A beautiful course on a day that I had several issues to overcome.
A beautiful, senic, challenging course. I would definitely recommend this race to anyone looking for a hard half. Having done several other hilly/mountainous 70.3 races (Quassy once and the White Mountain Half twice) I was excited for the challenge. I put an 11-30 cassette on my bike, glad I did. I would not ride this course without at least a 28 on the back. I was in that 30 tooth ring for at least three of the five miles on the big climb.
I was well prepared for the long climb, but ironically what I thought would be the hardest part of the race was the part that went the smoothest for me personally. The unexpected things for me cropped up right after the start of the swim. Ten minutes into the swim I and I was unable to settle into a good breathing pattern. For the first time ever in twenty years of racing I swam over to one of the paddle boarders watching over the course. I grabbed onto the board, took a few minutes to catch my breath, and hoped that I would be able to find my groove. I swam on. No such luck, in another ten minutes I still felt off, no rhythm yet and getting hot. I swam to another paddle board and caught my breath, this time I pulled open the neck of my wetsuit and let some water in hoping this would cool me off. I swam on. A few minutes later I decided to stop and unzip my wetsuit, I pulled my arms out and pulled the suit down to my waist. This was much better, I was much cooler, began breathing better and was able to swim the last half of the course with my wetsuit/dragsuit.
Once I was out of the water my stomach was bothering me a little bit and since I was no longer worried about my time after the swim, I decided to hit the portaloo, another first for me during a race, but hey why not make myself as comfortable as possible for the bike ride that I was so looking forward to.
The bike course was beautiful. We were riding on good roads that were either well partitioned with safety cones or completely closed to traffic. My hat is off to everyone who set up the course and those who worked it during the day, great job! I will also note that for this New Englander the overall condition of the roads was excellent, the tough winters up here take their toll on our roads, the roads around Roanoke were a pleasure to ride on, no frost heaves. I had prepared well for the ride with both my training and by adding the 11-30 cassette. The big hill is tough but very doable with the right gears. Once on top of the Blue Ridge Parkway the scenery was great, I had not been up there since I was a kid on family trips, and it brought back a lot of great memories for me.
By the time I got off the bike the heat was getting up into the low 90's. After another portaloo stop, I was prepared to run slow in this heat. Lots of jog/walking was in my future, but I was ok with that. I was so glad to be out there on the course after the last year of no racing. The volunteers on the run course were all great, lots of cold ice, water and cola.
My one regret is that I was timing all three events individually, swim and run on my watch, and bike on my head unit. This meant that I did not know my exact overall time. If I had known I definitely would have tried to shave 1 minute and 42 seconds off my overall time. Oh well… It was a great day, a great venue and a great workout. It was fun to see several other Blue 70 racers out there as well. My sights are now set on the Patriot Half on June 19. Let's see if I can get all the puzzle pieces to fit together a little better in two weeks.
I would definitely come back here to do this race again. I think a swim warm up would have helped me out, given me a better chance to get acclimated or decide that the water was warm enough for me not to wear my wetsuit. From now on if I don't get to do a swim warm up I will do a dry land warm up. Lesson learned. For others considering this race, if you like to ride up and down some good hills I would definitely recommend it. I would also recommend that you practice getting up early. My shuttle bus to the swim start left at 4:15 AM.
Thank you for reading, enjoy the racing!!