(1.2 mile swim, 58 mile bike, 13.1 mile run)
(1st AG, 22 OA – 4 hr 58 min 15 sec)
It was a dark and stormy nite (NOT). Yeah! The weather was actually perfect for once, though maybe a tad cold in the early morning … but I did not complain about it.
I started this process in the usual routine of a 345AM wakeup and then drive to Rob’s house to load up. With the bikes in the back of Rob’s van, and Alyssa and Nicole (volunteers extraordinaire), we pulled out of Chesapeake at about 435AM. The trip to Jamestown went well and we were all soon down at package pickup and the volunteer check in tent. Off go the girls, and off go Rob and I.
Swim (1.2 mile - 35 min 33 sec), T1 (3 min 6 sec); 1st AG, 51st OA
I decide to wear my shoes (old pair) down to the swim start this time, and suit up down there as well. All went fine and this time I did NOT tear my new wet suit, I took my time putting it on. I was in wave 4 of 5 so I had time to watch the other waves depart and I sort of scouted out the action (currents, best initial path, etc.). I completed a short practice swim and sucked down two Gels for breakfast, 5 minutes before I started. Boom. Time to go. I thrashed with everyone else and got into a smooth roll. It appears that myself and one other guy (or maybe two) are leading wave 4. Cool, the hidden jet propellant I have shoved between my legs is working apparently. As usual, I smack into at least 3 other swimmers from the other waves that are back stroking or doing cannon balls mid way in the swim. Beats me what is going on. They chose this race, they need to swim it. Anyway, I go over, under or around them and keep buoy siting. All seems well and the other dude from my wave is still about 15 feet ahead of me at about 2 o’clock (but he does appear to be gaining a bit). The first turn buoy looks awfully close to the permanent channel marking tower (a very large wooden tower supported by 4 large wood telephone pole type legs). As I approach it I see that the turn buoy is right under the tower and mass chaos seems to be ensuing around it. Why? I soon find out. I arrive at the buoy as scores of other swimmers are cutting it short and swimming over me to leave that area. The stupid buoy was apparently pulled by the outgoing tide right under the channel marking tower. And the current at that point was strong. I get up to the buoy and attempt to go “around” it but the current smacked me into it and a few of the barnacle coated poles. Crap, this is dangerous. I fight it and do get around the poles and the buoy but swear it was definitely a dangerous situation with some major entrapment points. If I would have known how bad the turn point was in advance, I certainly would have cut the corner. It was not a safe situation and this was merely a sporting event. Not worth losing a life for it. I finally depart the chaos and make a bee line for the shore. Eventually my fingers hit soil so I stand up like everyone else, and of course at Jamestown this means you are still about 100 yards from the shore. You can’t really run (to deep and there are sharp rocks out there), so you sort of just mush it in. My watch said 34 minutes but it took at least another minute to waddle to shore before you could run. Up the hill I go and I almost blow by the wet suit strippers. This was new for this race. I confirmed they were strippers so I turned around and said “yank it off but don’t tear it because it is DELICATE – per the manufacturer.” Up another hill and at least another 300 yards before you get to T1 (hence the 3 minute T1 times, and that is fast). I clear out of T1; all goes well, other than I have a lot of dirt on my back from the stripping process.
