Major milestone reached – thanks DC Tri Club!

This past weekend I reached a major training milestone: for the first time, I feel I could finish an Ironman. That’s right – I think I could swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run a marathon back to back. I’ve reached this milestone four months into the DC Tri Club’s Ironman training program (with coach AJ Morrison), and two months out from race day on August 24.

photo(58)How do I know or feel that I am ready for Ironman, while I wasn’t before? This past weekend I went on a training trip with the DC Tri Club to North East, MD and felt really strong during my training. On Saturday I was able to finish my first century ride on a hilly course and have a strong brick run (30 mins) off the bike. On Sunday I ran 16 miles on the hilliest course to date, and followed it with a 1.2 mile swim. Being just 12 miles short of the full bike distance and feeling like I could have kept running farther helped me gain a lot of confidence over the weekend.

photo(57)I want to give a big shout out to the DC Tri Club‘s volunteers (thanks Amanda!) for putting together such great training opportunities. The new scenery, the great company, fun camping, the opportunity to get an open water swim, plus a little sightseeing were the perfect ingredients for a fantastic training weekend. I must admit earlier in the week I was a little intimidated by the idea of having to bike 100 miles for the first time, but the new scenery and the company of my fellow triathletes on the roads (thanks Adam!) for part of the ride made it much easier to tackle. I am surprised how well I handled it, considering that it was a rainy and relatively cold day. I was filled with an exciting sense of accomplishment when DC Tri Club friends cheered for me as I arrived back into camp. Woohoo!

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Now that I feel capable of finishing an Ironman, I can focus the next eight weeks of training on becoming faster and training for heat; in other words, performance improvement. I’ll emphasize becoming a stronger cyclist (my weakest discipline) and I’ll tackle the heat and humidity of Washington DC’s summertime to be ready for whatever hot temperatures  Louisville, Kentucky gives us on race day. Bring it on!

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Tri gear and fishing rods: Ironman 70.3 Raleigh and Outer Banks, NC

Gabi and I just returned from a trip to North Carolina where we raced our first half Ironman triathlon in Raleigh and then spent a week at the beach in Cape Hatteras. What a fantastic trip!

IMG_3109We arrived to Durham, NC on Friday May 30th where we stayed with our great friends Richard and Lonna. I met them as my US host family when I came to UNC from Costa Rica in 1997. Richard and Lonna were wonderful hosts: not only did we sleep well, eat well, and catch up on conversations, but they also looked after our dog Kyle and came to watch us cross the finish line on race day. Thank you Richard and Lonna!

It was a real treat to see many other friends over the weekend as well. Gilda — who introduced Gabi and I back in 2008 — woke up early on race day to come find us at the lake prior to race start and take great photos. We hadn’t seen her in years! Along the bike course we kept an eye open for our friends Nikie and Jesse, who surprised us with awesome signs of encouragement on the side of the road. I got an energy boost passing by them. In downtown Raleigh for the run and finish we had the pleasure of seeing Gilda, Memo, Richard, Lonna, and my good friends David and Lisa. I met Dave back at UNC. We were neighbors for some years and we’ve shared lots of time fishing together. Dave and Lisa have been great hosts to us when we come down to NC. Great to see you and thank you for your support! The weekend concluded with a voracious dinner feast in great company again, namely with Crystal, Kevin, Andrea, Jesse, Nikie, Dave, Gilda, Memo, and Lili. You are the reason we chose to come down to race in the Triangle!

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Monday June 2nd we headed to Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks for a week of easy training, fishing, sunshine, good eating, and good company. A number of friends passed through the rental house throughout the week for some beach time and an opportunity to catch up. Kevin came by eager to fish, and as beginner’s luck would have it, caught a nice puppy drum in his first 15 minutes! Richard and Dan joined us as well, and together we created unforgettable memories as we fished for citation-size red drum. Our charter fishing trip with Hallelujah Charters and Captain Doug Martin was outstanding! We all hooked up with citation red drum, including Gabi. The sunset sky and ambient lighting could not have been better. Over the weekend we had the pleasure of seeing my former college roommate Dennis, his  lovely wife Christine and their adorable two boys. Thank you for the wonderful times and thank you Chris for allowing us to rent the gem of a house overlooking the water and the marshes.

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The rental house served as triathlete headquarters as well, as Gabi and I got our training in throughout the week. Nice change of scenery! We swam in the canals soundside, biked in oh-much-too-straight-flat-and-lonely Highway 12, and got some practice for Louisville running in high humidity.

