Last year I finished 9th overall in this race and could have done much better if not for a terrible swim. I got off course following other swimmers instead of doing what I had planned which was to site and follow the buoys. I also didn’t have a particularly great run so my game plan was to go out fast and stay on line in the swim and fight my way through tired legs on the run and push hard on the early hills.
The race venue was 2.5 hours away and initially I was thinking about making the drive race day but with about 2 weeks till race day I decided that getting up at 3:30am to make the drive to be there by 6:30am would leave me drained for the race so I searched for a room. Because this was a highly attended event and a tourist town you might have guessed any hotels close would booked up. After a search I found a few rooms where one was about 30 minutes from the race site and another that was 3 times less but about 55 minutes away…you can guess which one I chose. The room I got was actually a cabin way up in the Adirondacks. I’d never been up that far in the state. During the drive I was saying to myself where the heck am I going as the winding roads took me higher and higher up into the mountains. It was so green up there that it seemed like the vegetation had vegetation growing on top of it. At one point I ended up on a dirt road that was just one lane. I came upon a tree branch hanging over the road from the rain that was pouring down earlier so I had to bring my Mustang almost to stop because I thought the branches would scratch the roof. I was just thankful no vehicles came from the other direction because I certainly couldn’t have moved over. I finally made it back to a paved road that led me to the diner\bar where I got my key to the cabin. It was about 8pm with the daylight fading fast. There was a swamp or bog or whatever you want to call it across the parking lot in front of the cabin and every creature in it that could make a sound was doing so. Kind of creepy but nothing that really scared me. The cabin was nice but there was no TV, Wi-Fi or Cell service so the room was completely quiet of sound other than what I made. After I got all my things inside I needed some noise so I plugged my cell phone into my tablet and played some tunes. I guess it was a good thing I had no TV because I fell asleep just after 10pm, which was very early for me, and slept till 5am.
After getting packed up I was going to use the GPS on my phone to get me to the park but couldn’t. Uh oh, can’t get GPS without cell service. Good thing I remembered how I got there and just retraced my path to get back to the main highway. Well actually there was no drama here because I thought I might not have service up there so I saved the direction from the cabin to the race venue on my tablet but I didn’t need it.
In this race they pre-assigned your spot on the racks in the transition area. On one hand it’s great not to have that worry of being there early for the race to get a good spot in transition but on the other hand, you could be put at a disadvantage because of where you get assigned on the racks because the transition area for this race is huge. Last year I got a decent spot but this year I wasn’t so lucky. I was way in the back on the last rack back by the fence with my bike pointing in the opposite direction of where I had to go for bike out. I knew I was going to have a long run to get to it but oh well, it was what it was.
When I arrived at the park there were puddles everywhere from the overnight rain storm. They had a big tanker truck there sucking up water in the parking lot that led to some of the bike racks in transition. After getting my timing chip I was all set to enter transition. I got my area setup then did a walk through on how I was going to get in and out of the area. I think it is very important to actually do a walk through as it gets your brain familiar with what you are going to do and see any obstacles that might alter your course. Just visualizing it doesn’t seem to do the trick for me.
The day started off overcast and windy. The overcast part was a good thing because we wouldn’t have to deal with the glare of the sun as it rose in the east while we swam back to the shore. It makes it difficult to see the marking for swim out. However, that wind made for some choppy water during the swim. I went out for swim practice and it wasn’t too bad at that time. I don’t know what the water temp was but it was wet suit legal so I wore my full sleeve wet suite.
Swim – 800 yards – 20.23
As we waded out into the water for the start of the race I made sure I was up front. All the sprint racers were in the first wave…approximately 114 of us. The winds had picked up and the water was getting choppier but I still had my game plan in my head and when the horn sounded I took off. I did a few strokes with my head down then took a breath to the side then put my head back down and took a few more strokes. Then I looked up to site the first buoy and bam…I caught a wave right in the face. I was able to shake it off and stay with my stroke while spitting water out as I swam. I put my head down and took a few more strokes then looked up to site again and bam…I took another wave to the face but this time it happened as I was taking a breath and it forced water down my throat. Now I was choking and had to stop swimming to clear my throat. I started swimming again and it didn’t take long to get bashed in the face by another wave. Again while I was breathing during siting and again water forced down my throat so I stopped again to clear it. What I was doing wasn’t working so I went into a breaststroke. I felt like I was bailing out but I saw a few others doing it and I said to myself “you know you have a really good breaststroke, almost as fast as your freestyle”. So I started breaststroking and each time a wave would come I would just duck under it then pop up to breath. I was actually catching a few people as I went along. But I knew I couldn’t continue that way so I went back into my freestyle. For the first time in a few years I had doubt creeping into my head during a swim…that thought of “what am I doing out here?” My arms felt heavy and even though I hadn’t swam very far I felt tired. I was off my swim game plan and my brain was now trying to sabotage the rest of my swim. That’s when I just slowed it down and went into my long distance relax stroke. It’s a stoke that I do when I’m near the end of a long session of lap swimming in the pool. I lay my head against my right arm as it enters the water during my breathing stroke. I get my arm reached out as far as I can and take a less forceful pull with my stroke. I don’t know why it relaxes me but it does. I knew this was going to be a bad swim because of how many times I had stopped but I was just hoping the choppy water was effecting everyone. Once I made the first turn I was swimming parallel with the waves so that made it easier to breath while siting but now I had to fight to stay online with the buoys because the waves were pushing me off line. It seemed like I was always bumping into somebody and at one point a lady swam right across my back. I stopped and looked at her but she kept swimming. I don’t think she realized she was going in the wrong direction. I went back to swimming then made the final turn at the buoy to head back to shore. Once I hit the shallow water I stood up, reached to grab my wet suite zipper, pulled the Velcro strap then took off running. I knew I needed to make up some time as I ran past the lady that had exited the water just ahead of me. I didn’t know it at the time but I was in 17th place coming out of the water.
