This morning I woke up at around 1:45 to the sound of rain and lightning out my window. I had another 2 hours before I was supposed to get up, eat breakfast and head into Columbia to pick up Alec. Unable to get fully bck to sleep, I lay in bed vascilating between un- and semi-consciousness listening to what seemed to be a torrential downpour. I couldn't help but think of all the race reports I had read of people's experiences doing Columbia in the rain and how that was now going to be me.
3:50 rolled around and the alarm went off. It's easy for me to get scattered in the morning, so I had tried to do a good job of prepping my bits early. Sadly, I was not using the Mark Yost minimalist method, so I had a backback full of goodies (mostly sealed in plastic bags) and a bucket with my wetsuit. I grabbed some coffee, throttled down my race day constitutional (bagel with butter, berries with yogurt) and hit the road. I picked up Alec mostly on time from his hotel and we reached Centennial Park by 5. The downpour was still going, so we wandered around transition in our rain gear.
At 6:30 the rain was trailing off so I brought my gear down to transition. Set up everything, taped a gel to my frame and tried to look busy. Put my wetsuit on to the waist, which definitely warmed things up. Around 6:45, I scampered off to the MMTC tent to drop my bag and said 'hi' to Leslie, Dawn, Walt and Winsome. I watched the pros go off and then it was time to get into the corale. Down by the swim start I finally found my wife, so it was a quick kiss and a couple photo snaps, and time to get wet.
Men 35-39 where in the second wave after pros. The organizers wanted to give the 40-44 women a larger headstart, so we had 16 minutes in the start box. I used the time to swim casual laps between the start buoys and get used to the water. My initial plan had been to hug the shore, but the water quality was significantly nastier there, so I decided about 1/3rd of the way out from the inner buoy. Given my experience at Havre de Grace, I wanted to swim alone, and Pythagores tells me I'm losing mere inches if I start on an outer edge and head to the turn buoy.
At the bell, the swim was a bit chaotic. I did my best to split the middle of people and keep to the right edge of the pack. I swam over a couple folks, and kept a close eye for heavy kickers in front of me. Following the turns, the course gets a bit weird. The buoys form a convex arc, so from the second turn buoy, if you head straight for the 3rd buoy down, you can actually cut a straighter line than following the buoys (and still staying on course). This made the most of the back half of my swim rather peaceful. I finished in 29:42 with everything left in the tank, which was good for me.
T1 very slow. What a mudpit. Feet 'dry' (on the muddy wet towel), socks on, glasses on, helmet on. I had forgotten to take the gel I normally take immediately before the swim, so I ate one there and hit the bike. 4:19. Definitely could have been better.
The bike was mixed. The wet roads definitely did not leave me feeling comfortable. I know the course well, so I had my pacing and gearing plan basically predetermined, but had a couple spooky moments (hydroplaned the bike briefly while passing someone right before Folly Quarter Middle). I had the clip-ons on the bike, but with the wet roads I was only really comfortable sitting in them on Tridelphia Road. Tridelphia Mill I did almost entirely in my small chainring (I ride a compact). With my energy level and the weather it just felt right, but I was sure it would kill my time. Green Bridge next (really not that bad - not near as bad as climbing out of the resevoir), then crest the hill and commit into the big chainring for (almost) the rest of the ride back to Centennial. The nice thing about being relatively fast on the bike is that I pass many, get passed by few. Time was 1:17:58 - over 4 minutes faster than my race-pace training ride of the route. I can't help but think that if it was dry I could have shaved that number down further.
T2 even messier than T1, crazy mud. Off with the bike shoes, on with the run shoes. Helmet off. No hat. Grab the race belt and go. 2:05.
Out of transition, try to keep the feet turning over. Not moving super fast, but reasonably so. Up the first hill - we all know it's going to be a heartbreaker, you can't let it get to you. Around the bend, over the first footbridge - check the pace ... hey, how come the Garmin is displaying time of day? WTF. Turns my 405 reset and restart at T2 was actually just a reset. Back into training mode and back on.
Right before the second footbridge, a woman who had raced with me at Havre de Grace came up to me from behind (more on that later). We have a brief conversation and she carries on ahead. This is the story of my running experience - the thing about being slow on the slog is that you pass almost no one, and get passed very often. Right before exiting the park, I start to get a mild cramp forming. Hey - I didn't take that endurolyte I'd been carrying around since T1.
Pro-tip: dry swallowing an Endurolyte on the run may cause you to dry heave. It may also make you feel stupid on a race with water stops every mile.
As I enter into the neighborhood, I feel pretty good. I know these hills, I don't fear these hills. At the 5k mark, my friend Brodie comes up on me. He's a 40 minute 10k'r, so I knew it was only a matter of time before whatever meager lead I had eeked out on the bike evaporated to him. "I'm so tired" he complains, then takes off at a 8:00 pace up the Carrilon drive hill and quickly drops from sight. Up, around and back out. For whatever reason, that final hill exiting Carrilon back onto Old Annapolis is the hardest of the lot for me. Soul breaking. I walk the aid station, take a water and nurse it at a walk to the top of the hill.
Home stretch, pick up the pace a bit. Back down Old Annapolis, into the park. The last long hill is long, but I know it's the last real effort between me and the finish. I tried to turn it up, but jsut couldn't get my turnover any higher. As I cross over the emabankment, the crowd grows thicker and thicker. Finish: 58:06 on the run, 2:52:08 overall. The run was about 90 seconds slower than my race-pace test; not sure what's up with that.
Swung back through the MMTC tent and snagged a chocolate frosted donut. I don't generally eat sugar, so it's like nectar on my lips and a huge boost. What a great race!
Overall, this was a really good race for me; primarily because nothing went wrong. The swim was uneventful, the bike fast albeit a bit sketchy at points. The run a bit worse than expected, but not crazy so. My time ended up being well on the aggressive end of what I was planning (I was figuring 3:00 +- 0:05). Race support and club members were fantastic.