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I had heard so many good things about it. Truth be told, it really was not on my radar all year as I raced IM 70.3 New Orleans and Muncie and was gearing up for Ironman Louisville in late August. After a strong showing at IMLOU [6h AG, missed podium and auto Kona slot by 31 seconds] I wanted something to complete my year. Understand that my favorite distance is the half Ironman. My last 5 70.3’s ended as follows: Steelhead Aug 2011 – swim cancelled USAT Long Course Nationals Myrtle Beach Oct 2011 – Stomach virus led to a long day on the run IM 70.3 New Orleans April 2012 – Swim cancelled IM 70.3 Muncie July 2012– race shortened due to a massive heat wave IM70.3 National Harbor August 2012 – race CANCELLED outright So I had this huge void over the last year at my favorite distance. B2B was a race that I wanted to do but it was sold out when I went to register in September. Thankfully, they had a few community slots available, but at a premium price. My fear was that if I did not have a good race, I would be wasting a lot of money. Enter my beautiful and supportive wife.
She told me to ‘GO FOR IT’ and I might have taken the advice a bit too literally. 5 weeks before the race I suffered a significant calf strain on the run into the water at the Portage Lakes Olympic Triathlon. I could not run for a week and thought I just might be cursed at the 70.3 distance. Thankfully, Jason Vickers from Concorde Therapy hooked me up and got me back on my feet. After five weeks, race week finally arrived. We left on Thursday late morning and stayed the night in Greensboro NC. Next morning we were off early and headed for the race. We checked into the Holiday Inn Resort on Wrightsville Beach, it was awesome. I headed out for a one hour ride and one mile run in my Team ER gear while Lisa headed off for a run of her own to do some island exploring.
B2B is a point to point race with two awesome transitions. The day before the race we headed to T1 to rack my bike. Jimmy at Eddy’s Bike Shop really hooked me up last year with the Trek Speed Concept 7. I love this bike!
T2 was actually held inside the Convention Center in downtown Wilmington.
It was a state of the art race and the expo was very nice. Lisa and I spent the days before the race enjoying the expo, the beach, and the scenery and walking to dinner along the beach every night. Lisa said it best, “This race is more like a vacation then any race you have ever done!” On race morning I was up early. Lisa drove me to T1 and I pumped my tires, loaded my nutrition and got body marked. Then the relaxing started. I cannot think of a long course race where I was able to go back to my hotel and chill for two hours after checking in to T1 and chill is what I did. At 8am, Lisa drove me to the swim start, dropped me off, and then headed back to the hotel. That little cutie probably put 15 miles on her legs during race day. I sat in the water and waited for my wave [#3] and looked out to see if Lisa made it back in time.
She did but I missed her. At any rate, the horn went off at 8:40am and away we went. The first half mile was with an incoming tide so the swim was fast. However, after the first turn buoy, the swim zig zagged like no swim I have done before. Add to that some chop, and it made for a longer second half of the swim. I finally hit the dock and looked at my watch, 26:15….whooooooooooooooooaaaaa, that was fast. We had a really long run to T1, and I stopped at the wetsuit strippers before the timing mat so that I would not have to deal with the wettie in transition. I crossed the timing mat for an official swim of 27:25, just under 100th fastest of the men’s field. When I finally arrived at T1 after what seemed like a mile run, all I had to do was put on my helmet, shades and shoes then off I went.
