Thursday, November 13, 2014

I Can't Believe It's Over - 2014, that is.

I've been thinking about how to write my Beach2Battleship 140.6 race report for about a couple of weeks now, and I keep running into the same obstacle:  If I write the race report, then the season is officially over.  Bummer, dudes and dudettes!

But, alas, all great things must come to an end, so write this report I will.  But ... starting at the beginning.  Buckle up, it's a long story.

In 2013 when I trained for my first 140.6 (Beach2Battleship) I was working from home.  I had the distinct advantage, pleasure, and flexibility to do any length workout presented on my plan.  Three hour bricks and long swims in the middle of the day were the norm.  My then-coach knows his stuff and prepared me well while completely taking into consideration the other Ironman-in-training in the house at the same time:  my older son who was training for the Ironman World Championship.  My event, because I hesitate to call what I do racing, went well.  I came out of the water slightly ahead of schedule; spent far too long in T1 trying to get the feeling back in my feet and hands (it was 39 degrees outside); rode a very consistent ride in spite of the high winds; and then ran a very pleasing marathon.  I was happy to have finished just over 13 hours for my first 140.6 event.  But, as I rode home, and texting my coach, I was already thinking about the next one.

A few weeks later, in November 2013, I received an exciting e-mail from the Big Sexy Racing Team that I had been selected as a member for 2014.  Oh, Snap!  Game on!  

Flash forward to October, 2014. 

This time around the training was vastly different.  I now had a full time, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. job.  No more three hours bricks and no more two full days off during any seven day period.  There was a lot more very focused interval training during the work/school week, and nearly all of the longer and mid-long sessions on the weekend.  The evolution of the training eliminated one day off completely, and frequently the only day off was a "swim day."  I was more than just a little bit worried about how that would translate on race date and how it would affect the ride, but more importantly, the run.

I felt good going into the weekend.  The taper had done its job and I had been sleeping soundly at night - for a change.  I ate well.  I kept hearing Pete Jacobs say that he believes too many people go into a 140.6 race day "too light."  I feel like I drank my weight in GatorAde on the drive up to Wilmington, North Carolina, yet I did not feel bloated or that I had gone "overboard."  The Super Sherpa Hubby Man made sure that our drive had been relaxing and we arrived near dinner time on Thursday.  We checked into the host hotel, the first thing I noticed was ...

"No wind."  The temperature was above 40, and the buzz in the air was very positive.  Last year, let's just be honest, I was a cross between terrified and scared to death.  We headed to what is undoubtedly our favorite eatery in Wilmington, The Front Street Brewery, for a fabulous sandwich and onion rings.  We unloaded all of our gear, not forgetting any of my race day needs fabulously organized in my Ogio 9.0 transition bag, and hit the hay for some well deserved, uninterrupted-by-teen-age-boys sleep.

Some special people I "took along" for the day.
Friday morning - still no wind and wonderful pre-race conditions.  I was getting more and more excited.  I was loosely monitoring the tide charts for when the incoming tide would be on Saturday.  The nice thing about Beach2Battleship is that the swim is usually timed to coincide with the incoming tide in the channel.  Thus, the effect is much like a wetsuit mandatory, salt water river swim.  My fave!  The day consisted of athlete check- in and packet pick-up; gear bag packing and drop off; and bike check in at T1.  With my race number, locating my rack was a breeze, and knowing that I could easily find my sturdy Quintana Roo Kilo in the sea of race steeds the next morning was more than just a tad relaxing.  Dinner was routine:  PIZZA!  Nothing new during race week.

All numbered and only one place to go...
Race Day Dawns in Wilmington:
I had my coffee, bagel with peanut butter, grabbed a banana, a Bonk Breaker, and a GatorAde and headed downstairs to the shuttle.  Armed with Ruby's Lube, my Infinit-filled bike bottles, wetsuit and Rudy Project Wingspan, I wrapped up setting the bike then skipped over to body marking.  Finished up in T1 and grabbed another shuttle to the swim start on Wrightsville Beach.  Conveniently located about 2.4 miles away.  ;-)

I love this swim start.  Sun rise.  The crowd.  Eminem's "Lose Yourself"
"Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted. one moment

Would you capture it or just let it slip?"

