** Note: THIS IS A VERY VERY LONG RACE REPORT **
I want to start out with thank yous. I have changed up the way I am looking at my racing this year. I wanted to become a smarter racer which meant doing my homework. I have talked to a lot of people over the past few weeks about techniques for different things and have experimented with some of those to figure out what works best & fastest for me. Thank you to everybody for the wetsuit advice because it was absolutely beneficial. Thank you to Mark Yost for words of advice, training tips, and mentoring. Thank you to all the people I have trained with in Open Water swims, RBRs, bricks, and running. It has been a fun start to the season. Most of all, thank you to all of the volunteers and race coordinators for making this a fun day for everybody.
Coming into this race, I had realistic expectations of what I was going to accomplish. I had never swam under 33 minutes for 1500 meters before. I didn’t expect to crack 20 mph on the bike because I am carrying around a few extra pounds (which will go soon enough!) I did not have high expectations for the hilly run(realistically expected to run around an hour). However, I was pumped. I don’t know if it was the 5 hour energy I took 30 minutes before the race or if it was the collective energy of everybody out there on Sunday, but I was really energized. My goal was 2:55:00 for this race because of the hills and my current conditioning.
I woke up at 4:30 race day, had a bowl of eggs and a cup of coffee, packed my car (even though I literally live 1 mile from the park), and drove over to find a parking spot. My pre-race ritual is usually to get there early and let my stomach settle while meticulously going over my transition area and visualizing how my race is going to go. I am very much a stickler to detail when it comes down to my race goals and how I am going to actually race. However…….I had a change of plans today. From the second I entered transition to the step I was leaving transition, there were smiling, talkative people all around me yelling out my name. I couldn’t get into my regular routine, and it turns out that I am much better off for it! Having everybody around helped to quench my nerves and just let the excitement ensue. I love race atmospheres. By the time I had to start my race, I completely forgot about anything that I was nervous about and just ready to race with/against everybody.
Swim: 29:13!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1:57/100 8/19 AG
So, coming into this race I have done 3 olympic distance tris before and never broke 33 minutes. I had never really trained to swim before or owned a wetsuit. Both of which helped me to PR today by 4-5 minutes on my swim. In the past I would start out a swim in the very back of the pack (knowing I would end up there anyway) and freestyle for a little bit until I became tired and then breaststroke (switching between the two when I felt necessary). However, in the offseason I bought a wetsuit and I actually practiced some things. Most importantly, I practiced my pulling and breathing techniques. I am now able to swim this distance the entire way freestyle, however I still do not kick while swimming. I really look forward to see what I can actually accomplish once I really start learning technique and building strength! Thank you so much to everybody who has given me advice on swim technique over the past month or two ( Ben Bartlett, Bruce Chambliss, Mark Yost, Missie Vess, etc.)
T1: 2:52 4/19 AG
So, T1 was happily uneventful. I stressed out a good bit about actually getting my wetsuit off, but the MMTC folks came to the rescue giving me worlds of advice that I have been able to take and use successfully now. I wish my transition was faster, but I missed my row and had to duck under the bar and then had a little trouble fumbling around with one sock. However, somehow I managed 4th in my age group in this transition. I remember hearing about 4 people yell “Go Mark” and about 40 people scream “MMTC, yeah Mid Maryland”……. Oh yeah, I felt the adrenaline flowing.
Bike: 1:17:40 19.3mph 6/19 AG
I put a lot of pride into my cycling. I become super competitive when I hop on a bike and feel like I have to race everything from people to cars and the occasional train around Potapsco State Park. I hopped on my bike feeling more winded then usual after the swim ( I guess going freestyle the entire time is a better workout then mixing in breaststroke quite often), however I started passing people very quickly. I threw aside my tactic of being less aggressive early because I was feeling good, and decided just to up and go. By the time I hit the uphill on Homewood, I found that there were a lot of people struggling but I just didn’t have a ton of issues. I started passing some club members who gave me very encouraging shouts (I saw Patrick Sheridan ahead of me as I was coming up to the top of folly quarter where it turns into Triadelphia and knew that I had to kick it in -- he is in my same age group after all…we shared a few words of encouragement back and forth and then it was off again).
I had my first struggle on the bike at the first liquid stop. I grabbed the Gatorade bottle just fine, but the girl who handed it to me didn’t open it. I had to twist open the lid, but the plastic cap wasn’t opened…so I lost a few seconds there of fumbling around and not getting any liquid out of it. I ended up just tossing the bottle to a couple of police officers who were patrolling traffic (Im sorry if I hit either of you in the leg while tossing it!! :/ I might have by accident!)
