So you’ve all experienced or heard the weather was crap on race day, so I’ll just agree that is was wet, but at least not hot. I had been looking forward to Nation’s Tri mostly because I know parts of the bike course and have been feeling really good on my weekend group rides. Plus I was renting a Zipp 808/1080 combo that at least provided a mental edge. While the wheels are aero, they add weight, so I needed to balance this out by replacing my tail mounted double bottle cage with a single seat tube mounted cage. Keeping in mind that Chris Lieto and I are the same height but there’s 34 pounds more of me to love, weight shaving on the bike is again just a mental exercise. But it also meant I was riding without my flat repair kit because I figured if I flat I’m done.
This race is getting too big; There was a two+ hour differential between the first wave and the last wave. They promised the rain would stop, but weathermen are liars. I felt bad for those folks waiting around, but this was one time I know almost everyone had their wetsuits on before leaving transition.
Swim – 26 minutes
The swim waves were really well marked this year. I nearly missed my wave last year, so this was a welcome improvement. The course was marked with extremely big buoys and that looked to be promising from the docks. I had gone swimming about 5 times this summer, including once the week before the race to test my bum toe and felt like I was getting a better feel for the water again. I moved all the way to the inside for the swim start so that I was on the left-hand side of the buoys. At the horn, I went full gas to try and make it to the buoy before the guys around me did. Once there, I dialed it back a notch on purpose whereas normally I have to if I want to have any energy left for the rest of the race. So feeling pretty good, I set about sighting every few strokes and was indeed thankful for the huge markers. Overall the swim could not have gone better. I stayed right on course and either my goggles didn’t fog or the buoys were so huge I couldn’t miss them. For some reason this course is always slow for me, but this was my fastest Nations split, so I’m very happy with it.
T1 – 3:41
Another reason I was happy with the swim was that I was able to actually pass people during the loooong run from the Potomac to the transition area. That never happens without me having to drop to my butt once out of sight of the spectators. This time there was a bit of mud from the non-stop rain and one very painful but short instance where I missed my shoe opening and caught my already bum toe on the rim of my shoe. But off I went really looking forward to the bike.
Bike – 1:05:41
My best bike split to date was at last year’s Nation with a 1:09. I could tell right away this was going to be better. Almost right from the start I was in the aero bars as opposed to gasping for breath after another attempt to look fast for the spectators at the expense of my capabilities. I think one guy may have passed me right at the start and I vowed to myself no one else would. They always say you should not try anything new on race day and that’s great advice. I hadn’t ridden my bike with a bottle cage on the seat tube yet and right away noticed two things: 1) my calves hit the bottle cage’s edges every pedal stroke and 2) it had been a long time since I had reached down to the get the bottle as opposed to back behind the seat. I couldn’t adjust my riding style so I got used to the calf rub and I used the awkwardness of reaching down to force myself to ease up and get a drink every 15 minutes. This was the first time I had successfully portioned my drink intake and it worked great.
There were a couple of guys (25-29) that I was trading places with every so often, but all those Catoctin and Columbia rides really paid off as I hammered every incline and as the course went on only one guy stayed with me. This was also a first for me where I actually passed folks as opposed to being the one passed. Everything was going smoothly as I was able to stay left for the most part and thanked God every time I passed one of the many folks changing flats on the road side. At the turn around on Rock Creek Parkway I got to hear my deep rimmed wheels churning along as the sound reverberated off a low stone wall. Only it wasn’t the sound of my rims, rather the pst-pst-pst of the puncture in my front tire. At first it was an obvious sound as the air was being forced out. Once the air was out though I wondered if I had heard right in the first place. I didn’t stop to check since I didn’t have the tools to make a repair anyway. The road here is pretty straight and apparently fairly smooth because I was still very stable on the bike and figured the increased rolling resistance was just my legs getting tired. As we got closer to the finish and some turns came up, the bike got a little squirrely and I got visions of Joseba Beloki sliding out behind Lance that one year in the Tour, so I took it very carefully into the homestretch. Coming in slowly to the finish allowed me to notice Colleen and the boys cheering me on, which is always nice, and I got off the bike without wincing from the cramps I usually have at this point.
T2 – 2:03
I hate running with wet feet. I had managed to keep my shoes dry and put on socks to hopefully increase the length of “dry time” I had in front of me. I was careful with my toe this time and managed through transition with no incidents.
Run – 54:34
So two weeks ago I kicked a pool chair while at my boys’ diving practice – twice. The second time it really hurt but it was a small chair and I refused to believe that little chair could hurt me so badly. After the pain was still stable 4 days before the race, I got an x-ray and the doctor called me a cry baby. Actually he said it was just jammed and while it may hurt, I couldn’t do any damage to it. I figured that I could tough this out then and still go for a PR. Only when a shuffling 68 year old woman passed me on the run a few years back have I been more demoralized during a race. So many of the people I had passed on the bike were having the last laugh at my expense on the run.
The first mile+ was fine, but as we turned to recross the Mall my foot started howling. I had made the conversion into a full on midfoot/forefoot runner late last year, but that was impossible to do at this point. I had to heal strike and basically take baby steps the whole way to avoid too much pressure on my toe knuckle during what would have been the push off phase. Because of the awkward gait I was utilizing, my left thigh started getting sore from the overcompensating I was doing. I’d love to say I suffered with the pain, but it was just too much and use this as an excuse. Really I just had no running fitness whatsoever. I had only run once since Lake Placid and didn’t run during the six weeks before that race due to another injury so try as I might, I just couldn’t hold an increased effort beyond 10 meters.
As the finish line approached I saw the clock but couldn’t figure out what my time was. I knew the good I had done through T2 was rapidly evaporating on the run, so I made the attempt to beat the timer to the next full minute. I made it and did in fact PR by a few seconds. I’ll take it.
I took a seat immediately after the finish line to ice my toe. After a few minutes of icing, I stood to get a foil blanket and a medic promptly stepped backward onto my toe. That hurt.
I saw Mark Yost finish and he had the same flushed with effort look he had last year at LP, so I figured/hoped he had a good race. It was good to see him back after his injury. I didn’t notice any other MMTC racers, but I don’t have the club colors either. Those yellow visors sure are eye catching so I’ll get one sooner than later.
Overall – 2:31:57
And I beat DC Mayor Adrian Fenty.