My Fall “A” Race for 2015 was Beach 2 Battleship 70.3. I have read my friend, Cortney Martin’s (CortTheSport.com), race reports from this event for the past 2 years over and over and over again (okay, so she is a ridiculously fast triathlete and WON the Masters division at this event in 2013 and placed 2nd in 2014 even though she raced a sub 5 hour 70.3, so they were SUPER cool race reports! Check them out: 2013 and 2014). Plus, my non-pro tri-idol, Meredith Atwood (aka Swim Bike Mom), raced the B2B full distance in 2014, so I just KNEW I had to make my way to North Carolina in 2015.
Beach 2 Battleship is unlike any triathlon I have done to date. It is a “point-to-point” race. In other words, you don’t finish in the same place where you start and there are 2 different transition areas. The race starts in Wrightsville Beach with a 1.2 mile swim up Banks Channel to the Seapath Marina, then continues with the 56 mile bike leg that ends at the Wilmington Convention Center, and concludes with a 13.1 run out and around Greenfield Lake and back to the Convention Center finish line by the USS North Carolina (the “battleship” part of Beach 2 Battleship).
The weather reports leading up to the race were a tad ominous (from a Floridians point of view) with predicted start time temps in the high 40’s. I wasn’t worried about the swim part, because if the air temp was in the 40’s, then the water that was in the high 60’s/low 70’s would feel like a warm bath. Regardless, B2B is a wetsuit mandatory race, so I had yet another chance to race in my wetsuit! The swim at B2B is current assisted, which sounded just delightful. In 2014, the world record iron distance swim (2.4 miles) was recorded at this race, at like 36 minutes or something ridiculous like that.
On Thursday morning, Deb and I headed up I-95 to North Carolina. I was especially excited for the opportunity to meet Esther and Sara – two of my Swim Bike Mom Ambassador teammates. Esther and her family had driven to Wilmington from their home in Mesa, Arizona! Sara lives in Raleigh and her Mom and Stepdad hosted a dinner for us at their beach house in Carolina Beach on Thursday evening, which was lovely! We were going to be pushing it to get to dinner on time, but were able to stop by our hotel, the Blockade Runner, check in, and drop off all our stuff. It always amazes me how much STUFF is required for a quick weekend trip! The Blockade Runner was the host hotel for the race on the “beach” side of things. Our room was oceanfront and was terrific! There was so much buzz about the race all around. You can tell that Beach2Battleship is a big deal in the Wilmington area. Everywhere we went people asked us if we were racing in “that marathon.” LOL.
We made our way down to Carolina Beach for dinner at Sara’s – what a lovely time! Thank you again for hosting us and for the amazing food!! AND for the goodie bag of all things North Carolina!! NOM!!!
On Friday morning, Deb and I availed ourselves of the complimentary breakfast buffet that the hotel put out – LOTS of simple carbs! 🙂 We made our way over to the convention center for packet pickup and were very surprised that there was almost no line at all. Check in was absolutely painless. I handed in my ID and USAT card and received my race shirt and bag which contained my T1 and T2 bags, a post-race bag, my timing chip, a chip strap, a custom swim cap, race tattoos with my bib#, my race bib, stickers for the bags, my bike, and my helmet, etc. We wound our way through the expo, bought a couple of things I couldn’t live without, and then I found a secluded place to pack my T2 bag. This bag was turned in on Friday and I wouldn’t see it again until I biked into T2 on Saturday, so it was important to make sure I had everything I needed to go from the bike to the run in the bag. I put my sticker on the bag and then a volunteer showed me place on the rack where my # was. One last mental run through, and I said a “Hail Mary” and walked away, praying that I hadn’t forgotten anything critical.
Then there was a quick meet up with my Ambassador teammates and ladies from the Swim Bike Mom Tri-Fecta Facebook group. It was so awesome to have the opportunity to meet people who I have “talked to” online, but never actually had the pleasure to meet in person. They were all delightful!!
Then Deb and I made our way back to T1 and dropped off my bike at my rack space. I was able to wait to bring my T1 bag until race morning, which I preferred so I could fuss over it a little more. I let some air out of my tires – just in case – said goodbye to my bike and told him not to feel intimidated by all the super cool tri-bikes on the racks and walked away.
We spent the rest of the day just relaxing. We took a walk on the beach, stopped at the poolside bar and got a drink and a snack, and went to dinner at the restaurant in the hotel. I ordered a thai veggie stirfry for dinner, not cluing in the fact that “Thai” is code for “HOT and SPICY.” As I ate it I was REALLY hoping I wouldn’t regret it in the morning.
