Exactly why I allowed myself to be talked into it, I’m not sure! Probably because I convinced myself that placing top 12 in my age group shouldn’t be that difficult to do. When the race sold out and there were 100+ people in my age group, I should have realized things were going to be a little more difficult than I had first imagined!
Delbert and I arrived in Richmond on Saturday morning following a 14-hour drive through the night. Upon arrival, we picked up our race packets and then proceeded to ride one loop of the 3-loop course. After riding the bike course, we then attempted to ride the first 10k run course, we ended up riding about 90% of it but there were certain sections we weren’t quite able to figure out… Finally, around 2pm we made it to our hotel and settled in for some naps and relaxation.
Race morning arrived. My wave didn’t start until 10:10am, Delbert’s at 9:30am so we headed to the race site around 7:30. Having such a late start gave me the opportunity to relax plus watch the other waves start. Unfortunately the late start also meant the temperature continued to rise and by the time my race was ready to start temperatures were in the 90’s!
10:10 and my race is off. For the first time that I can remember, I’ve positioned myself at the very back of the pack for the start. The course immediately goes down a fairly steep hill and the majority of the first mile is downhill, it’s going to be a fast first mile and I don’t want to get carried away. First mile marker reached in 6:10, a decent time but I’m considerably back in the pack. At this point the course is mostly flat and will remain so the rest of the way except for the final quarter mile which will be mostly up hill. Missed the first water stop, just about ready to grab a water from the last guy when another runner doing their 5k loop asked the guy directions and he pulled the water cup back when he focused his attention on her! Normally wouldn’t have cared, but this heat is intense…
Mile two is passed, 6:20 for that split, maybe a little fast, I was planning on around a 6:30 average for this opening 10k. Got my water this time and a Gatorade, drank the Gatorade and pored most the water on my head. Mile three split, 6:35, happy with that split though I can tell I’m slowing down, not a lot I’m going to be able to do about it! This is the point my lack of training comes into play, I can fake it for three miles, anything past that and my pace drops off considerably… Between miles three and four is an out and back. I had been moving up through the field as other runners who had gone out way to fast are beginning to pop, but as I count the runners coming back, I’m only in 40th position. All I can hope is that everyone else is hurting worse than I am and that I’ll feel better on the bike.
The last three miles on the run I continued to slow down. In the final mile I watched my average pace on my Garmin climb to and then finally over seven minute pace. Surprisingly, I wasn’t getting passed so everyone behind me was struggling as much or more. However, it wasn’t them I was thinking about but rather the forty plus people ahead of me. I thought about dropping out, I thought about it a lot. Instead I convinced myself to keep going, that even if I didn’t qualify for Worlds, continuing to race was good training and that finishing a National Championships was much better than dropping out. Since I made the decision to keep racing, I did something that only serious multisport and endurance athletes can understand, I peed my shorts while I got ready for the bike…
For the first loop of the bike course I kept things comfortable. I figured ride within myself for the first loop and then try to pick up the pace for the final two loops. As the ride progressed, I began getting a headache, which happens frequently to me when exercising in hot weather. I made it a point to continue to hydrate and also ate a Hammer jel about midway through the bike course. My plan of picking up the pace went by the wayside and instead the focus became maintaining my pace and avoiding the cramps I could tell were just a hard effort away. Despite having a less than stellar ride, I continued to pass an occasional athlete from my wave, but I could tell I wasn’t passing enough of them. As I finished the bike course, I knew I was still far from being amongst the top twelve in my age group.
After having been on the bike for more than an hour, I was actually looking forward to the run, maybe it was more about knowing I was twenty minutes or less from finishing! Knowing I was so close to being done, I was much faster in T2 and was quickly out on the run course. Looking at the final results, they say I ran 6:07 pace for the final 5k. In reality, I ran more like a 7:10 pace or so, but the course was only about 2.57 miles and the results are based off having run 3.1 miles. Anyways, my final time for the “5k” was 18:59 giving me a total time of 2:14:08. While I normally wouldn’t be that happy with a final 5k at 7:10 pace, I actually passed around 3 or 4 more guys from my age group and it was my best event of all three when compared to the rest of the field.
Looking at the final results, my first run is ranked 314th, my bike 222nd, and then my final run is 161st. I improved in each successive event; I just wasn’t fast enough to begin with! I was 42nd in my age group after the first run and ended up 31st by the end, so between the transitions, the bike, and the final 5k I passed 11 people in my age group. Just below me in my AG results are the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 10th fastest guys in the opening 10k from my AG, I also out ran them all in the 5k so it’s not that they’re just fast runners and can’t bike, they probably just went out to fast and paid for it later.
In general, this race served to confirm what I already knew; I’m not in good racing shape! It also helped a little to remedy that as it served as an excellent day of training. Hopefully this report didn’t sound like I was making excuses, bottom line is I have to train smarter and more…