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Race Result

Racer: Dan Frost
Race: Columbia Triathlon
Date: Sunday, May 23, 2004
Location: Ellicott City, MD
Race Type: Triathlon - International Distance
Age Group: Male 35 - 39
Time: 2:11:53
Overall Place: 15 / 1166
Age Group Place: 2 / 130

Race Report:

[This report might not be from the one with the swiftest race (Steve), the one with the weirdest mechanical struggle (Mike), the one who improved the most and got to interview Peter Reid (Corey), the ones who struggled in the blazing sun (all after Wave #4) or the one with the best reason EVER to DNF a race (Brady). But, I’ll try to make it a composition worthy of your time to read and worthy of its place in RATS folklore (and server space).]


Columbia (MD) Triathlon – May 23, 2004
Mostly Sunny – 76F start / 80F finish – calm to light winds


Swim: 1,500m freshwater lake swim, 76F water temp, counterclockwise loop with in-water start
Bike: Slightly longer than 40,000m on rolling hills, some steep climbs
Run: Certified 10,000m fully-paved on rolling hills, some steep climbs


Cost: $70 entry fee (discounted for active military – in my case, the Navy picked up my tab for this race)
Benefits (participation): Non-white race t-shirt, running cap, water bottle, standard post-race water/bagel/fruit fare. No beer. No pizza.
Benefits (prize): Curved glass trophy that gets warm sitting in the sun and can double as a solar furnace.


In the back of my mind, I had a few “nice to have” goals for Columbia. It would be nice to have a top-five AG finish. It would be nice to have a fast enough time to lock-up an all-America ranking less than five months into 2004.

Those “goals”, however, remained in the back of my mind. I was physically and mentally tired in the final days leading up to Columbia, and Columbia is a course that, frankly, demands all the physical and mental strength that you can muster. Many of last year’s top finishers in my age group were returning, as were a few who aged-up into my age group. With all of that, my “nice to have” goals were seemingly impossible. Shoot, now that Mike is riding a Cervelo, I figured that it was only a matter of time before he’d beat me in a race…and if Brady is able to stay ahead of Mike (see the Salisbury report), I’m in double trouble. For some reason, I thought that this might be the day that Brady and Mike would bust out with a great race and melt the snowman.

On race day, my singular objective was to race with “excellence”. As a RAT, naval officer, Christian, and every other affiliation that I have, I was hoping that Columbia would be a good opportunity to develop a good strategy and execute it with precision, in a manner that would reflect the character of those affiliated entities. I had the strategy…but when it came to the execution part, well, Lord I could use a little help here…


For the swim – Bust out early and be near the front
For the bike – There are road markings every five miles, so I partitioned my bike strategy into the course’s five five-mile segments. Go strong in the first segment, throttle back a couple percent through the steep rollers of the next two segments, and stay strong through the last two segments that happen to be fastest of the course. I was also taking a chance in electing to race with a disc wheel.
For the run – Try to be steady. There is a big advantage to being at/near the front of the race here. The difficulty of the run makes it hard to come from behind.


THE SWIM (20:17)
A strong indicator on how good the race will turn out for me is the swim start. I usually do very well if I break out from the start into the lead group.

The sun was low and directly in the initial direction of travel. In the shadow, you could (sort of) make out the line of buoys, but navigating by them would be tough. So, while many of my swim partners were looking for the buoys, I started swimming hard toward the big, bright shiny thing. That put me up at the front.

Heading back, I struggled a bit with my line. The right arm was moving fast but getting a bit tired, causing me to drift right (outside). I had to make a mid-race stroke change to get Rightie to catch some more water to keep me heading straight. The main line of swimmers in earlier waves was arcing outboard, so I was able to avoid most of the traffic by staying tight to the buoys.

I practiced my wetsuit stripping after St. Anthony’s after the debacle of T1 there. From the practice, I figured out exactly what I needed to do to get the wetsuit off expeditiously. What I didn’t practice was stripping off the wetsuit after a 100-meter uphill run. I did what I had to do, but it was still a challenging chore. I did have a very advantageous transition spot, however, so my transition time (1:57) was pretty good.


THE BIKE (1:05:58)
I wasn’t sure of my AG placement at this point, but I didn’t care to think about that at the moment. I started out the bike ride well and, after a couple miles, began to believe that the disc wheel was definitely the right call. I confirmed that belief when, just after making the right turn onto Homewood Road heading downhill, I flew past racer #508 so fast that I only caught his number. #508 is in my age group wave and I knew he was a Webster…either Michael from Alexandria or James (“Lunar” – see Lum’s Pond report) from DC. Both Websters (not related) are tough racers and to fly by one of them early gave me good vibes.

