The Long Haul 100 Ultramarathon Experience

The Long Haul 100 Ultramarathon Experience

(Edited by Brad Minus)

The Decision

My 3 years of running experience started with multiple injuries including a couple of ankle fractures. However, I still managed to complete a marathon, a 50K and a 50-miler. Even with my injuries I completed these races successfully which is why continuing to increase my distance was so intriguing.

The Long-Haul 100 Ultra-Marathon race near Land O’ Lakes, Florida, was a great find as it was close to where I reside. Since the date of the race was over six months away, training time was in abundance.


I contacted my coach, Brad Minus, and with his careful planning, I would build my mileage up to over 75 miles a week.  While my aerobic runs were the bulk of the training, Coach Brad included treadmill hill runs along with some strength training.  

While I did end up with a minor knee injury, that I thought had put me behind schedule, I still ended up successfully running a ton of back-to-back long runs to simulate running on tired legs.  I truly felt stronger than ever.


Already completing a 50-miler, I knew that the first half of the race was not going to be an issue.  There was no waiver to my confidence when I considered 75-miles either, but the last 25 miles was concerning.  Coach Brad did what he could to boost my confidence, but it continued to weigh on me.

Another issue I had, was nutrition.  Born in Japan, I grew up on Japanese food and still prefer it, but having it available at the race aid stations was probably not going to be a reality.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to sufficiently fuel my body for 100 miles.

Sleep was also a concern.  As a Neurodiagnostic Technician at Tampa General Hospital, I work first shift, so I had to complete my training runs super early in the morning, therefore my normal bedtime was 9 pm.  Would I be able to stay awake? I wasn’t sure.

Race Day

On January 19, 2019, I was standing at the start line healthy and anxious to start.  I was not sure how fast I could complete the 100-miles, but I was confident I would finish under the 32-hour cutoff time.

Earlier, Coach Brad and I discussed what I would need in my drop bags.  I prepared one with 4 changes of clothes, plenty of extra socks and 3 pairs of shoes.  The other was full of food that I really enjoyed. (Coach Brad was adamant about this.)

My running attire would also include a hydration vest filled with Cliff Blocks, rice crackers, water, and electrolytes.  The food drop bag would allow me to refill it at the end of each 12.5-mile loop.

With the sun peeking over the trees, the race started.  The temperature was a crisp 60°F (15.5°C) with a slight breeze and even at 7 am it was light enough that I didn’t need my headlamp.  It was sure to be used quite a bit later in the race.

Loop #1 (Miles 0 – 13.5)

With plenty of company on the course, I tried to maintain a “forever pace” that I was comfortable with.  The weather was beautiful, and I was feeling great. What more could a girl ask for?

Feeling strong. I tried to eat/hydrate as much as I could, every 3 miles.

At the end of the loop, I saw my coach set up a special spot in the hub just for me!! That was a great surprise! I was able to stretch my legs and felt like I received the royal treatment. When the time came to get going on the next loop, I was feeling brand new again. This was thanks to following the implicit instructions by Coach Brad to change my shoes and socks every loop.

The Long Haul 100 Ultramarathon Experience with Keiko Schwamlein

Loop #2 (Miles 13.5 – 25)

Maintaining my “forever pace”, I continued to feel strong despite a slight tinge of soreness in my legs.  Of course, the temperature did start to rise, so I made sure to hydrate a little more, but still continuing my strategy of drinking every 3 miles.  Finding fuel at the aid stations was not a problem as the plethora of food was covering the tables, but only the PB&J was calling to me.

Loop #3 (Miles 26 – 38.5)

The leg soreness increased, and I started to cramp, so I added some electrolyte pills to my arsenal of fuel.  It seemed to do the trick as my cramps disappeared, however, new pain in my groin area started to plague me. I was still able to run, but to make sure I didn’t aggravate it more I included some walk breaks.

Later in the loop, I started to feel a little sick to my stomach which deterred my 3-mile nutrition plan.  Part of the reason was I was failing to track my miles.

At the next aid station, I grabbed a banana thinking it would be easy to consume.  After eating a quarter of it and as I continued on the quest, I just stared at it, not wanting to eat anymore, but knowing I needed the fuel I struggled but eventually finished it.

Loop #4 (Miles 38.5 – 50)

I wanted to run.  I wanted to feel my legs churn underneath me with the wind in my face and my hair blowing behind me.  Unfortunately, my left groin was hurting so bad. I just kept walking, praying it would go away. It did not.

I was still able to do some power walking with mild pain, so that is what I did. It was during this loop that the thought of a DNF crossed my mind.

Could I walk 50 miles and still make the cut-off?

I just kept walking until I saw the hub 7 miles later. I rested, stretched, then started walking again.

