My last triathlon of the season was the PPD Beach2Battleship half-iron distance tri in Wrightsville Beach/Wilmington, NC. I had traveled into Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach a day early and had a house right on the beach...It is beautiful there! I will say that logistically it is not not the best race (expensive bike fees because you can only fly Delta or US Air; it's a point to point race, so it has two different TAs that are a 25 minute drive from one another; etc), but the location was very scenic. I thought it was a cool race and I'd definitely recommend it.
On race morning, I woke up with a 60 BG. For me this is actually a perfect place to start the day b/c race jitters usually cause an adrenaline dump and push me above 200 just by thinking about carbs, let alone actually eating them :-) We made our way to T1 and dropped off our running gear (that would be hauled over to T2 for us) and I made last minute preparations to my bike. I usually pick up a Gatorade sports bottle (the twist top kind) and use it on the first section of the bike, tossing it for a replacement bottle at the subsequent aid stations. However, they only had HEED on the course, so my race plan was thrown off significantly. HEED uses more complex carbs than something like Gatorade (and also contains less grams per serving...). I trained this year to take all of my nutrients through liquid means, with gels and bars as a backup only, so this race would mean adjusting how I consumed nutrients. My fault for not checking carefully, but a good lesson in learning how to race through adversity ;-) Instead, I just bought a regular gatorade bottle and filled an extra Dasani 20 oz. bottle that I had laying around so I could at least get some nutrients through my usual liquid strategy...not ideal (it can be hard to stay tucked in aero position and try to twist the top off the bottle while holding the front end of the bike steady, etc), but I would make it work.
I tested just before leaving transition and I was 118. We had made our way over to the swim start (roughly a mile from the TA) and just hung out in the van until it was nearing our wave start time. I tested again and was 112. I had already reduced my basal (had to leave my PDM and CGM at the transition, so I drank part of a bottle of gatorade, and ate half of a clif bar. Got out of the van, put on the wetsuit, and made my way through the masses to the water. The water was COLD! It burned my face for a while, and my feet had definitely gone numb within the first 1/2 mile of the swim. There is a current that pushes you along with the incoming tide, so that was actually really useful for helping me secure a solid swim time (given the fact that I hadn't been to the pool or even been in the water since age group nationals in September, it was actually REALLY great!! ;-)
I came out of the water and made the long (400 meter) jaunt from the water's edge into the transition area. I put on arm warmers and a vest for the ride because it was still pretty chilly at that point in the race. I tested in T1 and had a BG of 121. The CGM said 173...50 points difference, so not the best guide during the race, but it would have to do. The CGM reading came down to 158 during the first half-hour of the bike, then started creeping up again. The course was reaaaaaally flat, and the biggest "hills" to climb were the overpasses on the highway we were using :-D I was able to "push the big ring" pretty consistently and averaged a great pace. Having a section of interstate closed down for us to ride on was pretty sweet too. Super smooth and super flat course that made it possible to stay in aero and "lay the hammer down" ;-)
I have my CGM set to beep at 190 on the high side. I was clipping along the course and I suddenly heard beeping :-/ Not too much of a worry, but annoying that my glucose was climbing so consistently. The CGM continued to rise to 240 gradually, and then went straight up. When it hit 260 (which would roughly mean I was just over 200, assuming the initial variance stayed the same) I decided I couldn't let it keep climbing. I tried to stay tucked in aero position while I pulled out my PDM and dialed up an "estimate" of 200. I took half of what it suggested (I think I bolused a little less than 2 units), and I should have taken even less than that! It stayed at "260" for about 15 minutes and then suddenly had a straight arrow back down. I had about 15 miles left on the bike...it hit 220 pointed straight down, then 190 straight down, then 140 straight down. I came into transition and had a 120 reading the arrow still straight down. Not a great place for my BG to be when I was about to start a 13.1 mile run...
I came into transition and grabbed my running gear. I had managed to get out of T1 just a few minutes before my my buddy Nate did, and my goal on the bike was to keep him chasing me rather than allow him to catch me. I managed to hold him off, but knew it wouldn't be long into the run before he'd reach me...and just as I figured, he was in stride with me just after the first mile :-) His goal of catching me on the bike made my goal of not being caught that much more fun!
My BG was still crashing pretty hard so I'd consumed two Honey stingers and a Gu (one of my favorites actually, mint chocolate! It's basically a liquid form of thin mint Girlscout cookies! ;-). I made it to the three-mile mark and was starting to stablize with my BG (but was still lower than where I wanted to be). Nate gave me one of his spare gels, and he started to get his legs under him and took off. I couldn't hang.
I plodded along at 8:30 pace, then 9:00s, and then slowed to 9:30s as I traversed the run course. At the turnaround, I expected some coke/pepsi (I'd been downing it at every other aid station), and of course they didn't have any :-/ I gagged down a vanilla hammer gel and washed it down with some water (who decided any of the hammer gels tasted "good"?! Ugh.). My glucose on the CGM came up and settled at 80-85ish, so I was content to keep moving along, grabbing coke/pepsi where I could. My legs were far from fresh as I entered the last two miles of the course, but at that point I could "see home" across the water from me and it gave me just the push I needed to focus all the way through the finish line. There was a large amount of cheer support as I came back into the transition/finishing area, and crossed the line with a 5:20 and change. This was not a PR for me (5:18) so it was a little frustrating knowing my transitions (definitely T1, but T2 as well) were SO slow, but I also had no expectations going into the race other than just having a good time, so overall I was actually very pleased. I ended with a fingerstick BG of 106.
As far as a late season half or full iron triathlon, I'd say it's a great race to put on your calendar. I didn't have an "emergency" w/ my glucose necessarily, but I learned to be more mindful of what the course offerings will be in the future (but seriously, who thought it was a good idea to offer water or HEED, which is just water with electrolytes and virtually no quick carbs, as the only two liquid "nutrient" options on the bike course?!).
My plan for next season is to focus on Olympic distance races, w/ maybe only one half-iron in the mix. Hoping to make some improvements in my running over the winter, as well as working to come back stronger on the bike next season!