Two weeks ago on April 18th, I raced in my kickoff tri of the year, the Ochsner Ironman New Orleans 70.3. Training had been going very well before the event and I was very eager to test out my early season fitness. Race morning started early at about 4:15am and I started getting ready and ingesting some calories for the long day to come. After a short walk down towards the river and the host hotel Hilton, I hopped on the first shuttle bus of the morning up to transition at the UNO Research and Technology Park on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. After quickly getting body marked, grabbing my chip, and setting up transition with the remains of my morning gear, it was down to the lakeshore to await my start. They made everyone vacate transition at a ridiculously early time of 6:45 when the pros didn't even start until 7am, and I wasn't until the 16th wave that left at 8. I had plenty of time to sit on the beach and continue to visualize my race, continue hydrating, and to watch the winds increase as well as the chop on the lake. I watched both pro waves start and finish before I even got my chance to go, but the race appeared to be setting up to be very competitive among the pros with some big names coming into transition clustered together. At 8 I finally got to start, and got off in front, making good use of my old beach patrol surf bash skills and dolphin diving to make my way out through the long stretch of shallow water. Shortly after starting swimming though, I encountered the first of many waves and swells to hit me that morning. The swim was surprisingly rough, and I definitely found myself struggling to find a rhythm in the first half. My course wasn't bad in the first half, but sighting was certainly more difficult than usual and my breathing pattern was often interrupted by the incoming swells from the north/northeast. I made the turn and immediately started having some new problems because now I was sighting into the sun. I just put my head down and worked in towards the beach while trying to not to get any more flustered than necessary. I hit the beach in a disappointing 31:01 but charged up and over the hill into transition.
After a fairly quick transition in 2:10, I was out on the bike leg. This was my first race on the new ride, the Felt B2 Pro, and I let it rip immediately. She wouldn't disappoint. The first couple miles of the bike were routed through a residential neighborhood with some rough roads, and hundreds of of other athletes from the earlier heats. These early miles fighting through some slower riders who were taking up most of the road, and my frustration from the swim set the tone for the rest the bike. I was hammering along at the top of my heart rate zone, legs whirling at a high cadence, and blowing by people as I was on a mission. The majority of the first half of the bike was into the 10-15 mph headwind, but I was still averaging 23 mph. I hit the first turnaround of the three out and back legs on the bike, and suddenly I had the tailwind and I was effortlessly pushing 26 mph+. Things were going very smoothly and I had calmed down from the tough swim, when I passed a fellow 30-34 division competitor who apparently decided to jump on my wheel for a free ride. Every time I went to pass someone in front of me and I glanced over my shoulder to check the traffic behind before pulling left, I caught a glimpse of this blatant cheater out of the corner of my eye. No joke he sat within one bike length of my rear wheel for the next 8-10 miles. Despite my yelling at him to get off my wheel, trying to get the attention of draft marshals going the opposite direction, and varying my pace, he wouldn't go anywhere. Finally after making another turn to head back out with the wind at my back, I got out of the saddle and put in a large surge and finally ditched him. The rest of the bike was pretty uneventful and I rolled back into T2 feeling strong and with a bike split of 2:17:29 for an average speed of 24.4 mph.
I transitioned in 1:50 and was off and running. I felt incredibly good for the first couple miles and was clipping along at sub 6 minute pace for the first three miles. After that my pace would stabilize around 6:30 miles as I would begin the battle with my gut, cramps, and the heat in the midday sun. As I entered the City Park around the 4th or 5th mile, I felt my first signs of cramps in my quads and some rumbling in my gut. I tried to keep everything loose with my stride and I stopped drinking gatorade, and went solely to water and cola. I started feeling a little better by the 7th mile or so and started picking up my pace again, and started trying to hit around 6:15 pace per the forerunner. I soon spotted a fellow 30-34 competitor and passed him shortly before leaving the park. I had no idea where I stood at this point in my AG, but knew that I was probably in the top five at least within my wave, although there were two waves of guys for my age group. As I left the park and started towards the French Quarter, I was starting to struggle again with my digestion, but as I was progressing further and further along on Esplanade Ave, I caught a glimpse of a guy that I had seen early on in the bike leg who could possibly be in my AG as well. I ratcheted up the pace and started reeling him in, little by little, and as I was about to make the turn onto Decatur Ave, I had the mystery man in my sights and just a block ahead. I surged and came up on his right and tried to blow by him, hopefully demoralizing him in the process and rendering him unable to go with me. I thought I was going to yak, and I wasn't sure if I could keep it up and hold him off, but it seemed to work and I held on to cross the finish line strong with a 1:23:55 run, and for a 4:16:23 overall. Here I am coming across the line, proudly displaying the Ballou Skies "Helping Hearts" hand sign.
I got my finishers medal, some drink and grub, and kicked my feet up for some rest in the shade. It wasn't until about an hour later when I saw the provisional results and learned that I had won my age group! The two guys I had passed over the last 5 miles ended up taking 2nd and 3rd so I ran my way to the win. This was my first AG win at a major national level race, and I also took 22nd overall and 7th amateur.
Here I am on the podium out of order, with the 2nd place finisher, Dirk, to my left, and the 3rd place finisher, Lucas, on the far left end. Thanks to Lucas and his stepmother for sharing this photo from the awards ceremony as I was unprepared at the finish line.
Overall, I was very pleased with my race and couldn't think of a better way to kick off my 2010 season. Hopefully faster splits and even more complete races are to come this year. Next up is the Kinetic Half on May 8th where I will continue building the foundation for the larger races to come later in the summer. Thanks for reading, and my next race report will be here hopefully in less than a week!