1) They were the only ones who responded to my emails about an entry (among others like the Philly Tri)
2) I would get to visit Ohio, where I have never been
3) It seemed like a good first pro race; competitive yet also not ridiculously competitive
4) the Behmes live in Ohio
5) A race sponsored by a grocery store chain is never a bad idea
So on Thursday afternoon I packed up the man-van and headed Northwest-ish for the 8hr drive to Troy, Ohio. The drive was uneventful, despite the van struggling up some of the climbs in West Virginia. Traffic was bad at times so I arrived at the Behme residence after a bit more than a third of a day.
The next couple of days passed smoothly and on Saturday afternoon we drove to Columbus to pick up our packets and attend the pro meeting. The main things encountered in the pro meeting were "obey the stagger rule" and "while it isn't a rule, we would encourage you all as professionals to not dolphin dive the swim," (the water was extremely shallow on the inbound portion of the rectangle) both things I figured wouldn't be too difficult to follow...
|The swim course|
Race morning downed bright and too-early and we drove up to the race site where John dropped Carrie and I off for the start of our race. The swim was a two-loop rectangle, the bike was an extremely flat (net downhill?) point to point course into Columbus and the run was an out and back through the city.
I lined up with the other pros (near the back) before the gun went off...
Swim 1500m in ?
I have no idea what my swim time was because they didn't post the splits of us that DNF'd and I don't wear a watch so I have a general idea of what my swim time was based on other athletes but nothing specific and I don't like to guess.
The swim started on the beach and everyone sprinted into the water. I lagged behind a bit as I didn't want to get caught in the maelstrom that was the main pack. That being said, I was still sucked along quite nicely by the wash of 20+ dudes swimming as hard as they could. Once we all turned left after the first buoy it began stringing out a little bit and I gradually lost contact with the main group. I also experienced a mild anxiety issue so had to "collect myself" for a second or two before continuing on, which further distanced me from those in front. The next lap and a half were uneventful and went by smoothly before being caught by the main group of women just before the end. I came out of the water right behind them and ran up the beach into transition.
T1 in ?
I ran to my bike and since I was the only pro who didn't clip in their shoes beforehand I put on my shoes and headed out on my bike. Relatively smooth, but not as fast as it could have been...
Bike 40k in 55:40 (unofficially, according to my power file)
I passed the pack of women pretty quickly (thank goodness... no offense ladies) and continued through the first 5k of the race at a nice effort level. The first 1/4 to 1/3 of the bike is pretty rolling and a net uphill away from the lake. I caught the lead women pretty soon and could see some guys off in the distance and began to gain hope that I may not actually be as crappy as I thought I was. I put my head down and pushed, passing several guys, a couple of whom stayed with me through the end of the bike. The course was pretty poorly marked and relatively poorly marshaled, as a car turned in front of me at one point forcing me to grab a pretty good handful of brakes. The only markings were taped turn signals on the ground which, at 25-35mph, were not easy to see and react to but we all had the same issues so it was no big deal. In the last 1/2 mile of the course I turned left as a policeman seemed to be waving me in that direction but unfortunately the subsequent yelling "wrong way!!" made me realize that I had, in fact, turned incorrectly. I quickly got back on course but not before two other guys followed me down the wrong path. I felt bad, but couldn't do anything about it. I came into T2 quickly and hopped off the bike with smoothness.
T2 in ?
I had a really quick T2 and headed out well ahead of the two US Pro Tri guys with whom I had come into T2.
Run ? in ?
I headed out on the run at a very high rate of speed, feeling pretty stellar. My legs felt nice and loose and my pace reflected it. John and Ben took a picture or two and yelled some encouragement as I climbed the only "major" incline on the course. The run wound its way through downtown briefly before crossing the river and jumping onto a path along the river. I carried on smoothly before eventually reaching a dead end. I realized with some sadness that something was wrong. I turned around and ran backwards before encountering Jim and Ryan of USPT and asked if they had seen a turn, which they had not. We ran back to the dead end just so they could be sure before turning around and running back where we had come. We realized we had missed a u-turn (or near u-turn) that would have taken us back up onto the road and across the river again. We all ended up running back to the finish line and turning in our chips...
Alas, these things happen. While it's certainly my responsibility to know the course and the fault was entirely mine, I've never raced an event that was as poorly signed as this one. Both on the bike and the run, the markings were simply taped arrows on the ground. I was the only one who had multiple issues so maybe it's just something I need to be more aware of in the future but it is a little frustrating.
I certainly was in no position to come in top 5 (I'm unsure if I would have been top 10, it would have taken a pretty phenomenal run split) so it's not as though I missed out on money but with the way my run legs were feeling I'd like to have had them vindicated by a good split. I'm happy the DNF was a result of a mistake and had nothing to do with my fitness level. It also was encouraging to realize that I CAN be competitive at these types of races (olympic, non-draft). Certainly not with the top guys but I think a top 10 at a 5150 is not out of the question. It'd have to be a perfect race, but I'm excited about the prospect...
On another note, just because I feel like I have to vent, I witnessed some pretty poor sportsmanship at this race. It's incredibly coincidental that I am the one that witnessed this, but seeing a fellow competitor (and NC resident) incorrectly run the course and hop over into the finish chute (cutting off some of the last bit of the run) and yet not have a DQ is frustrating. I believe it was an honest mistake, but to accept any kind of award or slot (to Hy-Vee, as this race was a qualifier) is very poor form. I did not run the correct course. If I had wanted an official finish time, I would have ran back to where I went off course and then run the whole course correctly. I would not have simply adjusted MY run course.
Anyway, maybe there's some explanation of which I am not aware. All I know is what I saw and see in the results.
Next week is my third year at Stumpy Creek International, which will be a hotly contested race for the top 5 spots so I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes!