The gun went off, and it was the usual chaotic swim start. We made the turn at the first buoy, and I had my obligatory goggle leak issues. Nothing to bad, but enough to annoy me, make me get vertical, and drain them. This lit a (waterproof) fire under me, and I finally hit my groove by about the quarter/third way point. I looked up once to make sure I was swimming straight, and realized I was in no man's land: not fast enough for the lead group, but ahead of "the pack". This turned out to be a recurring theme in the race.
The rest of the swim was the usual "get me out of here ASAP". As I surfaced, the swim exit was as glorious as ever. The confusion of a gurgly 30 minute horizontal, bilateral breathing exercise taken over immediately by hundreds of screaming people, transitioning to a vertical stance, and trying to run has always been one of my favorite parts of racing. I took my wetsuit off at the waters edge, charged the hill with a heart rate that rivals a boiling kettles temperature...
Swim: 30:36; 23/178 AG, 197/1883 OA
... and was ready to start my favorite part of the race with my new secret weapon:
The wheels aren't mine, but the new bike is. The boys at Trek made me an offer I couldn't refuse on the P2 a few weeks ago, and I could care less that this was going to be my second ride on "butter" (Yes, that is my bikes name because it is that smooth). Nothing new on race day? Whatever!
As I left transition, I quickly became that guy that didn't know what he was doing getting on a bike. Normally I can nail the landing onto the steed with shoes already on the pedals, but I didn't have it on race day. Cranks and shoes were spinning too much, and finally, a shoe clipped out by itself. After remounting the bike and getting situated, I realized that the bottom of my right foot was in some pain, and immediately hoped that it wouldn't come back to haunt me on the run.
The first 8 miles of the bike were spent with tight and uncomfortable lower back, glute and IT band muscles. I couldn't help but think that I should have stretched more and got more massages during training, but there was nothing I could do at this point. I made the right turn in lockwood to start mile 12-ish, and knew that it was time to throw down. Doing recon the previous month was huge since I knew that I could expect my average speed to creep up at least 2MPH between now and the bottom of nasty grade.
In the days leading up to the race, I thought my mantra on the bike was going to be "Triathlon is swimbikerun. Hold back a little on the bike so you don't suffer through the run". However, the new mantra was "Get Aero". "Get Aero" wasn't just keep the hands off the bars and stay in the aero, but get in and stay as aero as possible - full on tuck, head low, pedal hard. By about mile 15, I start seeing other cyclists, and passed them with ease until about mile 25 until I was pretty much by myself. Some dude ended up passing me and we played leapfrog until I dropped him at mile 33. As I hit mile 35, I was still reeling people in and shooting them out the back, and then I hit nasty grade. As Chuckie would say: "the same as it ever was" - if someone was ahead of me, I insisted on overtaking them. As I crested, I gave the energizer bunny a taste of his own medicine, and smacked his drum (literally).
As I took my second caffeinated gel at the top, I noticed "the suck" hadn't hit me yet. When I did this course last year, I noted that the bike course (really) sucks between mile 43 and the finish. Plenty of hills, nothing you can get in a groove on, and the general fatigue that was in the legs. I noted the same thing when I rode the course on Saturday the month previous, and the same thing the next day when I rode it again. I was pretty energized that the suck didn't hit me yet, and continued on. Nearing the last aid station at mile 49, I flew by about 6 cyclists with a ferocity and intent to make them realize they probably pushed the pace to hard early on, and they were paying for it now. Words from Chuckie were in my head - "Inflict pain on yourself in training, so you can inflict it on others in racing". I didn't care if they weren't in my AG or not - racing is war.
As I entered the park, I realized the suck still hadn't hit me. As I neared the cones before lynch hill, I got some screams of support from Michelle and Garuna.
As I descended lynch hill, I now came to realize that the suck did not hit me, and I was CHARGED UP. I screamed "Let's [expletive] do this!" shortly before dismounting the bike significantly more successfully than how I mounted.
Bike: 2:41:40 (20.78MPH avg); 13/178 AG, 68/1883 OA
My first few steps in running shoes amazed me. I have never felt more fresh coming off the bike. I literally felt like I just did a 30 minute easy spin up and down the PCH. My strategy going into the run was to warm up in the first 5 miles, stay strong and steady from 5-9, and then give it all I had from 9 on. That plan went out the window immediately as I fell into a very comfortable pace before I even left transition. I was amazed, but knew there was plenty of work to be had.
As the run went on, I continued to feel good, and sip on my infinit elixir. One thing I was very happy about is that I passed more people on the downhills than I did anywhere else. I owe a big thanks to Chuckie and Jesse (one of Chuckie's Athletes that I met last month) who mentioned being able to run downhills hard and fast will set you up nicely.
Coming towards the top of the hill of the TNT section...
Coming out of the trails, I saw Chuckie at mile 9 as he was staring off into space waiting for heather, and I said "Hey, you should pay attention because one of your athletes' is passing you". It was obvious that I took him by surprise, since the tone of his voice was of the "holy shit, why are you here so early?" variety. He continued to yell at me as I charged the hill. It wasn't just seeing him that was motivational, but hearing him as well.
I charged the downhill, hollered at Nick who was running with a pro, and charged the uphill. I gritted my teeth and pushed it until the very end, where I saw the finish chute clock that looked way wrong.
Run: 1:34:22 (7:12min/mile Avg Pace); 12/178 AG, 66/1883 OA
5:00:32? Something must have gone haywire. Come to find out, they reset it during the womens' elite wave, and I ended up with a 4:51:06. 3 days later, it still hasn't hit me on how I did it. I was expecting like 5:15. But finishing 24 minutes ahead of schedule with a 1:34 run on a very tough course? Really? I thought I was training for a bike race! This was way beyond what I thought I was capable of, even if the weather conditions were optimal.
Total: 4:51:06; 16/178 AG, 68/1883 OA
Live it! Love it!
Stay tuned for more soon...