IronMan NC 70.3 Race Report

IronMan NC 70.3 was this year’s “destination race” of choice.  It was held in beautiful Wilmington, NC, on what was advertised as a “flat, fun course”.  I was looking forward to returning to my home state of NC, and anticipated a great week of activities and racing.  IronMan NC 70.3 was also the first race my partner Terri and I  had done with multiple transition areas. More about that in the race report below

Athlete Check-in

IronMan has a reputation for easy check-ins and a great “IronMan Village” for all things relating to the race.  We picked up our race packets and transition bags pretty seamlessly, and checked out the village.  There was an Athlete Briefing, to learn more about the logistics of race day.  There was also info about the swim start area, the separate bike/run transition areas and all the necessary shuttling in-between.

We also learned about the logistics of the swim, bike and run courses, and support and signage for each. Race swim start was in a coastal channel and was a point-to-point swim (not out-and-back like some races).  There would be a short run (.25 miles) to the bike transition area to changeover for that segment.  After the bike was done, bikes were racked in a second transition area to changeover for the run segment. 

Pre-Race Day

The day before the race, all athletes were required to drop their race bags at the 2 different transition areas.  We took an Uber ride to the bike transition area, located our rack spots and left our bike bags there.  We took the time to scope out the transition entrance and exits and where our bike racks were. Then, walking over to the swim exit, we checked out the dock where we’d be exiting.

Another Uber ride back to our hotel where, right across the street, was the 2nd transition area where we dropped our run gear bags.  Again, we checked our our rack spots and the entrance/exits of transition.

Race Day

Race day morning, Terri and I headed out to catch the athlete shuttle for the bike transition area.  Our bikes had been delivered there by TriBike Transport (they’re so awesome!). We had time to load our nutrition bottles and food and check bike condition.  Instead of the normal laying out gear on the ground, we were required to keep everything (except helmets) in our bags.  Not too bad considering there was some rain in the forecast, and at least our socks/shoes would be dry. It DID mean, however, a few extra minutes to get everything out of the bags. 

Once done at bike transition, we catch another shuttle to the swim start location. It is about 50 degrees out, so Terri and I have extra clothing on (we’re from FL after all). We arrive at the swim start and get into the “corral” while waiting for the race to start.  Waiting until the last second to put wetsuits on and remove warm clothing, we start to wonder about the race. 

Swim Segment

Our morning clothes bags are given to race volunteers for delivery to run transition area, and we get in line for the race start.  Everyone is stomping their feet and trying to stay warm. Groups of about 100 athletes are led across the street to the swim start.  It was a very slow process considering there were nearly 3,000 athletes registered.

After about a 35 minute delay, Terri and I are finally starting our swim.  Most races we do we start in separate waves, so it was kinda cool we got to start together this time. As usual, swim start is a bit of a free-for-all.  Things settle down quickly and I get into my race pace.  This swim segment was “current-aided”, meaning we swam with the current, which made for fast splits.

I completed the 1.25 mile swim in 29 minutes (Terri completed it in 36 minutes). I exited the water and headed for the bike transition area. Along the way there were volunteers to “strip” off wetsuits, provide hot water showers, and drinking water. The were also spectators cheering for us which was very nice. I entered the bike transition, got dressed, grabbed bike and headed out to the bike mount area.

Bike Segment

The bike segment begins with some short legs and turns, then across a drawbridge. A lot of people were fretting about the drawbridges’ metal grating. Terri and I were used to it because of the drawbridges here in FL. After the drawbridge, it’s a long straight highway ride about 26 or so miles out into the countryside. I usually try to sightsee a little on the bike, but it was so remote there were hardly any homes to see.

The course was advertised as “flat”, which was mostly true as far as hills and such. There were several miles of long-slow uphill grades though.  We ride those here in FL, but windy course conditions that day made those grades painful.  The ride out had pretty stiff crosswinds, and the ride back was pretty much headwind all the way.  The course had several well-staffed aid stations with water, gatorade, food and toilets, which were spaced apart well and very helpful. 

Finishing the bike segment, I entered the run transition area, racked my bike and switched from bike shoes to running shoes to start the 13.1 mile run segment.

Run Segment – Part 1

The run segment was pretty interesting.  The beginning of the run took us along the riverfront for a little sightseeing, then back to Front Street through Wilmington. Also allegedly a “flat course”, we encounter a pretty steep hill to get up from the riverwalk to Front Street. Then run up and down some lesser hills through town.  Part of the street had cobblestones where you had to watch your foot placement.

Soon we are out of town headed for a beautiful run around a lake with lots of shade and plenty of aid stations.  All of the aid stations had fun and crazy volunteers giving out all the beverages and food you can carry.  I hit a few stations for Red Bull, ice and some bananas and pretzels. That helped a lot as the temperature was now warming up.

Run Segment – Part 2

The lake was beautiful to look at, lots of trees around it for shade, and lots of activity in the park.  Plenty of spectators to cheer us on, and the miles start clicking by without too much thought. I was, however, looking forward to getting back on the main road back into town. That meant I’d be heading to the finishing line soon!

Eventually, I find myself back in town with the streets now lined with thousands of people cheering everyone along.  A few minutes later I see the finishing chute coming up and kick up the pace for the last 300 yards. I crossed the IronMan NC 70.3 finish line in 6hrs and 29mins! That’s a new PR for me for half-IronMan distance.  I receive my medal and my finisher hat, get some chocolate milk and water and wait for Terri to finish.  While waiting, I talked to a few people and walked around to keep legs from getting tight.  Then, the anticipated rain began to fall and it was a COLD drizzle!  Soon enough, here comes Terri crossing the finish line!  I give her a huge hug and tell her how proud I am of her!

Overall Comments

I enjoyed IronMan NC 70.3, even if it was tough in some parts, and I would do it again.  The volunteers were awesome, as were the people of Wilmington.  The support of IronMan Foundation was also good, making our experience very nice.  Terri and I arrived a couple of days early, which gave us time to be tourists, too.  Now we have to figure out where we’re going next!!

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