I came into Eagleman this year with two goals. The first was to practice the race strategy I would use in Lake Placid next month. The second was to redeem myself after my major meltdown, season-ending back injury, and 6:46 time at last year’s Eagleman. I’m happy to say that I hit both goals, but that is still one heck of a hard, humbling race.
Swim: 38:43, 177/265
The aforementioned strategy I used was the one suggested to me by Chip Warfel, which essentially boiled down to “The tortoise vs. the hare” approach. On each leg, I had to will myself not to go out too fast. The swim was the first step. I positioned myself smack in the middle of my AG wave in effort to simulate as best as possible the swim start for Lake Placid, but that idea failed miserably because it was maybe the most polite swim start I’ve ever experienced. The only significant contact I had was after the first turn buoy when two guys in my age group, one on my right and one on my left, both swimming my pace, simultaneously ran into me on both sides. A Malachi Crunch! (Best. Happy Days Episode. Ever.) They peeled off, but about 10 strokes later, on they came again! So, like Fonzie, I smacked the proverbial dashboard to get the engine restarted, picked up my pace for about 5 strokes, and managed to escape in the nick of time. Other than that, it was uneventful. I wandered a bit, but generally swam a time I was happy with.
In the spirit of my IMLP transition strategy, my transitions were methodical and uneventful; not even worth mentioning.
Bike: 2:48:40, 155/265
The bike was pure, unadulterated hell. The moment I got on the saddle, I began experiencing excruciating pain in the Voldemort regions of the body (those areas which shall not be named). It was that special sort of agony reserved for those poor souls occupying the 9th circle of hell. Eventually, it settled at a 7 on pain scale of 1-10. I had to move around constantly, which threw off my bike geometry and led to some very unhappy hamstrings and glutes. ). Anyway, gritting my teeth and cursing my fortune, I made it a point to use the bike to prepare for the run, taking in 4 water bottles, 3 salt tabs, and a bottle of Perpetuem. Given the amount of pain I was in, I thought I eked out a decent, if unspectacular, bike time and was thrilled to be off my personal torture device.
Run: 2:05:53, 104/265
The run was where the Chip Warfel-approved race strategy was to pay off. I purposely went out at a ten minute pace and watched as dozens – dozens – of runners going out at an 8:00-8:30 clip passed me in the first 2 miles. “Oh Chip, this better work!” is all I could think. “Be patient,” answered Chip in my head. “Let ‘em go.”
By mile 3, my legs had warmed up to the idea of running, and I bumped up my pace ever so slightly. I took water and ice at each aid station, and the number of people passing me began dropping steadily. There was this one guy in my AG, however: As he passed me around mile 5, he saw his very sickly looking buddy running the other way. His buddy looked in a very bad way, but this guy said something really stupid that irritated the you-know-what out of me: “You gotta make it hurt, man. Make it hurt!” I decided I’d keep an eye on my fellow AG-er who just passed me.
By the time I got to the turnaround, I had started to reel those dozens of faster-than-me starters in. At mile 8, I caught Mr. “You gotta make it hurt.” He tried to answer as I passed him, and that’s when I went all Mark Yost on him: “I am going to make you pay for this.” We ran stride for stride for about 100 yards, then he gave up, and that’s when I pushed my pace for about 2 minutes to really bury him. My last thought of him was “I hope it hurts NOW, a$$hole.” I felt great for most of the rest of the run, and though my pace (9:30) was nothing special, I was picking off people left and right. I checked the splits the 25 closest competitors in my AG behind me – I caught 21 of them on the run, and stopped counting at 25. I crossed the finish and looked at my watch: 5:41:01 – 67 minutes faster than last year’s Eagleman and 45 minutes faster than my half IM PR. I even negative split the run. Take that, Eagleman.
For me, it all came down to strategy and execution. I’m grateful to Chip for zero-ing me in, and to Mark for, knowingly or not, channeling me his killer instinct on the run. Now it’s off to Placid, where I hope this strategy will pay off as well.