My First Half Ironman: Raleigh 70.3

After sharing my pre-race experiences and lessons learned on the run, today I am sharing my full race report and I’m super excited! It’s been 4 days since the race and I am already ready to relive it, so here we go!

Can you tell we're barely awake?

Can you tell we’re barely awake?

Our alarms went off at 3:30am. I rolled out of bed and into my kit, snapped this selfie and headed down for breakfast. Knowing it was a long way to my 8:14am race start I packed a second snack and at 4:15am we were out the door.

We dropped off our T2 bags and ran into a fellow DC Tri Clubber and chatted for a few minutes. The shuttle ride was quiet, although we briefly chatted with the guy behind us, who is also Louisville-bound (I swear we’ve become hypersensitive to the word Louisville).

His mom was so cute! About 15 minutes into the ride she started saying “I can’t believe you are going to be biking all of this!” And didn’t stop repeating it until we got there saying “I really can’t believe it, I just can’t.” Yep, I couldn’t believe it either!

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As we arrived at T1 the sun was rising over Jordan Lake and it was quite breathtaking. We stopped at body marking, a volunteer pumped air into my tires, I filled my water bottles, set-up my nutrition and put out my cycling gear. Before we knew it, it was 7am and we were listening to the national anthem.

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My goggles make me look like a bug, but those Zoggs are definitely my favorites!

After watching the pros start, we headed down to the water and right before Pablo jumped in we ran into Lauren and, best surprise ever, our friend (who introduced us) Gilda. I can’t believe she woke up at the crack of dawn to come see us race! It was so amazing to have her there!

_DSF1243Pablo went off to start. He looked so strong and I felt an immense amount of pride to call that man my husband!

Lauren and I jumped in for our warm-up and before we knew it they were setting up wave 20 (our wave!) I ran into another DC Tri Clubber as we were entering the water and the nerves finally hit. I was about to become a half ironman!

_DSF1268I dipped my head under water to remember the limited visibility and excitedly awaited the horn. I am seriously impressed by how low I kept my heart rate and how quickly I settled into a consistent swim. It was definitely a contact sport the first ~200 meters, but I quickly moved to the inside and just focused on my strokes. I realized I was in my pool routine breathing every 3rd stroke, so I switched to 2 and fell into a rhythm.

I looked at my watch once at the 2nd turnaround hoping it would say 30 minutes. It read 30:15 and I knew I was going to make my 45-minute goal.

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I was out of the water and over the mat in 44:10. YES!

_S051286Gilda was there cheering me on and the adrenaline hit me, so I slowed down and jogged over to my bike taking a second to recompose. My T1 definitely has room for improvement with a 5:42 time.

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I started the ride with one last cheer from Gilda. The start was a long but minimal climb and I went out slow and steady. I was passed by a few people and passed a few, but it didn’t bother me, because this was MY race.

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 6.40.46 AMAt mile 5, we were over the lake and I took a moment to just take in: I was doing a half ironman!

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 6.40.27 AMInstead of looking at the miles in a negative way, I looked at it on the bright side continuously telling myself “only X miles left!” By mile 25 mile I knew I was going to make the bike cutoff with time to spare. My right foot was cramping and I recognized I hadn’t been drinking enough, so I stopped and refilled my aero bottle.

The volunteers at the aid stations were super friendly and helpful, the police officers were amazing (I think I thanked every single one of them), the crowd was out at all the right spots and I just kept thinking “I am so lucky to be here today!”

I knew our friends Nikie and Jesse would be out on the course, so I kept looking for them and found them around mile 38. I saw them for only a second, but their signs were just the boost I needed!

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We met up with our friends for dinner after the race and got to see our signs up close. Aren’t they awesome? We have the best friends!

I stopped one more time to refill my bottle, not feeling comfortable enough to refill on the move  and knowing I was hitting my goal of staying above 15mph, so I had time.

