PPD Beach 2 Battleship 70.3 Triathlon: Race Report

After completing the 2015 Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, I had several people ask me about my future triathlon plans. Training for Alcatraz was a challenge – a monumental swim in the frigid San Francisco Bay, followed by an 18 mile bike ride up and down the STEEP city roads, concluding with a hilly 8 mile run – including the infamous 400 step Equinox Sand Ladder. My response to these questions was that I was taking some time off to rest, heal, and just enjoy life. Which I did – for three weeks… I began considering a half-iron distance triathlon: 70.3 miles (1.2 mile swim; 56 mile bike ride; 13.1 mile run). Living in North Carolina, several triathletes mentioned the famous Beach2Battleship (B2B) triathlon held in Wilmington, North Carolina. B2B is an iconic race. The swim takes place in a channel that is connected to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway; so it’s a salt water swim but not in the ocean. The bike course takes competitors from Wrightsville Beach, through the northern section of Wilmington and then up towards White Lake – one of the best half iron distance bike courses on the east coast. The 13.1 mile run begins at the Wilmington Convention Center and finishes in downtown Wilmington just across the river from the historic USS North Carolina Battleship.

In mid-June, plenty of slots remained for the 70.3 There was no sense of urgency to register. However, on July 1, things changed in a hurry. I checked the B2B website at 12:00 pm and 200 slots were still open. At 4:30 pm, however, only 12 slots remained. I realized I better make a decision right now or the decision would quickly be made for me… In a rush, I registered with mere minutes to spare.

Since I was officially registered, I expected my training preparations to be completed without a hitch. Things went according to plan for two days. At the very end of my bike ride, I attempted to climb a small lip on the pavement to move over for a car that was behind me. Big mistake. My bike immediately flipped sideways throwing me towards the sidewalk. I sustained a deep bruise to my shoulder. An orthopedic surgeon advised me not to swim for three weeks. I began several weeks of physical therapy. Slowly, I began to build up my yardage in the pool. I was very concerned whether the shoulder would be capable of withstanding a 1.2 mile swim on race day.

I must state that preparing for a half-iron distance triathlon is an order of magnitude more challenging than training for Alcatraz – which was definitely a challenge in itself! With a 56 mile bike ride, my coach Emily Cocks gradually increased my bike workouts until I could ride for over 4 hours. With running, I steadily built my endurance until I was achieving 9 mile runs. About three weeks prior to B2B I was confident that I was in the shape required to complete the race.

Race day! Great weather! A thousand butterflies in my stomach. Race organizers had everything extremely well organized. My shoulder was feeling strong but I was concerned if I would injure it during the swim. No worries. The shoulder felt great during the entire swim. Upon reaching the swim exit, someone pulled off my wetsuit and off I went onto the bike leg. With a few exceptions, the B2B bike course is extremely flat. Makes biking a piece of cake – right? It’s true; when you’re riding a flat course the pedaling is easier. But, you’re pedaling all the time…And, we had a strong headwind for the first 40 miles… Finished the bike feeling strong. One more leg – a 13.1 mile run! Four miles longer than I had ever ran and after a long swim and bike ride. The run course takes you through downtown Wilmington – the spectators were simply incredible. During the run people kept repeating my name, encouraging me to continue. I wondered how they knew my name and realized my name was stenciled on my racing bib… For the first three miles, I didn’t stop at an aid station. Miles 4 – 6 I began stopping at each station. I buggered on until I reach the turnaround – halfway done! Started running and walking. Powered on for the last four miles. I made it – 70.3 miles! With a time of 07:10, I’m certainly not going to break the sound barrier (first accomplished by Chuck Yeager, a West Virginia native, by the way) but that wasn’t my goal. I was ecstatic to complete a half iron distance triathlon with less than 1.5 years of training. I want to personally thank all of the B2B volunteers and spectators who encouraged me. I can’t thank my coach Emily Cocks enough. She transcended the wildest expectations I have as an athlete by developing an incredible customized training plan and promptly answering my many training questions. The most profound statement she made at the beginning of my training was “You’ll really find out a lot about yourself preparing for a 70.3” Spoken like the oracle she is! For more specific logistics on the B2B triathlon please read the Swim Bike Mom race blog.

So, what’s next? I think I’m ready for some time off…

Jon

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