This RR should really be called a participation report. The goal wasn't to go fast, but to be there, see everyone again, and enjoy the whole experience. Check, check, CHECK.
To give a full story, I should back up a bit. Due to the coumadin (blood thinner to prevent clotting), I can't ride a bike on the road. If I crashed, I'd be in a heap of trouble because the bleeding wouldn't stop easily. So I decided to do a relay, and was fortunate to get Jeff Fisher to take the bike portion. We've gotten to know each other over the last couple of years, partly because we're very close in triathlon ability. He's a great biker. My swim and his bike cancel each other out, and we're similar runners.
Getting ready for the race was humorous. Everything was packed away from early June, so Friday night was occupied by digging all of it out. Later on, I discovered that I forgot a bunch of stuff, like my mixed water bottles in the fridge, etc. And that was without bike preparation which has the most stuff.
Driving to Freeport was filled with excitement and anticipation. The music was loud, the sun was dawning on a beautiful (and cold) morning, and I couldn't wait to get there. When I turned onto the access road, Rocky's Eye of the Tiger was playing and I could hardly hold it all in. I hadn't been a part of a race since early June- in other words, nearly all of the season.
The best part of the day was reconnecting with friends I hadn't seen for so long. I knew how they raced this summer, but that's weak. I wanted to really catch up. I was also touched by all of the concern ind interest people showed about my ordeal. The support makes a huge difference in how I deal with all of this uncertainty and change.
Going in, I told myself it was about participating, not racing. The docs have told me I won't have clotting issues, but warn me not to go to hard and get injured. It was also about a certain mindset. Call it a result of a new-found appreciation for the gift we have in being able to be a part of this great sport in the beautiful surroundings of Maine.
All of the relays and aquavelos started in the fourth wave. I figured it was better to try and stay wide of the crowds so I maintained the enjoyment factor. Normally I start in the front row and quickly get clear of the masses. This day I started in the second row and had to swim with my head up while the group got sorted out. Finally I was able to get to the right side and clear water. I maintained a comfortable pace, one I could stay at for a long time. I only accelerated around the buoys to get clear of the pile-ups. After the first leg, it seemed like everyone took each leg in a wide arc. While I could be wrong, I think I was fairly straight and in clear water the rest of the way. And I enjoyed every minute of it. As it turned out, my time, while not where it usually is, was better than I expected.
When I stood up at the end of the swim, my instincts took over. I started stripping my wetsuit off down to my waist while running up to T1. I know I didn't need to because I was just handing the timing chip off to Jeff, but it was reassuring that my instincts are still there.
As for Jeff and his bike.....whoa. Mr. Sandbagger had the fastest split of the day among all of the relays and triathletes. 25 miles (or so) in 1:00:19. He gave it everything he had, even though he knew that wasn't my objective. That's just the kind of guy he is. Thanks, Jeff!
I started the run nice and comfortable. Even though the first mile has a long uphill that I took my time on, I was very pleased to see my split of 7:35- about 35 seconds faster than I've been training. That pace held very steady for the first half. Finally, friends doing the triathlon started catching me. I sped up to run with them (6:45ish) for about half a mile, then would back off until the next one came along. This repeated three times, and I thoroughly enjoyed every single one. It felt great running shoulder to shoulder again. I was also really impressed with how hard Chris, Jared and Bob were working. They stayed strong, but there was nothing extra in their tanks. Now that I think about it, I saw that with many of the 800 athletes out there. They left everything out on the course. Very impressive. Hours after finishing (about 4 1/2 hours after the start), I saw a guy trying to finish the "run" and dealing with leg cramps. I stopped to talk with him, asked if he needed anything, and reassured him that he was close and there were no more uphills remaining. He worked just as hard as those who won.
If you can forgive a momentary detour from this feel-good report, I need to rant a bit about the drafting. As I was running out over the first two miles, I saw three different groups, each with 5-15 riders, tightly bunched together. Give me a break! They know damn well what the rules are, and blatantly break them. It's cheating. There's no other way to describe it, other than cheating. I'm not talking about a small bunch with a few folks passing others so there's a temporary overlap. These were two wide, eight long, a just feet between them. I was so pissed at them I yelled. I wondered if I was being a jerk, maybe I should just focus on the fun day and let it go....But I didn't. I've heard a few too many stories about races in Maine where this is happening. It isn't safe, and it's cheating. The other thing I don't understand is that as triathletes, we derive satisfaction from an inner feel of how we did on the day. How can they look at themselves in the mirror and give an honest assessment of their performance? Drafting is faster and easier. And it's cheating. I did see two official motorcycles out there, but not in the right place. Looking at the results, I see 11 athletes with penalties. The first male with a penalty finished in 107th. Sure, penalties will happen, and drafting sometimes happens. So my guess is these 11 fall into the category of what typically happens in a "clean" race. I'm not sure what needs to happen to stop this trend. More officials? Is there anything we as competitors can do? It's really frustrating.
Phew. Got that off my chest.
I finished the run in 47:46, a 7:42 average. I was thrilled with that. I know I can get back into good shape now. It was a great day, and I'm still filled with the great experience. We ended up 6th out of 62 teams. Given the objective, that's very satisfactory. It was also great to see so many teams entered.
Next week.......the CELT Sprint. I have Nate Smith biking and Leah is running. I'm not sure who else will be there, but I'm thinking there's an outside chance that Leah could start the run in first place. I can hold my own in the pool swim, and Nate's a strong biker. That would be fun!
Again, thanks for all of the good wishes!
You know the rules....keep yourself safe, put a little joy into your life and those around you who you think may merit it, and never ever- that's never ever- pass up an opportunity to kiss someone you love.