It's funny how quickly races pass. 24 hours ago I was already about fifteen miles into the bike leg of the race, and the next few hours, with packing, checking work email and getting to the airport, will probably take much longer than the four hours it took me to finish the race yesterday. Races have this odd compression/expansion of time. They really don't take that long, but the distance traveled (roughly Boston to Athol, Ma, if you take route 2 the whole way) and the intensity of the experience make it seem much longer. To come over the finish line yesterday and realize it was only 10:45 in the morning was vaguely surreal: what would I do with myself for the rest of the day?
Lie around and eat, of course (and take a deep two-hour nap). But so much collapses into that small window of time that I see the appeal of these sports. Yes, racing hurts, but where else do you get that intensity for such a sustained moment?
The swim: the swim has always been my bogey, and today was only a little different. I did have my best swim at the 1.2 mile distance (26:14, just what I was hoping for), but the front of the pack swam an absurd 21-22 minutes, putting four to five minutes into me on the swim. If I'm going to make the step from pro to PRO someday, my swimming has to improve. Those 15-20 guys in the front pack all came out of the water together and, while they weren't explicitly drafting, rode together for a good bunch of the bike course. It's perfectly legal, but if I want to have better results, I've got to be coming out of the water closer to the front. This means swimming in the middle of the pack and getting bounced around, something I hate. Still, I'll happily take the 26:14. And, for the third race this year, Chris Legh and I swam together. That gives me some hope, since I know I can ride like him (see Eagleman), and if I run the way I did yesterday, I can post some Chris Legh-like results. The other bonus was that everyone could see it was Chris Legh as we came out of the water, so I heard a lot of "Go Chris!" as I ran up the shute to the transition area.
The bike: my bread and butter turned into my, I don't know, crumpet and marmite yesterday. I felt good, was putting out good numbers (averaged 315 watts for the whole ride), but posted a disappointing 2:08:25, a full two minutes slower than last year. I'd given up all (and more) of the gains I'd made on the swim. Something must be wrong with my position/equipment, and I'm thinking back longingly to my HED disc and trispoke I sold after Eagleman. My slow time, coupled with the crazy times of the guys up front (lots of 2:00 and 2:02), consigned me to a MOP finish. Still, some good things happened. I used the downhill into transition (about a mile) to lightly spin my legs, and I think that helped immensely going out on the run.
The run: this went surprisingly well. Leaving transition my legs shed the standard leaden feeling post-bike, and I found myself running well. First mile went by in 5:47, and I figured I was on my way to a PR. Good splits kept showing up on the watch, and I actually got faster as the leg went along. I finished with my best 13.1 run in a triathlon, at 1:20:06 (oh, how I would have loved to have broken 1:20!). I ended up 27th out of the pros (five spots lower than last year) and 34th overall (10 spots slower than last year, but there's so much drafting in the AG ranks that I'm only going to remember the 27th part) but the field, this year, was much stronger. Still, I'm not totally satisfied with this race. To do that much work on the bike and only put up a 2:08 is frustrating. At 315 watts for a flat course, I should be right around that 2:02-2:03 split I was hoping for, and I would have been in the top twenty, a select group. Full results are here, and a quick perusal shows some pretty big names.
The course, for the pros, is a nice one. For the AGers, I imagine it's disastrous. Some narrow lanes, and it's so flat that athletes can't help but draft (which is funny: all that money getting aero and then getting a lift from your neighbors). I saw some bike packs come in that were 40-50 strong. I think WTC should be a little careful that they don't drive people away, because a world championship should be one of the hardest races of the year, and to have your PR blemished by a drafting asterisk takes away the honest pleasure of accomplishment. I don't think many AGers set out to draft, but there's really nothing they can do about it on that course.
Next up: one week completely off (although I may jump in a 'cross race next weekend, ha!), before I start swimming religiously. I've got 3 more weekends to race 'cross, so I'm gonna take advantage of those, but I'll be hanging up the running shoes for a bit (throwing them out, actually, as I think all four of my pairs are played out). The next few posts are mostly going to equipment related, I believe, as I try to sort out my position for next year.
Thanks, everybody, for your support in leading up to this race. I met three separate people who read this rag of a blog (can it be a rag if it's all contained on a piece of silicone somewhere?), and that, more than anything, amazed me. Time to turn up the quality control.
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