||Saturday, September 29, 2007
||Triathlon - Ironman
||Male 30 - 34
Text version below. For full report with pictures, visit:
Chesapeakeman is an iron-distance triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) that traverses through the Blackwater Wildlife refuge area in Cambridge, Md. This was the 4th year that the Columbia Triathlon Association has put on the race. They also offer options for an aqua-velo (swim & bike only), and swim fest (swim only), which allows possibilities for family involvement and/or big training days for other fall races.
There were a few factors that went into my decision to race Chesapeakeman:
* OKed by Deidre.
* I had a solid fitness from Lake Placid Ironman in July.
* I had the motivation.
* The venue is close, so logistics were easy.
* Opportunity to win
* A day of solitude, without the hype of the Mdot and "Kona or
bust" t-shirts in the way.
* To support a smaller race. We need these races to survive.
* I had nothing to lose.
I quickly realized that having my family around settles my mind; without them, it was consumed with race thoughts and concerns ... unsettling.
While there's no substitute for TeamD, two friends (Jen & David) did sacrifice their day to come up and offer support. I was grateful to have some familiar faces arrive early Saturday morning to take my mind off the day ahead.
The swim was a point to point in the Choptank River, starting at the Hyatt beach and finishing at Great Marsh Park (the site of the popular Eagleman 70.3 half-ironman race held in June). All participants (tri, aqua-velo, swimfest) started together. The wind was blowing steady and strong and the river was choppy. According the the tides tables, we were supposed to have a fast swim with the aid of a 2 knot current. This was not the case, with the waves and chop caused by the winds possibly offsetting any tide benefits.
I'd breath left, and the chop would come over my head and into my mouth. I'd breath right and get the sun, then the chop directly in my mouth. Siting was hit or miss. I thought there were too few buoys for a point to point swim. Although they are big on land, they are not so big in a choppy river and 400 meters apart. So, the swim sucked, but I knew it had to suck for everyone.
Making my way quickly through transition, I mentioned to Dave and Jen that, after that swim, I wouldn't need to supplement sodium the rest of the day.
Race reports in the past were spattered with split times, nutrition, and gear choice. Now, I tend to focus more on my mindset and feeling during a race. I don't wear any monitors to dictate effort, and I don't display any mph on my bike computer. Effort is driven by feel and how good, or bad, my mindset is at the time.
While I [physically] felt fine in the beginnings of the bike, my state of mind was poor - possibly due to starting the day on a negative note with the tough and long swim. For the first hour, my thoughts were drenched with wanting to pull the plug, rather than going for it all. What happened to "nothing to lose"?
The first 50 miles combined head, tail, and cross winds. After some heads down, grind-your-gears riding into a headwind, I caught a tailwind that muted the loudness and helped me move fast and effortlessly (and quietly) for a brief moment. It completely one-eightied my poor state of mind. I got out of the saddle and said out loud, "Let's win this thing Brady".
We covered 64 miles before starting the second loop due to an added out and back at the start. At the 50 mile mark, the landscape opened up and exposed acres and acres of the Blackwater Wildlife refuge. The road surface worsened, and we hit a stiff headwind for the final 15 miles to the high school. Some more self talk in that section, but nothing that should be written here.
Zipping through the high school, Dave and Jen were encouraging and informative. I was in 4th or 5th place, with the next guy 3-minutes ahead. I felt good, and my mind was in the right place.
After three hours of riding, my legs felt strong. I thought if I could maintain hard and steady riding for another hour, I'd be able to grind out the last bit of the bike regardless of how bad I felt. But better than that, I never hit that bad spot. I continually pushed hard through the swirling winds and passed those ahead of me; most of the time with the look of agony and frustration shouting from their expression.
I heard the sirens, then saw the thick smoke rising a ways up the road. Not much later, I road on through as a wild fire burned just off the road. Apparently, a passer-by or hunter tossed a cigarette out into the brush and caused the flames to erupt. As I road on through, everything around me glowed orange. Only a handful of participants made it through before the police shut down that part of the road and forced the race director to reroute the course. Those who were rerouted wound up riding 106.5 miles instead of the 112.
Back into the dreaded open landscape of the wildlife refuge, I passed the 2005 winner and moved into 2nd place. I put my head down and didn't look back for six minutes. When I did, I saw nothing - mission accomplished. I knew he was a strong runner and I'd need every minute or second I could bank from that moment forward.
The cost of handing over your bike is lacing up the runners and hitting the pavement for 26.2 more miles of running. I quickly transitioned, aside from hitting the jon for much needed relief.
David: "You're 12:30 back on the leader. You can get him!"
The run course is out-and-back three times on a flat, open road.
I started the hunt. While 12:30 is a lot of time, it's a long day. I thought if I had a rock-solid run, I may catch him somewhere on the 3rd loop. I felt good, and my mindset remained positive and motivated. Each time I passed through an aid station, I was encouraged by the volunteers who'd shout, "You look much stronger than the leader."
I chose to run with my own water bottle. This decision worked out great. I had my preferred sports drink for the beginning, then would fill the bottle with ice and water at each aid station. Having the fluid to drink or squirt on my head was nice and didn't limit my eating to aid stations only. Going through one aid station, they didn't have any ice ready, so I decided I'd just get it at the next one. A moment later, I hear footsteps from behind. A volunteer had run up to catch me and hand over a cup of ice cold ice - probably one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.
I caught the leader shortly into the 2nd loop. I had an adrenalin buzz from taking the lead. The lead motorcycle was now my escort. This buzz lasted a few minutes until realizing that I still had a strong runner not far behind me. A non-participant on the run course informed me that I had 5-minute gap on 2nd place. No longer the hunter ... now the hunted and 16 miles still to run.
There was less solitude on the run course starting the second lap, as more athletes were finished with the bike and starting their marathon. The encouragement from other participants helped to keep the fire burn as my own fuel tank emptied. Our first names were on our bib numbers, so even though I hardly knew anyone on the course, I felt like I was surrounded by friends.
I kept the liquids flowing and occasionally took a gel for some calories and sodium. Contrary to my system in Lake Placid - where I chose to walk for 10 seconds each aid station to ensure I got down fluid - I did not walk at all.
Finishing the second lap, I had only given up 30 seconds, and now ran 4:30 ahead of 2nd place with roughly 9 miles to go. I knew I had to stay steady. I also felt that if I could get to the turnaround without giving up any time, there would be no way I'd get caught - barring a complete blow up.
Around the 23 mile mark, other participants switched gears from encouraging words to congratulatory words. I was really hurting, and still terrified of letting it slip away. I did my best to remove my mind from the pain. I moved to the other side of the road to slap hands with one particular participant who had been very encouraging the entire run.
"You're the man.", I said. "Hang tough out there".
24 ... 25 ... now it's time to start enjoying this - I was on my way to my first win. Other than my record setting number of laps in my 4th grade jogathon, I had never been #1 on the podium in an individual event. I rounded the corner into the high school and put my sun glasses up on my visor - I didn't want any of this to be blurry. Spectators stood from their seats and clapped and cheered me in. I slapped hands with a few youngsters before entering the track for 3/4 of a lap and the finish. I raised my arms for the final 50 meters. 9:32 and the 'W'.
Once I had my head in the right place, I raced out there to win. In an email a buddy of mine sent me, he congratulated me on the victory, but also mentioned that he was glad to see that I had to work for it. I'm glad too.