Columbia was my first 'big' race last year, and I had a number of work friends come out to join me for the race. Last year a good friend came in just under a minute and a half before me (2:52:08 and 2:53:36) and we've been having a very competitive build up to this 'rematch' (made even more competitive by us now being in the same age group). 2:45 was my 'realistic baseline goal' and 2:40 was my stretch goal.
Alec came in the week before to acclimatize, taper up (oh, yeah, and to work), and stayed with me. I resisted the temptation to poison him or sabotage him mechanically, though I might have tried to tempt him into breaking his taper with me once or twice. :-)
My A race this year is Lake Placid, and I've been trying to keep my focus on that. I didn't execute a full taper for this race, but swapped my Thursday long-run for a shorter intervals session and then took Friday and Saturday off. I forewent pre-race sushi (my typical day-before meal) and instead went with pre-race pizza, which was yummy, if not a bit filling.
Alec is a fantastic swimmer, and so from the beginning I knew the whole race for me was about chasing him down, whether it was on the bike, on the run, or at the refreshments table.
Got up at 4. Bagel with butter and a banana and a big glass of sports drink. At Centennial Park at 4:45. Set up transition and milled around for a bit, then went over to the tent (fantastic!!!!) to drop my bag. Took a gel with caffeine 15 minutes before my wave went off.
The Swim (28:31, 82/169)
Ah, the swim, my nemesis. I'm not fast in the water. Racing for me is about making up the position I lose on the swim. Centennial Lake was in good condition this year. The water was relatively clear, the temperatures fantastic. I got into the water and decided to seed myself closer to the front, hoping that if I got clear enough of the melee I could swim a 27:00. Well, no such luck. The horn went off and it was a thrash-fest all the way up to the first turn buoy. I've gotten used to full contact swimming, so it didn't freak me out, but it did slow me down as I got locked into a clump of people that I would have had to be super-aggressive to break out of. After the turn-around I once again shot a straight (for me) line to the farthest yellow buoy I could see. While the swim up to the first turn was all about contact, now I was completely alone as the pack focused on swimming buoy-to-buoy. I tried to go reasonably fast, high z2/low z3. I wish I had swim split times so I could see if I in fact went appreciably faster in the back half. 1:11 improvement over last year.
T1 (2:21, 24/169)
Kept it super-simple this year. Wetsuit off. Sunglasses on. Shoes on (save the socks for T2). Helmet on. Go. I think I can shave a bit more off this, in particular I need to 'man up' and learn to mount/dismount with my shoes on the bike.
Bike (1:12:30, 21/169)
I debated going into this race whether I should try and ride with a very low VI/smooth power profile (like I do for HIM and I plan to do for IMLP) or to just hammer the crap out of the ride. In the end I decided that my best chance for beating Alec was to catch him on the bike, so I hit the hills pretty hard (1.14 VI). The roads were very dry and fast, and I felt like I had a good ride. No wipeouts, only a couple close calls with slower riders, and a 20 second break I got trailing behind an Escalade that wouldn't give me room to pass.
I had a full bottle of sports drink in my Speedfil, which I was aiming to drain on the bike. Surprisingly, when I checked the bike after the race, I had only drank about 16-20 oz. Nutrition plan a bit off.
I never saw Alec on the bike, which had me pretty worried. Maybe I would hit him in transition. 5:28 improvement over last year.
T2 (1:42, 59/169)
Bike in, socks on (slower than I'd like need to practice that more). Shoes on, visor on, mount the watch and race belt on the road. Go. Alec's bike is there, but no Alec. Damn.
The Run (50:21, 58/167)
Ah the hills of CT. Out and on the run. I'm not sure why I bother to where the Garmin for this run. The hills are hard enough that I'm not sure what I should be aiming for at any given time (in terms of pace), and I'm not currently running with HR data, so I basically used RPE and 1/2 mile lap pace average to try and lock myself in around 8:00 miles (z3 ish)
That first hill is a killer. Lots of the speed freaks from the 40-50 year olds passing me now. I got water at most of the water stops, taking a sip and dumping it on my head. I don't do well with anything in my stomach when trying to run fast, so I stayed away from the gatorade (I had a gel in my pocket in case I needed to revise that plan on an emergency basis). Entered the neighborhood and still no Alec. At this point I figured he must just be having a fantastic race and I should focus on my 2:40:00 finish. Felt relatively strong (though not very fast) rolling through the neighborhood, then up and back up onto Old Annapolis Road.
Hey - that guy up a hundred yards there looks familiar! Time to begin the stalk. Alec's a relatively good runner, and almost as fast as me, so I wanted to try and stalk up to him within about 10-20 yards and prep myself to blow by him on the embankment at the end of the lake. Coming up the last big hill before the lake though I got a great MMTC greeting 'looking good George!'. Alec turned and spotted me. The ruse was up. I caught up with him around the last aid station. "Hey, nice of you to wait up for me", "Hey, it was the least I could do". We ran together until the embankment (for whatever reason I hate that little rise that puts you up onto it), and then I kicked out what I had left in the tank and pulled away. Well, that's probably exagerating the glory of it. I slowly edged away is more like it. I kept expecting him to try a sprint finish, but the edge held. 0:27 ahead of Alec at the end, 7:45 off last year's run.
I'm so screwed next year.