There is something magical about this place. I don't know if it's the fact that this is the site of my first triathlon, something in the water, or what have you. But there is a special vibe that is alive in Quassy the first weekend of June. You see it on the faces of the volunteers, the workers, the athletes, and the families. It just feels right.
As always with race weekend reports, we'll go through the full run down of pre-race, the race, and post-race moments.
Thursday: The Driving Day
We packed up our car on Thursday morning, knowing that when I got out of work Thursday evening we'd be heading on down to Connecticut. We made the mistake the previous year, as well as Boston this year, of traveling on the 2nd day before the race. It doesn't do much to put my mind at ease when you are doing all that scrambling around, so we decided instead to move travel up an evening. It wound up working perfectly, as we missed a lot of traffic as well as having little to no anxiety about what I needed to do the following day.
Hannah, being the amazing woman that she is, picked me up a burrito from our Whole Foods (mmmm...steak burritos), and away we went on down. We drove to Harem House, the code-name for Sam and Matt's place in Ellington. Sam and Matt are our wonderful friends who put on a phenomenal tailgate at the Hartford Dave Matthews Band shows. We don't see them enough, so we decided to invade their place for an evening. It put us 30 minutes outside of Newington (where we'd be staying for the full weekend), and only an hour from Quassy.
Friday: New Bike Day
Yes, you are reading a race weekend report. And yes, you are reading that correctly.
New Bike Day.
Kermit the Felt unfortunately has two carbon issues; one on a chainstay, the other on the opposing seatstay. I'm guessing that one went first (I'm thinking the chainstay, just based on my estimation of how and why) and the seatstay started to go due to the increased loading. He's heading off for repair soon enough, and when he comes back odds are I will be turning him into an aero road bike.
So, Friday we headed to Thomas and Janet's place in Newington, to invade them for the second weekend in a row. (We stayed with them over Memorial Day weekend.) Why invade again and stay that far outside of the race venue?
Being able to cook your own meals. I am pretty particular when it comes to my food pre-race, so I wasn't about to start changing routine now. So we did our grocery shopping, unpacked a little bit, and then headed on down to Quassy.
We arrived to find things already in full-swing: packet-pickup for the Olympic distance race on Saturday; volunteer check-in; bike racking; expo taking place. Lots of positive and nervous energy from everyone involved. It's electric.
Right out of the gate, started running into some of the Team Rev3 crew. Found Jen Small in the parking lot, Laura Mount patrolling on the golf cart, Alex and Jill Poon at the expo, Jamie Bull and Jaime Dix chatting away...just to name a few instances!
I then ran into Charlie, aka the Boss. We chatted for a few, and then he directed me on over to the Blue Competition Cycles area, where I met Scott. Scott fit me aboard the new whip, tinkering with a few fit parameters, and after a little bit of riding, checking angles, etc., we were done.
|Let's get the SlowTwitch joke out of the way: Yes, my seat's too high.|
Why Wallace? Well, much like how Kermit was named, it was another one of those things that ties into some back story with my late father-in-law, Peter. A big fan of Wallace and Gromit, one year I drew Peter for Secret Santa. To make a long story short, I got him a gag gift of a Wallace figurine. And considering Wallace is such a cheese fan, and the Blue is yellow...you get the idea.
With that out of the way, we then headed over to the volunteer tent, to get our positions for the following day. Hannah and I were both course marshals for the Olympic. We did this for two reasons: one, to help out for a race series that has done so much for me personally; two, we wanted to get used to the whole "wake up at 0 dark thirty, get on the road to Quassy ASAP" routine.
It was now high time to head on down to the team dinner. We meet up with Ryan, Jamie, Anthony, Elaine, Jordan, and respective significant others at an Italian place in Woodbury. This place has phenomenal pizza. Hannah and I split a clams casino pizza that was divine. It was great to hang out, chat with everybody, get to know these folks that we've been chatting back and forth via e-mail since October, and really just relax.
We headed on back to Newington, and settled on down. Got all of the gear that I would need for the following day packed up, and then crashed for the evening.
Saturday: The Deluge Day
We woke up Saturday morning to discover the skies had opened. It was pouring. As in, it hurt to walk outside pouring.
