Packing for the race was actually one of the hardest things I've ever done. I knew I was going to immediately leave the race venue to head to the airport to fly out to California for a two-week class for work (coincidentally, in Richmond, CA, near Oakland...which is where I am now, hence the spotty WiFi). As soon as I get back, I'm driving up to Maryland to race Columbia Tri 5150...so to be clear, I was packing for a draft-legal race, two weeks traveling for work, followed by a non-draft race. I still haven't figured out if I forgot anything (so far so good), but I just hope it's replaceable or not important.
Anyway, I'm going to write some sort of story about how I swam a lap-ish of the notLOVELY lake (that made my South Jersey lakes look like a bottle of Poland Spring. I won't venture to make a comparison to the Elizabeth River though), did my normal pre-race run, was amused by the juniors who took things wayyyyy too seriously, got adopted by TAF Multisport, the junior/youth team of Matt Valyo, Regional Athlete Development Coordinator for the northeast, an ex-coastie, and the reason I got into that camp last fall in Delaware. Then I ate. I also watched the AWESOME movie that we got in the race goodie bag. And by awesome, of course I mean that it was the most predictably cliche sports movie ever, and it involved an aging pro, mentoring a newbie, a car accident, alcoholism, divorce, but also with a touch (ok a LOT more than a touch) of religion, which I suppose is to be expected when the race is sponsored by Liberty University.
Race morning I woke up late, half-trying to adjust to west coast time already, because my race wasn't until 1:30, which is usually awesome as long as it's not July. I did my run warm up, BSed around a bit more with Matt and some of the other guys from the EDR. I should note that despite being presumably the fastest racers of the day (maybe not the overall times, but no other field had multiple pros and Olympic Training Center athletes), the EDR athletes seemed far more mellow than the Youth Elite or Junior Elite competitors. I suppose that's what happens when we don't have our parents with us trying to live vicariously.
I picked a not so great starting position on the swim. I'm not sure why. I knew I wanted to be towards the left, but I stupidly went only a couple spots from the end when I could have picked plenty of other spots in a much better position. I didn't figure out just how far over was too far. I guess that's why I'm not an intel officer... From the gun (well, airhorn, but "from the gun" sounds so much better than "from the airhorn blast that may or may not be a vuvuzela like Age Group Nationals 2012 for the male 18-24 wave and we all know it but don't really talk about it"), I got MANHANDLED. It doesn't help that I'm kind of a slower starter on the swim, but this was worse. This felt borderline intentional, and I'm pretty sure I know who it was that was doing the dunking. I've never gotten a very good vibe from this particular athlete, but obviously there's nothing I can do. I accept plenty of incidental contact, especially at the start of an EDR, but this just felt too grabby and repetitive to be incidental. So because of that combined with my slow starts, I had just a bit too much ground to try to make up on the second half of the swim, which is what I normally do. I could barely see the back of the main group on the road as I was still a few strides out of the transition area. As I left T1 (which I had the fastest! Small victories), I saw some guys that I've usually come out of the water way in front of were just getting there, so not that far back from me. Nevertheless, I still thought I could work together with Ethan from All Out Multisport/NC State and bridge up on a mini-group only a few more seconds up the road. We killed ourselves that first lap, so that when the group behind caught us, it was a bit too much. Ethan was smart and sat in most of the time we were all together, but I stayed a bit too far to the front. I still didn't exactly pull my weight, but when Alex Willis, who can outrun me by 3 minutes, was driving the pace, I decided it wasn't really in my best interest to tow him and the other super runners up to the leaders. I could have tried to soften up their legs a bit, but that didn't pan out well in Sarasota, and Alex was killing it enough that I was barely hanging on. Still, Ethan and my stupid efforts on lap one cost us and we found ourselves gapped somewhere near the end of lap two, but with another athlete quickly gaining on us. Ethan and I were both dead at this point and looking for any wheel to sit on, but this guy was getting pissed at us for not doing enough of the work. I was still taking pulls, but admittedly his were longer and faster. He got dropped off the back within another half lap, when Ben, also of All Out/NC State caught up to us. At this point, we worked well together but under control, almost catching up to some of the leftovers from the Alex Willis/Navy train that ended up bridging to the main field.
Ben and I started the run together with another athlete right in our sights, but Ben took off a bit quicker.
|This little false flat SUCKED. Working here with Ethan and Ben, you can see our "motivational rider" a little ways back|
|Hey for once I actually don't look like I'm about to die!|
I caught the other runner, who was on the struggle bus big time, and I tried to keep Ben within arm's reach. At this point I was just trying to keep from looking like I belonged in the Youth Female race with respect to my pace. I was hurting, but not quite as bad as I normally do in these races. For once I actually felt like I was running rather than death marching my way to the finish, so that's a plus. I got run down by a couple of guys from farther back including Brian Trainor, graduating senior from West Point who has been beating me for years. I'm calling Brian out right now to a challenge in a reverse distance Olympic: 10km swim, 40km bike, 1500m run. That's the only way I have a chance at beating him evidently. I caught one other runner, another guy who obviously was having an Ian King-like day out on the run, and near the turnaround of the second lap, I started to notice Ben was hurting bad and slowing down. I don't know if I actually picked up the pace or he actually just slowed down that much. I was so stoked to make the pass with about 1/4 mile to go, but then Ben decided to be a dick and sprint for 12th place. At this point I was firmly into the Youth Female category, so there was no countersprint coming out of these tree trunks often mistaken for legs.
|We both look terrible in this photo, but at least Ben can say he finished in 12th place, whereas I can only say I finished in 13th.|
Overall time was a 59:42, 13th place out of 24 finishers. I'm most pleased that I didn't feel like I was going to die throughout the entire run (just the very end like the photo shows, which is to be expected), and while my 18:37 run split is about on the level of a high school JV cross country runner, I'm pretty sure it's the fastest I've run in one of these draft legal races, including the probably short course at Sarasota, and including the fact that in this race I destroyed my legs on more than one occasion on the bike.
It's really nice yet torturous to play "what if" and see what would have happened if I'd 1) Had the swim I know I'm capable of, or 2) Not gotten dropped from the group. Either way, I would have come off the bike in the same spot and maybe run to 7th or 8th-ish, but I think option 1 would have left more room for a better run split. If I'm going to race pro, whether nondraft or draft legal, I know that's something I'm going to have to do, because losing the pack still matters in a nondraft race, especially with my less-than-stellar run...but I'm working on that.