I had originally hoped for a big NC crew to come with and race but unfortunately due to injury or timing nobody from Charlotte was racing. I whined about this and my solo trip to Jenny who volunteered to travel with me; not too shabby! It must be my hair, it honestly is my best feature. AND, a couple of weeks before, NC's best triathlete the past two years Matt Wistoff also asked me if I had made travel plans yet (I hadn't, which galvanized me into doing so; I didn't wanna disappoint someone whose hair clearly trumps my own). So, it was a merry crew of three NC pros that stayed at the Governor's Inn Friday and Saturday nights.
Saturday was the practice swim in the morning, pro meeting at noon, and resting the rest of the day. Now, I don't always practice swimming, but when I do I make sure it is awesome. The swim took place in the James River, which is a big ass body of water. The current was moving purty good from left to right (looking out at the river) which made the second leg of the swim pretty fast and the first and last difficult to navigate. I swam a little bit more than I normally do and the rest of the day passed uneventfully.
Alright, on to race day.
Race morning arrived at a too-early 4am. Breakfast was consumed. Plans were made. We departed with our bikes in the man-van for T2 where we quickly set up our run stuff (this was mostly done in the rain as it rained from about 4am to 6am) before hopping back in the van to get to T1. At this point we were actually pretty early and so lounged a bit before setting up our bike area. Once 6am rolled around we were pretty much completely ready to go and Wistoff and I got in the water for a little warm-up...
Now, there were some delays before we get to the real deal. Pro men were supposed to start at 6:30, but we were told that some cars were blocking the bike course and they were having to alter transition navigation (they actually drew a map in the sand as we huddled around...) so consequently all waves were delayed. We did not actually start until 6:55 or so I think...so much for any warm up! Oh well.
Swim - 32:17 - 15th after swim
Well, this was interesting. Non wetsuit legal for the pros and wetsuit legal for AG'ers, the James River swim would hopefully be kind to me (its namesake, obviously).
I knew the first 50 yards or so would be very shallow and at the start everyone raced out, took a couple of lunges and then dolphin dove into the water. Unfortunately for them, it remained shallow for a very long time. I just kept on running and at one point I was basically leading the swim (or at least, on the front lines). At a certain point, however, swimming needed to start so I reluctantly put my head under and carried on with it. The main group was fairly close for a while but it strung out before too long. The course was basically a big triangle: outbound kind of steering left then turn right and go along the "shore" before turning right again with a slight "inwards" angle. Everything was normal then we got to a certain point and the swim got a little crazy. It was like crossing some magical threshold of epic-ness. The chop was quite wavy and unpredictable.
At the same time, the current appeared to also impart its force upon us and while I HAD been sighting directly on the red turn buoy I was now getting pushed noticeably to the left. This become even more apparent as I felt as though I had swum and/or been pushed PAST the red buoy and now had to make a hard right turn towards the marker. I was about 50 yards away from the buoy but it felt as though it took 50 strokes to actually reach it. Once I finally passed the buoy I would look back over my shoulder and it stayed in what-appeared-to-be close range for an alarmingly long time. This leg of the swim felt as though it took absolutely forever. There were a couple of other guys around me at this point so I KNEW mentally that we were all being affected but it was very tough to deal with.
It's during a swim like this that you ask yourself the question: "At what point do you give up?" I literally felt as though I was making no progress forward in the water. The second turn buoy never seemed to get any closer for quite a period of time. How long should you be willing to swim in and endless pool with an edge that never gets any closer? Luckily, I didn't have to answer that as the turn buoy finally made some perceptible towards-me movement. I reached the second buoy and made the last right hand turn.
The way back in was much less difficult than the previous stretch and I had no issues with getting back to shore although I was a wee bit more tired than I had expected to be (although I was also expecting a 28ish minutes swim) as I lunged/ran up to shore and under the arches after seeing a 32:XX on the swim finish clock.
-shrugs and carries on-
T1 - 2:19
T1 at this race is very, very long. You have to run up off the beach and across a very large grass field before entering transition. It was fairly tiring. Luckily T1 went quickly.
Bike - 2:14:25 - 14th off bike
I got out of T1 before the other guys I had come in with/near and started to put out the watts. I figured this course would be fairly fast despite some decent elevation change and some wind. I had almost 30 more watts to play with at this race than at White Lake and NOLA 70.3 so I was hopeful of being able to make up time on some people with the increase in bike fitness. It was pretty flippin' cool to ride on roads I had ridden on for four years while in school at William and Mary. Anyway, I always feel like I talk about the swim forever and then forget about most of the bike. This one was pretty uneventful; here's what stands out:
1) I actually caught people in a pro race
2) Soon after catching them, I turned too early (into the oncoming 2 lanes vs the other side of the median and before you ask I actually did find it somewhat confusing and no there was no traffic) and lost out on a sub 2:14 bike split wahhhhh
3) I've said it before and I'll say it again, people just totally underestimate the swim. Leading into the first out/back I saw Eric Limmkeman with a huge lead over #2 Kyle Leto (like 2-3 minutes) with a big lead of #3 Starky (another decent, but smaller gap) then a big group of 7ish dudes (including Matt) all riding in the stagger group. THAT was the race, right there. Then a straggler, then me and the dude I was riding with (some team TBB guy on another P5) then more stragglers/catchers. The swim made the top 10 with only 2 exceptions (Adam Otstot and Darby Thomas).
4) I rode pretty dead nuts even both front and back half watts-wise. Second half had lower AP but same NP due to some more hills.
I rolled into T2 about 10-15s behind Adam Otstot (fellow WM alum and runner).
T2 - 1:00
Pretty quick T2, was pleased to see it was this quick even with putting on socks.
Run - 1:26:32 - 15th after run/at finish
Again, gonna go over key remembered points on the run as it's way easier
1) Headed out way, wayyyy too fast (at 2 minutes in I looked down and lap average was ~5:30 pace). Oops.
2) The run course was quite hilly - Mile 1 mostly flat (with a downhill then uphill at the University Center, relatively steep), mile 2 mostly flat with slight downhill at end, mile 3 mostly uphill with a sharp uphill on Mill Neck Rd and gradual climb to the turnaround. Then reverse that while adding on a slight downhill then uphill to second turnaround and back to start/finish.
3) I caught Matt just after the first turnaround and it was apparent that he was hurting. It was humid, hot and his first half basically. I did not envy that feeling.
4) I held pace pretty well through the first 10k (a hair under 6:30 pace) which was good considering the hilly nature of the course.
5) Lap 2 brought with it more suffering and a pass by one guy
6) I ran steady but slowly in to the finish and only cramped up a wee bit in the finishing chute. Good timing!
I was happy to again not get chicked and to be ahead of all the age-groupers. While I may not have run as fast as I wanted or placed as highly as desired it was a nice consolation to know that I was 15th male pro and 15th overall. The swim was excruciating (it was worse for me than White Lake '13, which was pretty dang bad), the bike was fun and honest, and the run was tough. Just the way a good half course should be!
|Napping or dying? You be the judge|
|Possibly the best medal I have ever received from a race|
|Travis, Dad, Mom and the James Haycraft|