About a week before the race it looked like we will have some light sunshine and pleasant 70's for the run. It was not to be - the weather forecast changed from partly cloudy to cloudy and then to rainy over the 2-3 days before the race. Oh well I thought - another wet one which seems to be the rule this season. I was hoping this will not turn into duathlon and at least that prayer was heard and we did have a full tri.
I'll spare you all the details about my waking time and eating habits. After I got on site I got quickly body marked - only on my hand which I did not like much. I prefer knowing who just passed me especially if I can not see if they are in my race or the olympic race. Oh well I guess they did not have enough volunteers to do proper body marking. After that I went back to my car to get my stuff and setup transition. I picked spot close to bike exit right next to Lenny and across the aisle from Chris - my EnMu buddies. While we were getting setup we were being checked by the USAT referee - well our helmets that is. Funny is that the same referee gave Chris hard time during Steelman and we were joking about it just before she showed up. It all turned up to be good fun and she actually came back once again to tell me jokingly that she needs to check the helmet again just as we were getting ready for practice swim.
I got into my wetsuit, stuck extra ear plug into the wetsuit in case I lose the ones I have in my ears - last OWS was a big learning - I got such motion sickness without ear plug that I almost passed out in calm lake after I lost one of my ear plugs. The water was cold for my taste, but after 400m warm-up it got better. I was ready to go. Just before the start I said hi to Leah and Garen who were doing the Olympic distance and came to check out our start. Then it was time to rock - went to the water, lined up up front and took the inside line. After the horn I went ahead and pushed quite a bit to get out of the pack. Well that lasted a little while, but once we got to the first buoy I got in the middle of few people and had to speed up again. Then I got caught in between two guys and could not go through or around them. At that point my HR was too high so I decided to let it settle by swimming on my back for about 30-60 seconds. Once I regrouped I continued freestyle only little more paced. At the second turn we turned back against the wind and pretty good chop. I had to stop once or twice to check where we are swimming as sighting was not easy in these conditions. But I remembered the Chesapeake mile swim and the chop was not all that bad. Well it was washing over my head and I swallowed some water before I got into the rhythm. On the second lap it was much calmer - less people to fight with and I was able to settle into my pace and just keep going without any breaks. I exited the water about 2 minutes slower than I planned, but given conditions it was an OK swim. Based on results I had 11th swim out of the 90 finishers. Not bad. Definitely an improvement from last year where I was further back even though I had great swim. I guess the hours in the pool are showing some results. I still have to have a stellar swim though.
After fairly fast transition - slower than usual as I was getting my arm warmers for the bike - I was biking out of the park and pacing myself up the hill. Poor guy I passed on that hill he was clearly struggling on the incline I wonder how he did on all the other hills especially on the RT313 climb that can be a bitch especially the third time around. Unfortunately my bike prep was not stellar for this race and I forgot to check my power meter - it did not work. Oh well what can I do I'll just go by feel. I have done enough riding on these hills to know when I'm pushing over threshold and when I'm slacking off. So I went. The race loops three times around lake Nockamixon which is rolling hills course with few good climbs. I wanted to do the first loop little more conservatively, then second loop little harder and third loop little bit harder than second. But not too hard to kill my legs before the run. Tough balance to keep on these climbs even with power meter. I was hoping for 21.5 - 21.8 average speed on the course in dry conditions. Wet roads make for slightly slower bike as I do not risk as much on the bike since the last year wipe out during JerseyMan that put me out of training for few weeks. It is not worth it. I ended-up averaging 20.8 over the 56 miles which is about mile per hour slower than I wanted, but it still gave me 3rd fastest bike split of the day. There was some wind and rain so people were not as fast as in dry conditions. Plus there was a lot of debree on the roads from the rain storms we had few days before the race. Also quite a few people ended up with flat tire (one poor guy actually had two flats and still finished in top 10 - great run for him - his legs got a good break waiting for the sag wagon with technician). After the race I noticed that I was about 1 mm away from flat myself. I got a sharp rock stuck in my tire and it went all the way to casing of the tubular - yeah big luck for me.
Transition two was fast - just got my socks, shoes and off I went. After the experience during Patriot's tri I will not do any run longer than 10k sock-less. That Patriot's run was the most stupid idea of this season resulting in blisters that took about week to heal. My goal for the run was to keep pace between 7:50 and 8:00 minute mile. First half a mile was a huge struggle as my quads were hurting from the bike and the left one was really bad. Luckily as I was closing on second mile most of the pain went away and I was able to run solid pace even on the uphills. I focused on good form, breathing and pacing myself - it is a long run and as I learned during the BlackBear you will only hurt yourself if you try to go out too fast. Even on downhills I was sure not to go much faster than 7 minute mile. Surprisingly I felt great after the first 3.25 miles (first turnaround).
I was in second place (well technically third, but the girl running in front of me was part of relay). I felt great the half of the second loop and only stated to fade after the turnaround - well time to get the boost - I took three salt tables and chewed them - yuk it was nasty, but helped a bit. I washed them down with gel water mix and in about 2 minutes I was back in the game. Unfortunately just at that point when I was starting mile 12 the guy behind me made his move and passed me. He was going much too fast for me to sustain the pace for 2 miles (we still had about 2 miles to the finish at this point). So I just kept my pace and focused on my race. After aid station where I got last cup of water I saw him about 50 meters in front of me and kept him in my sight for next mile. Then I lost contact completely. But that was OK I was running my race at that point and I knew I had only one more mile to go - so I opened it up and ran what seemed like 7 minute mile - all the way to the finish. If anything I was picking up speed and not slowing thanks to friend of mine who was cooling down on the race course and ran in front of me - his cool down is 6 minute mile I guess. He is really fast (and placed real well in the Olympic race).
And there it was finish line - I almost took down one poor lady in the finish shoot as I passed her (she was in the Oly race). After I crossed the finish line I simply collapsed to the ground to give my legs a break. I was not exhausted I just needed to sit down and that was the fastest way to sit. I returned the chip, git back up and grabbed some food.
Then I re-united with my family and shared the moment with my son and wife. They are my greatest supporters. Later I met with Leah, then Chris crossed the finish line and we shared a moment.
Then it was time to change to something dry and collect my stuff from transition. After that I checked the results and there it was - I was third overall male finisher. That is the first time placing in top three for me and it feels great. This is certainly thanks to the great support and training guidance I'm getting from my coaches Erica and Craig. I'm looking forward to my next race which is the Chesapeake Man Aqua Velo - which is 2.4mi swim and 112mi bike race (so Ironman distances with no marathon). After that I'll be training for Philly marathon with goal to break the 3:30 mark that escaped me last year with few stupid first timer mistakes I plan to avoid this year.