PART BEAR. PART MAN. ALL AMERICAN
Location: Gilford, NH
I traveled to New Hampshire with Simon and his friend Alan. We had a pretty uneventful trip to Boston, and the drive up to Gilford was fairly painless. Both Simon and I were slated to talk at the “Dinner of Champions”, along with a few other atheltes. We showed up at the Gunstock Ski Area with just enough time to register for the race, and get in line for some food. For those of you who have never raced this event, you owe it to youselves to someday make the trip. It’s well worth it. Not only is Keith Jordan (and his whole crew at Endorfun) one of the country’s premier race directors, but NH and Lake Winnepesauke are just beautiful. This year’s race day weather was absolutely perfect, as there was not a rain cloud in site. The air temps were a bit on the chilly side, but the lack of rain was a welcome change from the past two years. I must admit, I tend to prefer the hot days for my races, but it’s always nice to see what you can do under perfect conditions. My race got off to a great start, as I positioned myself on the feel of Bjorn Andersson and Spencer Smith. While Simon powered away from us farily quickly, we three held a strong pace to the first turn buoy.
Somewhere after that first 600+ meters, we were joined by another fast swimming Aussie. I was then fortunate enough to be placed right behind a bit of an “arrowhead” of leaders. I was just nearing the “pat myself on the back” stage of the swim, as we rounded buoy number two (and approximately 1260 meters). At that very moment, the effort proved to be too much for me. I popped. And when I say pop, I mean REALLY popped. In the final 600 meters, I lost exactly one minute 17 seconds to my former group. Ouch. That is not good, but when I blow, I really blow! I picked up the feet of a chase swimmer who had left the others behind, but had not made our initial foursome. He towed me back in, and I found solid groud, thankful to be heading to my new Javelin Lugano (pictures to follow…SOON!). I was so whupped from my anaerobic swim efforts, that I struggled to find my legs at the outset of the bike. I even felt my quads cramp up a bit as I attempted (and finally succeeded) to shove my feet in my shoes (about half a mile from transition). After about five miles, I began to build the intensity. I knew my training up to that point would not allow me to wage an all out assault on the bike, but rather I needed to build up to speed. This plan seemed to work well, as I continued to reel in those who beat me out of the water. There must have been one other swimmer I had not accounted for, as I ended up passing three riders in the next twenty five miles. As I made my way back home, I began to feel stronger and stronger. I always like this feeling when I race, but sadly, strong does not win Half Ironmans anymore; speed is now the winner. It used to be where the strongest athlete wins, as it still is in an Ironman. These days you have to be strong, yet speedy as well. I came into transition feeling ready to roll. I knew my work would be cut out for me, for sure.
The deficit to Bjorn (the day’s leader) was ten minutes; the deficit to Simon was about three. I went for it right away. I have run 1:15 on this course before, so if I could do it again, I’d have a shot. I went out hard. There again I found myself feeling quite strong, but when it came time to notch the miles down to 5:40s and 5:45s, I was not doing it. I was not terribly surprised to be stuck at 6:00 pace, but I kept waiting to find fifth gear. (Note: to those of you who think of 6-minute miles as fifth gear, I apologize; while I agree that this is fast, it is not my fifth gear!) I continued to apply pressure, as I still had hopes of catching Bjorn. I knew that Simon was gapping me, but Bjorn looked to be fading. While he did, in fact, come back to me, I did not have enough time to catch him. As always, Timberman was a great test for me. I chased hard, I had fun, and I came away with yet another third place. Three is my lucky number, and this makes three third-place finishes for the year. And in four races up in NH, I have found myself on the podium in each of those years. I’ll definitely be back next year, trying to make it back up a step or two.