The bike was a point to point and the majority of the ride was on wide open freeway or major 4 lane highways. This made for some really nice pavement, however, due to the wide open expanse, we were also subject to the wind. The bike traveled north, then west along a closed section of freeway, back north again then a turn back to the south and T2. Since the wind was out of the west, north-west, we spent most of the day riding into the wind or with a cross wind without the benefit of a tail wind for most of the race. Regardless, I felt in a very good groove on the bike. My nutrition plan was going perfect, with Hammer Perpetuem and Hammer Gel. The on-course nutrition was provided by Hammer: HEED and Hammer Gel…no need to carry anything on the run ( - : I pushed the pace at times and settled into a comfortable pace at other times. From the time I left T1, I continually passed other cyclists from earlier waves and the full Ironman distance triathlon that started one hour before the half. At the 30-35 mile mark the half distance split off from the full and the roads got really lonely. In the final 20-25 miles I reeled in about 10 – 15 more cyclists and approached T2 feeling good and ready to run. For 56 miles of riding I was never passed by another cyclist and I ended up with the 10th fastest bike split, just under 2:28, of the entire field of over 1000 athletes. As I neared the convention center, the crowds grew larger and larger, the cheering louder and louder.
I did a flying dismount, handed my bike to one of the many awesome volunteers, and headed inside to T2. T2 was unique, indoors as I mentioned. You ran along the walls of a giant room, picked up your T2 bag at the racks, and then ran into a change room. Inside the change room I grabbed my visor, new pair of shades, socks and Saucony Fast Twitch race flats compliments of Josh at Ritchie’s Sporting Goods. I also lathered on some sports cream to my lower back, neck, shoulders and legs. For anyone who races long course, this is a little secret I discovered that really helps take away the aches and pains of riding aero for so long. A few seconds to apply but worth every second! After a quick transition, I headed out. On the way out there were a group of volunteers waiting to catch your T2 bag for you. I cannot say enough about the volunteers and the efficiency of the race staff in handling so many race day logistics. My goal for the run was simple and straight forward. Run hard but not too hard and try to maintain a high 6 ‘mile pace and avoid any mile split that started with a 7. Leading up to the race I had done a couple of long rides followed by fast mile repeats with my friend, Brian Stern. This really gave me the confidence that I could nail the run. I came out of T2 ready to run and ready to leave it all on the course if I had to!
Ready to run!
Just need to adjust this visor a bit…
As was the plan, I went through mile 1 in 6:50. Mile two had a steep climb that I went up very ez but still came through with a split of 6:54. Mile 3 in 6:51, all was going as planned. At mile 4 I saw my first 7, 7:05 to be exact. I was getting complacent and told myself to turn the legs over and get moving. It worked as I went through the next two miles in 6:55 and 6:32. As I passed the mile 6 marker and headed to the turnaround, I saw the lead runner from an earlier wave coming towards me. This gave me a huge shot of adrenaline knowing I was not far behind the race leaders. I counted three more runners which meant I was in 5th position. I hit the turnaround at mile 6.9 in 47:44 / 6:55 pace. When I went through mile 7 in 6:56 I saw a younger kid from a later wave than mine roaring towards the turnaround. He was flying and that sinking feeling began to hit me that I was now the hunted and the young bucks from the later waves were all going to reel me in. I also had a sinking feeling in my quads, they were beginning to complain and I was feeling the brunt of their anger. It was at this point in the race where I came to a cross-road. I could both give in to the pain and slow the pace, still finishing with a respectable time OR I could dig down really deep and finish this thing fast or die trying. I chose the latter! I focused on turnover and not letting that young gun behind catch up to me. Mile 8 saw another 7, 7:05 to be exact. “Turnover, turnover and do not slow,” I kept saying to myself. Miles 9, 10 and 11 came and went in 6:54, 6:51 and 6:48. The kid behind me was STILL behind me and I reeled in one of the runners ahead of me. The majority of the race field was now on the course heading out to the turnaround and many of them were screaming at me, “GO, you are in 4th place!” There were so many of them I lost count on the number who high fived me or yelled words of encouragement. The final 2.1 miles were so painful. I was beginning to cramp up and I hit mile 12 in 6:57. I came through the final aid station at a major intersection and the volunteers were all cheering wildly. The police