Those last 18 miles had some good rollers and I was super happy I had driven the course and visualized the hills (Thanks again Happify!)

I arrived at T2 feeling amazing, but also overwhelmed with the task at hand: 13.1 miles! I exchanged a few words with the girl across from me, who was also overwhelmed and then I wished her a great race and ran off to the sunblock volunteers.  Four and a half slow minutes later (def improving there next time),  I headed out on the run!

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 6.42.49 AMThe run was tough, but also had some great highlights!

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 6.57.57 AMI saw Pablo when he was on his last mile or so. He looked sooo good as he ran the fastest split at 6:45 min/mile (yep, that’s my man, flying through the air!)

I also saw the DC Tri Clubber, we had met in T2, a couple of times and the second time he ran out of his way to high five me and give me some encouraging words. I don’t know his name, but THANK YOU! That high five and those kind words was just what I needed!

I knew Lauren was out there too, so I kept scanning the crowd of runners and was super excited when we passed each other. She was looking great!

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The very best highlight came at the start of my second lap. The IM Raleigh people torture you a little by letting you see the finish right before you start your second lap. Lucky for me, Pablo and 6 of our friends (how lucky am I!) were standing there calling my name and yelling my mantra “You got this!” If I had had the tears to cry, I would have (I sure felt the emotions, but the tears just wouldn’t flow, not like they are flowing now as I write this!)

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I felt slow throughout the run, because I definitely did more walking than my 4:1 plan, walking almost all hills and aid stations, but kept telling myself that slow didn’t matter, I was DOING IT!

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There he is waiting for me at the finish line!

I knew when I started the run I probably wouldn’t make 7hrs, so I settled with 7:15. I really had no idea how close I actually was to 7 hours until I saw the finish clock!! [Official finish: 7:04:15].

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I tried to create some space between myself and the 2 guys ahead of me, but it felt like they were slowing down and I was so excited to finish, I couldn’t slow myself down enough!

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There’s no good picture of me crossing the finish line, but Gilda’s pictures are pretty awesome and capture all the emotions I felt at the finish!

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I know many of you have seen this awesome moment.

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And here’s another one too. I love that man so much!

That’s it! I am a half iron(wo)man! I conquered 70.3 miles and it was amazing and I totally want to do it again!

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_DSF1314Thank you Gilda for supporting us all day and getting these amazing pictures! Thank you Raleigh and surrounding towns for hosting this amazing event. Thank you law enforcement, you guys rocked. Super super thank you to all the amazing volunteers. You cheered us on, ran to get us whatever food/drink we needed and really made the event amazing. THANK YOU!!



29 comments
  1. I did Raleigh as well, my first ever triathlon, and I had a blast from start to finish. I’ve never had that much fun in a race in over 100 running races from 5k to 100k that I’ve done. I can’t wait to do it again next year and blow this year out of the water, literally. And I’m so glad I wore a costume for the run portion, every spectator and volunteer loved it! Best decision ever!

      • I was Dorothy, close, I can see how the braids and the costume could be raggedy ann as well. I had such a good time, Brian and the entire WTC team put on the best race ever. I’ll see you at Louisville and next year at Raleigh. I am deciding whether to register for IM Miami on 10/26 or buy a bib for the Marine Corps Marathon on 10/26, but in 2015 I am doing 70.3 Haines City, Raleigh, Muncie, and Augusta, and 140.6 Lake Placid and Chattanooga or Florida.

        • Oh Dorothy, duh! Totally see it now. I am doing Marine Corps! No set 2015 schedule yet, but I have heard great things about Augusta and Lake Placid and was looking forward to Chattanooga until it sold out in 10 minutes!

          • That may solidify my decision to do MCM over Ironman Miami. The bib is 200 to purchase outright, and I can fly there and maybe stay with a friend in Arlington, which would be way cheaper than driving down to Miami and staying in a hotel and taking time off. I could more than likely flex 4 hours Friday/Monday for MCM and not lose a day off at all.

