Eagleman 2009 went fairly well this year. I missed each of my time goals, but not by much, and the overall time was a PR by about four minutes. What truly impresses me about Eagleman (like Columbia) is the talent the race attracts – not just the professionals but the age groupers – the 54 year old winner in my age group had a 4:21 and, hot on his heels, was a guy racing a 4:23. And some of that talent is in our club: like Todd McClellan with a 4:17!
I scheduled Eagleman this year to be my last race before Lake Placid IM – sort of a tune up, but I was treating it as an A race as well, shooting for one of the slots. I did a full taper, which meant cutting back my weekly training volume from 24-28 hrs a week to 20 hrs the week before and then down to 12 hours the week of Eagleman. I tried to maximize sleep (7-9 hours a night) and, while decreasing the volume, increased the intensity of the workouts in the days leading to the race. Partly due to work and partly due perceived leg fatigue, I skipped my last scheduled run on Thursday (a 4 mile lactate threshold run) and took three full days off from running. On Friday night, I cut out of masters swim after 30 minutes and got a full nine hours of sleep. (I’ve found the critical sleep night for me is two nights before the race.) Nutrition wise I did what I always do: heavy protein until Wednesday, then carbo loading.
The challenges (for me) at Eagleman 2009 were the “combat-swim” and the headwind on Egypt Road. On the flip side of the coin, it felt great to run this year and the transitions went like clockwork.
Swim 35:21 (22/85)
My goal was to be in under 35 minutes: I came close, but in any event it was a couple of minutes faster than last year. (This swimming thing continues to be my weak link). I got in the water as early as possible to get about five minutes or so to warm up – this seems to help. It also helped me get a decent position – my swim start included four separate groups (at least): 16-19 year olds, 30-34 (I think – or some other really young and ferocious age group), 50-54 year olds and the Clydesdales. It was a big group with some big guys…
I like the new course: I found it very easy to stay on course as I naturally drift to the right. So, in counterclockwise pattern, I tend to stray. With the buoys on the right, I was hugging the line. The only complication is that it seemed that everyone else was too! This was the most crowded swim I’ve had – there were plenty of people to draft on, but the draft was usually ruined by the people climbing up my back. The turns were congested, but manageable. Some poor guy caught my elbow in the chin and I lost feeling in my arm for about five minutes. The real wrestling match started after the last turn as we all merged in towards the cove for the finish. Some gentleman apparently felt that I was in his space and he gave me a huge shove. Being a former collegiate wrestler, when I get shoved, I usually, and did in this case, shove back. You know what they say about poking a tiger in the eye? As he turned and started to climb on me, I concluded (in a rare moment of lucidity) that this wasn’t helping either of our times. I may get the takedown, but we’re both going to lose the swim… So I moved away – and let him have his territory. I think I beat him to the sandbar anyway.
T1: 1:57 (4/88)
T1 went smoothly, in fact, it went almost two minutes faster than last year. I think this is because the timing mat was so close to my bike and because I have finally internalized Chip’s advice: keep transition simple. Transition is no time to think: decisions should be made in advance. Suit off came off like lightning (thanks to the PAM I spray all over my body before it goes on – I often think I probably leave a slick in the water); shoes and race belt went right on, the aero helmet with the straps pre-arranged went on in a flash and I was out with the bike. I haven’t attempted putting my shoes on while I pedal yet – particularly on a muddy day like Sunday – I’m still a sock guy.
Bike: 2:31:37 (6/88, avg speed 22.3 mph)
My goal was sub 2:25 and I didn’t come close, but I did improve my age group place, passing about 14 guys in the age group on the bike leg. I was on track for a 2:25 split through about mile 30, averaging well over 23, but the invisible hand also known as the Egypt Road headwind seemed to be pushing me back…. Everyone races on the same course, so I’m not complaining, but I kept trying to hammer the last 15-20 miles and the velocity just wasn’t there on Egypt Road and Dailsville Road. (I also think someone keeps adding more curves to Dailsville Road every time I do it.)
Nutrition and hydration worked well. I’m only carrying an aerodrink bottle and one extra bottle of accelerade on the bike. No longer will I carry double bottles on a course, particularly when there are four water stops in 56 miles. It’s unnecessary weight. I went through about 24 ounces of fluid an hour, including half a bottle of Gatorade from one of the stops. For nutrition, I keep a PBJ in my bento box cut into quarters. I usually only eat half of it between miles 25-30 and Sunday was no exception: two quarter sandwiches gobbled before Egypt Road.
T2: 1:43 (1/88)
T2 went smoothly as well, with one inconsequential glitch. There’s very little to T2 for me since I ditched the hat Sunday and just needed shoes and my Garmin. (Since I mounted a Garmin Edge on the bike, I don’t even use the Garmin running watch on the bike leg anymore. But I still want it when I run to control my pace). Until I was in the middle of T2, I hadn’t noticed that when I disconnected the Garmin 201 from the charger (the night before), I left the base of the charger on the watch. So, as I strapped it on as I ran towards Run-Out, it felt funny. It felt a little larger than usual and those 201s are pretty honking big anyway. I wasn’t going to screw up a good T2, so I just strapped it on as is, base and everything. I didn’t really notice the extra weight, but it must have looked a little weird.
Run: 1:31:30 (3/88, avg pace: 7:00 min/mile)
For whatever reason, this was one of those days when it was a pleasure to run–even after 56 miles on the bike. The weather was perfect and my legs felt fresh, probably because they had 3 days off before the race. I’d also done more bricks than in past years, including a crusher with Mike Barone after an 80 mile Catoctin ride. I think I’m starting to feel the benefit. My goal was to run near 1:30, but I wanted to make sure there was no major meltdown so I was shooting for even 45 minute splits. I hit the 6.5 mile mark just around 46 and must have come home in about 45:30. The same strategy that works in marathons seemed to work well here: only look ahead a mile at a time: I added 7 minutes to the time at each mile marker and concentrated on breathing and making the next mile split.
I picked off four of my age group colleagues in the run, including two in the final mile and a half. What a feeling!
I truly appreciated all the encouragement from MMTC’ers and from MMTC/CMS’ers Chuck and Michelle Potter on the course. The support keeps us all going. (And there were a lot of us out there). Linda Giampalmo gave me a high five as I turned home.
It was a good day for me – a PR by 4 minutes, an EM PR by 15 minutes and a Clearwater slot. (Although I was fourth and my age group had 4 slots, it was by no means a given. I didn’t know this, but the #1 guy can take both a Kona and a Clearwater slot. In my age group this year, that happened. We had 2 Kona slots and 2 Clearwater slots; if the 3rd place finisher had taken the second Clearwater slot, I would have been out of luck – even though I was fourth and there were four slots! He didn’t, so a good day became a better day. And, I learned it really really pays to be #1. Steve Prefontaine, who got 4th in the 1972 Munich Olympics at 5000 meters, was right: “Fourth really sucks!”).
The MMTC tent was, once again, incredibly supportive and a great place to recover. It is always a good place to go to calm the nerves or decompress/stretch and recover after the race. Thanks to everyone who put in all the energy and effort to make it a success.