For the record, I highly recommend the Duke Half IM (Sept 7, 2003 in Cary, NC) to anyone looking for a fun, challenging and well-organized race. I have heard great things about the NC Triathlon Series, and my first experience was proof-positive.|
I took a good approach to this race. My training had been sporadic, and I was not tapering (again) and was training through this race. I headed off in the 5th swim wave (non-wetsuit swim, I might add), and very quickly, the waters of Jordan Lake started churning up some big rollers. It was an effort to get to the turnaround. Heading back to shore we had somewhat of a current behind us, but it was coming at an angle so it was pushing us toward the shore on the right – and we wanted to go straight. I hit the shore and a glance at my watch told me what I expected … a VERY slow swim. It would turn out that everyone was off the pace, so I felt better once I saw the results.
After a quick T1, I quickly got into a nice pace on the bike, making up ground on about a dozen women and feeling strong the whole way. I also enjoyed seeing some of the familiar landmarks which I hadn't seen since my college days of training on these roads around Chapel Hill, NC. The course was rolling, and the hills helped keep my back and hips loose (as I am still in rehab from last year's hip injury). About 35 miles into the bike, I picked up the pace, averaging about 22 mph at this point. When I got to T2, I was happy with my split. I know I could have ridden harder, but I wanted to keep this as a "training" race with my focus on GFT in October.
I headed off onto the run feeling amazingly fresh, given the 56 bike miles on the legs. I went out with a strong, but not too fast of a pace. This run course was a demon! (But I should have expected something evil from a race with Duke in its name!!!). Within the first ˝ mile, it was up a fast, steep hill on a rocky trail. Then the hills just kept coming on the 2-loop course. You would climb a hill and then get a little flat and then head down the hill. The steepness of the hills made it even more painful: going up your hamstring screamed; going down, your knees ached from the pounding. While I kept my head up and my shoulders very loose and low, I kept my eyes keyed on the ground right in front of me, making sure I did not roll on the rocky trail. I felt strong through the first loop, keeping a 8:35 pace. When I started the second loop, I wanted to pick up the pace some, but the hills had other ideas. I kept the 8:35 pace, but making up time didn’t look like it was going to be a reality. The run was a "T" shape and at the last turnaround between miles 10 and 11. When I hit mile 11, I picked it up, but forgot about the killer hill that went on about 1/4 of a mile. My pace really fell off during this mile – as I just started dying. The final mile, though, was a good effort for me - an 8:06 pace!
Overall, I would have liked a faster run but given the course, I was VERY happy! My swim time was slow, but so was everyone's. The post-race chatter focused on the terrible swim conditions and the fact that, even though the run course was changed from the prior year, which was pretty brutal, this course was might tough, too. That made me feel good about the run! My bike was solid, and that is what I wanted.