The mantra “pain is all in your head”, or something like that, repeated in my mind. I embraced it.  I started running while continuing to ask myself “What pain?” and then I didn’t feel it.

Oh, but I was feeling it, but I kept shaking it off and continued onward.  Soon after, I started feeling like myself again. Strong. So, like Forrest Gump, I just kept running.

Upon finishing that loop, I arrived back at the hub, and while resting I ate my precious rice ball. I was officially sick of PB and J. I didn’t want to even think about peanut butter. My rice ball was my savior.

Loop #5 (Miles 51-63.5)

At 6:30 pm I started loop five. I believe it was about halfway when darkness shrouded the trail and I donned my headlamp.  

The pain in my groin continued, but it had diminished enough for me to continue.  Strength enabled me to run more than walk as my stomach was also feeling better. When I returned to my hub spot, I was still very confident I could finish.

Loop #6 (Miles 63.5 – 75)

Upon the beginning of the loop, the groin pain was more intense. I was hoping I could shake it off, telling myself it was not hurting. And I did. I was able to keep going.

Prior to this time, the moon had helped to shed some light on the trail, but now it was really dark. To make matters worse it started raining. Not very hard at first, but then there were long periods of downpours. Portions of the trail were muddy which didn’t allow me to run.

I continued still feeling rather strong, despite the groin pain. My stomach felt better, but I was concerned I was not eating enough. The food provided didn’t appeal to me at all.

My pace and rhythm maintained toward the very end of the loop until the groin pain returned with even more intensity.  Slowing to a walk, I crossed back into the hub, grabbed a cup of noodle soup, and hot chocolate. The hot chocolate felt good going down, but the noodles, not so much.

Loop #7 (Miles 76 – 88.5)

The pain was strong as I started the loop. Running was extremely painful, so I began walking, hoping I could shake this off again. This time, it wouldn’t let me.  As I walked, I remember, thinking to myself, even if I walked the rest of the course, the cut-off time was not out of reach. So, I kept walking.

Unfortunately, the pain only got stronger and stronger and even walking became a struggle. My pace perpetually got slower, and I found myself stopping more often.

The rain continued and deteriorated the condition of the trail.  It was awful.

At one point I slid.  While trying to keep my body up, a shock of pain began shooting from my groin through to my thigh.

A lot of the other participants passed me, asking if I was ok. Out of sheer pride, I said “Yes”, but truthfully, I was not.

I remember looking down, staring at the ground with my headlamp light, just inching my way forward. I could no longer even lift my legs without severe pain.  

The combination of the rain and standing water made the grass slippery and the mud thick. As I did everything possible to continue, I would slide on the grass and a piercing scream would follow.  I realized that it was me who was screaming. Not only because I was in pain but because it was dark, I was alone, and I felt defeated.

This was the moment forcing me to face my biggest fear.  It took everything for me to admit even though I trained so hard I would not finish.

Mile 83

It was around 6 am when I arrived back at the hub.  Apparently, it took me about 4 hours to cover (barely) 7 miles. Walking the rest of the miles was no longer an option. I was done.

Immediately upon sitting down at my site, a surge of dizziness and nausea began to overcome me. The world started to darken. Realizing I was starting to pass out, I quickly inhaled some sweet tasting gummy bears. Feeling the sugar enter my system, was like someone turning up the brightness on my life and the ugliness started leaving me.

I felt so bad for the coach, being my only support during the race, I did not know how to tell him I would not finish. However, he understood me 100%. I have never given up easily and he knew I left everything I had on the course.

As much as I thought admitting it to my coach would be difficult, it was much harder to admit it to myself.

My Lessons Learned

I did not finish the race, but I still learned a lot both from the training and the race itself.  It was a great experience. All the runners were amazing and the volunteers at the aid stations were so kind and helpful. My coach supported me 100%. I feel lucky just to be able to run the race.

For the future, I have some ideas that I need to work on.

  • A stronger core will help me maintain form and possibly prevent me from having another injury.
  • Gaining more experience on trails and other uneven surfaces will provide more neural pathways to allow my body to maneuver through unchartered territories.
  • Working on a solid nutrition and fueling plan. I could probably get away with how I fueling for a 100k similar to the Long Haul 100, but not any longer than that. I’ll have to plan better and bring more of a variety of food. My new motto will be “Eat early, eat often.”
  • Learn to run slower. A lot slower than I am comfortable with or find and stick to a run/walk strategy. I might have started a little too fast.  At the time it didn’t seem like it but running slower, in the beginning, may have helped in the later miles.

This was my first DNF (Did Not Finish) ever. However, this whole experience was priceless. I may have needed this failure in order to assure me future success.

Were you ever unable to finish a race? Or unable to finish it the way you wanted?

Tell us about it in the comments.

