Yesterday I raced in my 4th consecutive Eagleman 70.3 race. This has always been one of my favorite races for two reasons, 1) it is pancake flat (my watch measured 140 ft of elevation gain on the bike and run) and 2) I always seem to race well. I wasn’t sure what to expect this year because this was the first time in 3 years that I was going to race back to back weekends. Last weekend I competed in one of the toughest ½ Ironman courses, Revolution 3. I was very sore all week and had a slightly strained hamstring. When I tried to run 20 minutes on Friday I struggled through it and nearly had to walk. Not good. If I can’t run 20 min easy I surely will not be able to run 13.1 miles at sub 6 minute pace.
I flew to the race with my father Saturday morning and arrived at the race site at 10:30am and did all of the pre-race stuff, check-in, build bike, pro meeting etc. We then checked into our hotel around 5:30pm. All of the hotels around the race fill up so early and I am a huge procrastinator so I always have to stay 30 miles away from the race. This makes for an early race morning.
On race morning the alarm was set for 4:15am for a 6:40am start. Just before the start they called all of the pros out of the water to go over the timing mat. The start was about 50 yards into the water. I was about half way to the starting line, when I hear someone yell “GO”. Some of the pros start swimming and some are still standing around. The guy next to me was holding his goggles in his hands and I hear him say “Is that for real?” Not the kind of start I was hoping for. About 200 yards into the race I was about 10yds back from a large group. I tried and push hard to close the gap, but can’t seem to. I kept trying to put on surges to close the gap, but am not closing at all. At the ½ way point the group was about 20yds up and I was beginning to think that I was not going to close it. Just then I felt something brush over my elbow and upper arm. Then it started to tingle really bad, I had been stung by a sea nettle (jellyfish). I continue to swim along, but every stroke my arm stung more and more. I finally exited the water in a time 28:24. Not a good way to start the day.
I hopped onto my Jamis T2 and wasoff trying to make up some time. I felt pretty good on the bike and was settling into my pace. I passed a few guys early in the ride and was riding in 10th. At about the half way point I checked and was averaging 275 watts and can see a group of 4 guys riding together in front of me. I approach the group and immediately went past them quickly. I surged for a bit and for about 2-3 minutes, averaged 330 watts. I looked back and all 4 are lined up behind me. I continued to push hard trying to drop them. I averaged 315 (27.5mph) watts for the next 10 minutes and still could not drop them. I looked back and they are all lined right up behind me. I then settled back down and was riding 280-290 (26mph) watts for the next 15-20 minutes. I kept looking back occasionally and sure enough all 4 guys were still lined up ride behind me. About 1:40 into the ride I thought maybe I would race the “Pro” way and let someone else lead so I could rest for a few minutes and try another attack on the group later. I the slowed down and rode at 240-245 (23mph) watts for about 3-4 minutes and surprise, surprise nobody took the lead. I then figured I only had about 20 minutes to go until the finish and if we continue to ride this slow we would never catch the 5 guys in front of us. So I again pushed the pace averaging 315 watts for the last 25 minutes. Along this time I pick up 2 more guys to join my group. So all 7 of us came rolling into T2 together. Kind of funny how I rode 275 watts for the first ½ of the race and made up almost 90 seconds on the group and when I rode 292 watts for the second half of the race I didn’t put anytime into them. My time on the bike was 2:11:34 good for the 4th best pro bike time.
I start the run and immediately felt the effects of pushing the bike. About 800 yards into the run a group of 6 started to put a 10 yard gap on me. I knew that if I lost contact I would be in trouble. I surged to close the gap and just try to breathe and settle in. We went through the first mile well under 5:30 pace. I guess that was why it felt so tough. Between the 1 and 2 mile mark a few more guys fell back and it was just me and two other guys. I was now starting to settle in and it didn’t feel like a struggle. We went through the second mile 5:32. Shortly after mile 2 it was just me and one other guy. I am now feeling pretty good and am cruising along. Between miles 2-3 he goes from right on my shoulder to 30 seconds or more back. Come to find out he had to take a bathroom break. So by mile 3 I had about 30-45 seconds on the guy behind me and I was running in 4th. I continue to cruise along running 5:40 pace with it feeling easy. The course was out and back so as I approach the turn around I see that Michael Lovato was 4 minutes up on me. That is a lot of time to make up in just 6.5 miles, but not impossible. I also notice that the guy behind me was only about 45 seconds behind me. I knew that the guy behind me was a very competitive Ironman racer so I figured he would not fade, so if I didn’t continue to push he would catch me. My legs felt really good, the problem was I was having some stomach issues, which started with about 20 minutes left on the bike. It was slowly getting worse and I was wondering if I was going to be able to make it to finish without a pit stop. All along I was continuing to cruise along clipping off 5:45-5:50 miles. Before I knew it I was at mile 12 with nobody in sight behind me. I finished with the 2nd best run time of the day with a time of 5:15:05 (5:44 pace). My total time of the day was 3:58:12 good for 4th overall and I finally placed in the money. I was 1:20 behind Michael Lovato who came in 3rd.
Overall it was a good day. I was very surprised how good my legs felt on both the bike and run after a tough race last weekend. About an hour after the race I was driving the 2 hour drive to BWI airport to board my plane home. I got home shortly after 5:30pm just in time for dinner with my wife and two sons. Just another weekend for the life of a working “PRO” triathlete.