We somehow managed to convince Thomas that he, too, should volunteer for the Olympic. And it was a good thing; there were spots that needed to be covered! Thomas wound up working transition. We headed over to our location: the exit of the park onto Route 64.
Every single racer would be passing by us three times: once to make the left out onto the bike course; another time taking a right back into transition; and finally, heading out onto the run course. So we were going to need to be loud, enthusiastic, and emphatic.
My goal with this turn was to make sure nobody ate it at the start or the end of their ride. There were a couple of massive potholes concealed by the overnight rain, so we set out a couple of cones heading out of transition. We had our racers head out by keeping the cones to the left of them heading out, ensuring they wouldn't hit this massive hole on the way out and up to a pretty significant hill.
Then, on the way back in, you would descend this very hill before making the hard right into the park again. I decided to sacrifice my own voice for both tasks: I took the lead position out in front of each turn to be able to warn athletes of what was coming. Heading out of town, it was "OUT AROUND THE CONE, THEN LEFT!" Coming down, everyone heard "SLOW! CHECK YOUR BRAKES, DOWN THE HILL, THEN RIGHT!"
It was cold and wet, but we tried to keep it fun. The police officers there were a hoot to chat with. The toughest part was not keeping the athletes on path and upright, but instead making sure the shuttles and pedestrians weren't cutting into where the race was taking place. I got a few glares for asking people to head down the hill to use the crosswalk into the park, but outside of that it was pretty simple to get the task done.
And nobody fell! That was my biggest positive for a job well done: no injuries at our corner. On a day with those conditions, I felt like it was our biggest victory.
After volunteer shifts ended, I made my way around the park again to start my preparations for Sunday. I needed to pick up my packet, get my timing chip settled away, and then see if team kits had made it to the park. I went two for three; unfortunately, no kits made it. But hey, it happens. And I was still rocking the big blue R on my visor; I wore Pearl Izumi's; had my Swiftwick socks; did a swim test in a blueseventy Helix (amazing!); used PowerBar products; checked out the NormaTec boots (I cannot wait for these...)...all of our sponsors were absolutely fantastic this weekend.
I then set out on a quick pre-race brick: a nice light spin, followed by a quick run involving three pace efforts faster than race pace. I did the spin on the first/last five miles of the bike course, and then the run I did basically mile 9, 12, and 13 of the run course. I just wanted to run recon of knowing where I'd be able to push, when I'd need to settle in, etc.
Once we got Wallace checked into my spot (#950, right by the bike entry/exit, almost next to the pro racks) it was time to head on up to Newington, enjoy my pasta dinner, pack my gear bags, and get ready to go.
Sunday: Game time.
One of the last minute decisions I had made on Saturday night was that I was going to tape a message onto the bike. I opted for two lines: one for pacing purposes, the other from the Ray Lewis video I posted in the pre-race report.
I'm pissed off for greatness.
Hour 1: Easy. Hour 2: Push. Hour 3: GO!
Going into a long-course race on a difficult course, I knew that I was capable of really improving on my 6:14 from the year before. I also knew that it'd be tough to go an hour faster than the year before, but I thought it was within reach. Also knowing with where I was fitness wise, that a 5 hour race was capable if everything went "as planned." Of course, nothing EVER goes to plan in an event like this. So heading out on Sunday, I presumed that my finishing range would be 5:12-5:27.
Heading into transition Sunday morning, I ran into Charlie again.
|Charlie: "Hey, where's your race kit?"|
Me: "You know, I feel really relaxed..."
Charlie: "It's how we roll...got my mind on my money and my money on my mind..."
Me: *laughing*...ah, man...what a weekend.
It was weird; normally on race mornings I am a nervous wreck. But I was focused, calm this year. I had some things to do (threw a cage on the aerobars, rather than on the downtube of the bike; wiped Wallace off, lubed the chain, inflated tires, taped down my message, etc.). My stomach is also normally a nightmare race morning, but it too was calm.
