The difference between last year and this year can be summed up as monumental.
Last year I had put so much of my time, energy and focus into this one race, and while I was fit and fast, I was clearly just not prepared for the distance. This year, for a variety of reasons, I've been much more relaxed about training and racing. I haven't really had a write-home race this whole year, which normally would have had my confidence down a little, but I went into this race knowing what my body was capable of and just had to get after it.
It also helped that we finally had a little luck on our side with the weather deities. It has rained at least every day for the past week, and Saturday featured some insane thunderstorms out on the eastern shore, which kept the temperature cool and offered some cloud cover for the first half of Sunday's race.
Back it up to Friday night; a bunch of us went to the Orioles vs Braves at the Yard, and our special guest was American Record holder in the mile, Alan Webb. We're friends with his girlfriend, and they came to watch the game. Saturday morning I did a short (like, 10 miles maybe) ride within the confines of Patt Park, just to get on the bike, and then met Arjun, Ben, Cheese, NCOTB and Alan again for a run at Robert E Lee. Now obviously I had a race the next day, so I wouldn't have done anything to jeopardize that, but the pace on the 2nd half of this little run was just a tad quicker than I needed to be running, so I fell off the pace.
Following the run it was time to pull my stuff together and head out to Cambridge with Alyssa. The temperature at 5 o'clock felt super hot, but allegedly was only in the 80s. I was mildly concerned. We did all our pre-race stuff and ran into a few friends. Then OJ, me and Alyssa went out for a shakeout swim while Claire watched from the beach. We headed out only a few hundred yards, but on the return I touched something that felt like seaweed, and then my hand started singing and went numb. A second later I went through a few more and my face went numb, as did my shoulder. Shiiiit. I had obviously just been violated by some jellyfish.
Departed Cambridge and headed to Salisbury, our home for the evening. The hotel we stayed at was basically right across the street from the Greene Turtle, which is where Bryan, Emily and I ate last year before the race, so I felt like I should go back. Decent enough meal, then Alyssa and I headed to the mall to kill a little time, hit up the DQ next to the hotel and then began to wind down.
The just before 5am wakeup was not too bad, and we were on the road right at 5:30. The brutal thunderstorms from Saturday turned the transition area into mud. Deep, thick mud. The water also looked a little choppier than it had the day before. The good news was that it was super cloudy and in fact looked like it might rain on us during the race. I put all my stuff out in transition, pumped up the tires and then had to get out to await my wave. 7:54 was the 2nd to last real wave, as the pros began at 6:40.
The water was a good temperature, not as warm as last year it felt but definitely not cold. My wave seemed to be huge, as I think there were 3 age groups in there. I lined up at the front and as the horn sounded, made sure I got a good start and beelined to the first buoy. For not being the best swimmer I am not timid, and it actually turned out to be a peaceful start. Didn't get punched or kicked, and I swam the straightest lines between the buoys I could - definitely the best sighting I've ever done. I was swimming comfortably within myself, and began to pass a number of slower swimmers that had started 9 and 18 minutes ahead. I also noticed an absence of neon green caps, which made me think I had a pretty good swim. Out of the water and the clock confirmed a swim just over 30 minutes. It wound up being 30:27/210 overall.
I tore into transition and went to work. I stomped through the mud and quickly stripped my wetsuit before heading out onto the bike. I was glad I had my shoes clipped in because there was no way you could have run through the mud in Speedplay cleats and then clipped in. If I had to isolate the most dramatic difference in this race it would be T1. 1:40 was the 63rd best T1 in the race, and was significantly faster than most people. Last year I was really moving slow, but I went 3:35. I saved almost 2 minutes from last year just on the first transition.
Onto the bike. I tried to quickly establish my rhythm, which can be tough in a race this long because what feels good at mile 5, 15, 25 will probably not feel good at mile 50. I don't use a computer or HRM while racing so I generally have no concept of speed, I just race on feel. And this time I wore my watch. From riding the course in practice, I have a ballpark figure in my head of where I need to be at certain parts of the course. I find this is easier to deal with than seeing a computer and having it tell me I'm riding too slow. Because of my late wave start, I spent the entire ride passing people. It's kind of awesome because you're never by yourself. It's not awesome because 99% of triathletes do not know how to properly operate a bicycle, let alone a goofy time trial bike. There were so many obstacles on the road, like spare tubes, spare tires, water bottles and the little yellow sponges that you put in your aero bottle.
I noticed a dude riding behind me for the first 20 miles, and he wasn't technically drafting but he was definitely just sitting 5-ish bike lengths behind me, and this become frustrating. Drafting is illegal in races, and is defined as being within 7 or something bike lengths. Pacing, however, is not illegal, and is a practice used by many people, usually those who know what they're doing. The idea is that every so often the person behind makes a pass and then sits an allowable length ahead, then switch. You see the pros do it in these races. Helps keep the pace honest. When I see someone just sitting behind me for miles and miles, it gets annoying. I forced him to the front around mile 21 where there was a water bottle exchange - I slowed down, he went by and then I tried to sit behind him. Unfortunately he was then riding slower and forced me to go back around. I then rode in front the remainder of the way.
