Raleigh 70.3 – Pre-Race

I had to think about where to start. This race, Raleigh 70.3, was a bit different as it is a point to point ride, which means two transitions separated by at least 30 miles as the crow files (and not as the triathlete rides). So there were some logistics to work out. Also, Carlos and I stayed at a hotel 25+ minutes from T2 which made for big considerations when T2 opens at 4 am, and then a 30+ minute ride to T1 and the swim start, which opened at 5 am.  As an FYI, I am trained by the motto “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is to be forgotten.” It can cause stress, but it also alleviates it. However, I really didn’t want to wake up at 3 am on race day. What about my breakfast/fueling? My wave didn’t start until 8:10 am – if I ate at 3:30 that left almost 5 hours before I started racing. That’s a long time – time enough in an average day for another meal!

Luckily I was working with my nutritionist, Marni Sumbal, to dial in my race nutrition (pre, during and post). She made very practical suggestions. It took a lot of thought and me letting go of some control to accept them, but as the reality of the necessity of sleep, fueling, and minimizing stress set in, I was all for her plan. But not without learning a few things to improve for next time!

And so this race report starts at setting up T1 on Saturday early, and then T2 on May 31 as late as possible (it closed at 6 pm).

T1 was easy – I debated coming back as my bike would sit there all afternoon and the front wheel was on asphalt. I finally decided to just let some air out of the tires and use my bike pump in the morning.

Setting up T1
Setting up T1

I also realized I had forgotten a hat. Although not a huge deal, a big challenge to a half iron distance is that chances are you are running in the hottest part of the day, especially if your wave is a later start. A hat for me is important to keep me as my scalp burns. And when I race, I want to avoid sunburn anywhere.

So Carlos and I went to the expo at 5 pm to go see if there was a hat to buy. Doh – look at the schedule and it all closes at 5, even though T2 doesn’t close until 6! Oops. So we went over and put my gear in to T2 about 5:20 pm. I had frozen my water bottles, and put my shoes in the transition bag (but laying flat) to keep off any over-night moisture. No digging through the bag for gear – it was set up – just covered. I didn’t expect there to be much evening moisture and almost didn’t use the bag at all– it was an asphalt parking lot and no rain in the forecast. And there was plenty of time for my stuff to sit in the sun and dry even if it were on grass.

Setting up T2

Carlos did a quick internet search and found a store that we likely could drive to and back in time to put my hat in T2.All went smoothly, no rush, no panic. I mean, there are worse things to forget than a hat. I figured it would be nice to have, but don’t need it. The good news is I found one that matched my Team Podium kit! Hooray! OK – so it lacked the logo but the colors worked.

Keep in mind this means I visited T2 twice in about 40 minutes. I even chatted with the people next to me, and moved one pair of shoes that took over my spot. I double checked my number. Mental note – if I do this again – take a picture so if I can’t fall asleep because I am panicking that I left my gear in the wrong spot, I can check the picture and reassure myself!  Anyway, I started to freak when I went to bed. What if I had put it in the wrong spot? I was talking with men near my gear – but I am supposed to be around women since we rack by age groups. What if I had the wrong row? OMG. So yeah…panic. I texted a friend who was racing to ask if she could drop by my spot in the morning and double check for me, and if it was in the wrong spot – help me out? Please? I knew she wouldn’t see it until morning, but I felt better. Then I went to my iPad and looked up the race numbers. My last name is Aguilar – first in my age group. So who is next to me? Men age 25-29. So that was right. Then I looked for the highest bib number – over 2400. Mine was 2266 so, remembering how T2 looked, where I was seemed about right. All in all I was able to convince myself I was OK and fell asleep and had one of the best pre-race sleeps I have had in a while.

I didn’t wake up until about 10 minutes before my alarm set for 4:10 am which really is amazing for me. Soon Libby texted me – she would check out my transition. God bless her! I did give her a big hug when I saw her at T1.

I woke up, got dressed, and made my breakfast to eat in the car on the way to T1. I loaded the car with our luggage and Carlos’ bike while he got ready for his long day of spectating/driving/general super supporter husband, and we were off by 5 am.

It was an easy drive.

Of course, they wanted people to take the shuttle buses, and not drive, but some of us did. And we were able to park not too far away in a volunteer’s lot. Even if Carlos had been turned back earlier, it wouldn’t have been a long walk. I have walked farther at Augusta 70.3. Luckily, since he wasn’t turned back, he walked with me, carrying some of my gear. I went in to T1, pumped up my tires, and set up transition. I looked once, twice, and a third time, and headed out. I was using my Garmin 910 on my wrist, but my Garmin 810 on my bike to read normalized power. I changed it to race settings instead of ride settings which, as I will detail later, was an oops.

I wandered some. And went for my 15 minute warm up run. I also heard they would let athletes in an area for a warm up swim. Yes! Anything to minimize that first sense of shock and tightness in my chest. Running my warm up usually works, but swimming nearly always works.

After my warm up run, Carlos took the pump and went to move the car so he could get out of the park. He then rode back to the swim start later. Meanwhile, I started to wait in the bathroom line. And I saw Libby. I went to her, and said Thank you for checking my gear. I do owe her big time! And we started to chat. It was terrific. She left to turn in her gear bag and returned.

Libby had an early wave so she left after the first potty visit. I cycled through again, and then found a Team Podium teammate – Abby. Hooray! We sat on the lawn and chatted about most anything but the race, which was terrific! I loved it. Soon we saw Carlos return.  We hit the bathroom line one last time (now greatly reduced since we are one of the last three waves to go), and hit the water for a quick warm up swim (5 minutes). I saw Abby swim and as we got out I asked her if swimming was her strength – you could just tell by her stroke. Yup – it was. She had the second fastest time in our age group and literally flew! It took me until mile 35 on the bike to finally catch her (so her bike was also amazing).

All in all – thanks to Libby, Carlos and Abby, this was one of my most pleasant and relaxed pre-race starts. I loved it! As Abby and I started to line up I saw Kathleen – whom I hadn’t seen for too long. We hugged, chatted, and then I went to line up.

Soon we were entering the water and lining up. Abby and I parted as we each have a different spot we prefer to start. She’s strong enough she lined out farther outside for a clear field. I lined up at the front but in the bulk of people.

The water was warm…I was glad to be in my sleeveless. My swim is average enough that I can’t give anyone too much of an advantage by not using the wetsuit.

Next up – the actual race. Really – I did race!

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