IFES 007 – Finding your “Why” with Heather Foster

IFES 007 – Finding your “Why” with Heather Foster

In this episode:

I interview one of my long standing clients “Princess” Heather Foster.  She is an amazing person who participates in endurance events for other reasons besides fitness and personal glory.  It just might help you find another reason to reach your potential.

Our conversation covers –

  • Heather’s start in Endurance Sports
  • Her first events
  • Finder her “Why”
  • Her experience with  first marathon
  • Taking on other challenges
  • Her experience with her first 50-miler
  • Starting the Ketogenic Eating Plan
  • Coaching
  • Her favorite tools
  • Heather’s  Shout outs
  • Heather’s LLS Fundraiser Cupid for a Cure

Heather is an extremely inspiring person not only as she continues to push the limits of her endurance 

Subscribe to the Inner Fire Endurance Podcast:

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Google Play Music Listen on Stitcher Listen on Spotify Listen on Tunein

  Question of the Week:

Why do you participate in Endurance Sports?


Explore these Resources:

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

Outspokin Bicycles Team in Training Leukemia Lymphoma Society Altra Running Cupid for a Cure
IFES 006 – Elite After 40 with Jon Noland

IFES 006 – Elite After 40 with Jon Noland


 In this episode:

As luck would have it, I had the opportunity to interview my coach, Jon Noland. (Yes, coaches have coaches.  Confucius says “Those who coach themselves, have a fool for a coach.”)

This episode gives a different view of training and racing as Jon has been an elite athlete for a long time.  He talks about the differences between how he trained and raced pre & post entering into the Masters and 40-44 Age Group.  He also enlightens on some methodical ideas on training and racing as well.

Our conversation covers –

  • Jon’s start in road racing and triathlon
  • Early training and racing
  • Injuries
  • Getting older
  • Training and racing after 40
  • The physical and mental obstacles to endurance sports
  • Advice to those just starting in Endurance Sports
  • His favorite tools
  • Ways to follow and contact Jon

 I hope you are all as honored as I was to hear about his journey to the elite corrals and what it took to get him there and his ways to stay there.  I learned a lot more about my coach during this interview and I know it will bring some value to your journey as well.


Jon Noland IFES 006
                                       Jon the Dad


Follow Jon:





 Subscribe to the Inner Fire Endurance Podcast:


Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Google Play Music Listen on Stitcher Listen on Spotify Listen on Tunein

 Follow Coach Brad




Join the Conversation

 Question of the Week:

 What is your definition of fun, when it comes to your sport?


Explore these Resources




In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:


Tribal MultisportOutspokin BicyclesInner Fire Endurance SportsTales of PowerTampa Sports Academny


IFES 005 – The Ironman Ohio 70.3 Experience

IFES 005 – The Ironman Ohio 70.3 Experience

Episode: 00​5
Title: ​The Ironman Ohio 70.3 Experience
Final Show Link:

In this episode:

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the Ironman Ohio 70.3 triathlon.  My idea was to give you audio as it was happening, but when listening to the audio I was not happy with it.

Instead I talked through the race from checking into Ironman Village to crossing the finish line.  My objectives were to give a product review of the race for the experienced triathletes and give some sense of what it is like to take part in a 70.3 for anyone that is thinking about signing up for one.

This episode covers –

  • Checking in at the Ironman Village
  • Ironman Merchandise
  • The Mandatory Meeting
  • Equipment Check & Shakeout
  • Equipment Check-in
  • The Morning of
  • Swimming the Delaware Lake
  • Cycling in Delaware and Columbus
  • The Run Course
  • Finishing

I hope that this gives a nice overview of what it is like to experience the race.  Please use the comment section below to ask any questions or provide feedback.

Ironman Ohio 70.3Ironman Ohio 70.3Ironman Ohio 70.3

​Subscribe to the Inner Fire Endurance Podcast:

Follow our Podcast

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Google Play Music Listen on Stitcher Listen on Spotify Listen on Tunein

Follow Coach Brad



Question of the Week:

Are you interested in participating in a Triathlon?  If you already do, what keeps you in the sport?

Explore these Resources


In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

NikeOutspokin BicyclesIronman Ohio

IFES 004 – 5 Tips for Summer Training

IFES 004 – 5 Tips for Summer Training

In this episode: 

Coach Brad goes over the impacts of training in the heat and ways to help.

Coach Brad covers –

  • Why it is hard to train in the heat
  • Physiological Factors
  • Mental Factors
  • Suffering
  • 5 Ways to Help with training in the heat
  • Hydrate Continuously
  • Slurpy Prior
  • Ice Ice Baby
  • Electrolyte Drinks
  • Train Early


Subscribe to the Inner Fire Endurance Podcast:

Follow our Podcast

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Google Play Music Listen on Stitcher Listen on Spotify Listen on Tunein

  Question of the Week:

How do you survive training in the summer?



