Summary: Olympic distance tri -- 2:27:42 (PR). 2nd Age Group.
It's odd, but sometimes I come off of a bad race feeling very motivated and strong for the next one. In this case, the bad race was my melt-down at the Patriot's Half-Iron, where the only good thing about my result was that I managed to have a "5" as the first number, not a "6." And that was a near thing. Debi sagely made me take it very easy the next week, then gave me a week with some nice intervals, followed by a week of mild taper before the race. It seemed to work -- I felt sharp coming into the weekend. My running felt especially strong. Relaxed, but speedy.
Race day was breezy and cool (low 50s), with some scattered clouds. As I set up in transition, I heard many of the triathletes debating what they would wear on the bike and run. They were concerned about it being cold. I wasn't -- this was perfect racing weather. I was there early, so I puttered around my set up, adjusting things this way and that while I waited, sipped some hot tea, and socialized a bit with Debi and some other Charlottesville triathletes who'd made the trip.
I'd warmed up a bit in the sheltered waters near the docks, but when out wave swam out to the line I could tell it was choppy. The first leg of the triangle had the wind and swell in our face, followed by a sideways swell. We'd finally be able to ride the waves on the way in for the last leg. The weather was clear, so sighting was good, and since the old guys were in the 6th wave, there'd be plenty of other swimmers to sight off of. I seeded myself up front on the right side and the horn blew.
The swim was rougher than any I'd done before, but I got into a good rhythm and was sighting well. Despite a few momentary collisions I managed to stay in the clear pretty well. The water temp was in the low 70s, so it was ideal for swimming with a wet suit. I came out of the water in the middle of one of the previous waves and hustled around them best I could as many of them strolled into transition (guys -- it's a race!). My watch said 28:47 -- no way of knowing how that stacked up, but I felt strong and ready to punch the bike.
The area around my bike looked like a bomb had gone off, but my less-than-neat rack mates hadn't disturbed my gear. Thanks to a heavy spray down of PAM, my suit slid off smoothly and I grabbed my bike to jog over to the mount line, fighting slow traffic along the way. It's a price you pay for being in the older AGs -- you're always going off in the last waves and having to pass slower competitors.
After moving past the scrum at the beginning of the bike, I settled in for the ride. The course is two loops, and roughly rectangular. I've ridden it before, so I knew to lay back a little over the mainly uphill rollers during the first few miles. I felt good, and worked on accelerating over the top of each roller to maintain my speed. In the first 5 miles I caught and passed three guys in my AG. Hopefully that was a good sign.
While I was passing a lot of riders, I did have to keep an eye back. The race was the USAT Collegiate Regional championship, so some fast young riders were making their way around the second lap and zipping by fairly frequently. I felt strong as I got into the ride, but kept my RPMs high and avoided kicking it out too hard -- I wanted to hit the run fresh.
As lap two started I fired down a couple of Endurolytes and a gel. The speedsters had peeled off to transition and I kept working at the same effort level, putting in a bit of a burst over the last few miles. Life was good, and this was fun!
One of the cleats on my left shoe had come loose, so I kept my shoes on for the dismount and did the long run into T2 in my cycling shoes. As I started to put on my running shoes I realized I couldn't feel my toes and had to guide them into the shoe carefully. I guess it had been a little cooler on the bike than I'd thought. Not to worry, they'll warm up soon enough...
The run at Giant Acorn is a 2-loop out-and-back. It made for a crowded run course, but it was fun to have people to key off. My plan was to take the first two miles easy, kick into a good rhythm through 3 and 4, then take it home hard. The run was feeling smooth, and the advantages of knowing the course were helping -- I knew how long each of the hills would be, and where I could kick it in harder.
At two miles my watch showed 14:45 -- excellent, and better yet I felt in control. I notched it up a bit and settled in at a little faster pace. I saw Mark Robbins coming the other way -- looked like he had about 8-10 minutes on me. No surprise there. Debi passed going the other way shortly after. She'd had a 4 minute head start, and it looked like I had a chance to beat her time.
Miles 3-4 zipped by as we started the second lap. The faster runners were off the course now, and I was catching runners starting their first lap. Lots of incentives ahead of me. I caught and passed a 51-year old. No way of knowing if he was on the first or second lap, but I wasn't taking any chances. Now was the time to go hard, with only two miles left.
As I passed the 5 mile mark it was hurting, but a good hurt. My stride felt good, I just needed to gut it out for the last bit. I passed a 56-year old, a competitor who used to beat me on occasion when he was in my AG. I heard him tuck in behind me, maxing out his effort. After about 20 seconds he said:
"I don't want to be a ****, but does that say 58 or 52 on your calf?"
"Thank God," he said, as he dropped off.
Now or never, as I got the finish in sight and went full bore across the line. Hands on hips, spent, but a satisfied feeling.
Swim -- 28:47 ----- 8/30 AG, 157/454 OA men.
T1 ------ 1:59 -------1/30 AG, 93/454 OA men
Bike --- 1:09:07 -- 4/30 AG, 126/454 OA men
T2 ------ 2:14 ------ 3/30 AG, 152/454 OA men
Run ---- 45:38 ---- 3/30 AG, 101/454 OA men
OA -- 2:27:48 -- 2/30 AG, 103/454 OA men