When I had first signed up for this race back in early January I thought if I had a good day I would be able to end up on the overall podium. After all the 3rd place finisher from last year only gone 2:05 and I was planning on going closer to 2 hours than to 2:10. But as we know sometimes it's all about who shows up on race day. You could have the perfectly executed race of your life, but if someone who shows up is generally faster than you chances are you are still going to lose. I'm not talking about a minute here or there those guys are the ones you can and will finish in front of on your best days, I'm talking about the athletes that are capable of finishing more than 5 or 10 minutes faster on the same course. After hearing about some of the athletes that had signed up to race after the race became the NJ state championships as well as the regional championship for the Mid-Atlantic region I was prepared for one of those days. I once again signed up for the Elite division so there would be no aspirations of age group greatness, but I would be able to test myself among the best athletes in the race.
Race morning I got up at 3:30 am to make the 2+ hour drive down to Princeton, NJ and I ended up getting to the race site and parked around 6:30 after all was said and done which left me an hour to get my race number, set up my transition area and get ready to race, unfortunately it did not leave me much time to warm up as the transition area closed at 7:15 but I was OK with that given the water temperature was announced at 89 degrees and I wanted save as much energy as possible before getting ready to swim in the sauna that was Lake Mercer. I wasn't going to wear a swim-skin fearing it might be too hot for one, but after talking to another athlete that opted out of it for the previous days sprint and regretted it, I was convinced it would be worth it. I got my stuff together and headed down to the lake for some splashing around and before I knew it, it was go time.
Swim: .9 Mi 23:51 (23:45 on my watch New personal best) 75/1070
We headed into the lake for the in water start and I seeded myself smack dab in the middle in the front. I knew if I had any chance of a high placing I was going to need to hang on to the fastest feet I could for as long as I could. Knowing the athletes that I was racing against I knew I had to limit the damage done on the swim. Once the gun went off it was pretty much chaos, I hung on to the first group for a little while before backing off because the two people swimming directly next to me could not swim straight. I decided to back off and let them swim in to each other while finding myself some clean water and a nice pair of feet to draft off of. The nice thing about this course is the buoys are marked with numbers so you know exactly how far you swam, and exactly how far you have to go.
When I caught a glimpse of the 600M buoy I couldn't believe how long it seemingly took to get there, especially being in a group for most of it. The high water temperature coupled with the high exertion factor made the swim feel much longer than usual. About halfway through the swim I started to make a move and found a group to swim with and I was able to stay with them the rest of the way. I was off the back but they provided enough of a push to get me out of the water with new non wetsuit swim personal best!
T1 2:42 (2:48 Watch)
Coming out of the water I was stoked when I saw my time, There was a decent run from the lake up to transition but I'm definitely not sure why it took me over a minute more than 2009 to get out of T1 and on to my bike. Clearly there is something I need to work on here!
Bike: 54:42 (54:41 Watch) 24.7 mph ( New Olympic Personal Best) 27/1070
After finally being out of the water, I headed out on the bike on a mission as I knew there were a ton a people ahead of me after the swim and I was determined to catch as many of them as I could. The course was a 2 loop course so it was nice to be able to be out on the course early without congestion at least for the first loop. Once I got going I was constantly passing the "swimmers" and each time I passed I would set my sights up ahead for the next target, this was fun and kept me motivated. I felt like I spent the whole first loop constantly passing people, but I knew there was a bunch more when I hit the first out and back at the school. I was surprised to see at least 10 more people in front of me the way I was riding, I thought I would have been closer to the front by now!
I was riding hard and I was still passing but I was almost on the second loop which meant I wouldn't really be able to tell who I was passing from my group and which athletes I was passing on their first loop. It got a little congested on the second loop but most athletes were good about moving to the right to let the faster riders through. Even though I could no longer tell if I was making ground on the athletes in my wave I still was pushing hard and trying to pass as many athletes as possible and my motivation level remained high!
As I approached the final hill and climbed back in to the park I was getting excited as I thought I was close to the front having just held 24.7 mph for the longest I EVER had, and also knew as long as I held on for the run I was in line for a new personal best.
Run: 41:13 6:35 min/mile 46/1070
As I started out on the run I noticed it was started to get a bit hot. Fortunately it was a lot cooler than it had been over the past few weeks and it was overcast, but at 80 degrees with 80% humidity it was going to be a tough run with or without having to have bike and swim first. I started off running and I curiously asked the volunteer at the turn how many athletes had passed. I was in complete shock when he told me about 15! I thought I was much closer to the front than that, he must not have counted correctly. The first 2 miles of the course is out and back so I was going to be able to see for myself. I started to count as I saw them coming the other way 1,2,3... I realized I was about a mile behind at that point and I was only running a 6:13 pace. My last Oly race I was able to grind out 3 6 minute miles before slowing down, so the heat was definitely effecting me. On top of that I hadn't seen the guys I knew were in front of me, Glenn and Mike who I thought for sure would have been in the top 5. This amount of talent at this race was ridiculous as either one of them could have probable won the race outright on another day but now they were just another "also ran".
I eventually saw them inside the top 10 but there were still a few bodies in between us. As I approached the first turn around I saw Karim who seemed to only be 1 minute ahead of me which was a good sign even though he was in 14th place since he had been much further ahead of me in some other races this year. At the turnaround I grabbed water to drink and dumped some on my head to keep me cool and keep my core temperature under control as much as possible.
When I headed down the slight hill that we ran up at the same exact pace that I ran up it I knew I was going to be in trouble. As I passed mile 2, I was also passed for the first time all race, even though I was passed it wasn't a really convincing one, I was able to hold on and keep pace with him for the rest of the run. I think the pass might have deflated me a little and brought me back to my old running days when I used to be passed constantly after getting off the bike as I suddenly defaulted to his running pace. We cruised through the 3rd mile in 6:38 but that's where the wheels fell off, AGAIN. Lately I've noticed that I can't seem to finish an Oly race strong, so I thought If I upped the calories on the bike it would make a difference. I went from taking in 200 calories to 500 calories, and while it made a BIG difference on my bike, I realize I might need to take in calories on the run in order to stay competitive. So for nationals next week I will definitely be upping the calories even more.
Right around 4 miles I got passed one more time as my pace had dropped to a 6:45 , but that would prove to be the last pass for the day. Mile 5 was the toughest mentally, as I felt I was pushing harder but going slower. I managed to pick up the pace slightly for the last mile and thought I was going to be able to catch the two guys within eye-shot but they both had the same idea. Once we hit the 6 mile marker we all had the same idea, sprint to the finish, while I increased the pace for the last .25 to a 6:11 they were both too far gone for me to catch, even though I might have put some time in to them in that final stretch. I was super happy to see a 2:03 on the clock even though I was the 15th athlete across the finish line.
Total: 2:03:35 26/1070 (New Olympic Distance Personal Best)
I knew going into it that the race was going to be stacked with top athletes but I had no idea that it was going to be as stacked as it was. I had my best Olympic race ever even with a poor run and I still didn't even manage to crack the top 25! My time would have put me in 3rd place overall last year and this year it was only good for 26th. This was my last test before nationals and I am feeling good. I'm curious to see how I do since I won't be tapering as I am in the middle of my London build and I'm giving that priority. I definitely learn from each and every race and I am learning that I need more calories than I think when racing an Olympic. I'm excited as this race puts me one step closer to my goal of getting under 2 hours. I'm happy that I get to represent such great companies on daily basis and that they will be along side me on my journey to get there!