In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

Outspokin Bicycles

IFES 003 – It’s Never too Late with Lynn Cooke

IFES 003 – It’s Never too Late with Lynn Cooke

In this episode: 

I had the honor and privilege to interview the Masters Track 1-mile Age Group American Record Holder, SusanLynn” Cooke*. (*In the racing world she goes by her legal first name, Susan, but to the rest of us she will always be Lynn.)

Our conversation covers : 

  • Getting kicked off the track team early in her life
  • Her professional life
  • How she started running and why
  • Her experience with her first half-marathon
  • Stepping onto the track the first time
  • Racing and injuries
  • A day in her life
  • The details on her record breaking performance
  • Her favorite tools
  • Lynn’s Shout outs

She is extremely inspiring especially for anyone who thought it was too late to start running or any endurance journey.

(Note: I recorded this with a high end digital recorder.  Unfortunately, it was so good it captured every reverberation from the office we used for the interview.  I tried to correct it in post-production, but it is still not perfect.  My apologies.)



Subscribe to the Inner Fire Endurance Podcast:

Follow our Podcast

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Google Play Music Listen on Stitcher Listen on Spotify Listen on Tunein

  Question of the Week:

What is your definition of fun, when it comes to your sport?



In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

Tribal Multisport Outspokin Bicycles
Tampa Sports Academny New Balance Tampa

IFES 002 – 7 Rules for Cycling Safety & Coros Helmet Review

IFES 002 – 7 Rules for Cycling Safety & Coros Helmet Review

In this episode:

  • 7 Rules for Bike Safety

    • 1 – Ride on the CORRECT Side 
    • 2 – NO Noah’s Ark Formation
    • 3 – Helmets Please
    • 4 – Passing (“On your left!”)
    • 5 – Nighttime riding is very illuminating
    • 6 – Communicate with your group
    • 7 – Chain to maintain your bike so you don’t Tire
  • The Coros Omni Smart Helmet

Subscribe to the Inner Fire Endurance Podcast:

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Google Play Music Listen on Stitcher Listen on Spotify Listen on Tunein

  Question of the Week:

What safety advice do you have for cycling?


Explore these Resources:

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

Outspokin Bicycles Coros
IFES 001- How to Start a Fitness Journey / An Origin Story

IFES 001- How to Start a Fitness Journey / An Origin Story

In this episode:

  • Starting a Fitness Regimen (or Journey)
  • Inner Fire’s (or Coach Brad’s) Origin Story
  • The Pleasure-Pain Principle
  • How it relates to starting and continuing a fitness regimen

Subscribe to the Inner Fire Endurance Podcast: 

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Google Play Music Listen on Stitcher Listen on Spotify Listen on Tunein


 Question of the Week:

 If you work out regularly, how did you start and what keeps you going? 


Explore these Resources: 

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:


Outspokin Bicycles


IFES 000 – Welcome to the Inner Fire Endurance Podcast

IFES 000 – Welcome to the Inner Fire Endurance Podcast

In this episode:

  • This episode is the introduction to the podcast.  It is the introduction to the host, Coach Brad Minus, and gives a quick description of what to expect in the coming episodes.

    There will be three types of episodes:

    1. Info based episodes which are Coach Brad chatting about a topic pertaining to endurance sports, training, nutrition, etc.
    2. Interviews with other athletes (age grouper, elite or pro), coaches, clients, or experts.
    3. Product Reviews of items specifically tested by Coach Brad (He does not receive monetary compensation for these reviews.

Subscribe to the Inner Fire Endurance Podcast:

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Google Play Music Listen on Stitcher Listen on Spotify Listen on Tunein


 Question of the Week:

Are there any specific topics, products or people you would like to hear about in upcoming episodes?


Explore these Resources:

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:


Outspokin Bicycles


Ironman North Carolina 70.3: Race Recap

Ironman North Carolina 70.3: Race Recap

The Ironman North Carolina 70.3 triathlon was initially scheduled as my test race for Ironman Arizona the following month.  Unfortunately, my last two triathlon seasons have been plagued with obstacles that have taken just a little longer to overcome than expected.  Instead, it became my triathlon season closer.

Last year was a year of injuries, after being injury free for 8 years.  This year I encountered an unknown virus that literally deleted my endurance for about 4 months.  I trained hard, but I just wasn’t able to accomplish the long sessions needed to compete in a full Ironman distance triathlon.

Luckily, the virus vacated just in time to allow that training to manifest for the Ironman North Carolina 70.3.  How about I tell you about it?

Arriving in Wilmington for Ironman North Carolina 70.3

After a long, 10-hour drive, it was a treat to enter our rental home and find it had exceeded our expectations.  It was an older home but well updated and extremely spacious.  It comfortably fit the athletes, Jamie, Maria, Stephanie and myself, plus Maria’s husband Daniel and Chris our super-sherpa.

