Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Columbia Triathlon 2008

The following is my week-after-the-fact race report from the 2008 Columbia Triathlon. As the long history below explains, this is a race that I love/hate. I don't feel like I've ever raced up to my potential here, and needed this year to go well. I knew this was going to be a sick year, with some top shelf pros showing up and some stiff "elite amateur" competition. This was confirmed when I showed up to registration on Saturday and found that my number was 63 (usually it's below 30).

I came home after doing my stuff and stayed up a little later than I normally would before the race. My room was quite warm and I had my windows open. The worst part about this race, other than never knowing what the weather will do, is that it's the day after Preakness. So of course our loud neighbors were all out partying after the horse race. They were loud, and I don't mean kind of loud, I mean off the charts loud, from about midnight when I went to bed until 4 when I woke up. I barely got any sleep. Even at 4:30 when I went to my car, there were still 2 people outside. I hate them.

I wasn't going to let it bother me, though, because as I went outside I was greeted by semi-warmth, and knew at the very least it wouldn't be cold. This was great. When I got there at 5:20 (the latest I've gotten there in years and it was already super crowded) I found OJ and we went to warm up. The sun was coming up and at this point I nearly shed a tear because I knew it wouldn't rain on my race at least. I felt awesome warming up, really bouncy and excited to be racing.

The Open wave goes off 5 minutes after the pros. This year's Open division was the most stacked I've ever seen it, and there must have been 40 people in the water. It was a big field. For this reason, I wasn't totally surprised that I was keeping up with people in the water. I figured that maybe some people that suck somehow landed in the Open wave and that I was doing terrible, OR that I was actually doing very well. Fortunately, it turned out to be the latter. I was swimming incredibly straight lines from buoy to buoy, keeping my effort at "comfortable" and passing people the whole time. On the last buoy I took a great line and passed a group of four. I came out of the water and saw 22:15 or so on the clock (22:23 at the mat) and was really psyched. This was close to a PR, and was almost 3 minutes faster than last year. When you come out of the water with people, it changes the dynamic of the race.

So I take my time in transition, put socks on, my road shoes, and headed out on my new TT bike, my Cervelo P2C (I need some pics of it). I passed a few of the women who swam faster than me, and settled in. One guy and I kept trading positions, which was really good for me because I had someone to key off of, without drafting. He was flying on the downhills but I would smash past him on the myriad uphills. I don't have a computer on this bike yet, so I didn't know how fast I went, but when I got back into transition, I saw the time of day on my watch and knew I had to be around 1:05:00. Turns out I rode 1:04:44, an average speed of 23.5 mph and the 13th fastest split of the day, including all the pros. This also represented a decrease of time from last year (and a PR) of about 5:20. Unbelievable. I also passed Desiree Ficker, a Maryland native who resides in Austin and finished 2nd at Hawaii a few years back. She started 5 minutes ahead so I was psyched.

Now it's time for the run, and I am amped. I charge out onto the course, but the new position on the bike and the effort I just put in made it tough for me to get going. I hit the mile in about 6:13, so 10 seconds faster than last year, but way off from what I thought I would do. Desiree went past around mile 2, and I stuck with her and we caught two others, including another female pro. I was very pleased with how I ran through the neighborhood, which is usually where I lose it. I was running the tangents quite well, and got back into the park with some momentum. Of course, the Gatorade Wall dealt the death blow, and I had to recover with 3/4 to go. At that moment, a pro woman went flying by, followed by Desiree again. I managed to catch her just before the finish, but figured I had 5 minutes on her in real time, so I didn't need to pass her. Plus she did the Blazeman roll across the line (which is really annoying).

My time for the run was 38:17, surprisingly another PR, which gave me the 29th fastest run of the day. That's the first time my bike rank has been better than my run rank in a legitimate race. Scary! It also helped me get under 2:10, as I finished in 2:08:40, a new PR by 8 minutes and almost 9 faster than last year. My overall place was 27th, I guess 15th if you discounted the pro field that finished ahead of me. I'm really pleased with that. If I had run a little better I would have finished in the top 20. In 2002 I finished 30th with a 2:16:40. Amazing where this race has come.

So I then spent the rest of the day catching up with some friends that showed up for the race, including Larry the Slug, Lisa (all the way from San Fran), Sara Spears, Kip, Shane and Steve. We watched Mike Prada finish his 10k leg of the relay, and then got a total surprise when my parents showed up. They had just gotten back from Mexico late the night before, went to bed at 1, woke up at 4 and drove all the way down to MD - to not even see me. It was a nice gesture, as they'll be missing Eagleman and NJ State Tri this year. OJ also had a great race, going just over 2:07 - which was a lot better than I think even he felt he would do.

On the pro side, here are some of the highlights: new course record by a minute, Chris Lieto, who also set the bike course record by 2 minutes (56:34). Andrew Yoder (19 years old) set a junior record, doing 1:54 or something insane, with a 58:30 bike split. New swim course record was set at 15:47 or something, and new run course record set by Derek Treadwell at 32:04. Crazy! That's 1:20 faster than the previous record. Apparently Chris McCormack and a few others got sent off course on the bike, which affected their races negatively, and there was also a medivac incident later in the morning that affected some people. For the women, Rebecca Wassner set a new course record at 2:04 - yeah - which means I assume she also picked up CRs on the bike and run. I think Denise Knickman still had the run course record at 38:17 maybe?

All in all it was a great day, the race of my life and I've never been as excited about a performance. Makes the task of Eagleman a little easier to stomach. It started raining while we waited ALL day for Mike to get his crappy award, which I'll never wait for again, but it was cool to watch the pros get their awards. This is really a big deal of a race now. I felt great afterwards and we went bowling in the afternoon, followed by pizza and T&F on tv.

And as much as I've said, "I just want one good race there and I'll stop doing it" - I feel like I will keep doing it. It's a backyard race and I know I have a faster time in me. I see myself getting into the low 20s in the water, 1:01-1:02 on the bike (keeping in mind this was only the fourth time I've even ridden the bike) and 36 on the run. If I can do that, it'll be damn near 2:00. Oh, and I finished before 9 o'clock, a huge deal for me.

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