As I was gearing up, I got a quick tap on my shoulder, asking to use my pump. I turn around and see Tim DeBoom, two-time Ironman World Champion. "Sure! Go right ahead!"
|Yes, that really happened. Photo courtesy of Rev3Tri.|
(As a side note...he left his crack pipe in my pump. So, Tim, if you're reading this...a mailing address and I can get that back to you.)
Once Tim was done, it was time to pack it all on up, give the last of the unneeded gear to Hannah, and head down to the waterfront for the swim start. Got a quick practice swim in of about 40-50 strokes out and back, just to get comfortable, and be ready for my wave. We were going early this year, so not a super crowd to have to swim through. And then it was go time.
|Shuffling on down to the swim start. 1056 athletes hit the water today.|
Toes on the water's edge.
One minute. You can hear your heartbeat in your head. Calm. You've been here before.
Thirty seconds. Deep breath. Get your googles on.
Fifteen seconds. You've done the work. Trust it. You got this!
17th in AG, 204th Overall
Swim Time: 36:19
Place in Division: 26
It was a quick dash into the water. One of the cool things about Quassy is how quickly the water gets deep. You might dolphin dive twice before you're swimming like hell.
I sprinted out for the first 200 meters or so, just trying to find a little clear water, but nothing was to be had. I took a foot to the face early that knocked my googles off. Had to take a second to let them settle, and then took off again. The left one never wound up sealing quite right so I was going to contend with a little water in my sight. No matter.
One of the things I had noticed from the beach was that the swim had changed a bit from the previous year; it was much further out to the first turn buoy than it was the year before, then a shorter stretch into the sun before turning back for home. It felt like it was a long, long way. But I felt like I was swimming well; passing many swim caps of the previous waves while not seeing any of the waves coming up through me.
I turned for home and just buried the throttle a little bit. I wanted to try and make sure I was in good position coming into transition. The year before almost all of the bikes in my racking area were already gone by the time I came back. So when I came out of the water, looked at my watch, and saw 36:02 staring me in the face, I could only say one thing:
I sprinted up the hill, grabbed a cup of Gatorade, and got into gear.
I had my wetsuit halfway off by the time I had run to my spot in transition. I felt a little bit better when seeing so many bikes still on the rack from my AG.
I got my wetsuit down to my calves, then used my hand to pull it off over my foot. Helmet had my sunglasses and gel flask in it. Helmet on, shades on, put my bike shoes on. I am piss-poor at performing a flying mount; it's faster for me to run out of transition with the bike shoes on, get over the mount line, get to the side, step over, and clip in once. Two crank revs get me up to enough speed to clip the left one on; quick pedal, and off on the bike course we go!
Bike: 2:46:42, 20.13 MPH
Place After Bike: 9th
The first 23 miles of the bike course here roll a fair bit. You also get the steepest climb of the whole day out of the way right quick at about mile 10 or so. So then you just keep rolling along. One thing that I noticed was that the road surfaces were pretty good, with the occasional couple of pieces of glass on the far, far right of the lane. I just kept an eye out for it and made adjustments as necessary. As long as you were about a foot off the edge of the shoulder, you were fine.
You then get an absolutely screaming descent into Thomaston. This is where I had my nutrition issues the year before. Nothing today. Still sipping away on my combination of PowerBar Perform and Gels. I went with two bike bottles mixed to regular concentration (approx. 340 calories combined between the two of them), along with four gels in a flask with a bit of water. I went with three Kona Punch and one Tangerine, just for a mix in the taste as well as a little bit of caffeine. This gave me a total of 780 calories for the ride to use as I saw fit.
I took water at each aid station, with a little bit going into my mouth and then a fair bit over the head and on the legs to make sure we were keeping cool. I was feeling pretty good.
It was at about the hour mark that I finished the descent into Thomaston. A bunch of us reached for nutrition, and I called out, "Let's get it in now, boys, we've got a long climb ahead of us! Time to do some work!" A few of us were ready to start the climbing so we moved ahead, while others were dropping back, either grumbling about the guy in the good mood about the climb, or how they were going to have to run after this.