Ironman North Carolina 70.3

The next surprise came as we walked to the Ironman North Carolina 70.3 expo and found the finish line was only three blocks away and it bordered a street that literally led right to our front door.  Yeah, baby!!

The Ironman North Carolina 70.3 expo felt even more sparse than the other 70.3 expositions I have participated in.  It might have been because we walked in about 40 minutes prior to closing.  This was something I was adamant about during the planning stage of the trip.  I insisted that we try to arrive early enough to check-in on Thursday, so we would not be forced to wait in lines for either check-in or the Ironman merchandise store.

That night was filled with good conversation, Mellow-Mushroom Pizza and a couple of adult beverages.  Nothing that would hinder our race, but enough to ensure a good night’s sleep.

Ironman North Carolina 70.3

Wilmington or Bust
(L to R) Brad, Chris, Maria, Daniel, Jamie, Stephanie

Often enough, I insist and even put on my client’s training plans, that two nights prior to the race the objective is a good night’s sleep with no alarms the following morning.  The intention is for the body to wake-up on its own signaling good recovery.

The night before a race, sleep is still crucial, but the reality is anxiety usually precludes, not allowing the greatest of sleep cycles.


The next morning, I was able to sleep in and awoke around 6:30 am. To my demise, there was no coffee in the house.  As I was preparing a cup of tea, Stephanie awoke and coaxed me to the Brooklyn Cafe which was literally next door.

As we opened the door to the smell of fresh baked goods and coffee overwhelmed our senses.  An older couple was behind the counter, we later found out were the owners of this 2-month-old establishment.  Even with the newness of the cafe, they knew what they were doing.  We had two orders of fresh, made to order beignets and coffee which, to my surprise, rivaled Cafe DuMont in New Orleans.

We watched one of the owners roll the dough, cut and drop the beignets into the fryer.  He then served that fried deliciousness covered in powdered sugar.  They were pure heaven. The coffee was fresh ground, organic, free trade and was rich and flavorful.  It was so delicious, we bought a half-pound for the house.

The plan for the day was to head over to the swim start and jump in the water for 15 minutes or so.  Following the swim, we would ride around the area to make sure our bikes were in working order and drive some blood to our legs.  Finally, we would head back to the house where we would run for a couple of miles to get our heart rates up for a short time and test the legs.

It happened pretty much as planned.  We were fortunate that a bunch of member’s of Stephanie’s coaching group, TriMarni, rented a house near the swim start, so we had a headquarters to park and store some gear.  They had invited us to hang out there before the race the next day which we took advantage of.

Pre-race swim

We were not allowed on the actual swim course so we decided to swim in the ocean.  Upon entering the water I became excited as the density of the salt content, plus my wetsuit made my swim position and balance almost effortless.

800 meters later after returning to the house, we piloted our bikes refreshed.  We spun around the area for about 20 minutes just to get the kinks out before heading back to run.


Ironman North Carolina 70.3

Pre-race Bike
(L to R) Jamie, Stephanie, Maria, Brad

Maria and I ended up being the only ones to run.  She pushed the pace a bit faster than I wanted but I felt like I could take on the world.

Upon finishing the run I told myself that if I felt like I did at that moment, the following day was going to be epic.


After completing showers, packing and labeling our gear with the required stickers, we were on our way to T-1 to drop our bikes.

The transition from swim-to-bike was about 6 miles from the house, and as it was later in the day, traffic was dense.  What should have been a 10-minute ride, turned into almost an hour before we turned in the school parking lot next to transition.

Ironman North Carolina 70.3

Transition 1 (T-1) Swim to Bike

Usually, bike drop for a 70.3 is just that, dropping your bike and leaving.  The next morning would entail setting up your area to optimize time in transition.  Ironman North Carolina 70.3 is a little different.  Plastic bags are used to hold bike gear and placed on the bike.  The only thing that can be done in the morning is the placement of nutrition.  The gear was to stay in the bag until after the swim was completed.

This procedure emulates more a full Ironman than a 70.3, but I understood why.  We were instructed to not leave anything on the ground for fear of ants.   That made sense.  The others decided to just keep their bike bags and bring them in the morning.  I left my helmet and shoes in my bag, tied to my bike so I only had to install my nutrition in the morning.

The trip back downtown was not nearly as long, so Chris dropped us off and we walked to T-2 to drop our run bag.

Ironman North Carolina 70.3

Transition 2 (T-2) Bike to Run

It was a little disconcerting that the dismount line was a quarter-mile away from the bike-to-run transition. We were going to have to run on a narrow, rubberized carpet over a rocky trail.  We already saw, the quarter-mile run we need to take from swim exit to T-1.  Obviously, we would have to plan on both transition times being longer than usual. Just another fun part of the sport.

