I was in the last of 9 waves for the swim and was able to splash around in the waterto get some warm-ups in while the other waves went off. As our wave got stagedto go out (they all left at 5 minute intervals - so I was 40 minutes behind the pros) I noticed a lot of people creeping out past the start line. I gave one yell to get back...but should have been more vocal. I didn't want to cheat out ahead, but knew I would have to thread my way through them. Next time. Sure enough after the gun went off, I got clobbered in the face by one of the slower swimmers out front, hard enough to knock my goggles off. I treaded water for a few seconds to fix them and got run over another couple times. Sputtering and swearing I swam for clearer water and the rest of the swim went pretty smoothly. Each wave had different colors, so I could tell I was having a good time as I swam through most of the wave ahead and even started to catch the purple wave with a 10 minute head start. The finish chute is an uphill run and I am still not sure if I am better off to walk it, to recover, or charge it, to make time... Swim split was 34:58 including the long t-run.
T1 went pretty smooth, took the time for my socks, had the bike in the right gear (and passed some poor fool with his shoes in his pedals that almost fell over at the mount line). With a LOT of practice that may make sense...but I think I can put my shoes on a lot faster on the ground than on a bike. The first 5 miles of the bike were the worst...heavy legs and a long false-flat that actually gained several hundred feet. Just about this time, the first 2 pros passed me going at LEAST 10MPH faster..they were already 26 miles ahead of me!! My legs felt worse after the swim than I expected...which brings me back to the sloping water exit. I guess water will almost always be downhill from transition...so get used to it. After my DNF last race I was hyper-sensitive to road debris, so of course at about the first intersection, I ran over something sharp with both tires and heard a sickening PING! PING! Luckily I didn't flat, but every strange wind noise had me leaning down and inspecting the wheels. I settled into a rhythm on the bike after that slow start and crossed 15 miles in under 45 minutes so I knew I was ahead of 20+ MPh. My splits for the two bikes laps were pretty even 1:22 first lap and 1:19 second with a steady power of 170 Watts and an average pace of 20.7MPH . That was about what I planned for and the first time I have ever finished above 20MPH for a race longer than a sprint. So Far, so good.
T2 was also smooth, just a gulp of sport drink and right out the run gate. 1:16 was my fastest ever transition so I am not wasting as much time as I used to. Transition is set up by waves..so you could keep track of how I was doing in my age group. A depressing number of bikes were already racked up by the time I finished what I thought was a strong bike leg...but I still seemed to be ahead of most folks. Heading out on the run I was focused on quick feet and high cadence...I seemed to head out moving a lot faster than the people around me (because I was in the last wave I was making my way through the earlier waves all day) but there were a lot of hills on the course and I bogged down by the 2nd mile. I ended up walking the second half of most of the hills just trying to keep my HR down...most of the people around me were doing the same. It was a 2 lap course, so I had a few people pass me like I was standing still as they headed to the finish at a sub-7 minute pace...but you never really knew who was ahead of you by 6 miles or behind you. I split the 1/2 marathon in 2:03 which was exactly 1 min/mile slower than I hoped at a 9:28 pace. I had been hoping for a 1:50 but I really felt flat on the run. Nothing really hurt, but nothing felt good either. My HR was about 162 for the 1st lap but down to 155 on the second, so I was definitely fatiguing. I kept the pro's example in mind as I came to the last mile and pushed it hard until I was in a dead run down the finish chute, one guy on my heels almost ran me down but I was able to hold him off by a step...I came across the line with nothing left and a 5:24:24 time.
That put me 27 / 68 in my age group, and 245 / 600 out of all the guys...barely top 40%. It felt like a better effort than that, but it is a tough crowd, the top-12 guys in 45+ all went under 5 hours which seems pretty high...almost 20% under 5 hours. At Len's infamous Eagleman roasting only 7 of 135 people cracked 5 hours in the 45+ group or about 5%...on a tougher day for sure. Last year I was improving my finishing percentages almost every race...but it seems to have stabilized at around the upper third. It doesn't look like I'll ever win one of these things or even sniff a podium unless I stay at this until I'm 70. But - getting out there and finding some small victories is always rewarding however so I suppose I'll keep at this. I do have a new Zipp wheel to amortize and I don't want to put it on Craig's list saying 'Only raced once...like new!' Lessons Learned: 1) Be vocal about start line creeping 2) Stay on the electrolyte tabs - I took them every 20 minutes on the bike and forgot them on the run 3) Need a better solution for sun-screen... 4) Easy on the Gatorade and cold water on the run...felt bloated 5) Leave some slack in the speed laces - my feet swelled through the race and I had no room to adjust