There’s just nothing like a racecation! A race combined into a family vacation in a wonderful destination. The last two years I’ve been taking a “racecation” to Nags Head, North Carolina for the Outer Banks Triathlon. Last year I raced the Olympic distance, but this year I decided to take on the half iron distance race!
As I started to write this report, I realized many of you may not have done a racecation before, so I’m going to do this in two parts. Part 1 (what you are currently ready) is all about the race. Part 2 (coming out later this week) will be all about coordinating a vacation with race week and how we did it.
So with that, let’s take a look at the best fall triathlon on the east coast!
The people at Outer Banks Sporing Events have this thing down to a science! They organize races all year long and they really know what they are doing. Packet pick up on Friday was a breeze! I was in and out in around 15 minutes including the time I spent talking to a few guys about the course and finding out what the water temperature was.
Race morning was easy. Transition is set up between a small airport used for flight tours of the area and the aquarium in Manteo. After the disaster that parking was last year, things were a lot smoother this year. Good on OBXSE for learning and improving year after year! I got set up and ready to roll in no time. Except for all the sand that got wedged in my front brake wheeling into transition. I had to totally take my front wheel off to clean everything out.
The thing I love most about setting up in transition is how much everyone in the triathlon community helps each other out. We are completing against each other but have no problems giving tips and tricks to new athletes and helping calm each others nerves. We are also accepting of any and everyone! There was a guy on my rack doing his first race… a half iron distance triathlon… on a beach cruder with a basket on the front! I think the USAt official made him take the basket off, but other than that we all applauded him for his grit to get through a race like that on what bike he used!
This was the best swim of my life! Going into it I had one goal… swim straight! Last year I swam almost the same distance as a half iron swim but I was on the Olympic course… it was bad. This year, I slotted neatly into the second pack and, for the first time, I actually was able to take advantage of a draft for the first 800 meters or so! It was at that point that I pulled ahead of that pack I was in and got caught in no-man’s land for the rest of the swim.
Coming out of the sound you have to run a good 200-300 meters or so to transition. It’s not a fun run though sand, concrete, grass, and then concrete again. The up side is if you can find your legs in a decent amount of time it is an opportunity to gain a few positions in transition.
I felt like I took my time, but it was still a pretty fast transition.
Lead up to this race, everyone had tigger eyes on the potential of Hurricane José making landfall somewhere along the east coast. OBXSE did a great job with communication on that by the way! The good news is that José stayed away… the bad news was he was hovering right off the NC coast. This made the bike course super windy!
For the half iron distance race we did two laps of the course which meant going over the bridge to the mainland 4 times! Going out was a tail wind, coming back was a head wind. With the wind at your back you just fly over that bridge! I set my top speed there going close to 40MPH! Coming back into a head wind… I was doing good to get 15MPH.
There was another first for me in this course and that was working with some legal drafting on the course. I came out of the water in 27th place. I made up a few spots in transition and went to work reeling people back in on the bike. I passed a group of 7 or so people within the first 6 Miles. From there I was counting people at every turn around and really started making up positions. Going back over the bridge I caught a guy who was taking it easy on the only up hill section of the race. Going into that headwind made it really hard and he passed me back once we got to the mainland. At that point I was a little spent and was content to sit at a legal distance in his draft. I was amazed that in the legal draft I was able to ride 20 watts less and keep my same speed! It was also helpful that he was in my age group so I wanted to keep him close.
I sat there for a few miles until the start of the second lap. We got to the turn around and looped around the sign making the turn around point. Except… that wasn’t the turn around. We were suppose to go around a traffic loop AFTER the turn around sign. 3 of us made the mistake and had to turn back around to get the loop. It was all of 75 feet or so but we lost a lot of time turning around twice.
In all of that I made up one slot and once we were in a tailwind I made my pass on my draft partner before the bridge. I went hard for about 30 seconds and made my gap. I also kept that going over the bridge and never saw my friend again 🙂
It was on the bridge that I actually passed the SAG car (an ATV they used to pick up the cyclists who dropped out of the race for whatever reason). The problem was that he was taking up the whole lane on the bridge. I couldn’t pass on the right because there was a concrete barrier and I couldn’t pass on the left because you are suppose to go over the double yellow line. I yelled and yelled but he never heard me. I threw up my hands and the race official coming the other direction got his attention and he pulled over so I could pass. That was a bit frustrating and another place I lost time on the bike.
I ended up with the 3rd fastest bike split and I came off the bike in 5th. From 27th to 5th… not bad 🙂
Coming into transition I took my feet out of my shoes before getting off the bike like I normally do. That is when I knew there was a problem. I cramped. Bad. So much I had my right leg sticking out to the side unable to pedal or more at all. It was all I could do to keep coasting and not fall over. I got it loose enough to jump off at the dismount line and jog to my rack.
I had taken a HotShot before the bike, but I needed another one and couldn’t find it in my bag. I sat down to put my shoes on and took a big gulp of water. That was enough to get my mind back in the game and run out of transition.
I thought I just needed a little food and water and I’d hit my stride on the run. Sadly, that never happened. I ate and drank as much as I could on the run and I couldn’t make it back up. My theory is that I didn’t drink enough on the bike. It was a warm day, but I think it was deceiving because of the wind on the bike. I only used the 3 bottles I brought myself and never grabbed any extra. I probably should have had at least 4 if not 5 for the bike.
I started running at 8:00/mile. I started taking walk breaks every mile. That turned into every other mile. Then my running was only 9:00/mile. Then I was walking every quarter mile and running 10:00/mile. It was all I could do to keep the cramps at bay. I’ve honestly never gone deeper in a race. Ever.
I was still towards the front of the race and I know I had a top 10 coming into the last mile. Then it felt like every muscle in my leg was cramping. That last mile is along the open field at the end of the Manteo airport, totally exposed to the sun. I got passed by 2 people (ladies no less…) and it was there that I lost my top 10.
I was able to limp along to where I saw my family at the beginning of the long finishing chute. I knew I had to run past my awesome fan section, but once I passed them I cramped again. I limped for a bit and then was able to run across the finish line. I’ve never been so happy to finish a race in my life!
The post race was a little disappointing compared to last year. I guess all the Olympic athletes took all the good food and drinks. I was left with only a sprite, but at that point I really wasn’t complaining. Oh… and there was pizza too 🙂
Checking my results I realized I got 2nd in my age group. First place was the guy I (legally) drafted for a while who then passed me around mile 3 of the run.
I think there are really only 2 things I could have done better. 1) drink more 2) knowing I was towards the front of the race I should have stayed with the pack and benefited from the legal draft. That may have saved me some more energy for the run and let my muscles work to their full potential.
I ended with a 5:35 finish time. My plan was 5:05 after a 1:45 run. So the extra time was all in the run. And I think the conditions really wanted a slower time. The overall winner finished in 5:06. At the end of the day I am very pleased with that race and I think I made a successful jump up to long distance triathlon. I may have found my distance sweet spot 🙂
Stay tuned for part 2 of my report on the vacation side of the “racecation!”