T1 – 1:23
This was a long run to the bike and even though I was barefoot I wasn’t slackin and was running almost full speed. As I ran along I got my goggles, swim cap and my right wet suite sleeve off. But when I tried to get the left sleeve off it got stuck because I didn’t get it rolled down over my sport watch before the start or the swim. Good thing it was a long run because it gave me the time to finally pry it off. After it was off I was good to go. I got to my bike, pulled off my suite, put on my helmet and was off. As I was running through the parking lot I was looking down at the rocks and thinking just don’t step on one. As I got close to the exit of transition one of the course marshals started to tell me to stop (they were going to let traffic go through first) but luckily the cop on the other side of the road stopped the traffic and I didn’t have to stop (that would have sucked). After looking at the results It showed I had the best T1 time of all the sprinters by over 20 seconds.
Bike – 12.6 miles – 37:58
The course didn’t have a lot of hills but it had a few monster ones . I felt like I was doing very well as I past about 6 people ahead of me and only got past by one. A woman past me just before the halfway turn. After I made the turn I picked up my pace and was able to stay with her for a bit until we hit the hills coming back, that’s when she pulled away. She was the same lady who passed me on the bike last year. After the race I talked to her and found out she was a Time Trial specialist (no wonder she was so fast on that bike. She ended up with the fastest time overall on the bike. My time was 3rd best but I only missed 2nd by 6 seconds). There was 2 guys ahead of me that I got to track down and pass so that kept me motivated on the second half of the ride. As I approached the park I slipped my feet out of my shoes to ready for my dismount. Once I got to the line I stepped off and started running.
T2 – 1:44
There were lots of rocks to get passed but I wasn’t going to slow down because I thought if I got through them going out I should be able to going in. I’d just made it out of the parking lot but as I stepped into the edge of the grass my right foot landed squarely on a partially hidden rock…and not a little rock either. It got me right in the middle of my arch. The pain was excruciating but I kept running to my bike but somewhat gingerly on my right foot . I pulled off my helmet then started to put on my right shoe. I was struggling to get it on because of the pain in my foot. The lady next to me had a bucket near her bike so I plopped down on it to finish putting on my shoes. I finally got them both on, grabbed my race belt and hat then took off running. I knew I’d lost some time getting my shoes on but I still managed to have a decent transition time with mine ranking 8th.
Run – 3.1 miles – 24:31
As I ran out of transition my right foot felt like it was on fire. That rock had a dull point to it and now I had a decent contusion to the center of my foot. I knew it wasn’t going to stop me from running because if nothings broken I’m going to keep going. The question was how fast I was going to be able to go. There was a guy that left transition just ahead of me. I ran up alongside of him and asked him how he was doing? He said okay, what about you? I told him about my foot and the rock but I was just going to gut it out. He said “yeah, I was worried about the rocks, that’s why I decided to keep my bike shoes on”. As we ran a woman ahead of us had stopped, looked back at us and yelled which way do we go”. I motioned for her to keep going forward. Maybe that little distraction was enough to make me forget about my foot but I was running better now and started to pull away from the guy I was talking to. Just as I was pulling away he smacked me on the butt and said “Go Get-em”. To tell you the truth that was kind of weird and unexpected as I’ve never had that happen during a race. I don’t know how any other dudes feel about it but having someone smack you on the butt when you’re wearing a wet, tight, Lycra body suite is just unpleasant! I pretty much held the same pace with the woman that was ahead of me during the run as I ran along in 5th place. She stayed about 200 yards or so ahead of me. I got passed by 2 people that were running very well just past the halfway point in the run. I had nothing for them but I was able to pick up my pace on the second half. My foot wasn’t bothering me at all and I was able to run with full pressure on it. As I made the final turn to head to the finish I looked back and didn’t see anyone so I knew my 7th place position was secure. I looked ahead and could see the lady that was running ahead of me as she splashed though some big puddles of water in the field leading to the finish. So when I got to them I did the same thing which felt great to be in the cool water. When I first got to the puddles I was thinking about going around but it looked like more fun to go through them and it appeared to be a more direct line to the finish. But we were actually supposed to go around the water (they should have marked that better) as I was way off line and it took the announcer several yells to get me on track to cross the timing mat for the finish.
So I finished in 7th place overall, 2nd in my age group. Certainly not where I wanted to be but take away a windy day and a big rock and things would have been very different! Now I get to rest my feet and take advantage of having 2 weeks till my next race, the Boilermaker 15k!!!