I set my alarm for 5:30 – which is pretty late for a race day alarm, but my swim wave didn’t go off until 9:06 am and I had plenty of time to get my bag and bottles to T1 and catch the shuttle to the swim start. Deb dropped me off at T1 and I met up with Esther after I put my hydration and nutrition on my bike, pumped up my tires, and pulled my wetsuit on. It was chilly, but certainly not cold (around 60 degrees) and the water temp was reported to be 69-71 degrees. PERFECT!! Esther and I caught one of the shuttles down to the swim start and still had over an hour to kill once we got there. The full-iron distance race began at the end of the beach (another 1.2 miles south of where we were) and started at 7:30, but it was only a matter of minutes before we could see the athletes swimming toward us. They were FLYING! As the swimmers passed our position you could really see how strong the current was. The people who were swimming were moving fast, but then you would see someone bob up and stop swimming to see where they were going and they were STILL flying by! This was MY kind of swim! LOL!
The half-iron race started at 8:30, with waves of 150 or so racers starting every 5 minutes. My wave was the Women 45+ and Athena, so I was starting with a number of my friends. I hadn’t expected it, but Deb had made her way down to the swim start to see us off, which was a super nice surprise! As we entered the water, it felt warm compared to the air. The wave before ours was sent on its way and we were told to head out into the channel. The current was so strong that we had to swim backwards to stay behind the start line.
And just like that, the starters horn sounded and we were off I put my head down and started swimming, but quickly realized that there was a small problem. The water in the channel was so choppy from the current and the wind that every time I took a breath I got hit in the face. Now, anyone who knows me is aware that swimming is my weak link, and open water swimming is even worse. The water slapping me in the face made me a little panicky, not gonna lie. I tried Tarzan swimming so my head stayed up above the water, but that was pretty energy inefficient. I tried breast stroking, but my breaststroke sucks, so no good there. Plus I was in a bunch up of people who were also freaking out – not a good combo. So, I put my head down and swam through the mass and then when I was more alone, I flipped on my side and sidestroked for a while – just to catch my breath and calm down. I looked for the turn buoy in the channel and it seemed so far away. Yet then, boom – there it was – the current was that fast. I made the turn. There were people hanging on the turn buoy – I think one girl was actually crying, poor dear.
Once I got out of the main channel and into the lane that goes to the marina, the chop was much improved and I could actually swim. There was still a good current, although nothing like what was in the channel. My swim time was not stellar, but I made my way to the ladders and pulled myself up out of the water. I was REALLY glad to be out of the water! B2B also had another first waiting for me – wetsuit strippers!! These were guys and girls who helped you out of your wetsuit – how lovely! As I stepped up onto the doc, someone grabbed my zipper and pulled it down. I pulled my suit down to my hips and then sat on a bench, held onto the back of it, while a very nice young lady yanked my wetsuit off me. She handed it to me and I started jogging down the path on my way to T1. I guess it was probably 1/3 mile from the swim exit to the entrance of transition. Lots of people were taking their time in the showers, but I’ve never really had a problem with salt water chafing so I just ran right through. (Swim: 39:37)
Into T1 and since we were the last swim wave, it was not at all hard to find my bike. I squirted off my feet, dried them, sprayed them with trislide, then socks, bike shoes, sunscreen, helmet, sunglasses, throw everything back in the swim-bike bag, tie a knot, grab my bike, and go! (T1 7:05)
The bike course description was (and I quote): “The bike course is totally flat with the only elevation change taking place when participants finish the bike course by crossing a bridge on the way into the second transition area located inside the newly constructed Wilmington Convention Center in downtown Wilmington.”
Yeah, totally flat for people who ride in Boulder or Switzerland maybe. And no, it was not like Augusta or Clermont, but there were miles of false flats. There was about a 10 mile section of the course that is on I-140. The left lane was blocked off for the race with traffic cones, but it was still not terribly comfortable to have 18-wheelers buzzing past. In those 10 miles I probably passed a half-dozen riders who had crashed. At every one, I asked if they were okay and every one had someone stopped with them, so I kept going. I asked one lady who had also stopped what people were going down over and the only thing we could figure was that they were hitting the traffic cones, but honestly, I don’t know.
