Judging from reports on last year's race, this course would be tough. Hillier than Augusta (which has the "toughest" bike course I've done yet in a half; admittedly that is not saying much at all) and a hilly run (nothing but ups and downs according to last year's racers). I knew my training had been going well and saw no reason why I shouldn't be able to have a good race. I knew going in that in the Pro field this would be an entirely different race. I expected (but hoped to not be) to race by myself most of the way and I was not off on this thought...
On Saturday morning I drove to the Whitewater Center to meet up with the weekend's crew, Jeff Wise (president of everything at WWC), Chris Smith (doing his 3rd triathlon), and Mike Selle (old but with a courageously epic hairstyle). As an aside, the WWC is an amazing facility. Everytime I go there I wonder why I don't go there more often. Seriously. On Saturday the weather was absolutely PERFECT in Charlotte so the center had tons of visitors. There had been a running race that morning, a dog race, and some form of adventure/obstacle race. There was also some sort of "build your own boat then race it down the competition channel competition. Someone had made a "boat" out of giant plastic "kegs" painted like PBR cans. Awesome. There are now 22 miles of trails for running and mountain biking (and walking). New obstacle course, new ropes course additions, etc.
|The competition channel. It is fierce. Especially in a rodeo boat|
|The "holding pond." To the left of the picture are the huge pumps that make the whole thing work.|
|Swim start, transition is through the trees on the left|
Swim - 26:42
|Can you see me?|
On that note, I lined up at the back near the swim start and at the sound of the horn ran in and jumped in the water. It was cold, but didn't feel like the advertised temperature of 67.5 degrees. The water was churned up quite nicely through the first 100-200m before I lost close contact with the main "pack." I just focused on not going out too hard as I didn't want to induce any anxiety issues this early in a 4.5hr race. I felt smooth and comfortable and at about halfway I latched onto a guy and ended up swimming most of the swim behind him. One of us swam quite crookedly though, so that got a bit annoying towards the end. I typically swim pretty straight, so I'm not pointing the finger at myself...
With about 200-300m to go the lead female caught us (and maybe there was another one) and ended up coming out of the water ahead. I exited the water and saw the clock reading "26:40" so I was both pleased with that time but a little sad that such a time had resulted in a multiple minute deficit. The main group of guys was about 3.5 minutes up already.
T1 - 1:34
I was pretty efficient through T1, didn't lose anything meaningful here.
Bike - 2:29:49
I knew this course was hilly, but I completely underestimated what that would do to my time on the bike. I had a watt goal and so rode at that the whole way. I came out onto the bike with a couple of the girls and another two guys. I passed the girls and knew the guys would probably ride away from me up the hills. 'Twas true. My plan for this ride was simply to hit the watts I'd been given and let the chips fall where they may. If I ended up rolling up some peeps towards the end who got tired, that'd be cool. If I didn't, that'd be cool too. After a while Malaiko Homo caught me and we ended up riding "together" for a while. The stagger rule was used at this race so it's tough to get any legal draft effect from a fellow racer. After a while (40 miles or so), this got pretty boring so I decided to drop her. Actually, I ended up just riding away as I continued to hold watts whereas she fell off. (also, I realize the semi-ridiculousness of me talking about racing/riding with one of the pro females but you've gotta take the victories where you can!) My only real thoughts on this ride were:
1) Dang, this is kinda tough.
2) This pavement sucks
3) What are all these bumps in the road??
4) Lotta farms out here
6) A little drizzle, how nice!
7) I'm ready to get off this bike
8) What the HELL roads?!
9) That little town was cool
10) There musta been 100 turns on that bike course, and 90 of them were in a 1 mile section. (exaggeration, but the point remains...)
I was a bit surprised by how quickly the dismount line appeared as I guess I was unaware of where I was so I was not very smooth off the bike.
T2 - 1:06
I also got lost going into transition. The pro's bikes were blocked off by a barrier that "blended" with the transition barrier so I was disoriented and subsequently looked like an idiot. A bunch of people were lined up against the racks by the pro area so that was kinda cool.
Run - 1:24:06
I headed out on the run feeling fairly good and consequently my first several miles were pretty fast. There isn't much to say about the run. It was constantly up or down, sometimes the pavement was a bit rough, and there were a TON of people out on the course. There was both an olympic race (1 loop of out/back) and a half (2 loops of out/back) going on at the same time so it was very crowded. The aid stations were very well volunteered and I never had any problems getting what I wanted. Although, what I really wanted was to be 20 minutes up the road! But you can't always get what you want...
I held pace fairly well from miles 4-9 but slowed a bit the last 5k+. My legs were getting pretty tired and I felt the nagging closeness of some potential cramping problems and I was just ready to be done. I crossed the line, DFL for male pros but ahead of the chicks! Yessss...
Eventually, I discovered that 2 age groupers beat me, one by a lot (4:10) and the other by not as much (4:23). I can't complain. I raced by myself, they had people around. These things happen.
Overall - 4:23:16 (16th Pro, 18th OA)
I'm a little sad that my time was slow, but I'm happy at how much I've improved over the past couple of years. I had a fast swim, good bike (most watts I've held for a half-iron) on a hilly course, and a fast run on a hilly course (actually the fastest run I've had with a full swim/bike/run). I know that a 2:29 is in no way representative of my abilities as a cyclist, but only time will tell whether or not that's true...
Another bonus to the weekend was despite me being there, I was awarded 3rd place overall in the Inside Out Sports North Carolina Series, behind Matt Wistoff and Doug Van Wie. Both are stellar athletes and seems like swell dudes, so - despite wanting to be on top (obviously) - I'm content to have placed somewhat close to them. With that came a sweet check and the knowledge that we'll go head to head again next year.
I have 5 days of light recovery and then it's a 112 mile TT at Beach 2 Battleship Full (relay). I have no idea whether I'll feel good or not, but I'd like to ride somewhat fast if my legs allow me to do so. GAME ON!