Miles 23 to 30 of the bike course are pretty unrelenting. This is why I've put in a lot of work going up and over Dutton Hill, or Blackstrap Road, or anywhere else I could find some climbing. I knew I would need it here. My biggest fear was the new gearing on Wallace: he featured an 11-26 cassette, versus the 12-25 that I'd been used to. Would I want those gears that are on the 12-25 that aren't there on the 26?
Nope. The shifting was absolutely flawless. One thing I had to get used to was the heavy action on the SRAM TT900 shifters, and the loud, crisp pop of a shift in the rear. But it worked perfectly. So when we got to climbing, there was no flexing; there was no issue. It was just time to go and put in the work. This was hour two, after all: it's time to make a push.
About halfway up the climb is when fellow Rev3 team member Tim Andrus showed up. This was exactly where I thought he'd get me based on his and my projected swim and bike times. The kit is pretty recognizable, as is his Shiv. As it turns out, Tim's Shiv wouldn't shift at all in the rear. So his choice for gears were either 50/13 or 34/13. Not good on this course!
We had a brief conversation as we climbed together. He started to pull away a touch, and I wished him luck in his race. (He wound up going 4:44, the turd. Guess I need to put in some serious work before Maine.) As soon as it flattened out, he was gone.
I finished the climb up over at mile 30, and started to really feel like I was in a good groove; kept the nutrition flowing, effort still feeling pretty easy. Wanted to keep the effort to a point where it didn't feel like I was pushing all that hard; just a good, comfortable pace that was sustainable. I never really looked at the Garmin; I just used the overall time clock I had on my Timex pushing me a bit.
Miles 35-40 are on an out-and-back stretch. This is where I started to pour it on a little bit. A fellow athlete named Keith and I seemed to keep trading spots back and forth; he'd get away on the downhills and flats, but I'd reel him back in on the uphills. Not because I was pushing the uphills, mind you, but simply due to momentum; he revealed he had 15 pounds on me. It helped keep the pace honest between the two of us, as we'd follow the drafting rules and just keep on moving along. There weren't many athletes near us; just the two of us, trading back and forth in spots. He'd be up for a couple of minutes, then I would be, and vice versa. The drafting official came by us three or four times, and we'd check over, he'd wave on the driver, and away we went. He nailed a pack in front of us about a minute later, though, so drafting was definitely enforced.
At about mile 50 I stomped on the gas. I wanted to get some distance on some people behind me. (As it turns out, Keith was also in my age group. Had I known, I would've mirrored him heading into transition.) Saw fellow Sustainable Athlete Brett Helstedt out on the run already. He was COOKING. (He wound up well under five hours as well.)
I made my way up the hill, got out of my Tri Fly IV Carbon's, and dismounted the bike quickly, and ran into transition again.
I made sure to be quick. Re-racked the bike. Got my SwiftWick socks on, and then my shoes. Stuffed my two flasks into my pockets: one full of flat Coke, the other with the same gel combination. Nabbed a water at the first aid station, and was running with my race number belt, putting it on as I went. Time to move!
Run: 1:58:10 (8:48/mile)
Position: 17th in Age Group
I blew out of transition, feeling really good. I wanted to get out of there with some good miles under my belt at a comfortable pace. The last few runs I had done I'd been averaging well under 7:30 pace off the bike, so I wanted to try and run about 7:50 here.
I wound up blowing through the first 5K in 21:40. Oops.
I had frozen my Coke flask overnight in the hopes that when I picked it up for the run, it'd still be cold. Not so. It was hot, hot, hot. Not good. I was also trying to take in the gels and my stomach had had enough of that. At the third aid station I dumped both of the flasks. No point.
So I was going to hit every aid station, go for Coke and water, and just go like hell when I could. The problem, of course, is not being a great running climber. It's frustrating, because you see these people making these hills out to be nothing, where it feels like you are stuck in quicksand. This isn't a "you overcooked the bike" thing, because even when completely fresh running hills is problematic. I'm just not quite there yet. I will get there.
Anyways, I knew I had banked some reserve time up with the way I ran the first few miles. So the middle miles, when it was so tough climbing, I tried to just preserve my legs for the forthcoming downhills, flats, and the monster that is the last mile. I made sure I got my nutrition in. I made sure to get myself cooled off. I saw some 25-29 legs go by, but I also knew I'd be able to reel a couple of them back in later on.
