OK I need to admit it up front I am excited. This was a great race and it shaped up very nicely for me. I'm all tapered for my A-race that I have not been able to start last weekend due to some issues that prevented me from traveling away from PA. I was looking forward to this race to see how my fitness progressed over the past year. And I was literally blown away. But let's not get ahead of the report.
I'll not start with the wake-up call and coffee, because all the stuff that happens before the wave start while important is not as interesting. So let's start with the swim. I knew from DC that I need to push right out of the gate to get out of the mess of mass start. I lined up little to the right of the group and way in front as far as I could stand. When the horn sounded I just jumped in and started pushing pretty hard for about 100 meters. Then I settled into my pace and kept sighting. I swam this part as a warmup earlier and since then wind picked up and there was a light chop that was washing over my head. Other times I would freak out, but this was nothing compared to Chesapeake Bay swim so I just kept going. Key was sighting as all the rescue kayaks had same colors as buoys. At one time I was not sure which was which and needed to take second peak on few strokes to keep on track to turn buoy. Funny part - until I hit the first turn buoy which was about 700m away I was swimming alone. After the turn I was trading places with two other guys and that placement stayed until the end of the swim. The swim back was very easy and only after the turn we had to fight a little bit of current that was pushing me away from the course. But nothing major. I exited the water at 24:24 which is huge improvement over last years 36:56. Last year was no wetsuit swim, this year we were allowed to use wetsuit.
There is a long run up the hill to transition that I paced myself on. I did not want to raise my HR even more than it already was. In transition I put on my helmet grabbed my bike and went on my merry way. When I got out of the park few people yelled at me that I'm in 3rd place which is pretty much where I stayed through out the bike. I passed the 2nd guy for a while just before the long climb and kept my position on the climb, but he got ahead of me after the climb and rode away over the next 10 miles. I kept seeing him on the long straights, but was not able and willing to push harder that I did. The bike course is very hard by any other tri standard - I would compare it to Black Bear Tri with few hills stacked on top of each other. There are few major climbs, the worst one is the first hill about 2-3 miles into the ride. You really need to get your biking legs for that one and pace it. The second hard hill is after the half way point when you enter Jim Thorpe and have to climb pretty steep hill that turns right into a wall. After more climbing there is some more climbing and rolling climbing back to the Lentz Trail and that one is rolling road where you can pick-up some speed. Speaking of speed - the course has some really nice hills where you can pick-up some serious speed. I did not break my speed record from last year, but got pretty close - 47.9mph on the first downhill. And this year no police or volunteers were in harms way (read last years report if you want to learn what almost happened there). The bike then goes beyond the park entrance to the bottom of the first major hill to turnaround and back to the park. I timed my gap on the 1st and 2nd guys and I was about 6 minutes behind #1 and about 3 minutes behind #2. Soon there was park entrance and time to get running. I do not have exact bike split, but my split after T2 was 1:10:45 which is by itself improvement over last year by few minutes.
I knew what I was up to in the run. The run course starts with 2.5 miles nice trail rolling run which is mostly slightly downhill. After that you make sharp right hand turn and climb steep hill to turn point which is about 0.75 miles up the hill. I figured I'll go by feel. In the past few races I was running on what I call edge of side stitch - you can feel it coming, but if you keep the same pace it does not hinder your run. That was around 7 minute pace on the downhill and about 8:00 - 8:30 on the uphill. About 3/4 way up the hill I got passed by two guys that were clearly faster runners. I decided to run my own race and make sure I have enough energy to finish the whole run strong. After the turnaround I was ripping it up down the hill and keeping the one in my sights. That was the case for remainder of the slight uphill back towards the transition area. I did have few rough patches where the bad Jan was telling me to stop and walk. I did not listen to him much and just kept going. On the run I was running on fumes - especially on the way back to the park. I had gel flask with me, but knew that if I took a sip I may trigger some cookie tossing and I knew I can sustain the final two miles on what I took on the bike and before the swim (about 280kcal on bike and same amount about 30 minutes before the swim). I did not even take any water, just kept pushing back to the finish. When I saw last mile marker I knew I'll make it and the challenge was to gain some time on that last mile. I went to overdrive and picked-up the pace. I felt it right away, body rebelled but I did not let it slow down. I knew that the last part of the run is downhill and flat so I can let the gravity take care of the final sprint. Still need to look over the mile splits on that run, but my last mile is most likely the fastest one. When I had the finish line in sight I unleashed the overdrive mode and spent last reserves. I crossed finish line, slowed down, took down my chip and collapsed next to my son. I was done. After few minutes resting I sipped all my gels I had for run, ate banana and drank some water.
Can you say "I had enough"
Refueling and sharing the moment
Handshake with Craig shortly after he crossed the line
Then we waited around to see my coach and other EnMu athletes finish. First to cross the line was Jes who also took the top overall women. She is very fast. After a minute or so Craig was crossing the line. We chatted a bit at the finish line and then Ian, Dasa and Veronika decided it was time for beach. I went to transition to pack my stuff and put it to the car while they went to the beak where I joined them. The award ceremony at this race does not start until the last person crosses the finish line so we had some time to swim and have fun. The beach time was great and we all enjoyed it a lot.
Getting ready for the water
Fun with Veronika
Look daddy I'll show you something
You see... Yeah he smashed my face in the water - all in good spirits of playing
Look mommy how I can kick the water
Then it was time for the awards ceremony and I already knew that while I crossed the line fifth I gave up two more spots due to the waves start. I was in the first wave and two people had better finish time and passed me in the overall ranking - well guess what the first one is Jes and the second one is Craig - I was not even upset about it. In the final tally I finished first in my age group which is a first one ever. So I'm enjoying the moment while my legs are hurting like hell. But that will get better over the next few days.
Receiving the age group award with Ian
Erica, Craig and me posing with our new rocks
One last note - all this was possible thanks to the help I received from my coaches Erica and Craig at the Endurance Multisport. They are just great. Well you can judge by the results - there were three people from EnMu in this race and all three placed first in their AG or overall. The best change to my training I did from last year was to work with professional coaches.