If I said Sunday was an easy day I would be lying. The course itself was not a physically demanding course but it was challenging in that there were rolling hills and many false flats that put a strain on even the best trained legs. Not to mention the fact that the day was aggravatingly hot early on and the humidity was quickly on the rise. Those components made for a tough day that would strain the body but also the mind! But that’s why we train so darn much, not just for the strength and physical ability to do it, but to hold your composure at even the hardest of conditions and pull through.
The swim was AMAZING! The water was around 77-78 degrees Fahrenheit which made for a pleasant non-wetsuit legal race. Those temps keep you cool throughout the entire swim and it is not cold enough to freeze you in your tracks. I started in wave 19 @ 8:12 am, that’s a full hour and twelve minutes behind the men’s pro field and behind let’s say roughly over 2200 people as I was the third to last wave to start. My mind was set on having a strong swim but not to be reckless at all, a little like in Florida where I went full steam ahead for a little longer than planned. I had it in me to swim my swim and get ahead of my crowd before entering the other crowd of people I would have to swim through. As expected I was able to pull ahead but unexpectedly I was alone in the swim. No one came with me which I could use to my advantage to get a couple more minutes of lead. I stayed persistent with my pace and swam very strong but also incredibly comfortable. Never did I once feel fatigued, sore, or like I used up a lot of energy. It was crowded for sure but I was able to maneuver pretty well through everyone and not have a whole lot of difficulty. Turn 2 back into shore was the toughest where there seemed to be like 6 waves of people just hanging out floating trying to figure out where to go. Once I saw that I was within 500 meters of the exit I picked it up a little bit to try to get a couple more seconds added on to the lead I already had. I was 1st out of the water in my age group, 6th for my gender, and 8th overall including all of the pro field. I swam in 26 minutes and 41 seconds on a non-wetsuit legal swim only a minute behind the fastest swimmer/Pro. I can say all day I could of gone about a minute faster without the traffic I had to go through but I raced with the conditions I had to race with and there is no way around all that until I earn the right to start in the first wave.
Talk about a huge cluster. If I already didn’t pass enough people on the swim, the first 10 miles of the false flat, hilly, rough roads of a bike course was hard in itself. Like and endless line of people trying to muscle their way through a false flat exit then going up a little bit of inclines that made the cluster of people seem even worse than what it was. It took me a good 12 miles to get my legs underneath me and for them to start actually working properly. The course was a great hilly one that was somewhat of a challenge. It was not too hot as the course had some shade because of the rural areas covered by trees and once I was actually away from groups of people, passing others was not as tough because they all stayed to the right as they all knew the unwritten law of the cycling and for common curtisy for others. Towards mile 52 I was then caught by who the person that came in first in my age group as he passed by me behind another guy wearing the same race gear as he was. I can only assume that they were on the same team but can’t say if they were helping each other out because I fully wouldn’t know. They were together nonetheless. They were competing in two different age groups but riding fairly close when they passed me. I stuck to my game plan and they only got about 100 meters ahead of me but they stayed together and finished together into transition. I had zero cramps and towards the end of the bike I was ready and eager to get my run going! My bike split was 2:19:36 making it second in my age group, 16th for my gender, and 18th overall. That is an average speed of 24.07 mph, not exactly what I was shooting for but for the course and conditions I was happy with it. Always a huge amount of improvement need to be done but slowly but surely I’m getting stronger.
Now, this leg of the race was a roller coaster ride. I was all over the place with emotions and physical feelings. My extended pace was to be under the 1 hour and 30 minute mark but the later conditions of the race sure didn’t make it easy for me and didn’t allow me to do so. The race starts with a subtle false flat going up for the first quarter mile then turning back towards transition but immediately making one more turn outward away from the city of Raleigh. There was zero shade, a huge amount of humidity, and not to forget the freaking hills the went along the course that you would have to run through twice in one lap (out and back) and then again on the second lap of the course. There was really nothing flat on the run and it was not a devastatingly tough course but the conditions made it that way. I tried my best to stay cool and composed but towards the end it sure started to get to me. I stayed on track to the sub 1 hour 30 race pace until mile 8 where I hit a rough patch but that’s something that will happen occasionally in any given race. Still, the heat is a cruel mistress and has no mercy for anyone. I was 3 minutes off my mark but I was also two minutes faster than my previous Ironman so I can honestly say improvements are showing. Slowly but surely I am getting faster and stronger at something that I am trying to make my craft. My run split was 1:33:41 making me 3rd fastest for my age group, 24th for my gender, and 29th overall.
Overall my experience was great! Raced in a great city, raced a lot of great athletes, and was able to gain a boost of confidence as I see I can stand toe to toe against most in the pro fields but also stand head to head in certain disciplines better than others. I just have to continue pushing forward, beating on the skills and craft as well as remembering to not give up on myself. I know I’ll make it, it’s just a matter of patience and a lot more hard work! It so happens that I enjoy doing both.
I really want to give a HUGE shout out to some of the people that really have been helping me as well as being some awesome sponsors!!! I really can’t ask for anything else from anyone as they truly stick their necks out for me. All I can really say is thank you from the bottom of my heart and I hope I am able to represent your name, the team, and my community well! Thank you Armin Whal from Lowcountry Multisport with the bike set up and guidance! Also Al Olivetti from GO Tri Sports in allowing me to be part of the team and really helping me with some awesome gear.