Still, my stomach wasn't happy with me. As we came down past the Nelson "HA HA!" sign (yes, Charlie actually put that sign out there on one of the tough hills...sick man, he is), I was having to fight back a little vomit. I just needed to keep going.
Coke. Water. No more Gatorade. No more gels.
I figured it out on Tranquility Road that the best thing for me was to take water at the first spot, tear it open, get some on me, grab a Coke at station three, water it down which also eliminated any remaining carbonation, get it down, splash a little water in my mouth, rinse, dump rest on body, and go.
As we came back onto Route 64 I ran into Scott, who had fit me for the bike on Friday. We chatted for a minute, and then I pulled away. I was still moving, and moving well. Sure, some were passing me, but I was passing others, too. And I wasn't seeing any more 25-29 calves coming up behind me; instead, I was nicking one or two off. And see, I even looked pretty good, especially compared to last year in this same spot:
|Keep running, fool. Four miles. Four measly miles.|
Last aid station I got my little bit of calories in, and it was time to go. Make the move. Leave your legacy through effort. I'm pissed off for greatness. I saw at the last aid marker that I was at 5:17 total time. I made the call there that I would not let that watch see 5:26. So I had 9 minutes to make that climb happen, and sprint it on home.
The climb is gentle slope at first, and then it turns, gets steep, and then flattens out as you head back to Quassy. I took it easy at the start, made it halfway, gave it more gas, felt I had more to give, and then just stomped on it. I was GOING. And there was no way in hell anybody else was getting past me.
It was hellacious footing coming down the finishing chute due to all of the rain from the day before. But it made it fun coming home.
Watch stopped: 5:25:59. Made it.
|Remember, the time above my head is time from the pro start...so not my time.|
But man, oh man, is it awesome to get over that line...
Glory. There is nothing, NOTHING like finishing a race like this.
I met up with Tim, Anthony, and Ryan...sounded like everyone had had a good race. I needed to lie down and cool off a bit more, so I headed for the picnic tables in the shade. I changed out of my racing gear, and got into some clean clothes. After hanging around the expo for a bit, we said our goodbyes and headed on out.
We picked everything up, got into the car, and away we went. The car ride did NOT. FEEL. GOOD. Stomach was still pretty unhappy with me. We got to Newington, and as we were headed inside I felt that familiar, "Yep, you're not going to like this" moment from my stomach. I made it to the sewer grate before promptly vomiting out the combination of Coke, Perform, and whatever else was in my stomach.
No, I didn't take photos. But it did happen.
I immediately felt about 20 times better. We hung out for a bit, got some dinner (my traditional entire pizza, order of wings, and cheesy bread consumed). We had to pack the car, and somehow manage to get two bikes, and all our luggage, inside our car.
|Two bikes. four suitcases, four other bags. SUCCESS!|
We then drove home, listening to the Celtics win, and I got my beer when we got home.
Overall, I am incredibly happy with how this weekend went.
First and foremost, I can't believe I'm a part of such a caring, welcoming organization. It's truly an honor and a privilege to be representing Rev3, Pearl Izumi, NormaTec, blueseventy, PowerBar, Blue Cycles, SwiftWick, SBR Sports...I'm incredibly grateful. And to all of my teammates, some of whom I didn't even get to meet when we were here! Guess I'll have to see some of you here in Maine! (And yes, we still have space available if you want it...)
Secondly, I need to thank my coach, Doug, for putting in my in a position to shave 49 minutes off of my previous time here. 49 MINUTES. That's insane. In one year!
Thirdly, to my lovely wife: gosh, I can't believe you put up with me...you have by far a tougher job and you do such an amazing job at it. I love you.
As for the race itself: well, to put that time together is a feat, me thinks. I know that there's still work to be done. But I am damn proud of executing that race the way I wanted to. I put it together. I had a complete race. The chips fell where they did. I couldn't have gone any faster on Sunday than I did. Which means I left all my effort out there. I'm feeling it, too: sleeping 9-10 hours each night. I earned that time.
Damn, what a rush. Can't wait to do it again.