I drove to Williamsburg, VA on Friday, knowing it was going to be a ten hour drive and I don’t do well driving all day before a race. The mandatory packet pickup and race briefing were on Saturday as well I knew I could not leave early enough in the morning to make it to Williamsburg and get everything completed, if I did not travel on Friday. The drive was pretty much uneventful; it is a really easy route from Tiffin, OH to Williamsburg, VA. I left the house at about 4:15am and got to the hotel about 2:10pm, got checked into the hotel and ate some food that I had brought. After checking into the hotel, I went to the swim location and tried to figure out the swim course and transition area. I was unable that night to really figure it out, and I ran into some other racers who were not having any luck figuring it out, either. I drove the bike course. It was pretty much flat and not as rough as I had read on Facebook. But, it was not flat, flat, flat as Challenge Family claims on their webpage. The course is flat, I am not arguing that point, but there are a couple little hills that can zap your legs if you don’t know they are there. I was really happy it was not as rough as I had read; it was smoother than a lot of roads that I have trained on and raced on in the past.
On Saturday, I got up early so I would fall asleep early that night. I ate breakfast in the hotel. It was nothing to brag about but I have had a lot worse at hotels. I drove over to the expo, arriving there about 9:45 am. The athlete guide said the expo would open at 10:00am for packet pick-up. Since I was early, I thought I would walk the run course. I walked the first half of a mile of the course and liked it. The run course would be on the high school cross country course, which is a gravel path through the woods. This was nice because it was going to be hot on race day and the shade of the trees would be nice. I got my race packet and went back to the hotel, because it was three hours before the race briefing. Just one note to people going to Williamsburg, if you don’t have a gps give yourself lots of extra time to navigate around the city. It is a beautiful city to see, but easy to get turned around in. I got back to the expo at 12:45 for the race briefing. It was hot. The heat index was about 102 degrees F. The note to everyone from the staff was to drink fluids and lots of them before the race. I went back to the hotel and relaxed before I went to IHOP for dinner. I would have to stage my bike at T1 before the 6pm cutoff, due to having two different transitions at this race. After that I went back to hotel for the night.
I got out of bed at 3:15am the morning of the race. I needed that extra time because of the two different transition locations. I had my normal prerace food: two bananas, 24 oz. of coffee, two cliff bars (I ate one on the way and one at transition 1). I was running close to my plan to get out of the hotel at 4:15am to drive to T2. I got lucky and followed other racers that knew a faster route to come in on the south side of T2. Setting up T2 was quick and easy; I thought it was too easy so I went back to check after using the port-o-let. But everything looked good at T2, so I went and got in the line to board the bus that would shuttle me over to T1. It was a little over six and half miles to T1 from T2, but it seemed to take forever on the bus. T2 set-up went smooth; I got my tires aired up by the volunteers and taped gels to bike frame, double checked everything and walked out of T1. After a quick visit to the port-o-lets again, I was off to the water. I got a quick warm up swim in the James River. The water was nice 80.1 degrees F and clear. The water, as far as depth, was like walking in Lake Erie; you could walk for hundred yards and still be only chest deep.
It was in water start, and 40 years old and up men was all together in the 4th wave. We walked out to the starting point and the water was about knee deep. It looked like there were about one hundred in my wave, but I am not sure of the actual number. I swam really straight or at least straight for me, for the first 2/3 of the swim. Once I made third right turn, I was having a hard time staying straight. But when it was over I only swam, according to my Garmin, a little more than the actual course distance. I will have to remember at some point to get a different set of googles. Some smoke or black ones would protect me from the sun, which makes it hard to see the course. I was blinded by the light in the light blue lenses that I have currently. I felt better on the swim this time than I did at Richmond two weeks earlier, but I still have work to do. That is very clear when I get out of the water in the bottom 1/3, and my time in the swim leg used to be in the top 1/3. I will have to get a lot of laps in the pool and open water before Cedar Point in September. Here is my Garmin file: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/804734866/1
It was a quarter mile run to the T1 from the beach. Transition went as smooth as it could, being uphill out of transition in grass. I got on the bike and off I went.
The first part of the bike was on a small paved bike path that led to the road. Once on the road I was already feeling the heat of the day. It was a lot hotter in Williamsburg than I was used to. I had made my mind up I was going to go hard on the bike. After seeing my swim time, I knew I needed to push it. I took off too hard and was feeling it. That is the problem I have sometimes with flat courses, I go too hard, forgetting that even if it is super flat, it is still 56 miles of riding. I was pushing it hard and passing lots of faster swimmers as the miles went by. I grabbed a Gatorade bottle at the first aid station. I knew that no matter what, I had to grab a bottle at the three stations. The first two stations came quick and there was a large space between the second and the third. I noticed the bottle was bouncing around a little in the water bottle cage, but I did nothing about it. It was not the first rookie mistake I made that morning, but around mile 22 I hit a bridge that was a little rough and I was not watching due to the fact I knew the upcoming train tracks were rough. The bottle bounced out of the cage and was bouncing off my leg and rear spokes I thought for sure I was going to break some spokes and end my day. The bottle fell to the ground after a minute of making me real nervous. I went back to pushing on the bike and sweat was rolling off of me. I got to T2 and I was disappointed by the time. The bike course had 2631 feet of climbing on the course, 500 feet less than Richmond, and it took me two more minutes to ride Williamsburg. I only managed to average 186 watts for the ride, which is about 42 watts average less than at Richmond. But if you look at my file you will see most of it is due to the fact I went out way too hard. My heart rate stayed above 160 beat per minute for the first twenty miles, which is too high, and I know better. My Garmin file: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/804734866/3
T2 went good as good as it can get. I got the bike racked and shoes changed. I got refocused and drank a 6 oz. bottle of mix and off I went to run. I talked to my wife later and she said weather.com had the heat index at 11:00am at 97 degrees F. I started the run at 11:15am, if that gives you a hint of the heat.
The run was four laps on the course, which is nice for fans to watch and makes it easier for the organization to setup aid stations to support the run. The run was not flat but not super hilly. In the woods it felt good, not a lot of wind but the shade cut the heat. When I hit the open part of the run course that ran along the side of the road, it felt like the temperature went up ten or fifteen degrees as soon as I got out of the shade of the trees. The run was ok I fell a few places in my age group and about 30 overall, but I am sure I gave it all I could in the heat. I felt it in my legs and my left knee. My knee is starting to get better and I hope by Mohican it will be good. The run was 20 plus minutes slower than Richmond, I was not happy but I know I ran my best. Run Garmin File: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/804734866/5
I love the course and was really impressed by the Challenge Family staff. I would do this race again, but will need to make it worth my time by staying in Williamsburg for the rest of the week. Twenty hours round trip is just too much for me.