Unfortunately, I can't really call myself a triathlete just yet. Due to the bitch that is hurricanes, this weekend of racing was changed around a good bit. The half ironman was canceled by 11am on Friday so the crew that was going to go up to Williamsburg to race (4 half-ironpeople, 1 international, and 1 sprint) was splintered and broken. I still left late on Friday morning and got to Williamsburg in the late afternoon and met up with Cory, who was kind enough to let me stay in his dorm and reap the rewards of being around an all-star triathlete (I think I asked him about a billion questions this weekend).
We did a short run when I got there on Friday then really didn't do anything else the rest of the day except monitor the status of our race on Sunday. The weather started to get a little sour in the evening but there was no real clue that a hurricane was just beyond the horizon. Saturday rolled around and the weather was definitely not suitable for racing, so at least the organizers canceled the half for good reason. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to race in that weather for 5+ hours, it would have been completely miserable. Heavy, heavy winds of 30+ mph and sometimes driving rain would have made for an excruciating experience.
We went out for a short run, however, which was kind of fun. Running in the heavy wind and rain isn't nearly as bad as biking; it can actually be pretty entertaining. We got back and found out on the race website that the swim had been canceled for both the Sprint and International races. I was slightly disappointed simply because I've put A LOT of time into swimming for a complete beginner in the past specifically to prepare for this race. Cory wasn't too upset because he's crazy good at duathlons (and tris too) and this made it all the more certain that he would win the race.
The folks that were coming up for the sprint decided not to make the trip because the swim was canceled but Sunday rolled around the day was absolutely perfect for racing. Because our race started late, it got a little hot on the 10k but really it was never that bad. We discovered that the organizers had decided to do a 1.8 mile run instead of the swim (Cory and I had been thinking that it would be a 5k) and then on to the normal 24 mile bike and 10k run.
So we set up our transition area, did a quick warm up and went to the start line. I knew I was going to go faster than I really should during the first run but wasn't too worried about it because it was so short that I didn't think I would expend too much energy even if I went really fast. So my first lap (of the 3 loop course) was very fast but then I scaled it back a little bit to keep my heart rate down. Once we finished the 3 loops (totaling 1.8 miles) we had at least a 1/4 mile run to get to the transition area, where I initially went to the wrong rack but soon found my bike and yanked off my flats, threw on my helmet and shoes, and sprinted out of the transition area and mounted my bike.
The bike course was very flat, with only a couple of rollers in the early and late miles (it was a 24 mile out/back course). There were a ton of false flats and almost no wind so looks could be deceiving. I started off with 2 guys who would eventually get out of sight as I wanted to be pretty conservative on the first half of the bike. My HR took a long time to settle down after the run (it stayed in the high 170s, low 180s for about the first 25-30 minutes - normally for that pace it's around 160-165) so I wanted to be careful about that. Another guy passed me before the turnaround but I stayed close to him because I wanted to try and negative split the course. Three of us were pretty much together the rest of the bike course. I was staying conservative until about 2-3 miles to go and then I surged and left those guys behind. I felt pretty good the whole bike but never felt like I got into a "zone" or rhythm that would just eat the miles. I should have surged sooner, more like 5-7 miles out but I just didn't make myself push it hard enough. I'm fairly sure I could have taken 2 minutes or maybe a little more off the bike with not too much extra effort. At least another 1 or 2 if I had a TT/Tri bike too...
So after I left those guys behind I sped up to the dismount area where I did a semi-flying dismount and maintained some good free speed to run back to the transition area and get back on my feet again. Took off the bike shoes, and helmet and slipped my flats back on (Yankz have got to be one of the greatest inventions ever, by the way) and grabbed a couple of sips of gatorade from my bottles and my 2nd powergel before leaving the transition area for the last time.
The run started and I have never felt as bad as I did in the first 1/4 mile. My legs felt like absolute bricks and I was seriously skeptical as to whether I would be able to run the whole way and not walk portions of the 10k. I blew out about a pound of snot, rediscovered the ability to breathe, and managed to settle into a pretty good rhythm once I got on the Colonial Parkway. I wasn't going fast, but I knew that if I just stayed consistent I could have a solid run. I couldn't see anybody in front of me - or behind me - during the first 2 miles of the run. I grabbed water at each of the aid stations but couldn't really get a full sip out of any of the cups and most of it just splashed on my face and down my chest. I kept going steady and finally caught some glimpses of a guy in front of me around mile 2.75. He was about a 1/4 mile in front of me at the turnaround (5k) and I held my pace and managed to catch him with about 1.5-2 miles to go. He was pretty dead in the water and looked as though his goal was just surviving to the finish. My legs started to feel pretty shot around mile 4 and I knew that I needed to end soon. I maintained my pace (still, who knows how) and turned the last corner and saw the finishing straight and finish line 100 yards in front of me. The 'announcer' that was commentating on the race said "Oh who have we here looks like # 579 that's...James Haycraft from Charlotte, NC racing age 24" and that was pretty sweet to hear my name over the loudspeaker (he was doing that for everyone that was coming in, so I'm not really THAT special) and having people cheer for me - not necessarily because they knew me of course but just because they're nice.
It was definitely one of the harder things I've ever done before and if not for a stupid 2 minute penalty I would have ended in 10th place overall. I still won my age group, but the difference between 10th and 12th feels like a lot, even though it isn't. Unfortunately the penalty was something I could have easily prevented just by knowing the rules (I didn't know that if you were riding sort of besides and behind someone that was considered a passing move so you had to complete the 'pass' within 15 seconds but of course, I wasn't passing I was just trying to stay out of his draft and hold the same speed...oh well).
Overall a solid first multi-sport experience. Oh, and Cory won with a 1:47...ridiculous. 2012.