Somehow, magically (again like last year), the race was announced to be 78 degrees in the morning despite being low 80s the day before, making it wetsuit legal. I was annoyed by this. How is it possible for an OCEAN to drop so much in temperature overnight?? I was intially planning on wearing my wetsuit but as time wore on I did some thinking and eventually decided to wear my Blue Seventy TX3000 one piece. Ultimately I figured that in spite of the time I would save in the swim with the wetsuit, it was not worth enduring the warm waters, the long run up the beach, and taking it off. I was happy with my decision. Most people were not wearing a wetsuit as it turned out; I would doubt most Gulf Coasters own them ha!
Swim "1500m" in 16:33 (top 3 is as close as I can tell)
The first, most obvious, and only change to the course from the past year was that as opposed to a single "loop" 1500m swim this year it was going to be a double loop. It would require the racers to head out into the surf from the beach (in a TT start every 5ish seconds), swim three sides of a square, get out of the surf onto the beach and cross a timing mat, then maneuver back through the waves and out to do the loop again. Oh, and then exiting and running up the beach to the timing mat.
(Mostly) needless to say I was a little unhappy about the set up for this swim. Last year's swim was super easy and efficient. It was also a lot closer to 1500m. This swim may have been shorter, but the effort level was pretty darn high due to the entry/exit and the large swells present in the Gulf that morning. The breakers weren't too bad but there were large rollers that made me a little seasick.
Chad and his racing buddy Lori started maybe 10-15s in front of me and I actually made up most of that just getting into the deeper water. The way to the first buoy was the roughest but once we turned left we went with the existing current and it ''felt'' very, very fast. The next left took us back up to the beach where I exited, ran across the mat, took a quick look back and waded back in to the water. My HR was exceptionally high at this point so I took out the first leg of the second loop pretty easily. There was a wetsuit wearer I had caught up with at this point so I just drafted off him to make my life a little easier. The second loop was mostly uneventful but we did catch many later starters (and much slower swimmers) which made it a little more interesting. I definitely swam over some people unexpectedly. Oops. It's hard when you're going so much faster. Backdoor (frontdoor) brag alert. I exited the water for the second time and ran up the beach, figuring I was close to the front and if anyone was in front of me they were a swimmer (and therefore not a biker).
T1 in 2:13
There was a long run to the bikes, but I was pretty efficient in transition and made my way out pretty quickly.
Bike 40k in 54:24 (1st)
Onto the bike I couldn't see anyone ahead of me although I knew there were. We had a nice headwind on the way out, which was expected, so I put my head down and started pumping out some watts. After a minute or so I realized my Garmin wasn't reading Brian's disc powertap and so I had to fiddle around with the computer. I only lost about ~2mins there, however, so no big deal. (Joking). The course was basically an out/back along Hwy 182 to a big ol' bridge; up and over that bridge then around behind said bridge, then up and over that bridge back east on 182.
After another couple of minutes I could see the lead motorcycle (pretty cool that this small race has a lead motorcycle for the cyclist in said lead position) and deduced with my magic eyes that there were two riders sharing the lead. It had seemed to take me a while to catch them but once I got close it was obvious that I was going much faster than the two of them. The guy in second was riding one of the lowest positions I've ever seen from behind with a decked out P3 (1080/disc, Ventus, etc) so I kind of expected him to try and go with me when I passed him and the dude with him (the other guy was obviously a swimmer). Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for myself, he did nothing of the sort. I didn't look back again until about 20mins in as I was beginning the bridge and I could see no one behind me. With that sight inspiring confidence I climbed the bridge (pretty decent climb actually), descended and turned onto the horseshoe shaped road that went under and around to the other side. As I was getting back onto the main road I saw that the "pack" including Chad was just turning off the bridge.
Heading down the bridge and back east I got a sweet, sweet tailwind and used it to full effect for the next several miles. Average 28+ mph is a lot of fun. Backdoor (frontdoor) brag. Eventually the lead motorcycle turned me right to go into Gulf Shores State Park for another out and back spur of 6-7 miles. The first part of this was into a slight headwind (northeast) then the road gradually turned left and became a tailwind. After the turnaround I was able to get an idea of whatever gap I had and saw Chad pounding away behind me with a big gap on 3rd place. I can't do math quickly enough so was unsure how much of a lead I had; in any case a lead is never big enough so I did my bestest to not slow down at all.
Eventually I got back on 182 and from there on it was
T2 in 1:17
T2 was a quick affair and I was mostly perfect, although the insole of my Hyperspeeds have become less stiff and therefore tend to bunch up in transition. This is probably my last race with them this year, however, so it is what it is. I felt very warm in transition so I was nervous about the very sunny run.
Run 10k in 40:20 (2nd?)
Heading out onto the run it was instantly obvious that it was going to be a very warm 6.2 miles. The sun was out, it was blazing and I did not run fast. This is one of the slowest 10ks I've had in recent memory and I'm mildly embarrassed that it was my time. While I never should "give in" on any race I was fairly confident that I had a sizable lead on second place and therefore "gave in" a little bit. I was either not ready, not capable, or not willing to subject myself to what would have been the misery of an actually "fast" 10k run in those conditions. The way out was dead flat and with a tailwind (so it FELT really, really hot) and after the turnaround it was a headwind and dead flat (so it FELT hot and slow). After it all, only one guy ran under 40 minutes (just barely) so it was obviously just a slower day than usual. Last year I ran a 36:20 or thereabouts on the same course and I was honestly hoping to run a 35ish this year but it was just not going to happen this day. All that being said, the rest of the run continued on rather uneventfully and I trotted slowly across the line to finish first in 1:54:45. A pretty fast time on a fast course.
All in all, I was happy with the effort. I can't really compare it to last year because the swim was much shorter (3 minutes?) and it was significantly hotter this year. I was expecting to win this race and was happy to not disappoint myself (or my parents, who don't get to watch me race very often). It was a good weekend of going fast and going very, very easy the rest of the time and relaxing on the beach. The best part was that on Sunday and Monday the mornings dawned nice and cool (60-65 degrees) with extremely flat ocean conditions... Doesn't it ALWAYS work out that way??