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Alas, all good things must come to an end. One thing is for sure though — the good memories will last a lifetime!

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh race review

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Ironman 70.3 Raleigh took place on Sunday June 1st. This is the second year of the event, though it seemed like a long standing event given the superb organization.

Packet pickup and the Ironman village were set up at the Raleigh Convention Center. Parking was convenient and the lines were a breeze on Friday around 4:30pm. The athletes’ briefing lasted about 45 minutes and was helpful to plan for Saturday and race day.

IMG_3117Saturday lent itself for a little training and the mandatory bike drop off at Vista Point in Jordan Lake. Jordan Lake offers multiple recreation areas to park and swim for $6. The roads were a little busy for cycling given weekend recreational traffic at the lake, but nothing too stressful. Vista Point was closed for swimming to allow for bike drop off between 10-6pm. The parking lot was a bit of a circus, but finding a spot was not impossible thanks to the volunteers on site directing traffic. Gabi and I dropped off our bikes, checked out the layout of T1, and didn’t stay any longer than we had to. In the afternoon we drove part of the bike course to get a flavor for the rolling hills and check out some of the railroad track crossings.

Race day started at 3:30am in Durham. Out of the house by 4am and in Raleigh by 4:30am. Parking again was super convenient, one block away and free. We went to T2 to drop off our run gear, use the porta-john (no lines) and hop on one of the 60 luxury buses taking athletes and spectators on a 40 minute ride to Vista Point. Perfect opportunity to take in pre-race nutrition. Once at Vista Point we finished setting up our transition gear. There was a bike support tent with lots of volunteers and pumps to inflate tires. Next stop was the porta-johns, which unfortunately had 20-30 people in line each (about a 30 minute wait).

_DSF1240The pros went off at 7am. The swim start consisted of about 20 age group/gender waves with a few dozen athletes each. Each wave went off 3 minutes apart, with the older folks going earlier than the younger athletes. My start wave was #15 at 7:54am. This allowed time for a swim warmup in a designated area off to the side of the starting line. Morning air temps were pleasant in the mid 60s.

IMG_3118The swim course was a triangle, with highly visible buoys and lots of support personnel in the water. The lake was calm and water temperature was 75 degrees, which made it swimsuit legal and put a big smile on lots of swimmers’ faces. I didn’t find a need for it and swam in my tri kit. The first few minutes of the swim I was surrounded by the 30-40 or so athletes from my wave, but eventually the waves mixed in with each other into a steady flow of swimmers. Swim exit was a nice boat ramp, though a little crowded to get out. Wetsuit strippers on the left upon exiting the water. Not much to say about T2 other than age groupers were not allowed to clip pedals onto bikes for flying mounts.

The start of bike leg is a ~3mile uphill that looks more intimidating on the elevation profile than it really is. The rest of the course is rolling hills. Every turn was clearly marked and staffed by police and volunteers. I’d say about 95% of the bike course was closed to traffic (with a dedicated lane for cyclists).  Occasionally, however, a few cars found themselves sharing the lane with a steady stream of cyclists which made for dangerous situations. In fact, one cyclist unfortunately crashed against an SUV and had to be taken to the hospital. The driver was charged with reckless driving and disobeying police officer instructions. On a more positive note, spectators were fantastic all along the course. There were four aid stations on the bike course, which was plenty for the 56mi bike course.

IMG_3131The run course in Raleigh was lively with lots of spectators as well. It was a two loop course with a slight uphill on the way out. Temperatures mid day reached the upper 80s. Perhaps my favorite thing about the run was the ice-cold sponge I picked up at an aid station and put on my head under my hat. I re-wetted it at each aid station at every mile or so. Not every runner benefited from these however, as the aid stations ran out later in the day. The last quarter mile or so is an exciting run down Fayetteville St. (ie. main street) with lots of spectators and the finishing chute in sight. On the other side of the finish line there was food available, including chocolate milk, sodas, water, pizza, fruit, cookies, and pasta salad.

Post-race gear pickup was a breeze. Morning bags and T1 bags left behind at Jordan Lake had been brought over to T2 for athletes to collect.

Final thoughts:

Overall review: do it! I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Pros: great course, great spectators, easy pre-race parking and packet pickup, almost flawless logistics and organization.
Cons: long porta-john lines at Vista Point, and the occasional vehicle in the way of cyclists.

It was great to see fellow DC Tri Club athletes at Ironman 70.3 Raleigh. Together we helped the DC Tri Club take 3rd place in the IM Tri Club competition!

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