crowd was cheering, the announcer was calling my name and I was trying to not hyperventilate from choking back the tears.  I pulled it together and sprinted across the line to meet CR and Kristi the super sherpas on the other side.  

Run:    4:41:18  (4th AG - see what I mean about the bike being the weak link?)

FINISH:  12:46:44 (7th AG)

It was such a great day.  I love this race so much.  I was worried that maybe I had such fond memories of it because it was my first but this time it was just as great.  They have some work to do on the run course in terms of signage or maybe training volunteers better on directing traffic but even with those hiccups it was so much better than running those bridges.  The finish was also much better than last year.  Did I mention they had XS race shirts?  BONUS!  Unisex tech race shirts in size small never fit, XS was perfect!

Post race, CR had already gathered my bike and changing bags.  He even had a cherry coke waiting for me in the cooler on ice.  The best sherpa ever!  I ordered a hamburger from room service (they had post race food but none of it was appealing to me at that time).  Only ate about half of the hamburger but it was the best thing ever.  I didn't really feel hungry until the next morning.

On the way home, we stopped by the post race brunch.  It was such a nice day, I am glad we made the time to do this last thing.  One guy who won his AG had a time of 10:00:01.  Can you imagine?  ONE SECOND to bust the 10 hour mark.  UGH.

Thanks for following along with me.  It was such a great day!



Jesica @rUnladylike said...

Congrats! What an amazing accomplishment! Your swim time was incredible!!! Enjoy your race high! I did Augusta too and am off to do the Marine Corps Marathon this weekend. I'm glad I won't be swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 beforehand ;) Congrats again!!!

Coach Brad said...

Amazing Karen! You captured so much of what you were feeling and because I have done Ironman distances as well I understand. Thanks for bringing the rest of us on your journey. Congrats!

B.o.B. said...

Damn Karen!!!! Amazing job!!! So proud of you.

I love all of your tips. Not that I'm doing a full anytime soon.

I'm surprised how much you enjoyed it based on some other report I read... we'll discuss via email.

Congrats again BAMF!!!!

Kate Geisen said...

You are just AMAZING!! Congratulations! I can totally see how the run confusion would be both stressful and yet also a good distraction. Awesome that CR could be with you the whole time too. Way to go, girl!

ajh said...

Congratulations! You were awesome. Your AG placements are great all the way around. That running part must have been very confusing.

Trish said...

Loved your race report! Especially liked the don't worry the week before about not having done enough. (I really needed to hear that about now) Good tip on packing for first timers. Congratulations on an amazing fast time! B2B might have to be my choice for 2013.


It was so nice to finally meet you! Congrats on a fantastic race. I loved reading this report, makes me want to register right now!

Mari Fridenmaker said...

Congratulations, Karen! I am so proud of you!

Unknown said...

WOOHOO! Congrats Karen! You did amazing. I love your attitude about everything too... especially missing the one loop and making it up. That would kill most people's mojo and you just roll with it. I love that about you! So... you going back for a three-peat?

Molly said...

Congratulations!!! What a great race! :)

Carolina John said...

Congratulations! You did really well out there. However, you were not supposed to be faster than my IMFL time. I must not have sent the memo on that one dang it. Does this mean you're going to be a glutten for punishment and come back for next year?

Matthew Smith said...

You rocked it, Karen! Way to go! I would have been all jacked up in my head with missing the loop, but you handled it beautifully. And, you're so stinking fast! That swim was crazy fast, and you ran your marathon faster than my stand-alone marathon! :) Nice work! Congratulations, and enjoy the recovery!

Suz and Allan said...

Congratulations! Your times for all three are very impressive. Enjoy relaxing!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! This was my first iron distance race and I did the EXACT same thing you did on the run. I got to special needs about mile 9.5 and was trying to figure out what I did wrong. I had to go back and make the triangle and the out&back again to make up the mileage!

Kim said...

Wow!!! Amazing! I have always thought that an Ironman is one of the biggest physical accomplishments!! I loved reading your story about the race. Very impressive!!! I hope you are recovering well!

Kenley said...

Now that is a post to read. Thanks for sharing. Im proud of you. Congratulations!!! Take care! Recover well!

TX Runner Mom said...

Wow, great recap and great job!!! It sounds like a great race (Well except for the confusing run course)!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Congrats on a great race!! The more and more I read about this race, the more I want to do it

Jill said...

You, my dear, are such an amazing rock star!!! I bow to your awesomeness, you are such an inspiration to me. 54 minute 2.4 mile swim??? OMG, that is awesome. Swimming is my strength but no way I could swim under an hour. And yeah...your run time beat my marathon in Chicago a couple weeks ago :). Congratulations, I am so very happy for you!

Lindsay said...

congrats karen! although the triangle piece of the run sounds a little stressful ;) such an amazing race!

Kevin said...

Congrats on a great race. Seeing all the pictures from you and some of my other friends on Facebook has me wanting to go back there for the full next year

Swim Bike Mom said...

I just came by to read this again... best race report ever! You da bomb, Yoda!

Theresa said...

Hey Karen,

Congrats on a job well done! Thanks for providing such a detailed report including the nutrition photo. I always wondered 'what in the world does she consume to keep moving 13 hours'. Well, now I know. :-)