I finally got to really see what Virginia racing is all about last weekend at the Colonial Beach International. What drew me to it was that it was by Setup Events, a company that seems to have a phenomenal reputation across the mid-Atlantic/southeast, but only goes up to Maryland, so I had yet to do one of their races. On that note, I see why people love this company. They seem to produce all kinds of smaller local races but across the whole region, rather than just one part of one state. They have TONS of races, but this one at least felt pretty local and grassroots-ey to me, with the exception that there was a very, very small prize purse. That also led me to choose this race over one or two others that weren't quite as far away from me. I didn't expect or anticipate winning anything, but I knew that even small prize money would bring out better competition. I would rather get 4th to great competition (like I did) than win over a field of lesser competition, especially at this particular point in training.
The day before the race I was kind of lazy, just cleaning my bike, watching the Tour de France, and before I realized it, it was already mid afternoon and I had a 3 hour drive. Well, then that 3 hour drive turned to 4.5 because evidently I-64 occasionally gets confused and pretends to be a parking lot. I had initially planned to swim a little bit in the river at the race site, drive the bike course and ride what I thought might be some of the trickier sections, go to the optional pre-race meeting at 6, run a few miles of the course, then head back to my hotel that was almost an hour away from the race site (it was way way way cheaper). Almost none of that happened. Packet pickup ended at 7, and I think I made it there about 6:58. I walked around a little to get the flow of transition down, but then I ran most of the out part of the out-and-back run course, then drove the bike course before going to find that a computer glitch caused my hotel reservation to be lost. That was exciting. They fixed it eventually for me.
Race morning I had the drive back to the race site again. It was a quick setup of transition especially without a wetsuit. I ran into Max Bernardes, a fellow racer from Harvey Cedars a few weeks back, and also saw somebody else wearing the same suit as me, the Tri Soldier Project kit. I'll touch on that briefly in another post what that is/means once I explain my coaching situation. Warmup was a run down the first half mile of the run course or so, then lots of swimming. I wanted to really race this race rather than just pace it, so I needed to get off to a good start with a good swim.
The swim went pretty well I think, some bumping until the first turn buoy, but then it was pretty smooth sailing from there. Max took off away from everybody else and I found myself caught between two chasers and a larger pack behind me. About 1/3 of the way in I bridged to the two chasers and eventually we lost one, leaving Max out front and me with another chaser. We came out of the water together, but he sprinted up the beach quicker which is why his time is several seconds faster than mine. I thought the swim seemed a bit long, but that was confirmed when Max, a former All-American distance freestyler, only was in the 21 minutes and the rest of us were 24+ .
Out onto the bike course it was very flat for the first few miles, then we got into "coastal Virginia hills," by which I mean I had to shift gears for reasons other than boredom. I had heard from Norfolk/Virginia Beach folk how hilly this course was, but that was a bit unfounded. Granted, I can ride 20 miles and have a cumulative elevation gain of less than 100 ft from my apartment in Virginia Beach, but I still know what a hill is. I would call it a fair, reasonable triathlon course. I found myself settling into third pretty much the whole race, as Max was way out front but my fellow chaser and I were gaining on him. The other guy passed Max first and pulled away from me a bit, and right after I passed Max, Grayson Cobb passed me, putting me back into third place. I rode alone pretty much the rest of the way, just barely keeping Grayson in my sights on everything but the turns. There were a few gradual slopes to speak of, and one where I did pop out of the saddle a few times, but still, not "hilly" by any means. I still wouldn't call it even rolling. It's just not pancake-flat, that's all. The course was definitely short, but I'm not sure how much. Most people seemed to agree it was about a mile short, somewhere in the neighborhood of 23.8 to 24 miles, but I had only 22.78. I'm willing to spot ¼ mile for starting it after the mount line and stopping before the dismount line, but that still leaves about a mile unaccounted for. I know there's no way I biked an accurately measured 40km in 57:14.
Another quick transition (fastest T2! Do I win a prize for that?) and I was off. I have made an interesting gear change for running here in Virginia; I often now wear a headband, Carmelo Anthony-style. My coach Jeff made fun of me when I busted it out in California the day before Escape from Alcatraz, but I really don't like hats or visors and the sweat is just too unbearable in this 98% humidity that is routine in Virginia. I tried not to blow up on the first few miles of the run, but I ended up positive splitting each mile by about a second or two. I tried to chase down the first two guys, but it just wasn't happening. My legs weren't there. I ran an ok time for me in a 41:27, my best 10k in a while, but it still bothers me that I haven't broken 40 minutes in a long time, when I am really hoping to get down into the mid 36 range.
I came across the line in third, but ended up getting beat by one of the masters racers who started 6 minutes back, dropping me to 4th overall. He beat me by over a minute, so I'm almost positive he would have beat me outright even if we were racing head to head, but I did outrun him, so maybe I would've had a better time chasing him down. I'm pretty pleased with the race, all things considered, because it shows that my swim and bike are on track with where I want them to be before Age Group Nationals in a few weeks, and I know I can just work on my running. It's what I have the most background, albeit not the strongest, so I can leverage that.