This time around, I did get in a quick "warm-up" swim and positioned myself not quite as far back in the pack as I had previously.  I was more comfortable with my ability to swim strong, and negative split the swim.  In 2013, I reached the marina ladders in 1:17 and the transition mat in 1:19.  The mats are about 100 yards beyond wet suit peeling once you get up the ladders on the pier.  This year my time at the ladders was ... drum roll please ... 52:20! Time at the mats:  54:16!  I felt like I could have stopped right then and there and been happy.  (Totally excited until I saw that the fastest female swim was 39 minutes and change.  Sigh...)  My T1 time was less than half of the time I spent last year, including getting my Big Sexy Champion Systems tri top on.  However, that meant I was out on the bike 10 minutes ahead of when I had told the Super Sherpa Hubby Man to be at T1.  I looked and looked for him, and unfortunately did not catch sight of him until just outside T2.

What Mike found in T1
The ride was great!  The course is pleasant, and pretty:  taking an athlete through some wonderful rural North Carolina farm country with some of the most enthusiastically manned aid stations anywhere I have raced.  Number 553, Ruth, rode up on me at about mile 15 (maybe?) and we played Cat and Mouse for the longest time.  This was her first, and she was the first person to point out that my race number was "Freakin' Awesome!" no matter how I had gotten it.  I enjoyed meeting and encouraging her for the next 50 miles or so.  I lost track of her at the Special Needs aid station, but I looked her up to see how she finished.  I was Not Fast.  I'm not fast, so I didn't expect to burn up the bike course.  To my satisfaction, I had ridden my goal pace.  I wound my way down hill into T2 about 20 minutes faster than last year, spotting Super Sherpa Hubby Man right there cheering and happy to see me.  You run up into the convention center at T2 and a wonderful volunteer takes the bike, and you run/walk your way to your run bag and get on the way.  Again, I spent less than half of last year's time in T2 so I was totally stoked.  I had literally jerked on my Newton Gravitys and HeadSweats visor, grabbed my hydration belt and pulled an Elvis.  I left the building.  By my rough, on-the-fly, dwindling math calculations, I figured I was roughly 40 minutes ahead of 2013.  I adjusted my goal to a 12 hour "ish" finish time.  I knew that if I could run on my time from 2013, I had close to 12 hours in me.

The T2 Chute...Mike is just about where I am looking.
The run started out fine, and my first loop was on target for a 4:20-4:30 finish.  Then at mile 14 I took a "stumble" step and stubbed the middle toes on my left foot.  It hurt, but I wasn't broken or gimpy.  Somewhere between miles 16 and 18 is when the wheels started to come off.  I had been running Galloway intervals of 3:1 successfully and consistently up until that point.  However, I discovered that it is a challenge to maintain the goal run pace when the lower hamstring attachments start to seize and then the calves decide to follow suit.  I adjusted my intervals to 2:2 knowing that would alleviate some of the tightness.  I started taking in a bit more sodium and continued on.  I met a ton of great people during the run.  Nearly all of them commented on my race number and wanted to know "how I had managed that."

FYI:  Being assigned the Number 1 bib carries a lot of pressure.  But, it was also a superb conversation generator.  It did ensure that I had people to talk to every step of the 26.2.  I still have no idea how I garnered it, other than maybe it is due to the spelling of my last name:  ABBEY.  A couple of guys and I played leap frog for many miles.  Sadly, eventually both of them fell off the back.  They did end up finishing strong and pleased with their races.

I watched my 12 hour finish slow down to 12:15, and then I saw it creeping down to closer to 12:30.  I was getting discouraged, but I also knew those thoughts and feelings would be counter productive to a successful finish.  I guess it was near mile 23/24 that I re-adjusted my attitude - yet again - and began the DOWN HILL path to the finish line.  Mike, the Super Sherpa Hubby Man, was right there LOUDLY cheering me through the chute.  He got some awesome shots of me under the lights along with me "cheesing it up" at the Finisher Photo Spot.  Again, the BEST EVER finisher item is distributed with a smile and assistance if needed at this race:  soft, comfy, Pajama Pants.  They are a super idea for a cool weather race with what can be a chilly and windy finish line.

Just past the clock.  Still able to pull a strong pace at the end.

Finish time:  12:33:59 - a 30 minute improvement over 2013.  Although, being completely honest, I know all of that was bike and transition time(s) because in my opinion the swim was "freakishly" irregular, and my run totally neutralized the gain from the swim.  I'm happy with it.  I am confident hat the different approach to this year's training did not negatively affect the outcome.  As you might have guessed, I'm already planning 140.6 number 3 in 2015.

2014 was an awesome year of great experiences.
Admittedly, I am anxious to hear if the Big Sexy, Chris McDonald, will retain me for 2015.

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