          • I’m doing it through Team in Training and really looking forward to it. Haven’t done a marathon since 2006! I’m in Alexandria, so it’s also in my backyard which made the choice easy for me! 🙂

  2. Yay!! (x1000000 !’s) I love this recap, every moment of it, and I am so proud of you. I especially love your perspective of the entire thing: your ability to stay calm (Happify or not), your acceptance and acknowledgement of what needs improvement, but above and beyond, this sentence: “I was passed by a few people and passed a few, but it didn’t bother me, because this was MY race.” So often we forget that we need to run/bike/tri our own personal race–it may feel so good to “chick” someone, but at the same time, what if it comes at the expense of our overall race? It is far more important to do YOUR best at that moment. Do I wish that I had broken 4 at my first marathon? You bet. But I ran the perfect race for me, at that time, and if I hadn’t run the way I did, I likely wouldn’t have made it to the finish at all!
    Congratu-freaking-lations to you and Pablo. And as I said before, ON TO IRON(WO)MAN!!!

    • Thanks Suz! You said it best! “I ran the perfect race for me, at that time.” There is so much I could have done faster or better, but right then and there I did the best I could and most importantly I really truly did LOVE every second of that race!

  3. Congrats Gabi! It’s so awesome to read people’s race reports of their first HIM or IM. I can’t wait for the recap of Louisville – you are going to rock it! (and will probably cry as you finish, if you’re anything like me 🙂 )

    Also – where did you get your white biking shrug? It looks like the perfect thing to throw on over the DC Tri Club kit.

    • Thanks Meaghan! It was such an awesome experience. I am sure I will cry when I finish Louisville. I still can’t imagine doing double what we did Sunday!

      The shrug is by DeSoto and it’s called a skin cooler. It was pretty easy to put on after the swim and I’ll def be wearing it during the hot bike in Louisville!

  4. Love the recap! I’m still riding the high from the race! I need to find another half so I can jump back into training. Now that I have had the opportunity to meet other triathletes I’m really excited about being a part of this community. I thought runners were supportive and encouraging but triathletes are next level!
    I’m glad to see that you were happy with your race, I think those finish line photos say it all! I can’t wait to follow the rest of your journey to Louisville!

    • Thanks Lauren! The world of triathlon is so amazing. I’m so glad you are loving it and it was so good to see you! Let me know when you sign up for your next one!

  5. Congrats Dushi, So Happy for you and Pablo.
    You made me cry reading your report!!
    We are so proud of you guys, it was wonderful to see you cross the line.
    In Louisville we will be waiting at the finish line, Yeahh!!
    Mom & Dad

    • Thanks mom & dad! I am so excited to have you there with us in Louisville. It will be amazing to share that accomplishment with you! Love you.

  6. I finally had time to read this! Congratulations on a great race! I love your finishing photos, so cute.

    We met a guy at our 100 mile tri who is also doing Louisville, which is so funny since it isn’t as popular as the other Ironman 140.6 races.

  7. Gabi, Congratulations!!! What a great report. I enjoyed reading it so much. So glad that you had such a good race. Good luck in your Louisville preparation! See you both on Saturday. Christina (from the DC Tri IM Program)

  8. Pingback: Ironman 70.3 Raleigh race review | "Pablo Torres, you are [on your way to being] an Ironman"

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    • Thank you for volunteering! You were all so amazing and made my experience everything I dreamed it would be! 2 weeks! So exciting! Have an amazing time, can’t wait to hear all about it! If you can, join us on Wednesdays for Ironwoman Wednesday. This Wed we’re talking Ironman Relationships (bonds and friendships that have been formed, maybe some of the struggles with non-tri friends or spouse/kids, really anything you want related to relationships and ironman training)!

  11. Congrats on your first half!!! Loved this blog post 🙂 I just did my first half this past June (Patriot 70.3) and was considering Raleigh for next year! Definitely on my short list.

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