Ironman 70.3 Wilmington, North Carolina 2017
Alright! Here is my race report on my very first half Ironman 70.3 in Wilmington, NC! I’ll try to keep it short, but detailed! This is literally my first year in triathlons and ultimately learning how to swim, so crossing this finish line was a big deal! Here’s what I learned going into it, and a few takeaways from a newbie perspective. I won’t go in depth on my nutrition, but will keep this specifically about the race itself.
The setup:
If you can get there at least two days ahead to make the early check in option, do it! We had two days of checking in prior to race day. Thursday self checking, Friday self and gear check in. There were three bags we had to pack: bike gear, run gear, and morning clothes bag.
  1. Bike gear: This bag was everything for your bike which you’ll replace with swim gear. This was also the ONLY bag we would get to race morning. Friday I checked in my bike (first one of course…newbie jitters!), clip shoes, helmet, shades, gloves etc…Bike check in was Friday only. No bikes were allowed morning of. Early Saturday morning I went to get numbered and make final placements of bike essentials (my fluids and nutrition). You could have brought it all on Saturday, but I didn’t want a hand full of things on race day.
  2. Run bag: This bag would be switched out for bike gear. We could NOT get to this bag race day. So if you wear socks don’t forget them. Don’t forget your bib and shades! This was the only bag I pre-staged my fluids/ nutrition.
  3. Morning clothes bag: Literally just that. It was nice to to keep on warm clothes and ditch them as our respective waves were called. They had collection bags for us to place them in, and shuttle back to the start.
  4. Everything you exchanged has to go in the bag for transport. Label everything you deem important. This way if it falls out the item would still make its way back. Bike gear and morning clothes bags were collected and brought to the finish line. The bike and bike bag was collected by ourselves (or trusted designated person).
Coming in early, I was able to really think things out Thursday night, but it also gave me an extra day to shop in case I left something. The expo was also very calm on Thursday with some one-on-one time asking questions. 🗣ATTEND THE ATHLETE MEETING! They answered everything! From the routes to what you could get penalties on. Go and listen. It doesn’t hurt to get free advice. The presenter was extremely patient with the amount of first timers that were in the room.
The Swim:
Estimated time: 52-55min
Actual time: 36min 47sec 😱
Okay…this swim is fast!! Not only was it wetsuit legal, but we were swimming with the current and can definitely feel it. Keep buoys to you left and go. (Works well for left side dominant breathers) . It still felt like forever, but as soon as I said “geesh how much longer?!” it was over! I felt my sighting was better this time. I didn’t swim 100yds in the wrong direction or have a kayak person ask me if I’m okay. Main goal was to not get scooped out. We ultimately lucked up and had a gorgeous race day weather. No storm or hurricanes to make the water choppy. The current was so smooth. No creature. No jellyfish. No big fish. A few people touched my toes, but that helped me get it together. I did like that the route was wide and not a lot of people were swimming all over the place. The water? 71 degrees and Very SALTY water! Whatever your method is to deal with saltwater utilize it. They had a sprinkler we ran under, but it didn’t make a big difference.

T1: 6min 27sec
I lost some time here. We ran from the pier, across the street, down a shoot that took us half way around all the bikes and in. My bike was somewhere deep in the middle, so make moves! I wouldn’t take transitions for granted. A lot of time can be lost. When you swim in there are plenty of ladders to get out, and people were pulling us up. I also used the wetsuit strippers and they were fast! At first I wasn’t going to, but I’m glad I did. Make sure your garmin is on the inside of your suit!!

The Bike:
Estimated time: 3hr 45min
Actual time: 3hr 24min 7sec
Yay me! Shaved 23min off my time! Route is super flat, but sometimes flat isn’t always good. This means you’re actually pedaling the ENTIRE time. Nothing to coast or glide. On the bridges there were a few grates to cross, which meant to slow down. Please adhere to the volunteers and their warnings. Some did not slow down and crashed. I saw saw a few competitors with bruised faces, they crashed, and faced having to stop racing altogether. The grates started within the first good 5miles or so. You can bet a lot of people started to sloooow dooown after seeing that! Take your time, but race your race. The time is easy to make up. Overall good bike route. Was a bit annoyed they put a nice little hill right at the very end as you’re trying to shake out your legs instead. It didn’t help (for me) to recover, but I finished strong as possible.

