Friday, October 17, 2014

Surviving a New Race: Survival of the Mills

Another race in my series of unusual format races, this one's also up there as among one of the coolest races I've done. The format was certainly run-favored, as run-bike-run-swim-run-bike-run, with a total of 8.4 miles of running, 18 miles of biking, and .4 miles of swimming, but I saw it as a fun little challenge. It fit in well with training, as it wouldn't be uncommon to do a multiple-brick workout, something like bike-run-bike-run-bike-run, especially a couple weeks before a big race. Add in the fact that it was close to home and I was in for sure. I've had enough experience this year alone with unusual format races, including Chasing Chicken (reverse tri), Rev3 Rush (double super-sprint of SBRSBR), Tri Tri Again (reverse, offroad, repeat for 3 hours), and now this race, so the weird logistical aspects of it didn't scare me a whole lot, apart from the lake temperature somewhere around 65 and the air temp in the mid 50s.
Being two weeks out from Oceanside, I was definitely a little bit "in the basket" from a couple hard weeks of training, and I really had no idea what to expect. I was on the fence whether to completely racing my own race or to play it tactically for placing. When a gap began to open up about 400m into the first run, I decided to "race" it and run strategically, crossing the gap into third place before the singletrack on the opening 1.25(ish) mile run. I lost a little time there, got passed into 4th, and then even 5th by the end of the run, but I came into transition fully under control and made it out onto my bike in 3rd place. Again I tried racing to the front, but just keeping an eye on the power so as not to be a complete idiot, and I was into the lead by the first turnaround of the double-180 course. After a momentary zone-out to drink/eat my gummy bears purchased at Wawa the morning of the race because I completely forgot to bring any nutrition, Ken Barbee came around briefly into the lead, before I took back over and led the rest of the way of the first bike. A little complicated transition included ditching a pair of gloves, switching to trail shoes, and grabbing my cap and goggles for the next run, 2.25 miles down to the lake.
As I was fumbling early with rolling down arm warmers and tucking cap/goggles into my trisuit, Jason Gers made up the few seconds I put on the bike, and we ran together the first mile or so of that second run before he began to pull away in a more technical section of the course. Near the very end, as I started to calm down a little bit to get my heart rate down and get my goggles onto my head, Ken Barbee came back around, putting me into 3rd again. Jason and Ken both grabbed bags and opted for a wetsuit for the swim, but I decided not even for the cap I had brought with me, so I ditched my shoes, sunglasses, gloves, and arm warmers and ran into the water, completely unable to feel my face or head. While I was swimming away, the mental image of athletes trying to quickly put on a wetsuit cued up the Benny Hill theme song, which was then stuck in my head the rest of the race (and still is, now that I've found that YouTube clip).
I exited the water and grabbed all my stuff for the most disorienting 1.75 mile run of my life. It had started to warm up, but I still opted for a pair of bigger, easy-to-put-on-quickly gloves for that run back. For the better part of a mile, everything still felt all over the place because of the cold water. Fortunately I got my legs back before hitting another extra-technical section of trail with wet bridges and logs to cross. I figured that I had continued to build my lead over the swim, but Ken and Jason had both proven to be slightly quicker on the run, so I made sure to hit that run back from the swim as hard as I could to get completely out of reach. That certainly made for a fun second bike, as I just felt like I had nothing whatsoever in the tank. Talking afterwards, that seemed to be a common theme, though, as my Bike2 bike split was the fastest one of the day, and tied for the 3rd fastest bike overall on the day (both bike legs were the same course, but the results rank them separately, and almost everybody biked slower the second time). I was doing my horribly mentally taxing split math at the final turnaround, where I ballparked my lead over Ken and Jason somewhere in the 2:50 to 3:00 range. I was pretty sure at that point I was safe, because for somebody to make up 3 minutes over a 5km means I either I needed to have a colossal meltdown, or the guy running me down would need to be currently in NCAA D1 cross country shape. I figured the latter was not the case, as I'd held my own in the previous runs, so it was all on me to lose.
Heading out on the second bike. Not having the shoes rubber banded in place is tricky, but manageable.
I did have two duathletes in front of me starting that final run, so that was a fun little challenge to try to catch them. They'd started 3 minutes after us, but rather than take the Benny Hill detour (not to be confused with the Ben & Jerry's headache, which was also there), the duathletes kept running past the lake. I'm fairly certain Michael Phelps  Missy Franklin (edit due to recent trangressions. Roll down to next most famous American swimmer even though she's not as much of a freestyler as Katie Ledecky) cannot even swim .4 mi in 3 minutes, so that enabled the lead duathletes to make up that time. But damnit, I wanted to cross the line first, so I kept on going. Once I hit a pretty technical stretch of trail and hadn't seen or heard anybody in front or behind, I changed modes slightly to "don't roll the crap out of your ankle" mode. Although the race was beyond awesome, I had a terrifying fear that I would be spending thousands of dollars in podiatric care due to an errant foot landing a mere two weeks out from my major goal race of the season, so I probably slowed down a tiny bit on the last couple of slippery wooden bridges and logs. I was unable to chase down duathlon winner, Dave Dixon, but I did cross the line in 2nd, ending up 2:41 up on Ken and Jason, who both pulled back about a minute on the run. I was stoked to win the second race in a row!
I'm tallest, so that helps even though we're all on flat ground.

I was happy that I got to share the win with Meredith, who was there and supportive as always. For the second time in a row, I also got to have my mom watch, which was an added bonus. For further added bonus, the race was right near my grandmother's house, so she was able to make it too. Afterwards, we waited around a bit, consuming some incredible garlic knots, pizza, and penne.
Well after I registered, I learned this race would pay out to the top 3, which added a nice little treat for the race. Initially, I had really just signed up because it was a cool race, one that fit well, and one that I would like to see continue. The added bonus of getting enough money to cover my entry fee and about 3/4 of the toll across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel makes it that much sweeter. I've done a handful of small-purse races, but have always finished just out of the money (2x 4th at Colonial Beach International, Chasing Chicken, Rev3 Williamsburg in 2014 are a few that come to mind). I earned money once from a cyclocross omnium, but this was absolutely a first, and in my sport, as opposed to cyclocross, which is a hobby to my hobby. Plus it was more money.
Anyhow, I'm now just over a week out from the race where my preparation has gone nearly flawless. I am SUPER pumped for Oceanside coming up, as I've really started to feel very good about training the last few weeks. The last few weeks have only continued to confirm the absolute confidence I have in what Mace has me doing. Come October 26th I'm gonna be ready as ever!
I had these two wonderful travel companions with their matching neck pillows. Tate was in a coma in the back somewhere.
Rounded out the weekend with some acupuncture from Meredith's friend in Philly

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