Better Late Than Never
After opening the season with several consistent results in local running road races, I planned on taking a bit of a break while I set myself up for a good run at a late season Ironman. So yesterday at Challenge New Albany, while most of the pro field was hitting their stride in the midst of the busiest time of the year for races, I was opening up with my first triathlon of the year.
In my prep I knew what I needed to work on: swimming. I had to get closer to the majority of the race in order to give myself a chance on the run. So going into the race, I had a much different mentality than I have in the past. Get out hard on the swim, race hard right from the start, and let the dice fall where they may on the run. At least I would give myself a fighting chance.
There were some great swimmers in the field in this inaugural event, so I expected the field to spread out right from the start. I held my ground, had much better technique in the shallower sections of the start thanks to some open water practice, and found myself tailing a huge group by the time we got to the first turn buoy. My effort was high, and it was challenging to stay right at the back of the group, so I focused on doing two things for the remainder of the swim:
Staying smooth and as relaxed as possible while staying on feet
Making sure the guy ahead of me was not getting dropped by the pack (and therefore dropping off the pack myself)
I came out of the water amongst a huge group of 7-10 guys in 26:39, which was an awesome swim for me. Not only did I improve my swim time by several minutes over last year, but I caught a nice draft and I knew I would have guys to ride with on the bike. My Xterra Velocity Speedsuit was fantastic and greatly aided me in my swimming breakthrough.
Once on the bike, I was a man on a mission. It took about five miles to catch the main group that had formed on the bike, and en route I was riding right at my goal wattage. Once I caught the group, I stayed with them for several miles, but realized after about 10 minutes that my power was not quite where I wanted it to be, so I made the decision to work my way through to the front and take the lead. This is a fairly risky move in the pro field, as pros ride using the stagger rule. Basically there are two lines of staggered riders, and when you have a group of seven guys riding legally, if you want to move through the group, you pretty much have to drill it and move through the entire group. The last thing I wanted to do was to get a drafting penalty for just trying to get past this massive group. So it took another couple of miles before I found an opportunity to weave through the pack.
Once I hit the front, I pushed a bit to make sure I wasn’t just going to start pulling eight guys behind me for the next 35 miles. After 10 minutes of riding close to my threshold, I took a peek back, and had only one guy who had decided to come with me. Great! I went back to riding at my wattage target, tried to smooth out the uphills and downhills, and focused on staying as aero as possible.
The bike course at Challenge New Albany was really fun to ride. It reminded me a lot of riding on the roads in Charles City and Surry, so I felt right at home. I continued working with Justin Metzler until about 5 miles to go when Steve Rosinski came motoring past us. I executed my ride perfectly, and was feeling good for the run. I let Steve and Justin lead our small group into T2.
Even after swimming with a big group and passing though that group and essentially riding alone for just about the entire bike route, I was still unsure about what place I was in when I came in to T2.
I saw Tori as I ran out of transition and found that I was currently 8th (with 6th and 7th just seconds ahead). Yes! I am very confident in my running, so I was excited for what lay ahead in the last leg of the race.
I started off patiently, taking about a mile and half to take over Steve. Then my struggles on the run started. Side cramps, here we come. So a couple minutes after I overtook him, I stopped, worked my cramp out, was re-passed, and got back going in 8th. Then I had a decent stretch of running where I moved into 6th before I had to stop yet again to work that pesky cramp out. I had run well enough over those few miles that I was only overtaken and put back into 7th at that point. Around the 6 mile mark, Justin and I passd John Kenny, who had put together a blazing swim and bike and was slowly coming back to us over the first half of the run. I was still very optimistic that I could continue moving up throughout the back half of the run.
Having said that, the last 6 miles of the run I was in total damage control. I was cramping once every mile or so, and although I could get the cramps to subside temporarily, they would come back shortly after. Justin was running away from me and taking my top 5 finish goal with him! To be honest though, at that point I was more concerned with holding off some chasing runners from behind me. Adam Bohach was less than 2 minutes behind me with 5 miles to go, so I knew based on his previous results and my suboptimal situation, it was going to be tough to hold him off.
Luckily, I did have another carrot to pull me along. There was one pro up the road who I hadn’t seen all day who was still coming back to me. As it turned out, I caught him just as Adam Bohach passed me to take over the eventual 5th place spot. I could not hold his pace and just ran as best as I could to finish 6th.
I have gained a lot of confidence from this race. I finally had a good swim in a pro field. The work that I’ve been doing in the pool with the Fort Eustis Master’s Team is paying off. I biked within myself and put myself in great position to run through several more positions on the run. I just didn’t have it on the run. More times than not, I will have it on the run, so I’m very much looking forward to getting back out there and giving it another go. I made it up to 5th in this field twice throughout the run, and it was tough being there and losing it. But the point was that I WAS there, and I know I can be there again and again and again.
Thanks to the Challenge Race Organization for a well-run event, and thanks to all of my sponsors: Snapple, Xterra Wetsuits, Osmo, SweatVac, Louis Garneau, 3Sports, and Trainingpeaks!