So, I was into a fast part of the course, and hit it hard. I maintained a solid mid-twenties to upper 20 and then really attacked the short sharp hills around Triadelphia. I made it up that hill around the reservoir, no problem and flew down the backside while two guys behind me were drafting off of me(they ended up getting penalties as I watched the guy on the back of the motor scooter writing down their numbers). I took it fairly easy up Green Bridge, knowing that I would need my strength for the climb back up Homewood and for the run. I got across Linthicum road real fast, but when I turning back onto Triadelphia Road I started hearing this clicking on the heel of my left foot.
When I looked down, my crankset bolt had unscrewed about halfway out and my heel was hitting it every revolution….. my first thought was, “why does this have to happen today?” So this was a part of the race where I was faced with a decision that I had never mentally prepared for. Should I stop and try to screw it in? Or… Should I keep going and possibly have it fall out while my heel continues to hit it which could possibly make my crank arm fall off my bike which if going fast could possibly cause me to crash and hurt myself ruining my race and possibly race season or even worse hurt other people around me? So, I made the rational/sensible decision and kept going (obviously, if this were to happen again it would be quicker to stop and screw it back in, but I was hoping it would stay in place). Well, the bolt being out of the crank was slowing me down because I was worried and then it fell out not a quarter mile later. I had to stop. I hate stopping…especially on the bike (so I had a few choice expletives to say).
I inspected the crank really quick, giving it a hard tug to make sure that it was still secure. Thankfully it was not going anywhere (at least not today), but I was still slightly cautious about it for the rest of my ride. I lost probably 2-3 minutes looking over my crankset and looking for they bolt that fell off(to no avail). Then I decided to hop back on after a few dozen people had passed me and get back into the race. I got to the water station and tried my luck at the Gatorade again. I grabbed it fine, and I was able to stick in the top of my water bottle that is attached between my aero bars on my bike. Unfortunately, the stupid Gatorade bottle is the perfect size to fit into the top of my bottle, but also the perfect size to get stuck in the lid…..so I had to waste another good chunk of time screwing around with that bottle and prying it out of the lid…at which point Bob Reid passed me on the bike with a quick hello and an even quicker good bye! You go Bob! ( I really hope that all of these things that I am mentioning can be used by somebody. I realize that I am writing a novel just because I had so many lessons learned during this race that I felt I needed to share them all).
So I started FLYING down Folly Quarter and rode like a mad man for the rest of the course. I passed by Sergio, Sheila, and Moe going up Homewood (all of whom were really exciting to say hello!) and then brought it home back to transition. My time could have been and should have been a lot better….but I still managed to stick with it. And I think that at the end of the ride I was happy that I got through it unscathed.
Run: 55:42 8:59 / mile 11/19 AG
I will keep the run section short, as it was fairly uneventful. I drank too much water at the beginning which slushed around in my stomach for the first two miles and didn’t eat anything on the bike which I paid for at the beginning of the run. People passed me and I passed people. I wanted to stay ahead of Mark Yost ( knowing that he started 20 some-odd minutes behind me) However, coming down the back side of Gatorade Hill, there he was flying towards the finish line. I was lucky enough to be able to watch his battle with the other person in his age group. As Mark flew by me, I didn’t even have enough time to say hello before he was gone. Then two seconds behind him was another guy in his age group right on his heels. It was fun to watch, and gave me a lot of motivation to go faster to watch the battle. I knew that they were the top two in their age group because I was watching numbers come and go by me on the bike and run.
So, I got to the open side of the lake (during the final mile), and I was really intrigued by Mark and his other age grouper… I watched Mark pull away on that flat open stretch of the dam, leaving the other guy demoralized and accepting defeat. Mark pounded up that final hill and out of my sight while the other guy backed off a little bit and just settled back into his pace towards the finish. I absolutely love the finish to the Columbia Triathlon. I love coming over that hill to all of the people cheering and really enjoy throwing my head back and puffing my chest out while kicking it in to spend the last of my gas towards the finish line. Thank you to everybody who made this day a fun and eventful race. If you have got to this point of my report then I am astounded because I literally just wrote 3 entire single spaced pages on Microsoft word and feel like I could write 3 more pages. Now how come I can’t accomplish this feat with any school paper that I write?!