Race Recap: White Lake Half Spring 2015
Race Recap: White Lake Half Spring 2015
I rolled into the spring White Lake Half ironman distance race on May 2, 2015, feeling fairly good about my early season training. This half would be my second half ironman distance race ever. I learned a lot from my first race which was the Rock N Roll Half Ironman in Macon, Georgia. I would have done this race again to gauge my improvement or lack there of, but they rescheduled it until October. I assume they rescheduled it because of the heat that was involved in the race that was in late May of 2014. I certainly struggled in that race with the heat. I learned a bit about pacing from that race though and knew I had to maintain a proper heart rate and exertion level.
The Day Before the Race
The day before the race I traveled down from Fairview, North Carolina where I live. The drive was roughly four and a half hours and I wanted to arrive somewhat early. My hotel was approximately 30-40 minutes away in Lumberton, NC and the race was in White Lake, NC. I made good time getting to the actual race site and got checked in. The check in was rather small but seamless. I was able to enter the small building at the campgrounds where the race was located and get my race packet. They had a very small expo there to pick up any last minute items. The air was cooler than I had expected, but I expected a little of this being beside the lake. I ventured down to the lake site to get my bearings. We would swim out from an area beside the dock and then swim back into a different dock about 50 yards away. I then went over to see where the path was from the dock and the end of the swim into the transition. I always like to look at these areas to make sure I do not have any surprises on race day. I had decided that I would ride my bike for a few miles on the actual race course since I had not been there ever before. As I was about to pull my bike out a rain storm blew up. The air became really cold and the rain began to fall. I sat in my car for a while trying to get warm and determine my next move. I ultimately decided to drive back to my hotel, get settled, and get a nap. I left the race site and headed to my hotel. When I arrived at my hotel, I actually was able to ride my bike around the hotel a couple of times. I just wanted to make sure everything was working correctly including the brakes and the rear cassette. All was good and I then ventured inside to my room. I did all of this and was in my room by 4 pm. I made myself comfortable and turned on the TV. I got bored pretty quickly and so I put my mind on visualizing the race the next day. I knew that I would need to concentrate on proper pacing and proper nutrition. I knew that both of these items would be crucial. The temperature was not going to be an issue either too cold or too hot, so I readied my body for the day. I typically drink a 16 oz Gatorade or two the day before the race. I sipped on the Gatorade and settled in for a little nap. I was so excited that I couldn’t nap and figured I would be going to bed soon so just stayed awake. About 5:30 I heated up my 3 chicken breast stir fry that I had cooked at home and brought with me. I enjoyed the food, but it ended up being too much food. I found out I only needed 2 chicken breasts for the next time. This was the first time I had used this as a pre-race meal and I felt like it was filling, but not overly bloating with the rice. I took my two trusty sleeping pills and settled in to go to sleep around 7:30. I left the TV on for a little while but then around 8:30 I turned off the TV and went to sleep. The two sleeping pills had begun to work and I went sound asleep.
Getting up and Travel to the site
I got up around 2:30 am to take in my two Naked brand smoothies. I drank a strawberry banana and a peach mango. Both of these drinks have 220 calories in them. I went back to sleep and was able to rest easy. I woke up around 4:45 am. I knew that I wanted to get my usual pre-race shower, get dressed, and head to the race site with the:40 minute drive. Everything went according to plan with getting my kit on and beginning to nibble on my 1 whole bagel. Everything was going according to plan with my phone GPS guiding me, until it said I had arrived and I was nowhere near where I needed to be. I did panic a bit at this moment. I looked at the phone and it had the correct address and so I was officially lost and so was my phone. I simply looked on the phone at the map and found where I was supposed to be. I was a good five minutes away and I was already late from when I wanted to be there. I pressed on the gas and made my way to the race site, using my map and not my GPS. I don’t have any lessons to learn from this except to not always trust your GPS.
Arriving at the site
I arrived at the race site around 6:00 am. I wanted to be there by 5:45. The race gun was to go off around 7:30. It was still dark and I wasn’t even to transition, yet. Just breathe, just breathe. The actual location of the transition area was inside a fenced in area of the campground. You could not park there unless you were staying there and had parked there the day before. The only parking available was at the end of the fence next the road that ran outside of the campground. The end of the fence was at least a quarter of a mile away from the entrance. I finally figured all of this out and found a place to park. I gathered all of my gear together and began to ride my bike toward the transition area. I forgot my nutrition bag and so had to turn around and go back and get it. It always seems that I struggle to get all of my stuff together. This was my first race while using a wetsuit, so I was nervous about getting it on, getting it off, and racing in the suit. I wanted as much time as possible and I felt like my time was slipping away. I entered transition and placed my bike on the rack where it was supposed to go according to USA Triathlon rules. I then headed off to body marking. As I got to body marking I realized that I had not brought my race number. The young lady could not mark me without it. So off I ran to get my number. I just couldn’t get settled mentally on the race with all of these distractions. I retrieved my race number and headed back down to the body marking location. I then was able to get my body marking and timing chip. I returned to the transition to begin the process of putting on my wetsuit. I felt like I had finally arrived on site and was ready to get my pre-race face on.
By this time it was well after 6:30 in the morning and I did not have my wetsuit on yet. I noticed that there was about half of the competitors with their suits on, another 25% with them partially on, and another 25% getting ready. I was in that last group. I use my Body Glide stick on my upper arms and shoulders, my ankles, and my wrists. I then began to put the wetsuit on. It slipped on easily and I did not have to use the foot in the bag method. I proceeded to pull the wetsuit up as far as it would go on my torso and groin. I then pulled it up over my arms and shoulders. I put my swim cap on, grabbed my goggles, and proceeded to the swim start area. I did not have long but wanted to get in a few swim strokes. I jumped in the water and was able to get warmed up in the water. While the morning was cool, the water was very comfortable in the wetsuit. I had to use the potty, but just went in the water. Yuck! I finished my warm up and the announcer was calling for everyone to get out of the water. I proceeded out of the water. The wind was a little chilly, but overall I felt really good. I was trying to get my mentality right for this long day of racing.
