Patriot’s Half 2014 Race Report
On the NBC coverage of the Ironman World Championships, I believe it was Craig Alexander who was quoted as saying that he was merely a custodian of the world title, but he became accustomed to having it and for obvious reasons, did not want to relinquish it. On a much smaller scale, that’s how I feel about the title at the Patriots Half in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Over the past three years, I have taken ownership of the title, and I selfishly feel that it’s mine. Of course that’s not true, I’ll be the first to admit that previous results, training log totals, and fancy equipment mean nothing when it comes to racing. I’ve been in enough races to know that anything can happen to anyone on any given day, and that you can’t take anything for granted. In that same token, you can never underestimate anyone, including yourself.
Historically, I have been in or close to the main pack in the swim, then pulled away early on the bike en route to a lonely, but satisfying ride with the lead motorcycle. In the past I have been getting off the bike with a large lead, running steady through to the end.
For this year’s race, the James River was up to its usual antics, with a tricky current and some decent surface chop. On the warm up I knew it was going to be a slow swim day. So the race started, and I got out well, among the leaders. There were about 6-7 of us around the first buoy. Once we turned, the current started to wreak havoc on the trajectory of the pack. We split up all over the place, and I lost everyone I was with. For a while I thought I was the one who had somehow strayed off the correct line, but after a minute or so, realized that two guys had just plain taken off, and the other two or three had been pushed inland by the current a bit, so they were swimming 15-20 yards to my right. Not knowing who the two swimmers were up in the lead, I was determined to minimize their gap to me, just in case they turned out to be legitimate contenders. The rest of the swim was fairly uneventful, as I was by myself. I exited the water 3rd, with two USProTri athletes about ten seconds behind me.
Swim: 30:44 (1.2 miles)
I had a poor T1, as I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to fasten my helmet, and then realized I had left my sunglasses in my backpack. I spent maybe five seconds going to my backpack to get them before realizing it really wasn’t a big deal, and leaving without them. In that time, the two pros who came out of the water behind me were about dead even with me hopping on our bikes.
Almost immediately the two USProTri racers got out ahead of me, and I was content to let them set the pace down Greensprings Road and onto Route 5. My plan was to stay right around 290-300 watts, and for this section that’s exactly where I was. About five miles in, one of those riders started riding away, so I moved up and started in pursuit. This was where the race became the most difficult for me. For whatever reason, I just assumed that by riding at 25-26 mph, that I would soon catch all of the faster swimmers ahead of me, and then leave everyone else in my wake. Well, for the past three years, that had been the case, but not this time. By Wilcox Neck Road I had moved into third, but Nick Brodnicki (USPro) was continuing to steadily ride away from me. I was riding hard and losing ground. It was around mile 25, after finally catching the lead swimmer where I became focused on trusting my effort and not worrying so much about Brodnicki as he sped up the road. I didn’t feel great on the bike, but my power was still in my goal range, and I knew I was riding a best time if I could maintain the effort. I received some nice feedback in the last 15 miles from a couple of spectators that gave me my split to the leader, and all splits were in the 1 minute range. So even though I couldn’t see him, I knew I was still keeping him in check. I came into T2 with a new best time for this course, and that brought with it a load of confidence for starting the run.
Bike: 2:19:08 (58 miles)
I started out the run very slowly, hoping to avoid suffering through another half marathon battling a side stitch. The thought was to try and get my breathing under control for a couple of minutes, and then stretch the pace out and see what I could do (until hopefully taking the lead). It only took a two miles before I caught the race leader, and the pass was courteous and otherwise uneventful. I soldiered on, and by mile 5 I had already built a sizable gap of over six minutes. At the turnaround at mile 7 I had a 10 minute lead. At that point I completely shut it down and tried to get through the remainder of the race as easily and efficiently as I could. It was getting hot, so I made sure to stop at the aid stations to get plenty of fluids. As always, it was a thrill to cross the finish line first. I am so thankful to have the opportunities to train and compete, and I was humbled to see so many competitors giving it absolutely everything they had to finish such a tough test on an uncharacteristically hot and humid day.
Total Time: 4:15:57
Thank you to the Snapple Triathlon Team, Osmo Nutrition, Xterra Wetsuits, LG, Rudy Project, and of course SetUp Events for another wonderful race.
Next: Ironman Chattanooga