This was my second Columbia Triathlon, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorites. Why? I guess because it is a challenging course, attracts enormous talent and the race organization runs like clockwork – typical for Vigo but not for all races. For me, it also the marks the transition from the spring marathon season back to triathlon.
Hey - are we lucky or what? We have a Vigorito-organized event in our backyard. And we have a club filled with friendly, supportive members who flood the course with “Go Mid Maryland” cheers, volunteer in droves to run an incredible tent, and we have triathletes like Brian Pomeroy and Ken Kreis, who crank out incredible splits with a humility and a smile on their faces, and leaders like Sadj, Chip and Jelly who keep us all motivated and organized.
Races are always a good time to meet new club members and renew friendships with others. This year was no exception. On Saturday, I brought my 7-year old son for bike check and dinner with Mike Barone, Linda Giampalmo and Mike Matney. (We live in Bethesda and aren’t allowed over the Howard County border except for special events). My son took the opportunity to name the ducks and geese on the lake by the Sheraton, play at Centennial Park, and devour pasta at the Tomato Palace. He wants to know why we can’t live in Columbia. (Linda, without saying as much, politely suggests it may be my politics.)
This wasn’t a taper race for me, but I still planned to race hard and see what happened. While I fell short on almost of all of the goals I set, most of which were probably unrealistic, the course treated me fine and I dropped over four minutes from last year.
Swim: 27:37 (24/99 AG).
The swim, my weak link, was once again the biggest disappointment of the day. My goal split was to come in under 25. I felt great during the swim and was perhaps a bit too comfortable in my own little world. Apparently I just dawdled along, enjoying myself. I found some feet to follow, but they were traveling at too comfortable of a pace I guess. I looked for other feet, but couldn’t find any to my liking. (This might be the beginning of some kind of a fetish).
The swim wasn’t without mishaps – I had flooded goggles once; at about 500 meters out, I suddenly remembered I forgot to follow Sadj’s advice and remove my wedding ring (resulting in swimming with a tight left hand for most of the swim); and then for whatever reason, I took a slight detour to check out part of the course that no one else thought interesting (it wasn’t - it was just out of the way). Other than that, I felt long, strong and relaxed. Yet, as I entered T1, my watch suggested that while my swim was indeed relaxed, it was too relaxed. And maybe it was only strong in my imagination.
Looking back, I can see the roots of the nautical problems: skipping masters swim several times (or more) in the weeks before Columbia because the Caps had a playoff game…. Missing all those the Sandy Point open water swims organized by Linda Giampalmo, which probably undermined my sighting effectiveness and open water pace judgment…. So, for me it’s back to the pool and over to the Bay before Eagleman.
T1: T1 seemed uneventful – I think it was about 2:30 based on my 1:13:00 estimate of my bike leg. I also rejected using the arm warmers and bike gloves – both of which are hard to get on after the swim, so that can only help with a faster transition. (Someday, when I’m convinced I won’t cause severe bodily harm to a critical body part, I’ll try the Pomeroy flying mount).
Bike + T1: 1:15:56 (4/99 AG).
The bike leg hurt this year – probably because of the 80 mile Shenandoah ride the previous week. My legs required a lot of encouragement but generally responded. The roads were less congested than last year – the riders were polite, generally keeping to the right, and there was far less car traffic. The first half of the course was wet but manageable. I thought I was going fairly fast – until my watch (again) told me otherwise. It must have been the wind. I did see lots of Mid Marylanders out there – and we all had bon mots for each other. I improved from 24th place to 8th place in the age group due to the bike split, so I’m not complaining. (Just whining about the pain, but you can do that in my age group – it’s not only acceptable, it’s expected.)
I did do one thing different this year, thanks to Mike Matney’s suggestion. I ventured out without a water bottle or even a cage. The Aerodrink mounted on the front of the Felt holds about 16-18 oz of fluids and that’s all I usually drink in an hour anyway – even on a warm day. I don’t know if this helped, but forgoing the extra liquids certainly lightened the load. Why take extra bottles when there is on-course hydration anyway? I’m rethinking the double carbon cages for EM and Lake Placid.
T2: 1:03 (4/99 AG).
I had a prime position in transition, so my improvement over last year is due completely to the good graces of Vigo’s planners.
Run: 40:13 (6:38 avg pace, 2/99 AG).
The run went fairly well although I was shooting for a sub-40 minute run. Like hockey fans, triathlon runs are simply not normal, and this is a very hard run course. That first hill really wakes you up, but it’s also an opportunity: I caught my first 50+ year old dude there. If you blow by someone on a hill, they aren’t going to bother you ever again. It’s a psychological thing. (Of course, it helps if you don’t blow up later).
Thanks for all the encouragement from the Mid-Marylanders and from the Potters (regardless of which team they happen to be on). I had a short chat with Todd Gunderson near the Gatorade Wall – we’d met pre-race in the port-a-potty line and continued the conversation breathlessly during the race.
I passed my last 50+ year old dude at about mile 5 and, although I didn’t know it at the time, I think it was a good omen. By passing him, I moved from 6th to 5th and snuck on the podium. More significantly, as I learned later, he’s from Lake Placid! That’s the good omen. I have vendetta with that course at Lake Placid after my 3-flat fiasco last year and passing a Lake Placidite late in the race can only be good karma.
So there you have it. The race was fun and the company was superb. Thanks so much to Vigo and to the pros who treat age groupers like gold. (Did you see Bozone and Wellington handing out medals?). Thanks to Dawn and the tent volunteers who made Mid Maryland the envy of all the other clubs. And thanks to the rest of the team for all the support in training and during the race.