The Final Countdown

Holy Cow! It’s almost here. I’m BIB NO. 1084. My race booklet arrived in the mail yesterday. I know my start time is 9:00am. And the forecast for next Saturday is calling for Bright Sunshine, a high of 66 and a low of 44. The water temp at Johnnie Mercer’s pier is 71.  Hooray!

I can't believe that it's all culminating in the next seven days. I can't believe all that I've learned and loved about the entire experience. I can't believe I haven't written more about it - but I've been too busy training! I can believe that I've put in the preparation. I do believe that I will never forget these past six months. I do believe I will be ecstatic to cross that finish line!

Stay tuned for more in the next few days.


Mental Preparation

This weekend's adventure was a huge mental prep. It is the biggest weekend before the B2B and I'm thankful that I made it! Essentially, I did most of the course in three days. 

On Friday afternoon, I joined fellow B2B buddies Jen and Brian (both doing the full) and tri-club friends Renee and Theresa for a swim in Banks Channel. As we've been doing all summer, we met at Seapath Marina and parked our cars.
 I ferried Jen and Brian to the south end of Wrightsville and the start of the full course. Renee, Theresa and I headed back to the Seaside Club. The water was in the mid-seventies, the current was moving north and the wind was blowing 15knots to the south. Yikes! Our mile-point-two into the wind and across the channel was a struggle. I had two issues: one was technique related and the other (as usual) was a wardrobe malfunction. First off, I am usually a right-side breather, but tried every different breathing method to find a rhythm. We hugged the docks (which I don't recommend on race day) for the first half. When we made the left turn to cross from Blockade Runner to Motts Channel, I was swimming with the wind/waves in my face. 

This is where my wardrobe malfunction reared it's ugly head! After a few strokes, I realized my goggles were sliding across my face from my left eye to my right eye. I stopped readjusted and stroked again. Same thing happened. I switched to breathing solely on the left side....same thing. Frustrated, and swimming blind to keep up with Theresa and Renee, I wondered if I could cry and swim at the same time. Suddenly it hit me. I had used body glide on my sleeveless wetsuit! I applied it to every spot that might chafe and afterward, must have wiped my face inadvertantly! I stopped, treaded water, wiped my face with the back of my hand and the rubber seal around the eye piece and Voila! My goggles stayed put! Peace at last.

Two great things happened in the swim. Despite the wind in Banks Channel, we noticed that the current actually picked up as we swam north. I'm told this  happens quite a bit because of the curvature of the shoreline. There are pockets where the current stalls, and the next thing you know, you're whizzing up the waterway again. The other thing that happened: a wind break. As soon as we crossed into Motts Channel - the homes on Harbor Island protected our swim. The waves disappeared and so did my frustration.

On Saturday, I did my longest ride yet. We started on Hwy 421 about a half-mile from the I-140/Burney Freeway overpass and headed north.

I've done Blueberry Road about a gazillion times and so Shep, Michelle and I decided to simply head up Hwy 421 - in hopes of catching Brian and Jen (who did the full course) and for a change of scenery. We had two challenges. The first happened in the first hour! Let me start by saying that I did something that I'd already learned not to do: I filled my tire just before we left. Since flat number two in July, I've always filled my tire the night before. At the 40 minute mark, 421 merged into two lanes, the shoulder was bumpy and immediately after that I felt like the bump stayed in my back tire. We stopped in Malpass Corner to check it and stretch. Nothing in it. No bulges. No clue. We hopped back on and 50 yards later, POW! Michelle and Shep had barely clipped in! We walked back to Malpass Corner store to change the tube. The owner of the store was waiting for us. "Was that your tire?" he asked. I confirmed and he exclaimed: "I thought someone had been shot!"

Of course, our other challenge was the wind! There were gusts close to 20mph and we could feel them in our face the entire ride north. Every time we passed an open field, we braced ourselves for an invisible onslaught. For me, mentally, the wind is tougher than hills. We finally reached our third county of the day (New Hanover, Pender and Sampson, this time!) and turned around. For a mile, it felt as if the wind was against us AGAIN! How is that possible? But, when I checked my computer, I realized we were cruising 3-5 mph faster than we had been before the turn-around. The crosswinds were still there, but were behind us for the rest of the ride.

On Sunday, I was beat. My right knee and left piriformis were screaming. I got up anyway at 5:30am, determined to run 1h:45m....on a course that included the bridges, downtown Wilmington and part of Greenfield park. I met Jen and Shep at Battleship Park. We crossed the Thomas Rhodes bridge and Isabelle Holmes bridge.

We headed into downtown and onto Water Street, which was slowly coming to life for the second day of River Fest. The street was lined by craft booths, funnel cake stands, giant chicken legs and fresh squeezed lemonade. We were greeted by two large pirates that joked: Arrrrrr! Do you want us to chase you to make you run fasterrrrr?! [To which Jen retorted: I'd rather walk the plank!]. We got caught up in an 8K race and were mistaken as the last participants - even without race numbers. We even eeked out a couple of high-fives from race volunteers!

I kept pace with Jen who has planned to run the marathon by running a mile, walking a minute until she reaches the corner of Water and Market. At this point, you can look across the river and see the Battleship North Carolina. 

Battleship Park from Downtown in the Day

Battleship from Downtown at Night

At this point we decided to run the three miles back. We're doing heart-rate training, so I use the term run very loosely. I think we averaged a 10m30s mile and we only walked twice - up Red Cross Street - and then up the Thomas Rhodes/Battleship bridge. As we crossed that last bridge Jen encouraged me to take it all in on the day of the race. To look over the river and at that boat and take it all in. Remember that you have never done anything like this before. As we descended the bridge and turned into the park, she wondered if she could hire Bono to sing Scarlet [her bike's namesake] and I wondered if he could be there to sing Magnificent for me. 

I got chills as I finished my 10.5 miles and we ran down the road leading to the finishing chute. We practiced the hard left into the chute and imagined the announcer calling our names and crossing the line. 

Sunday Morning Pre-Run Inspiration
In only a few short weeks, the practice will be over and the game will be won! Rejoice!