It wasn’t long before the announcer was calling different waves to get ready to swim. I was in the second wave. The first wave took off and then it was our turn to get in the water. I really didn’t have a strategy except to just stay calm. I should probably work on this strategy. The announcer counted down and then the gun went off. I began to swim forward and felt strong. Much stronger than the last race I was in. I just stayed steady and tried to keep my breathing under control. In the past I have panicked and my heart rate has really jumped up. The wave was relatively small, so I was able to not face a lot of kicks to the face or other encounters. I just kept on pushing forward. I was sighting better but this till needs some work. I found the first turn buoy and made the big right turn. I just tried to stay in the pack, but found myself drifting to the right or to the left out of the jet stream of other swimmers. I checked my watch when I thought I was about halfway. This is something I will need to quit because it is not necessary and breaks concentration. I found that I was at about 16 minutes and thought this would fit nicely in my goal time of 35 minutes. I made the last right turn. The race organizers had a tall orange marker that could be seen from a long way, so sighing to come in to the dock was easy. I made a mistake when I went the right side of the dock when I could have just jumped on the ladders at the end of the dock. I made it up the ladders and found my time to be around 34 minutes. I crossed the timing mat and began the process of stripping out of my wetsuit. I had it off of the worse of my body before we cleared the wooden dock. We raced over the grass and I felt comfortable. Like in my last half ironman, though, I felt a little weak and not as confident trying to catch my breath. I want to feel stronger when I come out of the water. We made into the transition area and I finished taking my wetsuit off. It came off easily even over my watch which I was worried about. I put on my sunglasses, which I forgot in my last half, and my helmet. I put on my race socks and bike shoes and began to head out of the transition area. Overall, I was pleased with my swim, even though I broke concentration about halfway through to check my watch and I went to the wrong exit point. I think next year I can improve some in swim technique, concentration, and execution of the swim exit. I must figure out how to be more competitive in the swim and how to swim on the feet of the person in front of me.
The bike ride was relatively uneventful. It was not very windy until the last 15 miles or so. I felt confident and good on the bike. I felt like I could push a solid pace at around 20 miles per hour. I knew if I pushed too hard my run legs would not be there. I had my nutrition plan together of a Powergel PureEnergy Tangerine Gel every hour or so and a Nuun electrolyte tablet in my water anytime I filled up the water. I passed a few people and got passed by a few people. I felt comfortable on the bike until we made the right turn onto highway 53. This was the roughest road I have ever ridden my bike one. There was a major cut in the road that was filled with tar but still made a bump every 5-7 feet. It hurt so bad because it was after 35 or more miles. We also were headed right into the teeth of the wind. Up to that point I had been averaging around 21 mph but into the wind I dropped to right under 20 at 19.8 mph. I finished with a 4:48 minute bike ride. I certainly was hoping to be closer to 4:40 but was pleased with this bike ride especially after my last race. The course was really fast so the speed was easily attainable. I know that next year I can push a bit harder and try to get closer to 21-22 mph.
After the 56 mile bike was the 13.1 mile run. I was shaky when I was finishing up the bike. I was worried I had pushed too hard on the rough road into the wind. I did not feel strong and was a bit sick to my stomach. My nutrition plan involved a gel every 45 minutes or so. I took a gel immediately and felt good for the first 2-3 miles. The sun and come out and made the run really hot or at least that is what I thought and was battling. After about 5 miles I really started to slow. My legs just seemed to leave me. I had no energy and felt like I was bonking. I knew that my nutrition was what I had planned but maybe my body just wasn’t going to perform well this day. I kept on taking in the nutrition but for intents and purposes I was toast. I battled through and actually picked up the pace several times. I was frustrated and mad and this did not help mentally. I was battling my mind more than the elements and I was frustrated. I had hoped to run a 1 hour 50 minute half marathon, but I ran well over 2 hours. I definitely need to address my nutrition issues whether it is pre-race or during the race I feel like it is during the race. I don’t think my body is responding well to this particular nutrition plan.
I actually picked up the pace the last mile or so and ran with confidence coming into the finish. I ran through the chute and they announced my name. I saw that I had beat my goal time of 5 hours 30 minutes. I was pleased with that, but felt like I left some time out there especially in the run. This was not the run I needed. I came in 6th in my age group which was good for me. I was only a few minutes out of 5th in my age group but the first place was about 3 minutes under 5 hours. I know that if I can get stronger in the bike, and figure out my nutrition in the run that I can get under 5 hours. I also need to improve my mental side of the competition.
Immediately after I finished the race I took in my prepared Accelerade drink. This always helps me to recover better. I stayed around for a while and watched the results come up on the results board. My name came across a few minutes after finishing. I was pleased to see my time, but once again felt like I could do better. There was no shower facility at the race, which would have been a bonus, so I gathered my change of clothes and went into the bathroom for a mini-marine shower. I got my clothes on and gathered my gear and headed to the car. I loaded up and left the race site for the 4 and half hour drive home. I called my family and reported to them. After a couple of days I felt good enough to train for my next race.
The race was well organized and the volunteers did a fine job of giving directions out on the bike course. The run course was well marked and made it easy to follow as well. I thought the medal was unique as it was made out of wood surrounded by bike chain. The post-race food was as expected with some bananas, oranges, etc. I certainly will return to this race next year.
Go to Triathlon Training: 5 Years to Ironman to find all your triathlon questions answered from a real life amateur triathlon.