Mid-Atlantic Club Championship
The race was on but my mind was floating away on other things. About a month before I raced Ironman Lake Placid and had a great time- and felt good from my performance. Of course that only led to a longer "recovery" period and a general slack in my training. And to be honest my engagement the week before- in the midst of a hurricane in Puerto Rico- was far more important to me than racing. Nevertheless, you show up race day and the swarm of competitive spirit and trash talk surrounds you at every corner. The fancy bikes and the great swimmers are all out to prove a thing or two. So it was on regardless of what shape I was in.
We drove up the morning of which made for a super early morning. It wasn't ideal by any means but it was worth not having to pack all your stuff for the night. As we approached we could already see a bunch of familiar faces and the masses of DC Tri Clubbers out in force. Not only did we have a ton of racers but a great group of volunteers which made it once again feel like a home town race. It's hard to say but it felt like a quarter of the people were from our club.
So we parked, geared up, and walked to transition through the streets of the small town. It was super quick to get our chips and numbers and then set up so we ended up talking it up. More talk. With guys in pink spandex shorts, the result of a lost bet, and the last minute no wet suit call by race officials, we had plenty to talk about.
We lined up at the edge of the lake - without our wet suits - and this is when the waiting began to drag on. At this point we were all inching forward and ready to get started. The waves went over the mats and onto the dock- then got in for an in-water start. No more waiting.
When they shouted out the water churned and we all sped away trying to keep our line out to the last buoy. I slammed up against people on both sides and I wasn't sure who had a better line but it really didn't matter as I climbed over a couple legs on my first half of the swim. I kept the line on the course rather tight and on the return I kept my head down and focused on my form. Coming back to land I kept an eye on the markers I had in sight to my side and tried to guesstimate from the previous waves were exactly we were exiting the water. I felt comfortable overall but a bit sluggish and looking for some speed in the last 500 yds. I'm not sure if I got any faster but my heart rate went up and slowly the shore came into reach. I was right in the middle of the pack as usual so no surprises there.
I quickly ran into transition and finally appreciated the no wet suit rule. This made the process super fast even with the run from the water. So it was in and out onto the course with a long section of grass to run before getting to the pavement.
The start of the bike course was fast with shallow hills but they grew in difficulty and pitch as the miles progressed. In the first few miles the route seemed to be almost empty, maybe because I'm a slower swimmer, but that was just for a short while. I kept tracking various riders up on the horizon and kept my effort as steady as I could as I kept gaining on them- slowly passing most of the riders out there. The climbs were short and there were plenty of curves to contend with. I ran across a few people I knew and there was a strong sense of camaraderie as we all encouragement through the course. Of course in the midst of all that there were some people I was trying to catch up to- and hopefully pass before the run. That's to say there wasn't a lack of competitiveness, even within the club. Or especially within the club.
For such a short ride the tempo pace really proved to be more difficult than I had thought it would be. But that made sense with all my previous longer distance training- and then the time off in the past month. And even though I was feeling the effects of the faster ride I was enjoying it to the fullest extent- pushing harder than I should on the crests and powering in tougher gears on the downhills. That all added up and the last few miles I tried to re-focus my zone and get into a groove that would let me pull off a better run.
The last bit going back into town and transition was a speedy downhill loosing the elevation we had gained over the course of the route. It was a good way to spin out and relax, mentally preparing how to get through T2. As I rounded one of the last corners Chad came into view and I knew that would mean pushing it on the run.
With Chad in my sights just up ahead there was plenty of incentive to get on the run course and start hammering away at the last leg. It was clear he didn't see me so I kept him in front until I was right up on him getting out of T2.
As soon as I started I felt awkward- probably not enough bricks in my training. And the pace was
higher than how I would have started- but this was the competitive spirit driving me and the first mile marker would tell me how fast we were cruising on the run. The great thing about it was having a pace setter at a slightly higher level than I was comfortable, but also just above my threshold so I could maintain that speed and possibly improve my overall run. So even though we started side by side I started to follow just steps behind. Those steps grew in length and then the first water stop was in view. I kept my focus and tried to convince myself that my last miles would be my opportunity to let it all go and gain back my ground. But before I knew it my stride was growing and I flew by at the "DC Tri" water stop. The hills, for as small as they looked, were a challenge that kept me from cruising in auto-pilot. Rather it was a goal to reach each crest and then recover on the back side. The most cruel of those climbs was the last on to the out-and-back which you could see the speed of runners decrease as you approached.
After the mid way turn, the race changes. It's all about making it back home, maintaining your pace and getting enough nutrition to just keep going. I also saw a huge amount of the red and blue DC Tri jerseys heading out which was cool to see. Before I knew it I was back on my roundtrip through the DC Tri water stop and with just a short section left of the course. I was pushing hard while calculating to keep enough in the reserves for the last 200 meters as you round the park for the finish line. Whether it was 200 meters or 500 it sure felt longer than I had anticipated but the finish was close enough; my speed increased with every step and the last 50 was a full out sprint to the line.
We all gathered at the finish line as more and more DC Tri Clubbers came through. We had an amazing showing and claimed the Club Championship once again- as well as the Vigo Cup and a spanking brand new bike to raffle for our Club. We ate and took a ton of photos as the day warmed up. After that we headed back home but it was only a few miles before we decided to hit up a lunch break - pizza and steak sandwiches. That only led way to getting ice cream afterwards and really indulging after a hard workout!
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