Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Greenfield Tri - New England Club Championships

I'm a little late in getting this post up after the race on Sunday. Truth is, I was pretty dead to the world on Sunday after I got home from the race, and didn't have time to do it yesterday. Here's the summary.

The Greenfield Tri takes place in an ideal location, with a wonderful transition area and a swim in a small river. I've heard a lot of good things about this race from people who have done it, including a covered bridge and a hill with switchbacks on the course. The profile of the course isn't bad, with some steep uphills followed by a lot of time to build speed and recover.

I was particularly hyped up since this was to be the New England Club Championships. My club, the Minuteman Road Club, has been having some pretty fantastic results this season, and I expected we had a pretty good chance to do well in our division. But, we had some people out because of having just done the Lake Placid Ironman, plus the usual summer traveling. So, we went with a smaller than usual crew, but one that is stocked with some great athletes.

I approach all my tris the same: survive the swim, hammer the bike, hunt people down on the run. This was going to be no different. My swimming has improved volumes, but it is still not my strong suit. But, at this point, I am used to being hit and kicked, and that is a major part of the battle. As the gun went off, I tried to get in a groove. Because we were swimming in a river, there was little need for sighting because all you had to do was follow the shore or the "lane line" that was in the middle of the river marking the out-and-back. Plus, the river was so shallow you could see the bottom and thus get your bearings easily. I was able to keep a decent rhythm, and was out of the water in 16:59 (covering 800 meters). Not a great time, and slower than I would have liked, but good enough for 21st out of 173 competitors.

My T1 was not great either because of some problems getting my leg out of my wetsuit. But, after a minor delay I got out of there in 1:20 and hit the road on the bike. I was hoping for 1:20 to cover the 30.4 miles, which meant 20 minutes per lap (four lap course). After the first hill, I was getting into a rhythm and starting to peg people who had finished ahead of me in the water. My cycling has been pretty strong from riding with roadies and doing road races, plus putting time on the bike in training. Through the covered bridge I hit the major hill with the hairpins. From my watching of professional cycling, I know to stay to the outside of hairpins, as it is less steep. I guess most of the competitors don't watch cycling, as they took the inside line and I cruised by more people. End of the first lap in about 19 minutes, ahead of schedule.

As I built my rhythm, I was able to really start to crank on the bike. One of my teammates who is a powerful cyclist passed me, but I was able to reel him back in and we yo-yo'd each other the entire way. I then passed another super fast teammate, who was pretty shocked to see me go by. I was totally grooving on the bike, having a good time on great pavement on a very nice day. Can't get any better than that! It is the best feeling having traffic stopped for you so you can blitz into corners, power through them, and generally hammer down the road. I was disappointed when it was over, but happy with my time: 1:17:41, good enough for 3rd fastest time overall and a 23.48mph average.

Now for the run. As I came into the transition area (with two of my teammates in two), another teammate who was spectating yelled out "You're all racing for second". That meant someone was waaay up the road, and the rest of us were going to battle it out. I knew I needed a good transition, and decided to forgo the socks for my running shoes. I've never run 7 miles sock-less, but drastic times call for drastic measures. I flew out of T2 in 43 seconds, but 17 seconds behind on of my teammates who was now up the road. He was the least of my worries as another guy went flying by me with the kind of stride that said "Don't even think about it."

I know 7 miles is a long way, andthe best thing that you can do is hit your stride and run your race. I wasn't worried about catching anyone initially, but getting in my rhythm and getting comfortable after the bike. My ankles were pretty tight after my bike, and it took a while to loosen up. My plan was to keep my teammate in sight until mile 5, and then make something happen. As the miles went by I felt progressively better, until mile 5 when I had to do something or settle for fourth (number two was still up the road, but faltering a little bit). I quickened my pace and locked my eyes on the back of the person in front of me. At one point he turned around and looked behind him, and that was it. Never turn around unless you can do something about it. At mile 6 I passed my teammate, who gave me words of encouragement, and I continued to hit the gas. By the time I hit the finish line, I was feeling my stride and hammering downhill. End result of the run: 45:22, or 6:18/mile, and 4th fastest run time.

My final time was 2:22:00. I was hoping for a little faster, but couldn't complain too much. The best part of the whole thing was I took third place overall, the first time I've ever been on the podium in a tri. I was pretty fired up, as it is the culmination of a lot of hard work (especially in the pool). It's nice to have a good result and have no regrets.

Actually the best thing was the award ceremony, as my club took honors in most of the categories. Then, for the club championship, we edged out a team victory in Division 4 (based on club size). Annie, another teammate, also took third for the women, and we had a good time comparing trophies.

It was a heck of a race, one that I would recommend to anyone and would like to do again. But, the race is over, and this week it was back to training. Big bike race coming up: Tour of Hilltowns. It's an epic event with an intimidating profile, and I gotta get ready for the suffering.

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