Ok, well more than a month later, I will get this long overdue rr done. On Sunday, June 13th I raced in my 7th Eagleman half ironman [70.3] race in Cambridge Maryland. This race has become an early season staple of my triathlon season, and a great test of early season training and strength. It has also become a first opportunity for World Championship qualification once that became a goal to pursue. Jocelyn and I were down in Cambridge with fellow BallouSkies teammates Joe and Steve, and there were also many other Pittsburgh area triathletes such as Chad, Jen, Matt, Rich, Ryan, Beth, Lisa, Megan, Janine, plus previous AG competitors of mine from earlier races in the season. The race was shaping up to be a fun and familiar event with everyone out there, and the weather to be hot, humid, windy, and sunny for race day. On Saturday I did a short swim and ride and everything was clicking, and aside from a bee sting on my tuneup ride, the pre-event warmup seemed to bode well for the following day.
Sunday morning started early at 4:30 with a breakfast of Ensure, bananas, and Clif bars, and then a short drive from Salisbury to Cambridge to start the day. On our walk from our parking spot to transition, Jocelyn and I caught word of the buzz that supposedly wetsuits would not be permitted today. We raced back to the car quickly and grabbed our speedsuits that we fortunately brought with us this weekend. When we got to transition, the rumors were confirmed about the wetsuits and then we set about preparing for the race.
We went through all of the typical transition preps and I was guzzling G2 from my half gallon bottle as it was already quite warm and humid, and also because an announcement came over the loudspeakers that the race start would be delayed by 15min. Not sure what that was all about, but I just tried to look at it as more time to hydrate, warmup, and wait in line @ the porta-johns. I am glad we had the extra time, as I stood in line for the aformentioned porta-johns for a good 40 minutes. Once that was taken care of, I actually found I had time for a proper swim warmup, ~20 minutes with some surges, which is a rarity for me. That is something I need to work on. Once I was nice and warm, I got out and over to the boat dock to queue up for the start.
My swim wave went off at 8:07, 52 minutes after the pros, and it was now on. The warmup definitely seemed to help find a quick rhythm and a more powerful stroke, but the heart rate was still high as always and the arms heavy, but that is something that I imagine will never change and has to be attributed to the adrenaline of the quick start on a big day. My sighting was pretty good and I swam a very good course on the longest, upriver leg of the swim course. I drafted for a little off a fairly strong guy on the short, cross-current leg, and managed to stay with him for part of the final, down-river leg before I lost him as we were both navigating through some slower earlier wave swimmers. I turned on the kick heading into shore to open up the hips and get the blood flowing to the pistons, and run up the beach to see a.......1:25:52...?... on the race clock. I quickly did the math and came up with a 33:5X swim split? I briefly put it out of my mind as I ran into transition, thinking that felt more like a 27-28, but I couldn't be sure as I wasn't wearing a watch yet and I didn't have my ghetto style, plastic wrapped 305 on my wrist like at Kinetic. Turned out my eyes did not deceive, I swam a stinking 34:04.
I moved through transition pretty quick, until I had a little difficulty getting my aero helmet over my ears. I had to take it back off and take another go at it, but then I was off. As I got out on the bike and I was settling into my HR zone and cadence range, I started thinking more about that swim and wondering where my key rivals were and what the major players were doing. I got pissed thinking about that 34 min split, about what that might do to my chances at a high placing, my intended goal finish time, and I did all I could do at that point - move on, and crush the bike. I was feeling pretty good and I liked what my Garmin was telling me with my mph vs HR relationship, despite a slight headwind from miles 1-4 and 10-22, so I let my swim induced rage propel me to faster and faster riding, and more and more confidence. I thought I spotted Chad up ahead around mile 13-14 during a long straight-away, and set out trying to reel whoever it was in. At about mile 17 or so, I came up along side him, and sure enough it was Chad. I made the pass but I knew with absolute certainty he wasn't going away and this wasn't going to be the last time I saw him. Sure enough for the next ~25 miles we would yo-yo back and forth, keying off of each other for a strong and honest ride. As I was cranking along through the middle miles of the bike course I was dreaming about the expected but rare tailwinds on Egypt Rd, but sure enough when we got there, the winds had shifted and we had the well known, ubiquitous Egypt Rd headwind. I just tried to up the cadence and not let the avg speed fall too low. The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful and I held my not-passed status on the bike until within the last 2 or 3 miles when Lucas and an unknown guy who turned out to be Daniel from my AG came by me, but I stayed in contact right up to transition. Bike time 2:16:47, avg speed 24.56mph. Much better than last year, and from what Beth's husband Oscar said, I was in 4th or 5th in my AG. That I could work with.