We got off I-140 and headed up US 421 where there was a 15mph+ headwind on the way out that just beat the crap out of us – it was really painful! My tendency in past races would have been to fight the wind and try to go hard through it – always to the detriment of my run. Instead, I popped down to the small chain ring and went easy as comfortably as I could, trying to save my legs. As it was, I still passed a bunch of people. I also had some chafing issues that made the bike pretty miserable from about mile 30 on. However, the headwind on the out section became a tailwind on the back section and THAT was awesome. I looked down at one point and I was going 27mph on a flat in my small chain ring! I stopped at the Mile 45 aid station for a couple of minutes and got off my bike, honestly to just get the hell of my bike for a minute! I ate the other half of my PB & Banana sandwich, drank a bottle of water, ate a couple of orange slices, and continued on my way.
Just before the end of the bike course we crossed over a bridge with metal grating, which always freak me out (after Battle of the Bridges last year), but I white knuckled my hoods and kept my wheels straight and had no issue at all. Then we were just a couple of turns from T2. (Bike: 3:15:12)
I reached the dismount line, hopped off my bike and jogged along the path into the Convention Center where a volunteer took my bike from me, yelled out my bib # and pointed me down an aisle. Another volunteer shouted my bib# again and then yet another met me with my Bike to Run bag and pointed me into the changing area. The changeover was quick, but I couldn’t resist a stop at a REAL bathroom with no waiting. 🙂 To get to the run course, you take your bag with all your bike stuff and run around the perimeter of the convention center, hand it off to another amazing volunteer, and then continue until you get outside. It was a decent distance. (T2: 6:34)
The B2B run course is an out and back from the Convention Center out and around Greenfield Lake and back. It was a lovely course, but again, not flat. The out was one continual up – not steep, but up. I did short run/walk intervals – the seem to do the best at preserving my feet over distance. I’m never going to set any land-speed records running 1 and walking 1, but let’s face it, that is never going to happen anyhow, so best to do what works for my body. And, I’m pretty sure that at a run 1 min/walk 1 min pace, I could go all day long. By this time it was clear that I wasn’t going to make my A-goal of a sub-6 hour race, and while disappointing, I didn’t dwell on it. Instead, I had fun on the course. I encouraged other runners. I thanked volunteers. I stopped to whip/nae nae for just a second with some of the folks downtown. I had FUN!
Everything was great until Mile 10. I was using the on-course hydration – mostly using water, but at the turnaround I grabbed some Heed. It did not settle well on my stomach AT ALL. By Mile 10 I though I was going to be sick. My stomach was churning. I slowed to a walk for about a mile and a half. I grabbed some water and a couple of pretzel rods at an aid station. That seemed to do the trick and my stomach settled down and I was able to continue with my intervals and run through the finish with a smile. (Run: 2:35:15)
Beach 2 Battleship was an awesome race – incredibly well organized and well supported. I can’t say enough about the amazing volunteers. The support of the race by the merchants and residents was evident. After all was said and done, I finished this race 19/41 in my age group and 203/359 women. I feel like I have some unfinished business there.
Deb and I went to dinner at Mellow Mushroom after the race and she handed me a card. Inside, was a great card and a picture of the tri bike I’ve been lusting over for the past 6 months. I ordered my 2016 Cannondale Slice Ultegra on Wednesday! I cannot wait for it to get here!
After taking a few days to mull things over, I have decided to register for the full 140.6 distance at B2B in 2016 when registration opens on 12/1. I know there are a lot of “pros” on the list when it comes to racing “Ironman” branded races, vs. non-branded races, but the distance is the distance and this was a great race. I look forward to coming back to Wilmington next year.
As always, thanks to Deb and Josh for putting up with me during this training cycle even though by the end I couldn’t remember what I ate for breakfast, nevermind, appointments, deadlines, or anything else that wasn’t directly related to swimming, biking, or running. Thanks to them even more for being willing to do it all again with a 140.6 at the end of the rainbow! Thanks to my coach, Pam Giese, for putting up with me this year. I can’t promise that much will change in 2016, but I’ll keep trying to do my best not to make you insane! 😉 Thanks to my BTF (best tri-friend), Megan White, for keeping me going when I wanted to quit, sleep in, drop a workout, or go off the rails in any number of ways and for always being willing to go along with my crazy ideas (“Hey left swim 4500 on Friday and bike 112 on Saturday, want to?” LOL). I wouldn’t have gotten through this year without you! Thanks to my Swim Bike Mom Ambassador Teammates for all their support and advice during the process. Y’all are the best!
Here’s to an awesome 2016!!! Bring on the off season!