I continued to execute the race strategy well, doing the first five-mile segment in 13:10 and the next in 13:55. The third segment is the “fun” one with the steep descents followed by steep climbs. I spend a little bit more effort on this segment than I planned, but I’m feeling pretty good passing through The Crossroads with another sub-14-minute segment. I am sucking down hard on the energy gel, though. I take my second squeeze on the gel flask approaching The Crossroads and almost empty it.

Before I can think too much about whether or not I’m leading the age group, I’m caught from behind by #414 around the Eyre Bus Roundabout & aid station. We ended up exchanging positions once, but eventually Mr. 414 pulls ahead on the climb up to Glenelg School. I’m willing to concede the climbs, but I also have the faster bike on the descents. We bust through the 20-mile point after a sub-13-minute segment with our eyes on each other. Mr. 414 stays in front the remainder of the way, but we remain in eye contact all the way to T2. I kept getting a lot of looks from this guy…if only I could get as many looks from ladies…

As strong as we were going, I couldn’t imagine another uber-swimmer/biker in our age group being in front of the two of us. T2 for me is a breeze (0:42)…my rack is right on the bike-in entrance…an easy rack / shoes / hat & go. I lost sight of 414 here, and since I was number 401, I figured that his rack should have been close to mine…he must’ve gotten a little lost.


THE RUN (43:01)
Though I don’t know it, I’m leading the AG out of T2. I think that 414 is up ahead, but the person I see and think is 414 isn’t. Actually, the person I see is a Navy teammate of mine.

Quickly, though, I don’t have any more time to let the eyes wander. I hit the first hill and struggle thereafter to keep control of my legs on the descents. Although I want to go downhill with a light, speedy turnover, the legs aren’t giving me that type of speed. The weather has been a blessing so far…high clouds have been blocking the sun for most of the event. Only until I begin to climb from the lake do the clouds give way.

Many things change for me starting with the third mile. The sun comes out and it immediately gets much warmer. I consume the only gel package that I carried on the run. The bike was nothing but gel and Gatorade, so the run so far has been nothing but water. This is also the point when the uber-runners tend to catch me, and #414 makes his reappearance at the basketball court. On the other hand, my watch is telling me good things. If I can seven-out (7-min miles) to the finish, I’ll be around a 2:12…certainly better than I expected and certainly good enough to finish in the top-five of the AG. I’m certain now that #414 and I are the leaders of the wave.

Just like the bike ride, #414 pulls ahead but not very far and we keep each other in sight through to mile 5. The hills require quite a bit of power output, and by mile 4 I am in need of Gatorade again. However, I have a Ted Striker Drinking Problem at mile 4 and barely get a few molecules of carbs. I’m REALLY looking forward to Gatorade atop the last hill, and strip one out of the hands of a little kid there. (Sorry.)

If my strategy goes right, any uber-runners should have all passed me by now. Turning off the dam with about 3/8 of a mile to go to the finish, I look back and am rewarded with a beautiful sight…solitude. Acres of open space behind me on a dam sparsely populated with runners.



Thanks to Jackie Dagostino, ringmaster of the Navy’s Capital Region Triathlon Team, for setting up this year’s team, getting us into the race (with the Navy's money), coming out to watch us, and (most importantly) for providing the sunshade tent.

Congratulations to my other Navy teammates for a great race on a tough day. Special mention to my old friends from Monterey, Carolyn Fricke and Len Hamilton.

Congratulations to my cubicle neighbor, Commander Ed Fairbairn, and his wife Mary. Both had tough days under the sun. Ed certainly upheld the honor of the BRAC office. (I think the betting line in the office was Frosty + 30 minutes, meaning that I covered the spread.)

Thanks to Aaron Schwartzbard, David Glover, and the other friends of RATS who came out to watch. As hot as it was, y’all really had the hard job. Extra thanks to David who dragged me along Skyline Drive three weeks ago on what turned out to be the full extent of my hill training leading up to Columbia.

To the RATS who raced at Columbia, ‘ya did good, even if you don’t feel that way the morning after. Brady and Guz didn’t have the outstanding race times that I expected, but I still live in fear of them and have nightmares. We’ll see something special soon out of those guys.

Apologies to Stan Smith from the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes for not being able to meet at the race. Nice race. As you can see, I can’t take all the credit for being a top age-grouper at Columbia. See you at the prayer service at Eagleman.

Apologies to Lunar Webster for beating you in the swim. If it was backstroke, the result would certainly have been different. Congratulations, though, on a great time. A sub-2:20 here is about a sub-2:10 almost everywhere else.

Congratulations to Steve Smith and Brandon Secrest for putting up some incredibly fast splits and finishing at the highest levels. When it comes to “excellence”, the two of you are the ones setting the examples. In the trendy world of this sport, I’m sure that they’re many people that would spend good money to listen to either of you talk about triathlon. I’m blessed that we can converse, as peers, for free. (But, how much do you charge for your autographs?)

Best wishes,
- Frosty