I had several conversations with other athletes during the weekend about how most races had their own equalizers to level the field.  Ironman Augusta 70.3 has a downstream swim, but the bike is hilly which for a lot of age groupers would be a detriment.  Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 also has a downstream swim but has a very hilly run.  This race, Ironman North Carolina 70.3, would have a current assisted swim but longer distances within transitions.

That night, I separated from my housemates to attend the Tribal Multisport dinner. An Uncle of one of our athletes, Michael, owned the South Beach Grill close to the T-1.  The food was excellent and the company was better.   The evening went incredibly smooth and faster than most group dinners I have attended.  I think it was just shy of 90 minutes from the time we sat down to the click of the group photos being taken.

Ironman North Carolina 70.3

Tribal Group Dinner

South Beach Grill is another restaurant in the Wilmington area I would highly recommend.

I arrived back at the house, double checked that my race kit, nutrition, race chip, swim cap, and goggles were ready to go, the coffee was ready to be brewed, and breakfast was prepared for the next morning.  Two episodes of “Gotham” later, I fell into a fitful sleep.

Ironman North Carolina 70.3 Race Day

Exuberance filled me as I awoke on race day.  Other race mornings I remember awaking anxious, or nervous, but today I was a little more calm than usual.   I felt an extra confidence that I hadn’t felt in a while.  My thoughts initially went to coffee and breakfast, but after fulfilling that objective, they migrated to visualizing the race.

We arrived at T-1 at about 5:30 am and proceeded to set up our transition stations.  Normally this would mean setting up towels, bike shoes and helmets, but we were told that would not be the protocol here.  Basically, the only thing allowed was placing nutrition on our bike and bike shoes attached to the pedals if desired.  Other than that everything else had to remain in the bag.

I placed my bottles in their cages, and hung my bag from the aero bars, checked my tires, installed my computer and validated that my bike was in the desired gear.

As I headed towards the exit to meet my housemates, I was excited to socialize with a couple of Moxie, Tribal, and Outspokin teammates.  The social aspect of the triathlon community is one of the things I love about this sport.  Yes, there is competition, but most of us are truly just racing against ourselves.  We are just trying to be better than we were before.

We passed through the waiting area at the swim start, that my friend Beth Shaw, who writes Discombulated Running, deemed the “Triathlete Refugee Camp”.  I could see where she was coming from.  Since the first wave didn’t start until 7:20 and it was only 6 am, most of the athletes were lying around or sitting on the asphalt chatting.

My party headed to the TriMarni house which was a beautiful beach house.  It was three stories, with ceramic tile throughout, beautiful countertops, and the best part, multiple bathrooms.  Having a full-fledged bathroom to do your duty, prior to a race, is a special treat rather than a potentially disgusting portlet.

Upon entering the house, the tension of race day filled the air.  Everyone was milling around drinking either their own pre-race formula or coffee, nervously chatting, anticipating the upcoming moment to head back to the refugee camp.

Around 7:00 we stepped onto the asphalt, gave each other hugs, said our “good lucks” and proceded with our own pre-race routines.

I donned my wetsuit, dropped my sweatshirt, and flipflops in my morning bag, and placed it in a much larger bag marked with a range of bib numbers that included mine.

Noticing all the other white swim caps lined up. I joined them and proceeded to move and stretch nervously.

The waves moved together toward a crosswalk.  A few minutes prior to the specified wave time, a crossing guard chauffeured us to the other side of the street.  On the other side, we cautiously entered the water, via a slippery boat ramp and anxiously awaited the start horn.  The announcer counted us down from 10, and we were off.

The Swim

The temperature of the water was 71 degrees Fahrenheit, but the air temp was in the upper 50s actually making me warmer.  I allowed water to fill my wetsuit and compress to my body and waded close to the start.  The horn blew and we were off.

The plan for my race included taking the swim at a steady, aerobic pace.  The swim event at Ironman North  Carolina 70.3, has a strong current, assisting the athletes.  As I have stated, many times, I am not a fast swimmer so I will take any help I can get.

Swimming towards the buoys I could feel current, but as I gathered my line I didn’t notice it as much.  My stroke felt the same as in the pool, and I was cognizant of my effort level, ensuring I didn’t overdo it.

It took a good 300 meters, but I finally found a comfortable rhythm.  My nerves settled and my mind calmed into race mode.  That, was until I ended up in a swarm of swimmers all vying for clean water.

Surprisingly as I was sighting I noticed the dark green caps of the previous wave.  WHAT???  I had been focussing diligently on my swim, but I was usually enveloped by the wave behind me.  I never caught anyone in the wave prior before.  Holy crap! It was an amazing feeling.

Ironman North Carolina 70.3

Out of the swim. I look pretty dope in my wetsuit right?

