September was a great month, and I had made sure I recorded training each of the 100 days of summer. The first two weekends of October were going to reintroduce racing, but feeling like I was crunched for time, I didn't plan on resting up for any of the races. First up was the inaugural Red Bank Triathlon, Sunday October 3rd. Before that, however, on the way up to Red Bank, I stopped in Newark, Delaware, to race the 3rd annual Main Street Mile. My love for Newark/UDel is obvious, so it was a natural stop. Cheese ran, finishing 3rd, and I ran, well, slower than I did on the track on Tuesday. I was tired, and racing that distance felt uncomfortable and unnatural. The last, and only other road mile I ran was back in 2008 in Bel Air. I ran 5:24. The Newark race was point-to-point along Main Street, featuring a slight incline at the start, then a dip/flattening out, before rising again slowly to the finish.
It was a little chilly in the morning, and there was a slight headwind on the course. The gun went off and within a hundred feet I was already back a hundred feet. On Tuesday, I had gone out at a reasonable pace and was able to negative split, but here, I went out just a second or two too hard. And, as Coach Milligan always used to say, go out a second too fast, come back a second too slow. Now, I have no idea over what distance he meant, but it was pretty apparent. 74ish first quarter, and I was redlined. 82 second quarter, which put me at 2:36 at the half. I figured 5:12 would have been sweet, but obviously I was not running that pace any longer. 3rd quarter was tough, running an awful 86 (4:02). I recovered just enough to have a final "kick" - but right before the finish two women blew right past me and I was deflated. 82 last quarter led to a...you guessed it...5:24.
After that I got in the car and headed home. I still needed to ride, and since the race the next day was short, I figured I could ride 50 miles and be okay. It was probably a little ambitious. It was windy and chilly, and I really should have stopped much sooner. Nevertheless, at least I got in some miles. I went down to packet pickup (the loosest sense of the term), and then got dinner with my brother and Vic at New Corner. My brother was racing his first ever multisport event on Sunday, by the way.
Sunday morning he and I woke up early and hopped on our bikes, opting to ride the mile and a half to transition (in the dark) rather than drive. It was not warm. At all. And it was super windy. So windy, in fact, that the normally calm Navesink River looked like the mighty waters of the North Atlantic. The boats were being tossed around and the race director made the decision to shorten the course. Instead of 750 yards, it was going to maybe be a quarter mile. Basically we were keeping close to the boats that were tied up, circling them, and getting out. It was a time trial start, so athletes hopped into the water one by one, with a second or two separating them. First three in were Tommy, Pat and then myself. The water was salty and warm, but so choppy you couldn't sight anything. After just a few minutes I was out of the water and sprinting into transition.
I saw Pat and Tommy fiddling around with arm warmers and getting onto their bikes. I didn't bother with arm warmers (poor decision) and got out onto the bike just after they did. Nobody had passed me in the swim, and I wound up with the 4th best swim, but still managed to lose a minute to Pat. On the bike it was very windy and the cold air did not feel good. My legs felt dead, I just couldn't get going. I could see Pat and Tommy ahead, and then around Sunnyside somebody passed me. Then as we got out into Holmdel, three more went by. This was not expected, or normal.
On the one hill of the course, I easily went past those 3 while seated. Man, if only there had been more hills! Coming back into Red Bank along W. Front and going by my house was cool, the course was basically the same hour ride route I've used for years (in reverse, actually, and it was that route that I was on when I got hit). I sat up before transition, and guessed I was in 6th going onto the run. I cruised up the short hill out of transition and onto W. Front. Seemed like everyone was pretty far ahead of me, and I wasn't sure if it would be possible to catch anyone on just a 5 mile run.
