Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Eagleman 2012 Race Report"

As I mentioned previously, there was some unfinished business with the Eagleman race course this year as I returned to Cambridge, MD for the third time to Eagleman 70.3.  In 2010, Eagleman was my first half-ironman distance triathlon.  Consequently, it presented many first time physical challenges.  I finished, "the most difficult physical challenge I've ever had," with a time of 5:26 on a blistering hot day.  As Eagleman 2011 approached, armed with the experience of another year of training and racing, I had some very bold goals, but settled for a disappointing finishing time of 5:02 exclamated by a humbling 42 minute swim. 

This year I entered Eagleman with a lot of quiet confidence.  I have worked very hard on my swimming throughout the winter and was hopeful to start Eagleman 2012 off with a number that started with a 3 (meaning a swim time in the 30's).  After that the plan would be to ride strong but conservatively and then finish with a strong run.

Mom, Dad, and Me on Saturday preping for Sunday's race
"The Swim"
Race morning was upon us and I was poised to have a good swim.  It didn't hurt that the swim was wetsuit legal with a water temp of 75 degrees. :)  My swim wave was quite crowded including everyone in my age group as well as the clydesdales (anyone over 200 lbs).  The starting horn sounded and we were off!!!  I quickly found a comfortable pace that was right in the mix.  In fact, there were a couple times, I picked up my head to find a sliver of open water to sneak through the crowd, but found there was no where to go.  So I cashed in on the rare opportunity to save some energy and draft off the crowd in front of me.  As we made the first turn in the Choptank River, the crowd had dispersed and I focused on staying smooth and strong on each stroke.  I knew I was swimming well, but how well?  I told myself that no matter what time was on my watch when I exited the water, I would stick to my race plan.  As we made the second turn, I caught a glimpse of the blow-up arches that are the swim finish off in the distance.  While continuing to swim within myself, I pushed a little harder and quickly found myself standing at the shore line.  As I ran through the arches, I looked at my watch...what?  32?  Let me take my goggles off.  Wait, they're already off.  Let me blink a couple times.  Ok, I'm not blind.  YES!!!!!!!!!  It was a swim split of 32:40 to be exact.  Finally, I was able to produce a good swim time!

Me & Mom

Me & Dad

Talking with Matt Crummy as we prepare to enter the water

"The Bike"
I was so excited about my swim, it almost didn't matter what happened on the bike and run.  I knew I would finish with decent splits in both of those.  I was playing with house money!  But hey, let's make those winnings a little bigger.  Just as I settled into the 56 mile ride, I saw my life flash before my eyes.  Or atleast a Chevy pick-up.  As I approached an intersection where the course made a blind right-hand turn, the posted police officer waved a stopped vehicle on, as if to say the path was clear of bikers, and he could proceed through the intersection.  Of course, the officer was mistaken and I came face to face with the Chevy pick-up.  I squeezed my brakes to avoid rounding the turn too wide and was able to keep my balance as my back wheel skidded across the road.  "Whew, that could have been bad," I thought to myself.  "Don't wanna' waste that good swim."  I glance over my bike, while still riding, and found that I had lost a water bottle and my seat readjusted to a slightly lower position.  "Oh well," I thought.  "I can deal with this."

The rest of the ride was quite uneventful.  I was passed by 3 or 4 riders in the first half of the course.  This usually motivates me to hammer the bike even harder, but I stayed focused on my race plan and ended up passing a couple of these riders in the second half of the course as they became fatigued.  I pulled into T2 with a bike split of 2:23, about a 3 minute improvement from last year.

"The Run"
I entered the run feeling good about the position my swim and bike splits had put me in.  I wanted to have a strong run so I focused on staying hydrated and cool at each fueling station.  I was keeping about a 7:15 pace through the first few miles, but could feel the pace slowing as the miles went by.  As usual, there was little refuge from the sun.  Once you leave the partially shaded residential area around the park, you are left to bake in the sun for the next 10 miles.  I tried to embrace this by thinking of Superman.  Yes, Superman.  Any superhero fan knows that Superman gets his powers from the sun. :)  Well, there was plenty of it on the run course.  When I hit the turnaround at the halfway point, I knew I wanted to pick-up the pace.  I continued to focus on getting good hydration at each station, but also tried to quicken my pace.  As I neared the 11 mile mark, I realized there was an outside chance of breaking 4:40.  I had to go for it.  I red-lined it for the final 2.1 miles blowing right through the final fueling station.  I'm sure my rhythmic grunting was pretty embarrassing, but I didn't care.  My legs were tired of the pounding they had taken, but there was no feeling of cramping or dehydration.  Under the circumstances, I felt really good.  I passed a few familiar uniforms of competitors that had gotten the best of me during the bike and/or the first half of the run and ended up crossing the finish line in 4:41:09, 21st place in my age group.

Starting the 13.1 mile run


Eagleman 2012 was a 21 minute improvement from last year.  It matched my personal best half-ironman time from last year's Amica 70.3 Rhode Island, and I finally posted a good swim time.  Of course there is room for improvement.  After looking at the race results, there were many athletes that swam and rode like I did, but were still able to run much faster.  That's all the motivation I need.  I'll build upon a great race to get better. 

Congratulations to all my Ballou Skies teammates and other Pittsburghers that conquered Eagleman!  A special congratulations to Joe Vallese who had the fastest bike split (2:07) and finished 15th overall with a time of 4:11.  It must have been that good night's sleep. :)