Just as I was getting over my shock, I sighted on the next buoy and noticed it was moving.  Yeah, it was being pushed out wider by a volunteer in a kayak.  I literally yelled, “what the hell?”  Finally, swimming around it, I found clear water and my relaxed rhythm again.

I always tend to hug the buoys during a race. For me, it makes sighting easier and keeps me swimming pretty straight.  However, I noticed most of the athletes found a line about 10 meters to my right.  After climbing the ladder out of the river on my way to T-1, my eyes darted over and I noticed, the current was stronger more to the right of the buoys.  I missed a major advantage, but it didn’t bother me too much as I still PR’d the swim.

Glancing at my watch after clearing the ladder it read 31 minutes and change, however, I did not know where the timing mat was, so my official time was slightly slower.

Swim Time: 33:45 (1:44 per 100m)


Wetsuit strippers were set up just a few yards from the exit of the swim, which made it easier to run the quarter mile to transition.  I emptied the contents of my bag on the ground, and refilled it with my wetsuit, cap, and goggles, and donned my helmet and shoes.

During my setup, I was in a quandary about wearing socks on the bike as I had worn them most of the time during training, but that morning, I decided I really wanted dry socks for the run without exchanging socks in T-2.  Therefore, since I did have experience racing sockless, I slipped my feet into my shoes, grabbed my bike and rolled out of transition.

From exiting the water to the mount line felt like forever and it showed in my time.

T-1 Time: 6:28

The Bike

Usually, the plan for my 70.3 distance races included holding a steady power of 185-195 watts.  However, during the last two races, my run had suffered. This time I modified the plan to start at a steady 175 watts. I would then progressively increase my output to 185-190 watts, in the second half of the bike, depending on how I felt.

My nutrition was simply a quarter of a bottle of Infinit, every 15 minutes and a Chia Humma gel or half Bonk Breaker every 45 minutes. This would fortify my body with 900 calories by the end of the bike.  The swim would have been fueled by breakfast and a pre-workout Cliff Bar, so 450 calories would sustain me for the bike while another 450 would help to get my run started.

The first couple of miles of the course is around a residential area, so it was tough to keep my speed up, especially since I had some novice riders around me, but by the beginning of the third mile, it was on.

The first half of the bike was reasonably flat and fast.  I surprisingly found myself passing a lot of riders even at a low 175 watts.  Speed is not a data point visible on the display of my Garmin Edge 520 bike computer.  However, I do have a 5-mile auto-lap which briefly displays the lap time.

Ironman North Carolina 70.3

Looking like Judge Dredd on the bike

With the exception of the first five miles, the display consistently read under 15:00 minutes every lap.  Most of them were under 14 minutes.  Obviously, 20 mph equates to 3 minutes per mile. Therefore every lap that read under 15 minutes meant I was faster than my previous race.

It was tough to maintain my planned 175 watts knowing I had more in the tank and I could easily increase my speed.  Deviating from my plan never worked out well in the past, so I hunkered down and stayed the course.

Mile 30 came and went in a flash.  I did increase my wattage a little on a couple of short hills, but other than that I was pretty consistent.  That was until I ended up trapped in a peloton.

It was maddening.  I would slow down to allow the mandatory 6 bike lengths, and it felt like the whole group would slow.  Surging forward I would create a good distance between myself and the rest of the athletes, hold my watts, but they would envelop me again.

The question became how could I get out of this mess without, one, increasing my wattage to a point it would detriment my run, or, two, getting a penalty for blocking or drafting?

At mile 45, I was so angry that, involuntarily, the words, “Screw this” came out of my mouth.  I surged forward to a point where that group was no longer even visible behind me.  That empowerment gave me so much confidence I maintained 190 watts to the mile 57 dismount line. Yes. The course was a mile long which was congruent with a lot of other athletes.

Bike Time: 2:37:18 (21.9 mph average)


After dismounting, I ran with my bike to the rubber carpet to enter the transition area as fast as possible.  However, the one-lane chute was crowded. The polite athletes, like myself, shouted “on your left” sacrificing our feet on the jutting rocks.  There is some recollection of other expressions in “MA” category, filtering through the air from others that were just as frustrated.

Entering under the arch into transition I could see my bag hanging from the rack.  Using a regular shoestring knot made it easy to drop the bag and spill the contents. I sat on the ground, rolled on my socks, put on my shoes, grabbed my sunglasses, hat, and race belt and ran the other 200 meters to the run-out arch.

T-2 Time: 4:16

The Run

The last couple of 70.3 races entailed some pretty slow and miserable runs.  That is if you can call them runs.  They should have been more characterized as fast walks with a couple of miles of slow jogs thrown in. Ironman North Carolina 70.3 was going to be different and I didn’t care how much it hurt.  I was going to run consistently the full half-marathon, but I would run it smart.

