Well, yesterday was my first training race leading up to IRONMAN- Lake Placid. The race was called the NJ Devilman "half lite" triathlon, held in Cedarville, NJ. The distances were .8 mile swim, 40 mile bike, 8.8 mile run.
I was asked on Friday about my expectations for this race. I kinda knew what I was capable of, but I wanted to be realistic, since this was my longest race ever, and my first tri in a couple of years. I've been doing all of the things I need to do, but you still have to go out there on race day and put it all together. So, when asked, I thought about it some, and came up with what I felt was a reasonable goal. 23-30:00 swim, 2:00-2:15 bike, and a 1:20-1:30 run. With transitions in there, I expected to be somewhere in the 4 hour to 4:30 range for the race. I actually set the OVER/UNDER at 4:15, based on what I felt was a good guess.
I was really nervous driving down. I was able to calm down some by the time I got to the race site, but then the excitement of the packet pickup, and transition set up got me going again. This resulted in a couple of pre-race trips to the port-o-potty (as expected). I finally settled down, and the clock seemed to be ticking fast. Before I knew it, it was 7:45, and it was time for the "pre-race meeting". I listened, (well, half listened) to the instructions of the race director, all the while fiddling around with my wetsuit. (This would be my first time in the water in it). After the National Anthem, the racers and spectators headed over to the lake for the start of the sprint tri that was going off before ours. I still had about another 25 mins before my race would start. I talked to a couple from Maine, the guy was doing IM Austria in July. They seemed cool, and he told me his brother lives ON the IMLP bike course, so they go up every year to cheer the IM hopefuls. I told them to remember me, since I'll need all the help I can get.
So, finally it was time for my race to start. It came up quick, and as I jumped into the water, I realized how cold it was. I could really only feel it on my feet, so I guess the wetsuit did its job. The countdown wasn't long, and before I knew it, I was swimming. I started out comfortably, and after the typical cluster-f that is the first buoy turn, I started to get in my groove. On the back stretch, I was swimming along nicely, untouched, for a little bit. I decided to sight out the buoy, and I had a hard time finding it. It was supposed to be on my left, but I guess I got a little off course, and it was over to the right. I adjusted my course, and swam over to it. I probably lost a little time there, but I was more laughing at myself than frustrated. I swam around it, and continued on. From that point on, though, I made sure to sight more often, and the second loop went much better for me. As I was on the back stretch of the second loop, I started to get mixed in with the wave that started ahead of me, so that gave me a little confidence, since they started 5 mins before me. I finished strong, and before I knew it, I was out of the water and in transition.
I felt like I was taking forever in transition, but I didn't really sweat it, since I knew I had a long way to go, and seconds (even minutes) wouldn't kill me. (my transition ended up being around 3 mins or so, so it really wasn't "forever") I hopped on the bike and set out. I started my bike at around the same time as my buddy John, from work. We rode together for a little bit, reminding each other to "stay within" ourselves. It was super windy, but we started out with the wind at our backs a little bit. The course was a 20 mile "out and back", and we would do two loops. It was nice having that first 10 miles of tailwind, just to get going and get loose on the bike before the turnaround and battling that wind. They said the gusts were up to 40mph at times, and it felt like it was AT LEAST 41 mph. Jeez. I'm not exaggerating when I say that there were times it was hard to ride straight in the crosswinds. I ended up averaging around 19 mph, which I considered a win for me, given the conditions.
During the transition to the run, I made my biggest mistake of the day. I decided NOT to wear my sun sleeves, because, well, I don't know. I guess I was hot, and I guess I wanted to get out of there fast, but it ended up being a dumb decision, and I ended up paying the price with some nasty sunburn. I felt ok heading out on the run, I switched my Garmin over to RUN mode, and was off. I started out at a 9:30 pace, and ended up doing the first mile at around 9:15 or so. I felt pretty good up to about 3 miles, then the road turned right into that BRUTAL wind, which beat me down for the next two miles. At the turnaround (4.4 miles), I was telling myself that I was almost there, and it was a great feeling to run a few miles with that wind at my back. I started to crack a little at around 6-6.5 miles, and had to stop to pee on the side of the road. That seemed to work, because after that I found it in me to finish strong, with about a 9:30 for the last mile. I ended up running about a 10:00/mile pace, which included me "walking the water stops", advice given to me by several people. My run time was right at 1:30 for the 8.8 miles.
I finished the race in 4:17:03, a time that I was very happy with. Everything went according to plan...and while I know I still have a long way to go to get to IMLP, at least I know that the plan I'm following is getting me there.
After laying around, and eating and drinking the post race grub, I decided to stick around to see the awards given out. I heard the name of a friend of mine from tri class (Pete), for coming in 3rd place/men's 50-55. I decided to head over one last time to check to see if they posted my results yet. They had, and that's when I saw my 4:17:03. Just for the heck of it, I wanted to compare myself with the other Clydesdale's (my division). I noticed the first place Clydesdale had a really fast time of around 3:25, but then there was a big drop off. The next Clydesdale finished just a few places ahead of me. I was shocked when I realized that I was 3rd place in Clydesdale division. Just as I was quadruple checking the list, the announcer called my name for "THIRD PLACE/CLYDESDALE". I went up, and I got a nice shiny bronze medal. What a bonus. I was pretty stoked, and very proud of myself. After all, it wasn't that long ago that I was on the podium for the DONUT DERBY, and now here I was...winning a 3rd place medal for a "real" race.