It was a particularly windy day, and we had a headwind on the second half. Very tough. My taint had gone numb, and every few minutes I'd have to stand just to get the blood moving. That's the caveat about a flat bike course: you are always pedaling. I had hoped to make it to the high school around 1:50, because I think it's about 47 miles in and with 9 miles to go it would take another say 25ish minutes. The road just seemed to drag on forever and I finally made it there at something like 1:54? Maybe even slower, like 1:57. I was concerned because I thought I was riding pretty slow. It was just past the school that my race fell apart last year, but wasn't going to happen this year.
I had done well with the nutrition, taking 3 Gu's on the bike, 3 Endurolytes (little electrolyte caps) and drank 3 of my aero bottles full of Gatorade (no water on the bike - I wanted the calories). With a few miles to go I went past OJ, and could tell something was obviously wrong. With a mile to go I shut it down, let this person who had been following me all day pass, and sat up to stretch heading into T2. Final bike time was 2:18:44, for an average speed of 24.3mph and 33rd fastest on the day.
I am getting much better at my little barefoot dismount, and hopped right into transition. My legs felt good and ready to run, and my T2 time was :40 faster than last year at 1:48 (61st). I blasted out of transition and saw Arjun and Alex, who provided me with a time gap to the age group leader. My deficit was 5:30, and in my head I know I'm a faster runner but clearly this is not just a running race. The guy behind me on the bike was a little slower in transition and caught me a quarter mile into the run. We hit the first mile in 6:03 (for me) and while aerobically it was not taxing, my legs began to have that familiar cramping feel and I had to slow down. Slow down by not stop and no walking - always move forward - was my goal. The next few miles were 6:23, 6:29 and 6:39, and at this point I won't say I mentally checked out, but I knew there was no way I was going to advance any higher in the standings. I was only taking water at the aid stations, throwing it on my head and whatever landed in my mouth was what I drank. No Gatorade, no food on the run.
The sun was now in full effect and it was warm, but there was at least a little breeze. I spotted a few familiar faces out on the course and just tried to make it to the turnaround and then go a mile at a time. The nice thing was that, even at 7+ min miles, the run was going by pretty quick. I hit 5k to go and was just psyched to know that I had pretty much done it. I saw Alex and Arjun again, flashed a smile and some words, and continued on. I crossed the line in 4:24:28, a 2:23:xx improvement from last year's time, and my run was 1:31:52. Much better than the 3:39 half that I "ran" at last year's race. My run was 94th best, so a little disappointing but the takeaway is that, following a hard 56 miles I was able to run a 6 minute first mile. The more of these I do, the more I'll be able to keep that pace going. Once I get to the 1:20 range I'll be a little more dangerous and maybe finally qualify for something.
I finished 45th overall and 4th in my age group. A huge improvement from last year where I was 984th/1382. 45/1600 is a pretty good day I'd say. After I was done I was totally cool, except for a couple minute period where I dry-heaved while Alex stood beside, no doubt smirking.
I got back up and went out to watch the rest of my friends finish. Claire came through in 5:57 and this was a great result for her. Alyssa recorded a 70.3 PR at 5:19 and qualified for Clearwater, so that was pretty awes. Spider, who beat me by 1 second on chip time, also qualified for Clearwater, and apparently didn't learn his lesson from last year. At Providence last year he qualified, didn't have his wallet on him, and I had to pay for his slot (at the race site, he paid me back) at the race. So this year he apparently did read the BRIGHT YELLOW boldfaced sentence about cash or check only, no credit cards, and did not bring his checkbook. Instead he goes to his car and takes his laptop out and tries to find someone who will give him a check, and in return he will give them his laptop. Someone finally says keep your laptop, here's a check, it's my good karmic activity. Unbelievable. Only at a triathlon.
Because of my 4th place finish I managed to pick up an award, the first piece of hardware I've taken back from a TriColumbia event since the first time I did Columbia. It's a pretty sweet eagle's head statue. Due to staying in Cambridge til late for awards, we got on the road late, hit crazy traffic over the Bay Bridge and got home late for our own party at Bay Cafe. Met up with some of the crew, had a few drinks and some food, and then rolled out. I continued on with Brennan to Looney's in the Square, and then from there I stopped at Walt's Inn for some karaoke to end the night.
Then my sunburn felt worse and I didn't feel so good, so I had to sleep on the couch under the fan. Aaannndd today I have that oh-so-familiar shoulder sun blisters. Not as bad as last year, but I think following my race I shouldn't have stood around without a shirt on for an hour. Dammit.
Eagleman 2008 stats:
Eagleman 2009 stats:
And I beat Desiree, moving to 2-0 all time vs her at triathlons. I used to beat her at 10k's but the 3M Half Marathon she served me in 2008.