PART BEAR. PART MAN. ALL AMERICAN
Location: Middlebury, CT
2010 has been a unique year for me so far. My race season started out early with a trip to Chile to race Pucon 70.3. I was unfit going to that event, but the resulting workout jump-started my early season fitness, and by February I was steadily gaining steam en route to my spring goal of racing IM St. George on May 1.
After two races in March, both of which ended with sub-par results, I found myself facing an injury – the first I have suffered in my pro career. In April, I tended to the injury – a sacroiliac joint problem resulting from misplaced bike cleats – and resumed training with new goals and a new focus.
My first race back after the injury was to be Revolution 3′s main event at Quassy in Middlebury, CT: a half distance triathlon over one of the toughest courses around, with some of the toughest competition around. Never one to skirt the issue, I figured the best way to test myself was to race the best guys on the best course. As expected, Rev 3 did not disappoint.
Rev 3 is staged at an amusement park, which is great fun for those athletes who wish to entertain their families while they are out entertaining themselves over an extremely challenging course. Amanda and I were both a touch apprehensive returning to this race, with vastly different preparation than we had last year. With her just returning to the races after overcoming a bout of overtraining, her confidence did not fly as high as it did last year when she notched a solid fifth place finish. With my training being geared toward Ironman Coeur d’Alene in three weeks’ time, I knew my high end speed would not be quite as stout as it was last year, when my early season focus was set purely on the 70.3 distance. Nonetheless, we were both very drawn by the challenge we faced.
Race day dawned without the predicted rainfall, but with a heavy dose of humidity in its place. 95% was the reading we saw on WeatherBug, and it felt every bit that high, as we loaded ourselves – and our friend Richie – into our super cool rental car. We showed up quite early for the race, and were rewarded with ample time to set up our transition and to warm up.
My swim started very well, as I found myself sitting a few spots back of the leaders. Knowing that it would be a challenge to hold the feet of the very frontrunners, I settled in a few rows back. As we neared the first turn (at approximately 600 meters), I knew things were about to get interesting. The buoys lend opportunity for surges and shuffles and breaks and collisions. They are were the boys are separated from the men. And that first turn buoy was were the men flutter kicked out of sight, and I found myself heading up the pack of boys in chase.
I don’t blame Viktor for causing the split, but it was totally his fault. (Maybe that means I do blame him?)
Rounding turn number two, I took charge of my posse, and pulled our solid group to shore. Somehow – perhaps it was because I lead the swim charge – I got left behind in transition. My bluseventy PZ3 did not want to come off, and my helmet did not want to go on. I can only attribute my slow transition to being a touch rusty with the lack of spring racing in my body. Either way, my swim cohorts were gone.
I jumped on board my Airfoil and set about to reeling in my old crew. My cycling has felt very strong in training, and with my new found use of a Power Tap I now know a touch more about pacing more appropriately. My goal was to negative split the ride, knowing it would really help me tackle the run hills later. As I zoomed through the opening miles, I quickly came to the conclusion that the only thing cooler than the whoosh-whoosh sound of a disc wheel is the wicked air-slicing moan of a Zipp 1080 front wheel. Damn.
The first 24.8 miles went by quite smoothly. There were sections of drizzle, there were sections of wet road, but for the most part, it was quite a pleasant ride. I was gradually bringing back some of the guys up the road, when I heard the ill-fated noise we all hate to hear: pssssss. There you are. No longer would I hear the whoosh-whoosh or the moan. I was on the side of the road with a Pit Stop in my hands. Lucky for me, tech support showed up almost immediately after I stopped. They watched me shoot in the Pit Stop, and they watched at it deflated faster than seemed naturally possible. I guess the hole was too big to be sealed.
Plan B was to swap wheels – no more whoosh-whoosh – which we executed fairly quickly. Soon enough I was climbing back up the long hill in pursuit of the others. (In training we wait for one another when we flat. I’m just pointing that out.)
Ten miles down the road, after I had gotten accustomed to my silent rear wheel, tech support showed up again. This time they waved me over and asked me if I wanted to replace the wheel again. And in a split-second decision, I stopped. Not too smart. As great as Zipp wheels are, I tend to think that forward progress will still tend to outweigh the aero advantages they offer on the side of the road. Correct me if I’m wrong, as I know these things are amazing, but standing still for too long just doesn’t seem to be wise, when compared to the alternative. Next time I have a functioning wheel, please remind me to keep pedaling.
Finishing up the bike ride – after one more stop to reopen my brakes! – I found myself well, well removed from contention. I did my best to shake a mental leg and move, but the motivation was lagging a bit. I pushed as hard as I could to finish, knowing there was still a half marathon awaiting me.
It was quite a relief to be off the bike, which is something I rarely find myself saying. I was out on the run course in record time: too bad this transition time doesn’t really matter anymore!
My first two miles were easy and comfortable. I had nobody to race, so the pain and discomfort that sometimes accompanies the opening miles were absent. I have to admit that I struggled for a couple miles to find the reason to push myself. I was going to finish, of course, but did I have to run hard? Was the training effect going to be more if I pushed the miles harder? I waffled a bit, and started settling into a comfortable pace, intent to enjoy the beautiful run course.
By the time I reached mile 5, I managed to bump into some motivation. I can’t really say where it came from, but suddenly I decided I needed to race that final 8 miles. A lot can happen in 8 miles, even if I was two miles behind!
My pace went from cruise to push, and my attitude went from fun to compete. I was pleased with the transition, and from that point onward, I really made an effort to catch as many runners as I could. It was really too bad I did not stumble upon the motivation a bit sooner, because by the time I crossed the finish line in 11th – one spot out of the money – I was just over a minute down from 10th (with only another minute to 9th).
The are many positives that come from finishing a race on a high note, which is exactly what I did. I went to Quassy to test my body after its return from injury, to gain a significant training boost that comes only from racing, to compete against some great athletes, to support a wonderful race production company, and to have a bit of fun along the way. Sure, it would have been nice to mix it up with that front bunch of contenders, but I’m pretty sure they will all be around this summer and fall, when the other races present themselves.
As for the positives that came from the race, like I said, there are many. One at the top of the list was this little reward that I found waiting for me at Friendly’s post-race. And I got to share it with my sweetheart.