I suppose that would have been the case if I didn't set that course on fire. I felt incredible - maybe the best I've ever felt running off the bike. My first mile was 5:53 and it was like I was out for a tempo run. I saw Vic, said something humorous to him, then powered up into the neighborhood over the 35 bridge. Mile 2 split was 6:06. Hmm, well, not that bad, and I guess I would have been okay with settling in there. I had just passed one guy and was about to pass another. We were now in Bodman Park and did a little cross-country style out and back. Pat was now passing the leader (the first guy to go by me on the bike) and Tommy was in 3rd at 1:30 ahead of me with 2.5 to go. There was likely no way I could catch him unless he was having a terrible day, but I kept the pressure on. With a time trial start, you never know who started when.
Coming out of Bodman, my 3rd mile was 5:58 and then mile 4 was 5:57. I was back on the bridge with a mile to go, and that mile was mostly flat with a short little downhill into the finish. I gave my brother a high 5 as we passed each other at the Molly Pitcher, and kept tearing into the run. I felt awesome in that last mile, and sprinted into the finish, splitting 5:28 for my last mile and recording the fastest run of the day at 29:23. In all honesty, I wouldn't have believed I could have run that fast open right now, let alone off the bike. Pat was 29:36 and then everyone else was at least a minute back. I ultimately finished 4th, with Tommy in 3rd and Pat getting his first ever win. It was an awesome day. And my brother, with some trepidation about his swim, made it through, had a solid bike and a super fast run to finish up his first triathlon. This was also the first time, perhaps in any race, I've ever negative split. Awesome.
Despite the miserable weather, and the race, I went back out for another 30 mile ride later in the day. It was awful, but I had to do it.
The next week I was feeling it a bit after some really good efforts the previous week, particularly on the run. I took it relatively easy, not riding again until Thursday (68) and going pretty light in the pool and run. I once again filled up the car and headed home, this time for the Hunterdon Half Ironman. This race previously existed as Belly of the Beast, before my friend from high school, Mike Nusbaum, took over and renamed it. The location is in beautiful Hunterdon County, New Jersey, known for its challenging terrain. About a month or so earlier, Mike had emailed Pat and myself to see if we wanted to do either his Oxford Olympic or the Hunterdon race. I said the Hunterdon race fit perfectly for me, so he provided me entry into the event (thanks Mike!).
Of course, my original 10/10/10 plans were to be toeing the line at Chicago, but the more I thought about it, the less it made sense. I certainly could have made it through the race - I'm not above walking and I do not drop out of things. But I thought doing a half iron event would be more integral to knowing whether I could do an ironman. Plus, with the small field, it could be a great opportunity for me to place well. Once again I probably did a little more than I should have the day before, this time riding about 42 miles with Brian Shea. The weather was nice and the effort wasn't out of control, so I didn't mind, but I should have kept it to my original plan of 1h45m. Later in the day I ran 4 miles with my sister at Meadow Ridge. MR was a favorite of mine for tempo efforts, on its 8/10 of a mile dirt loop. This time I did not feel so great and was a little worried I was not going to feel good the next morning.
Driving up on Sunday I watched the temperature drop from mid 40s in Red Bank to a low of 34 degrees at the park. Yikes. I got set up in transition and Mike had awarded me #2. #1 went to Arland Macasieb, THE Filipino Pro. Mike was hoping for a good duel, and, as it turned out, he got what he wished for.
The water was the cleanest water I've ever swam in, obviously other than the Caribbean or GBR. It was a reservoir, so I'm not sure how we were allowed to swim in drinking water, but it tasted delicious. Water temp wasn't bad, but the air was, so I kept myself submerged until the gun went off. The course didn't seem too confusing on paper, but once we were out there, it was crazy. As we neared the first buoy, Arland made a move to the front and for the first time ever, I made a move (in swimming - I know!) and was sticking to his side. At one point I nearly went into some rocks that popped up, narrowly evading what would have been pretty painful. We came around another buoy and were now facing the sun. That made sighting very difficult, and as a result I went one way while Arland and a few others went another. I figured I was wrong, so I corrected myself and caught back up. Then a boat came over and told us we were going the wrong way. We corrected ourselves and headed to the other buoy. Arland went around it, so I naturally followed, and once again we found ourselves being redirected. Finally we were on course and there were three of us - a lady with no wetsuit, Arland and myself. For a brief second I contemplated trying to come around them to get out of the water first and record the fastest swim time, but it was too difficult and then I stumbled out of the water. Turned out the woman was a relay swimmer and former D-1 swimmer at JMU, so we won't count her. My swim split was 29:19 - a PR for the distance by a minute, and was 2nd best of the day.
