Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Tale of Two Cities: Colonial Beach and NYC

I had another little block full of racing the last few weeks, with the double-race weekend for Colonial Beach Sprint and International, followed by my first pro road tri at the New York City Triathlon.
I've never raced the sprint at Colonial Beach, but I've raced the International in 2012 as my first race after moving to Virginia, and then again last year. My weekend there started off with a terrifying drive through the middle of nowhere, with rain hard enough that I was afraid my adorable little Honda Fit would float away. Eventually I made it to the race site, where there was still the good chance of showers off and on, but the lighting and the angry red parts of the radar had stopped.
I got out well, allowed a guy in front of me to lose Eric Limkemann's feet just after the first turn buoy, then just maintained a gap to Eric the rest of the swim. Eric gradually pulled away on the bike, which was occasionally terrifying with how little visibility there was. Onto the run, we waded through 6" of water in spots, and I came across about 90 seconds back. I spent the rest of the afternoon driving to and from Richmond to demo some saddles with Dave Luscan, resulting in an infinitely more comfortable choice and without the painful trials and difficulties of constantly swapping. I highly recommend anybody go visit him within a few hours' drive.
The next day was the International distance race, which played out similarly to the sprint, only with better weather. Eric pulled away midway through the swim, and I just never really saw much of him again. I found my legs were pretty flat on the bike, riding way under what I would have expected power-wise. I ended up having a really good (for me) run split, though, so that salvaged it. I was able to just hold off a hard-charging third place, but was way back of Eric after he demolished the slightly long bike course. Another little bit of money into the pocket there for my efforts. Hooray!

The next weekend was NYC, which was a selection based in part due to being one of the last Olympic nondraft pro races left, as well as it was simply a race I always wanted to do. Having grown up in New Jersey, it always sounded like a really cool idea to race in the city. I've driven large parts of the bike course before, with a section of the Henry Hudson/West Side Highway making up a section of my most common drive between the Coast Guard Academy in CT and my parents' house in NJ. I've also run in Central Park plenty, having done a duathlon there twice, as well as a couple of times visiting my older brother who lives in the city. I was really excited that we'd actually be running right past The Dakota and Strawberry Fields, as that's probably my favorite part of Central Park.  We made it into the city early Saturday afternoon, after a pitstop at Mom and Dad's, where Meredith got attacked by Caesar the evil cat.
Race morning was obnoxiously early, with some terrifying riding of a TT bike in the dark in Manhattan. I realize that I prefer the gentleman's starts more common to XTERRA and ITU racing.

I got out reasonably ok in the swim despite a lost timing chip, and eventually found myself into the main chase pack. Looking through the results, it appears this group contained Jesse Thomas, Tyler Rodgers, Jason West, Spenser Popeson, Mike Meehan, and Jackson Laundry, with Alex Willis only a few seconds behind us. In the crazy long run in T1, though, Alex blew past me and bridged up to the group, while I lost the group, despite my best effort. At that point, I lost the group, which was a huge bummer in the race. Despite being a non-draft race, it's still imperative to maintain contact throughout the race, especially when racing under the stagger rule, which allows for some weird positioning that can be pretty advantageous compared to riding alone. I burned some matches early on the bike to try to bridge up, but realized that wasn't going to happen and settled back down. A few guys came around, but late in the bike I settled into a trio with Sean Daugherty and Jack Smith once Sean took a detour to go to Yankee Stadium. Sean put a little bit of distance onto Jack and I into T2, and Jack and I exited T2 together, though he took off on the climb up to 72nd St. Running across 72nd was without a doubt my favorite part of the course, having the entirety of the Upper West side in gridlock for the race was amazing. Once I got into the park, I was grateful for some shade and the occasional encouragement from other runners, though I was pretty much alone race-wise. I kept the pressure on out of a sense of pride, ultimately finishing 18th in the male pro field. I did end up getting beat by a couple of amateurs, but I'm not going to let that bother me. I now understand a bit more of how it's a different race and they're not totally comparable. It's hard to explain, but I get it. I wish I could have made that group on the bike, as it would have probably had a pretty substantial impact on my race, but that's part of racing. It's encouraging to know that I was "there," so to speak, that I am not so far off the back as to say that I have no business being in the race, but I'm hardly a factor whatsoever at this point. Some day that will change, but for now it's just a learning experience being in these races.

You can't quite tell, but that's The Dakota, just at the corner of W 72nd and Central Park West. To my non-metro-area readers or non-Beatles aficionados, it's a significant place. For over a year, the Imagine mosaic from Central Park graced the background of my Facebook page.

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