T2: 5:01
The bike dismount was at the base of a hill which was a deal to work with. Again we ran all the way around the bikes and in. The rest was my fault. I spent a lot of time just getting stuff out of the bags. Not having a tri mat makes it a little harder to grab-N-go. So I’ll say really have what you need in there. Don’t guess around about it. I am going to incorporate taking things out of bags for my brick training. I can say I was not expecting not having my tri mat.

Run:
Estimated time: 2hrs
Actual time: 2hrs 7min 47sec
You guessed it! A little irritated by my time, but I’m not a big biker and my legs were still getting over that last hill. I can say I wasn’t prepared for a push prior to the run. Biking is now my weakest event. I took a minute to stretch, some nutrition, and eased back into it. Thankfully my legs worked themselves out!! I purposely took it slow the first 4, but after that turned it up heading to 6, the turnaround, and back. The water stations were appropriately placed and stocked with good fruits, salty food, and other carbs. It wasn’t too hot or hilly just slightly inclined.

Finish line:
AMAZING!! What a rush to hit the Ironman red carpet, all the banners, and official Ironman arch. Coming in I heard my parents, and a fellow teammate cheering so I ran harder! The announcer called my name as a first timer and I was done. Standing there I just looked at everyone realizing what we just did!! It’s done! Just like that! Can’t truly put in words the atmosphere and feeling of this moment, but take a minute and let it soak in. I grabbed my hat and medal, made way to take my finisher photo, and greeted the fam. They always make it to my “first” time in going something. It is also a thing that no one puts on my medal, but my dad if he’s there. So awesome seeing him, Mom, and teammate at the end. That really makes a difference.
Conclusion/ Overall/ Take always:
So if you skipped down for the “so what” of things, here’s the down and dirty. Overall amazing race! This was so organized, people were friendly answering questions, and the volunteers made it happen! If you can get there on a Thursday for a Saturday race do it! Take your time packing and be thorough in labeling. I liked that the swim was a straight line, the bike was a down and around, and the run was a down and back. The routes didn’t have you on some crazy hamster loop passing something 3-4 times. This will most likely be your fastest swim. The bike, although flat, was a push and adhere to the warnings! Run and enjoy! The run was pretty smooth, self explanatory, well marked on when to turn.
Most of all have FUN!! Roughly 2800 competitors were out there! I got to meet some incredible athletes and connected with some familiar faces. I had so much fun just enjoying the atmosphere! Truly trust your training. Stay calm and know that you’re ready.  As a first time swimmer I really wanted to do well, and I did which I’m very proud of! Now I have to bring up my biking! Bottom line I would definitely recommend this race for anyone especially first-timers wanting to break into the Ironman Half world!
 
Injuries: None
Lost items: Goggles
Forgotten items: Forgot to put on bike gloves
Training switch: practice taking items out of bags for transitions

Triathlons are no longer thought of as a crazy sport for super fit people racing Ironman distances. It is now known that there are many options for the everyday person to get involved in the sport if they desire. I began doing triathlons in August 2014. Like many others, I didn’t think of triathlons as something that was possible for me to do. Yes, I did local races, but I never thought I was fit enough to do a triathlon. Aside from that, I didn’t own a bike and I barely knew how to swim. I was comfortable with the water and could go in the deep end, but growing up in Philly, swimming laps just wasn’t something people in my neighborhood did. When running, I felt bored with no real goal to reach. Plus, I wanted to give my body some kind of rest but wanted to continue with my cardio… And that’s how triathlons were made for me. I quickly fell in love with the sport, the people, and everything that came along with being a triathlete. From that point on, triathlon wasn’t just something I did to pass time, it became a part of my life.

 

Luckily I had a few others that were just as curious about the sport as I was so we were able to learn together, but I still wish I knew a few things before jumping in head first. With that in mind, here are five things you should know before you tri:

 