Arland and I were racked next to each other so we exchanged some pleasantries while we put on some clothes. For me, it was just arm warmers and I was out of transition and onto the bike in first position. For Arland, it was nearly twice as long as my T1 as he put on leg warmers, arm warmers, a jacket, a balaclava (not really) and gloves and a jacket. He had a lot of stuff on. The bike began with a little climb out of the park, and as I was the only one on a road bike, I figured at some point I would get passed. I kept waiting for it and waiting for it, but it still wasn't happening. The course was very tough, a lot of climbing, and a lot of just not knowing where you were. The turns were well marked, but not having ridden the course ahead of time, I didn't know when to anticipate turns. The toughest part was on this highway that skirted along the Delaware River/PA border. I thought I heard the guy at the turn say we were on the road for 2 miles, so after 10 minutes I was becoming worried. Finally, after what must have been 7 miles, there was the turn - right into a mile and a half long climb.
I was keeping on my nutrition, and kept the effort reasonable. With no computer on the bike, or watch, for that matter, I had no idea how long I had been out. With 2 miles to go we had to reclimb back up to the park entrance (very tough) before descending into T2. It was at this point that I caught my first glimpse of another human being. Arland came screaming into T2 right behind me, and his transition was much quicker so we left onto the run stride for stride. Mike was going nuts. It was turning into the race he hoped for. Arland asked Mike what kind of runner I was, to which Mike replied "fast" - not really helping Mike!
The first mile was in the woods and thanks to warming up in there that morning I saw that it was really, really rocky. I didn't know how much of the course was going to be like that, so I still wore my flats. It was not a comfortable first mile, as there wasn't a trail so much as a bunch of rocks and a general direction. Arland had stopped to take a leak, so I was in the lead by about 30 seconds. We came out of the woods section (6:44 first mile) and onto asphalt. Phew. I now had the urge to drop some weight, so I stopped in the public bathroom that was there. I was very slow in my bathroom break, probably to the tune of 90 seconds, so my 8:01 2nd mile was likely closer to 6:30. Arland was now about a minute up. After my 3 there was a very steep downhill, which I basically hobbled down. Then it was rolling to the turnaround, where Arland asked if I had gotten misdirected. Nope, just bathroom break, I said. When we returned to the now big uphill, I slowly gained ground and caught up to him. We ran together from miles 5-8, chatting along the way about my accident, Baltimore Marathon and the previous day's Hawaii Ironman (which was sick). Then I let him know my downhill running was quite bad/painful, and for him not to worry about running with me.
Not long after I mentioned that, the downhill was back, and he took off. The 2nd trip down it hurt pretty bad, and I was hurting the remainder of the run. In the last 5 miles, Arland put nearly a minute a mile into me. At that point I was just trying to get to the end, and finished with a 1:33:03 run (3rd) and took 2nd place. I was actually pretty pleased with the run, as actual running time was 1:31:30, and on a tough course. I only ran 1:27:53 at PDR 3 weeks before. The point is that I'm running better off the bike than I do open, relatively. The total time for the event was 4:53:10 or something, my bike split was 2:46 high (2nd). I now felt pretty good about being able to make it through Arizona, and in my head made the decision to go. The 2nd place was my best triathlon finish ever, so even though it may not have been the biggest or most competitive race ever, I was psyched.
The week after Hunterdon was a pretty uneventful, standard week. Wanted to get my legs back under me before I did anything else. After all, the critical time was coming. I was now about 6 weeks out from race day, and would need to have two weeks of both high volume and solid intensity before I would be comfortable bringing it down.
Since this post has gone pretty long, I'll wait for another to highlight that two week period.