Bike (58 mile - 2 hr 39 min 15 sec), T2 (1 min 31 sec); 1st AG, 32nd OA
Ok, this bad boy is 58 miles. Or as Rob says, “It’s not a real Half because it is 2 miles longer than it should be.” So 2 extra miles equate to about 6 minutes of bike time. Need to factor that in while I play mental math during the bike course. This ride will be over 2.5 hrs so I might as well snuggle into my personal pain cave and chill, focus and keep my nutrition on target. Starting in the second to last wave has some advantages. The primary one is the thrill of blowing by so many cyclists in the first 20 miles you almost feel like Lance. The disadvantage is that many of the cyclists are weaving, eating, playing checkers, counting squirrels, trimming their nails or otherwise are distracted somehow. So though I like to sling by them (which means enter the draft zone for about 5 seconds, close in and then sling left, pass, check my six and then pull over to the right to clear the passing lane to avoid any blocking penalties), you have to watch the cyclist for any strange or sudden moves. By mile 25 it starting to get way thin and I felt like a solo rider. Definitely by mile 45, I thought everyone went home (the lead group was 20 to 25 minutes ahead of me, everyone else was behind me). Another advantage of being in the old guy/gal group is that not many cyclists past me. Three to be exact and one of them was a female at mile 20 or so. But the big deal was the number on her calf (50). I was like, wow, really. I am use to having the hot 30 somethings pass me. They are usually elite riders, a few pros also. But this female was 50! I think for one nanosecond and then ramp it up just see what her pace is like. I hold it for a few miles and say “Go girl, go.” She definitely was in a different league than me. I am impressed. More on her later. Other than being on my own for about 20 miles, all went well. I kept reminding myself though “Larry, you have a 13.1 mile run after this bad boy, so keep that in mind and don’t burn out on the bike.” I do some mental math every 5 minutes for the last 10 miles and it’s obvious to me that to break 5 hrs on this nonHalf, I need to really cook the run. Which means, no 1 hr 43 min half marathon. I will need to go 1 hr 37 to 39 minutes which I have never done in a Half and certainly not in a nonHalf. Of well, time will tell. On another note, I broke the golden rule of trying something new on race day. I froze my 4 hr fuel bottle the night prior thinking it would be thawed by time I got on the bike (basing this on all the heat we have had recently). Well, my polar bottle kept my frozen fuel, well, frozen for a long time. I almost fell off the bike (and/or slung the bottle) when I had to keep shaking it in my attempt to free up some precious liquid fuel. It was turning to liquid but not very fast. And for the first time, I was actually praying for some heat to help me out of the mess I put myself into in. By the end of the bike course, I was able to get ALL the fuel out – yeah. I arrive at the dismount area and jump off onto asphalt with bare feet and about collapse because it hurt. Dang, I am a tough guy but bare feet and asphalt or concrete just DON’T mix for me. I limp across the asphalt and find some grass, amen. To T2 I go.
Run (13.1 mile - 1 hr 38 min 52 sec); 2nd AG, 18th OA
T2 is fine, nothing major to report. I fly out of T2 (so I think) and get into a groove. Strap my running belt on about 100 yards outside of T2 and it pops my Hammer capsule container out of my back pocket. Stuff flies everywhere and I will be darned if I leave it on the ground. I need that stuff for the run. So, I stop and turn around and started picking up a capsule here, and one there and one there. Done, back on task. I don’t have a GPS watch (yet) or heart rate monitor so I run like I have since I started running in high school in 1975, I run by gut feel. I ran by an internal clock but decided to check it when I saw a mile marker come up. I knew I had to run about 7 min 30 sec/mile to go sub 5 hrs. My first mile or 2 were fast, too fast. So I dialed it back, found the magic pace and clicked on. I love the run course which goes through wooded trails and several board walks (the spring in the sand and the board walk is good for us old guys). I also like the shade though the temp really was not that bad, yet. I decide to check my pace when another mile marker comes up and whoa, I can’t seem to find another mile marker beyond it. The markers are a bit sporadic, so back to the GPS watch that maybe I should now get. Eventually, I calibrate my pace at least 2 more times and I seem to be dead on a 7 min 30 sec pace. Yeah. Now, can I keep that up for 13.1 miles was my thought. Even up to 10 miles would be cool. In the woods, on lap 2 (btw – I did NOT miss the turnaround point like I did a few years ago – yeah), I see something large moving across the path. A darn snake. Instantly I need to jump it or stop. Too much energy to do the latter and I recognize it as a nonvenomous snake so I jump over it along with another runner on my side. The lady behind us screamed though. That will work also I guess. All is well on the run and as expected the energy level at mile 10 ain’t what it was at mile 2, or 4 or even 6. This is now getting hard. So I grit my teeth and go into pure focus mode (which means a bomb needs to go off to get my attention). I see mile 11 and run the numbers. If I keep this up, I will nail a sub 5 hr time for this nonHalf. I see mile 12 and then just gut it in. I was thrilled to finish at 4 hr 58 min 18 sec, especially knowing that for a real Half I could subtract about 6 minutes from that time. Super yeah. Alyssa and Nicole are now working the announcer booth (entering bib numbers into the computer for the announcer). I see Rob’s wife and family, and know he is back there but not that far. And I am just happy to be done. As for that 50 year old female that passed me on the bike. Well, she finished 2nd woman (a 30 yr old beat her … the rest were 20 minutes behind her), 10th OA and with a time of 4 hr 54 min 3 sec – impressive!