  1. There are different distances to choose from.
    1. As previously mentioned, triathlons are not just the full Ironman distance, which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. The most common distance options you’ll have to choose from are Sprint, Olympic/International and Half Ironman.
      1. The Sprint distance can vary from race to race, but your typical distance will be a 750 meter swim, 12 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run. This option is great for athletes that are new to the sport and want to test their limits. You’ll also find a lot of faster athletes in this distance as folks try to exert all of their energy in such a short distance.
      2. The Olympic distance is usually 1500 meter swim, 25 mile bike and a 6.2 mile run. This option is best for the athlete that is familiar with the sport and would like to do a bit more than the Sprint distance. The Olympic distance is also referred to as the International distance as it’s the most common option, regardless of country. This is also the distance that is performed by the athletes during the Olympic Games.
      3. The Half Ironman, or 70.3, distance does not change, unlike the Sprint and Olympic options. No matter the race, this distance will be a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run. This is when folks begin to take things a bit more serious because at this distance, you’re not trying to figure out if you like the sport or not. More than likely you’ve done a few races before getting to a 70.3, spent some money on things that’ll make you a bit faster, and the sport has somewhat taken over your life!
      4. And lastly, the most commonly known triathlon event, the Ironman, consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. At this point you’re actually crazy. When you get to thinking of doing a 140.6 (Full Ironman) you should make an appointment with a therapist because there may be something wrong with you! If you need a recommendation just let me know, my therapist and I have discussed this more than enough times!

 

  1. Triathlons are expensive!
    1. If you’ve been participating in swimming, biking OR running events then you’re already familiar with how expensive that can be. That’s only one sport! You’ll be swimming, biking AND running at these events, so the registration prices will reflect that. With that in mind, make sure you create a race budget. Once you figure that out, multiply the amount times two. Between the races, travel, race nutrition and gear, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared to have a successful race season. You don’t want to get to mid-season and realize you’ve spent all of the money you’ve set aside for races. Plus, if you don’t spend it all you can apply it to next year’s season because I’m sure you’ll be racing a bit more! If nothing else, you’ll just have the extra money and who doesn’t like having extra money?!

 

  1. You don’t NEED all of the cool gadgets to race!
    1. Folks get caught up in thinking they need everything that everyone else has that’s doing this sport. You don’t! Don’t go out and spend a ton of money on a bike! Use the bike that you already have, or find yourself an inexpensive bike that you can use until you find out if you actually like the sport. Having a tri-suit is great, but you don’t NEED one to race. Get a swimsuit to swim in, throw a pair of cheap bike shorts on for the ride, then slip those off (keeping on the swim suit) and put on some shorts to run in. Or just ride and run in the same shorts. It may not be the most comfortable thing but you’ll be able to get the race done without spending $100 for a tri-suit. Long story short, keep it as minimal as possible until you know for sure that you want to keep racing.

 

  1. Depending on where you live, triathlons race during a 4-5 month period but is a 12 month sport.
    1. The thing I love most about being a triathlete is that I can train all year. I don’t need to train as much during the offseason, but 12 months a year my training is geared around my season. Being up north, we have a period between June and September where we can race comfortably. That doesn’t mean that I don’t train any other month, but those are the months where my training is focused around racing. During the other months I am able to focus more on technique, or strength training, or anything else to keep my endurance up prior to “pre-season”, which for me typically starts in April at the latest. As a reference, here are some free training plans you can use if you’re looking to participate in a Sprint, Olympic, Half or Full Ironman triathlon:
      1. Sprint: 10 Week Training Plan
      2. Olympic: 10 Week Training Program
      3. Half Ironman: 18 Week Training Program
      4. Full Ironman: Six Month Training Program

 

  1. Your friendships and relationships WILL change!
    1. This is one that often gets overlooked, but is indeed the most important one of them all. As you get into triathlons you’ll quickly learn how much things change. Your body changes, your diet changes, your schedule changes and your relationships change. This is extremely difficult for most triathletes, because it’s easy to fall in love with the sport. That’s great, but there are only 24 hours in a day. As you become more involved in the sport you’ll quickly learn that most of those 24 hours are spent training or recovering. This is how you develop deeper relationships with the folks that you train with. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a team to be a part of like District Triathlon where you all may go for a swim, bike and/or run together then grab a bite to eat or have a drink. While this is all well and good, what does it mean for the friends that you have that aren’t into the sport of triathlon? That’s an individual question for every athlete and there’s no one answer.

 

Now take it a step further and think of this in terms of a marriage. It’s a very difficult thing! A great read on this topic is “Triathlete Love: You Tri, Your Spouse Doesn’t” by Susan Lacke. I can write a full post about that, but long story short, know and do what works best for you and the relationships that you care most about.

 

So while there are plenty more things that you will learn about the sport of triathlon, I hope that these few things help you as you begin your journey of becoming a triathlete!

 

Be>Yesterday