I had a decent T2 and I was out and running pretty quick, although not quick enough as Chad out-transitioned me again as I saw him exit just before me. I set about bringing him back quickly and also Lucas, who was just up the road from Chad. I caught Chad at about the half mile mark, and then set my sights on the next AG competitor Lucas. I was obeying my HR plan and running a good pace initially at about 6:15/mile, but then the shock of the heat and exposed conditions in the sun started to affect me and I watched the pace slip a little. I wasn't losing any ground as a result of this slowing, but I wasn't making the progress that I would like either. I just tried to get down some fluids and also cool my skin temps as much as possible, hoping this would transfer to my circulatory system and the ol' engine. I caught Lucas at around the 2.5 mile mark and we both wished each other good luck and he told me the next guy was just about 30 seconds up the road. This I believed to be the guy that went by me with him towards the end of the bike, but could have been 1 or 2 of the other unknown leaders. Minutes came and went, and no sign of the next guy. I just tried to keep the pressure on and in the right frame of mind. I knew I had to run into the top two places in my AG at least to have a safe shot at locking down a Kona slot.
Around mile 5.5, I came up on a guy in yellow with a '33' on his calf and settled in to stride by strongly. He gave me props, told me 2nd place AG was just 30 seconds up the road, and we both wished each other well as members of this fraternity of those baking in the heat. Heading to the turnaround point (6.55 miles, out and back course), I saw my buddy Joe and busted him walking, and also the man ahead (Daniel) who was in fact about 30-40 seconds up the road. This gave me new motivation and the pace started inching down again. He was not going easy and I did not seem to be making up any ground on him, but I noticed from a distance that he slowed and stopped briefly at the next aid station to take on some fluids, ice, and/or fuel. I surged, got a little closer. I held steady at the new gap up the road to him until the next aid station where he paused again. I surged harder and came up right on his heels as he was departing the aid station. I went right by him on the right and he immediately matched my pace. Now he wasn't planning on going anywhere, presumably seeing my age. He was right on my heels for the next mile or so, as I began to hatch my plan. His footfalls sounded heavy and a little slower than mine, and I knew a slight (slight!) incline was coming up shortly. I hit the base of this tiny grade and dropped it down to about 5:30 pace. It hurt like hell, but I heard him fall off and I knew he was gone. This gave me a new boost of energy and I just had to keep it up for 4 more miles. After I recovered (somewhat) from the surge, I just tried to keep the pressure on and run in strong to the finish. I was able to do so, bringing my first half pace of 6:33 down to 6:18. In the final mile I was pretty confident that I had 2nd place in my AG sealed up, and just kept the pressure on, and also stealing some looks behind at the last couple 90' turns. I came across the line with a 1:24:19 run for a 4:19:07 finish time.
Shortly after the race and after talking to a couple people, the possibility emerged that I may have won the age group, and not finished 2nd in it. I hung out and greeted friends and competitors after the finish, and went about cooling down and rehydrating as best I could. It seems anymore that any race I do usually ends up with temperatures above the upper 80's or 90! Jocelyn and I post-race, representing for BallouSkies.
Once the prelim results were posted, I saw in fact that I had won the age group and pending any unforeseen issues or problems, I would be offered another slot to Kona! This I suppose was my 4th AG win for the year in as many races, and my 2nd at 70.3 races with strong national or intn'l level fields. This was pretty exciting, but was somewhat overshadowed by punching the ticket again to the big dance, hanging out with friends post-race on this beautiful and kick-ass raceday, and also learning that I was the 2nd overall amateur! Beth got a slot as well, racing to 3rd in her AG, with Jocelyn not very far behind in 6th in that tough women's 30-34 AG. All other friends raced very strongly as well and had some very impressive performances on another tough, tough day in Cambridge. I have come to expect nothing else at Eagleman! The rest of the day was spent packing up the car, scrambling to find a place to clean up and shower afterwards (thanks Megan and Lisa!), grabbing a bite to eat, and then hitting the road to drive the 6 hours back to the Burgh, getting in in the middle of the night.
Ok, that was tough trying to recall the details from about 4.5 weeks ago - I promise next time I will post more promptly, but thanks for reading the old news. Congrats again to all that raced at Eagleman, many other races in the interim, and good luck to all competing in the big one in Lake Placid next weekend. I'm fired up for that trip and race!*