officer who whisked me through the intersection again reminded me of where I was in the race. “Great job, Mark [name is printed on your bib], you are in 4th place and you are almost home!” Almost home with a little over a mile to go. I looked behind me to see where the kid was and one of the athletes heading out yelled to me, “about 100 yards back and holding pace with you!” I made the left hand turn onto the steep hill we climbed up at mile 2. Now it was time to run this steep downhill and my quads would have no part of it. I had to slow so as not to seize up and it was at this point I was finally caught. The young kid who had been chasing me for almost 6 miles finally reeled me in. He ended up being the overall race winner and had the fastest run split of the day at 1:22 and change. I’d say I was with some pretty good company. He gave me a shout of encouragement and then we made the right had turn onto the main finish chute. I went through mile 13 in 6:56 and was now 13 miles down and 1/10 to go with only two miles over a 7’ pace. The final 200 yards were a blur. The street was lined with spectators yelling, cheering and ringing cowbells. Something about those cowbells they give away at triathlons that always make me think about those crazy downhill skiers flying down the slopes on a razor’s edge. I guess the same can be said about long course triathlon. You walk a razor’s edge between having a good race and going too hard and blowing up. Today, I was able to walk that line and race hard and not blow up. I crossed the finish
line knowing I left everything out on the course. My finish time: 4:30:49, a new PR with a new PR run split of 1:30:18. My run was the 5th fastest of the entire field and I negative split the final 10k at a 6:52pace.
As she always is, Lisa was there waiting for me with a big smile and words of encouragement. I cannot say enough about her. The love and support she gives to me before, during and after the race is amazing. Seeing that beautiful person at the end of a long day makes all the pain go away in an instant. She is one in a million. The two of us hung out post race for about an hour. We talked to other athletes and cheered on the people just starting the run. The unofficial results were posted on the big screen; I ended up finishing 7th OA out of a field of over 1000 and was the top Master. Although it would have been fun to stick around for the awards ceremony and jam with the band/hit the street fair, we headed back to the hotel. After all, we were at the BEACH and it was 80 and sunny out. We did manage a few post race shots-
With my A#1
We spent a lot of quality time hanging at the beach post race with a few well earned frosty frescas. I also had more than a few of the hotel guests inquire about the race. Many were unfamiliar with long course triathlon and asked how long the race was. When I told them 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run you should have seen their jaws drop. It was pretty funny. That night Lisa and I headed back to our favorite Wrightsville Beach restaurant, King Neptune’s. The owner and servers were all so nice and very gracious. We walked home along the beach after a nice dinner and a cold beer. That night I fell asleep rather quickly to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore below. We awoke early and headed for home; we were on the road by 4:15am and arrived home
in less than 10 hours. Grandma and Grandpa did a wonderful job watching the kids, and we wanted to give them some free time to enjoy their Sunday. I will conclude with a few shout outs. To the best long course training partners an athlete could ask for: The King of Epic Friday Rob Reddy, Ed Slovenkay, Mark Durno, Jim LaMastra and Kevin Rowles. To my late season long course compatriot Brian Stern; thank you so much for those last few long bricks. To the JRG boys Scott, ‘The Kiwi’ Andrew, Matt and James; many thanks for the final ride one week out. A special thanks to Jason Vickers for helping me out of a dire situation with my calf and for all your work with the Club Vickers run crew. I always know that on Weds mornings I will push myself harder than any other weekly run, especially when Beth shows up. To my 5am swim buddy, Paul Lenz; thanks for all the early morning swims and of course the running, too. I can’t say enough good things about my sponsors, Team ER and Hammer Nutrition. A HUGE thank you to my parents for allowing Lisa and I to travel kid free and get a little Q time. Speaking of Lisa, the biggest thank you of all goes to you. Everything you do is so much appreciated and I am so blessed to have you as my wife, cheerleader, travel agent and best friend forever. I love you! A few more photos, here is one of the award. Very unique, I actually now own a piece of the history as the award is made from the original decking of the USS North Carolina
So long from the beach, it was a great way to end a long race season.
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