Let's go back to last Tuesday. I passed Al on my bike at 5:30 AM as I started the first half of an easy brick. About 35 minutes later, as I looped back to the house, I passed Al again, this time heading out of town. As I learned this morning before the race started, he was on a 15 mile run. This guy is a good runner- ran the Cape Midwinter 10 miler in 60 flat. For those of you who are mathmatically challenged, that's an average of 6:00/mi- in February in 25 degrees. More on Al later.
I love the time before races start. There's a certain magic about the atmosphere. Music, the constant announcements, preparing transitions, nerves, reviewing strategy, wondering how you stack up against the guy with the super-fancy bike, meeting friends, chatting with new folks, helping rookies, etc- quite the cornucopia. The bigger the race, the stronger the feeling. I'll never forget my first Ironman. The stakes were much higher, and all of this took place in the pitch dark with spotlights.
Back to Mooseman- I'm not sure the water was as high as the 63 degrees that was announced today- it was still cold, but far better than last year's head-crushing temps. After "warming up" for a few hundred yards, I got out and waited for the start of the race. I was in the third heat, and stood there shivering uncontrollably. Finally we headed out. The swim was generally uneventful, other than seeing an enormous mass of swimmers in front of me at the turnaround. I thought it would be impossible to work through them, but it worked out.
After exiting the water, I moved to the strippers. I hadn't removed my sleeves, and they just grabbed and pulled hard. I nearly yelled, "Hold on...don't you know this thing cost $450?"
I found it hard to get the power up early in the bike, but after a few hills and 5 miles or so, it got better. This is a fairly hilly course, so I approach it like an interval workout, going harder than normal up hill and coasting at every opportunity. In retrospect, I probably could have been a bit more consistent. My power was 5w higher than last year, and the time about the same. Somewhere around mile 18, the course follows a nice rolling rural road. For about 15 minutes, I saw no other racers. No one. I began wondering if I made a wrong turn somehow. Finally a young gun came by and we yo-yo'd to the end.
The run is an out and back with the first two miles flat. Mile one was uncomfortable with cramping all though my torso. I backed off of the pace a bit to get it under control. First mile- a surprising 6:25. I think I let my concentration down a bit for mile 2 and split 6:45. The hills from 2 to 4 had me split 7:05 and 6:56.
But back to Al. I didn't see him on the bike or run...until about 150 yards after the turnaround. Hmmm....150 yds x 2 = 300 yds, 3 miles to go. That means Al only has to pick up 100 yds per mile, and he's a hell of a runner. I thought I had no chance. Then I remembered I need to work on finishing races strong. I faded at nationals last year, and missed making the team by just 45 seconds. I will also have to "run against" the 39 year olds who I won't even see. For the purposes of making the national team, they move into our age group. So I can't rely on just responding to those around me. Then I saw one- a NOAD. About half a mile later, I saw another. I even turned around to look at the NOA. Nice inspiration. Mile 5, 6:36.
I did what you're not supposed to and took a quick peek behind me. Didn't see him. At the turn off of the road just before the finish, a spectator says, "he's 20 yards back." Oh shit. I flew down the short hill and onto the beach where we had about 50 yards. I moved to the tiny strip of sand right next to the water that seemed firmer. Then the finishing chute wound around a few corners, so it was easy to see him right behind me. We finally hit the straightaway chute and I put everything I had into it. Got him by 2 seconds. I split 7:11 for the last 1.2 mi, a 6:00 pace.
As it turns out, we had identical bike splits- 1:13:38. I look forward to meeting him again.
Overall, my splits and placings were incredibly similar to last year:
Swim 15th vs 16th in 2008
T1 1:33 vs. 1:34
Bike 18th vs. 16th
T2 1:00 vs. :50
Run 33rd (41:01), split 20:36, 20:26 vs. 40th (41:15), split 20:15, 21:01
5th AG / 103 vs. 4th / 65
13th OA / 486 men vs. 14th / 409
I think the swim can still be improved, as well as the bike, but both were OK. The run was 15 seconds better, the splits were great, and the finish very strong, so that's my success of the day.
Finally, I lived by my "no quality or quantity rule" for food. The organizers of this race do a great job. Right after the finish, they had, among other things, cheese and saltines...and even better....TOOTSIE POPS and ROLLS. Anybody can offer bananas and bagels. Later I had part of a free margharita. I didn't get to the cookout because I had to head out. For the drive home, I had a Subway roast beef, Doritos, said Tootsie Rolls, chocolate chip cookie, Coke, Pepsi, White Cheddar Cheese Its (one of the best and most adicting snacks out there), and Snack Wells cookies. Right now it's a glass of Shocktop (belgian white beer) and heavily battered onion rings. While happier than a pig in shit, I think I'm going to be sick.