2019 Ironman Virginia 70.3
Race Report – Part 1
May 4, 2019 – You never know what sort of weather you’re going to get in Virginia in May, and the day before the inaugural Ironman Virginia 70.3 in Williamsburg, it was hot and humid. So much so, that I was happy that the race was on Sunday instead of Saturday. Still, the weather for race day was looking pretty iffy, with thunderstorms in the forecast all day. The weatherman had called for thunderstorms all day Saturday too though, so maybe there was still some hope for a nice day of racing. Maybe.
By the time I heard that an Ironman-brand race was coming to Virginia, my friend Busher was already signed up. In fact, it was his Facebook post that clued me into the race’s existence. I then watched as several of my other Richmond tri friends announced their participation as well. I have major FOMO issues, so of course I wanted to join the party.
Leigh Anne had started dabbling in triathlons in 2016, and had completed her first Olympic distance race in the Fall of 2018. She claimed that she wanted to do a Half-Iron distance race before she turned 40 (in December 2019), so Ironman Virginia 70.3 was the perfect race for her. Close to home, relatively flat and the possibility of a wet-suit legal swim based upon the expected water temperature.
My wife is skilled at many things, but her ability to make firm decisions on things she has reservations about isn’t one of them. In fact, had I not selected the paint colors and bought all of the painting supplies, the interior of our house would probably still be the same generic off-white color the builder painted it thirteen years ago. Thus, I took the decision out of her hands and signed us both up at the same time. That I knew, was a risky decision, and whether I lived or died (by her hand) most certainly hinged upon the outcome of her race.
Having been the impetus behind her registration, I did feel a certain obligation to make sure that she was properly trained. Leigh Anne had been swimming with Karen (one of my coaches) for about a year, and attended Karen’s “Guppies” class two days a week. To supplement her swim training, I gave her some thoughts on what she should be doing bike and run-wise, but certainly not with the expertise and detail that Karen and Erin provide for me. Still, since Leigh Anne’s goal was merely to finish the race, my input was (hopefully) good enough to get her through it. In general she was training 6-9 hours per week, which was certainly sufficient, especially since she’d already run several marathons. As race day approached though, she was ready to get it over with since the training was making her tired and angry. Her words, not mine.
Several of our other friends were doing the race as well, including Candace Broaddus and Mills Babbs, who also swim in Karen’s “Guppies” class. It was to be their first 70.3 event as well, and it seemed like most of Richmond was signed up. We tried to split a hotel room with Candace, but were unable to change our king bed room to a double room in time. We ended up staying at the Holiday Inn Express in Williamsburg, and Candace was a few miles down the road in some hotel with tiny pillows.
As with most Ironman-brand races, we had to check our bikes in on Saturday, so Leigh Anne and I drove down that morning and got to the race site around 10:30. We picked up our packets and then did a very short ride on our bikes to make sure everything was working properly. After racking our bikes in transition, we went back into Ironman Village to sit through one of the pre-race briefings. On the way, we ran into Busher and Jim Rosen and stopped for a quick photo op.
It was scorching hot during the briefing, and I was glad that I’d brought two quarts of Gatorade with me, and both were gone by the time we left the race site. During the briefing, the possibility of a swim cancellation was discussed in light of the forecasted thunder storms, and the bike course was discussed in detail. Since the bike course crossed a set of train tracks (which might have a passing train on race day), there was a “neutral time zone” at the tracks, where your time would stop. The race director also warned us about very narrow and dangerous roads starting around mile 40. It was recommended that we drive the bike course to see what he was talking about.
While sitting at the race briefing, it struck me that I’d forgotten to let some air out of my bike tires when I racked it. Tubes are known to explode on hot days, and I didn’t want to arrive the next morning to find two flat tires. So, as soon as the briefing ended we all went to deflated our tires. They’d be re-inflated the next morning prior to heading to the swim start.
Leigh Anne, Candace and I left the race site around 1:00 p.m., and after having lunch and checking into our hotels, we drove the bike course. I was glad we did, because there was a ten mile stretch of road that was super narrow and rough. In fact, one area near a bridge had tons of pot holes, so there was a mandatory “slow” zone there. As luck would have it, there was a nasty climb right after the “slow” zone so you couldn’t even carry any speed into the hill. It was also nice to see the “neutral time zone” near the railroad tracks to get a feel for it.
By the time we finished driving the bike course it was dinner time, so Leigh Anne, Candace and I hit up a local Italian restaurant and inadvertently ordered enough food for six people. A lot of it went to waste since we weren’t going to take leftovers back to our hotel rooms, and we got to watch the Kentucky Derby from our table. No pre-race meal is complete without a few Red Velvet Oreos, so we picked some up at the Food Lion near the restaurant.
From there, we all went back to our hotels and aimed for an early bedtime. I checked the weather a few more times, and the forecast was still calling for thunderstorms all day. I really didn’t care about rain, but lightening could cancel the race, or at least the swim. Leigh Anne had convinced herself that she wasn’t going to make the swim cutoff, so she may have been secretly hoping that the swim would get cancelled. I held out hope that the weather would be better than planned and finally fell asleep watching Happy Gilmore for about the thousandth time. The alarm was set to go off around 4 a.m., so it was going to be a long day.