The plan was to start a little slower for the first 3 miles. I would then either negative split or just remain consistent for the remainder.  Brief recovery was included in the plan by briskly walking only through the aid stations.

Ironman North Carolina 70.3

My signature run pic

Since my plan started somewhat slow I prepared for the onslaught of athletes passing me at first.  I learned a lesson early in my triathlon experience. Starting with a faster pace was a sure fire way for the run to be a sufferfest.

The first mile felt slow but easy.  There were no issues breathing and besides a tightness in my quads, which was normal, I felt really good.  A sure fire sign that I should have a good run.

At mile 2, our Super Sherpa, Chris, snapped some pics of me as he pedaled around on his mountain bike.  I asked about the others and he assured me that everyone looked great.  That news put a little spring in my step.

The Ironman North Carolina 70.3 run course is out-and-back course.  I could see the runners on my left running in the opposite direction.  Obviously, during the first half, I would see them running to the finish line. Then running toward the turn-a-round during the second.

Prior to mile 5, familiar colors and prance came into view.  Nick Zivolich, screamed opposite me, in his Best Damn Race tri kit.  We high fived yelling some motivation to each other.  I was not surprised he was ahead of me, but somewhat frustrated realizing he started 15 minutes behind me.  Not to mention he was almost an hour ahead of me.  I cleared that out of my head quick.  This was my race and I was going to complete my plan to the finish.

Around mile 6, Maria sped by, followed by Stephanie a mile later.  They both started 20 minutes ahead of me so I didn’t mind that at all.  To pass the time, I figured out how far ahead they were and what it would take to catch them.  I did end up figuring it out and if I were Meb Keflezighi or Patrick Lange it would be possible, but unfortunately not me.  Well, not yet.

My watch consistently ticked off 9:20-minute miles which were expected since the plan included walking through the aid stations.  It did mean my actual running pace was under a 9-minute mile.  Coming off a strong bike that excited me.

Miles 6 and 7 included a run through a small park prior to the turnaround.  A single track, paved trail started a small section where the turnaround and timing mat was located.  Entering this section is where I crossed with Jamie.  She looked like she may be struggling a little, but strong enough to finish without too many complications.

The idea of catching her ran through my head.  I would start testing a faster pace to determine if that would be possible.

As I was exiting the single track, Michael, one of my Tribal teammates, entered.  Now Michael is fast.  A 7 minute-mile runner for sure.  Now I had two challenges, catch Jamie and keep Michael from passing me.  If anything, the last 6 miles would be fun.

Mile 8 came and went.  Passing mile 11, the familiar Tribal cap with an audible, pat-on-the-back whizzed by.  It was Michael.  Truth-be-told, at the time I was feeling pretty proud holding him off that long.

Mile 12 included a somewhat steep ascent back into downtown Wilmington.  Glancing at my watch and saw my run time was 1:54.  My hopes were for a sub-two hour run.  Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in the cards this day, but I would come close.

My traditional burst of speed came entering the Ironman North Carolina 70.3 finish chute.  I leaped for a Moxie Dunk at the finish line as exhaustion washed over me.  The knowledge that the time clock indicated a PR felt positively overwhelming.   I accomplished what I came to do.  I followed my plan and succeeded.

Ironman North Carolina 70.3


Run Time: 2:04:29 

Total Time: 5:26:16 (PR)


The 2017 Ironman North Carolina 70.3 event distances did not have to be modified. That being said, I could officially consider this my PR by over 10 minutes.  Earlier in the year, I completed Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 in 5:25,  However, the swim was cut short by 800 meters, so I refused to count it.

The finish area displayed jubilantly tired athletes, vendors, and food tents.  With a smile and skip in my step I found Tribal teammates, Joey, Michael, and Brian K.  Everyone seemed as excited about their performances as I did.  Joey and Nick both received 3rd place in their age group. Nick’s triumph grabbed him a spot to the 2018 World Championships in South Africa.  Michael, Brian K. Stephanie and I all PR’d, so it was a great day for all of us.

Ironman North Carolina 70.3

Nick and Joey show off their 3rd place plaques

I am so proud of my friends, and teammates for what they accomplished.  It is such an honor to be among them.

Both my bike and morning bag were waiting for me at the bag check area and the volunteers were extremely efficient to procure them for me.  A quick walk later I retrieved my bike and bag from T-2 and rode back to the house.

The rest of my time consisted of Irish Car Bombs, a Phở lunch and a visiting some breweries around Wilmington.

Wilmington is a beautiful area.  I hope to return to race Ironman North Carolina 70.3 again in 2018.  I will have to include a couple of extra days to hang out.

Did I mention that hit shows, “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” and some major motion pictures were filmed in Wilmington?

What was your best race or event of the year?