Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?
This morning the Wingman and I got up early to head out to Montauk for another triathlon. I've done this race every year since 2005, with one exception (2006). It's such a great venue to race at and the weather is pretty much perfect every year. The setup is a little tricky with two different transition areas, but with some help from the Wingman, I get my stuff setup easily and stress-free on race mornings. The only thing weighing heavy on my mind is a lingering calf issue. I've been battling a shin splint on and off for over a month now and I have good days and bad days. Most of this week has been bad. I've been wearing a compression sleeve at night when I sleep and since this week has mostly been a recovery week, I've stayed off my feet as much as I could.
I decided to wear my sleeve for the race so my calf would feel good during the race. The 1/2 mile walk down the sand to the race start wasn't much of a help. I tried to minimize the twisting motion of my foot/ankle as I walked but I could feel a twinge every now and again. Once I got down to the starting point, I chatted with Wynn, Teresa, and Marty for a little bit. Then the Wingman joined us for a few. Before I knew it, it was time to get into the water for the start. The ocean was a little cool at first, but I quickly got warm. There was also a nice chop that we were swimming into as well. The saving grace was the underlying current that would carry us along. When the horn went off, I started off. At first I was in a little traffic jam, but I decided to take it easy a little to see if it would open up. My patience paid off and due mostly to the chop, I quickly found some open water to swim in. I've done a few open water swims with a chop similar to today so I had a rough idea how to time my strokes for the rise and fall of the chop. At times it was a little weird when I would look up to sight ahead and all I would see is a wall of water coming towards me. I think I was about a 1/3 of the way through the swim when I was actually thinking "This is kind of fun. I wonder if I can go back and do it again?"
I think by the time I was 3/4 of the way done with the swim, the waters were calmer and I could see ahead of me. Oddly enough I noticed that there were very few swim caps of my color in front of me. I wound up finishing ahead of most of the people in my wave which is a huge victory for me since swimming is not my strength. Once I got out of the water I took a peek at my time. I was ~1 minute faster than last year. Oh boy, could this be the makings of a good race? Only time would tell.......
I made my way up the beach and into T1. I passed the Wingman who was sitting down on a rock not expecting me quite so soon. I waved hello and he cheered me on as I ran by. I got to my rack, stripped off the wetsuit and got ready to ride!!
I grabbed the bike and set out on the bike course. There was a bit of bike traffic in front of me and I was kicking myself for not being 20 seconds faster in transition. Now I was stuck trying to maneuver around people. For ~3 miles I had to do various accelerations to try and get around people. I felt good on the bike and was pushing my pace. Every once in a while I would look down to see what my speed or cadence was. I didn't bother looking at power. I think maybe twice the entire time I looked at my average power. I zipped around Gosman's and decided to go for broke. I was feeling really good and wanted to see what I was capable of on this course. Before I knew it I was back on Montauk Hwy and making my way to the Lighthouse. Usually on this stretch of road, I tend to labor a little, but not today. I think I've really nailed my nutrition down. Even though it's a short course I still brought half a bottle of my drink out there with me. I'm not as fast as the uber people out there so a little swig here and there to keep my topped off doesn't hurt.
Up ahead I could see my nemesis looming. There is a big hill to climb about 2 miles from the park. Every year I struggle up this hill. It's a pretty sad sight to see my climb this hill. I am usually huffing and puffing my way up with my heart beating in my throat. But this year was different. I was spinning up easily and in a harder gear than in years past. Next thing I knew I was at the top and flying down the back side of the hill. Holy crap, who stole my old, crappy hill riding legs and replaced them with the climbing legs I had today? Now I was flying the rest of the way to the park. I looked down at the race time and started to think about a PR on the course.
I got to T2 and switched out my shoes for the run. Before I left the transition I took another swig and told my calf to behave itself. I channeled my inner Jens Voigt and said "Shut up legs" and began my run. As soon as I hit the grassy hill, my left calf started to ache. I walked it up the hill and started to run when I was on solid ground. The usual spot of my pain didn't bother me, but I could feel a knot in my calf with each step. I tuned it out and kept moving one foot in front of the other. I had no idea where on the course Obi-Jen was and the last thing I needed was to have her see me walking at any time. I knew I would find my rhythm quickly, but I forgot that the run course is ever so slightly uphill on the way in and you are rewarded with the downhill on the way out. The other thing I forgot is just how long it seems to take to get to the turnaround point. I saw Wynn running along with his laser focus and when I said hello it almost seemed to startle him.
I kept my focus now on finishing strong. When I saw my time prior to starting the run I knew I had a course PR in the bag. The only thing would be if I completely imploded on the run course or a catastrophic injury. I got to the turnaround and was never happier to be heading out of the park. I took advantage of the downward slopes for free speed and overall, my foot turnover was increasing. I was feeling a little stronger as the run went on. As I exited the park I saw Teresa and cheered her on.
Now I made my way to the road and the uphill finish. I did my best to get up the hill as quick as I could. The only thing going through my head was the faster I got up the hill, the faster the race would be over. When I crossed the line I stopped my watch and was shocked at what I saw. I had an incredible PR. I shaved 13 minutes off the PR I set last year. Most of the time came off the blistering pace I set on the bike and some more came from the run.
This race was a HUGE breakthrough for me. My bike average was ~2.5 mph faster than my previous best. I climbed the hill like it was a bump in the road. I powered through the last 2 miles with plenty of energy. I held it together on the run. There are always things I find in the race that I could work on for next time, but overall I have to say I am finally pleased with my race performance. The results are proof that Obi-Jen's planning and training are taking hold. The pieces are starting to come together as I hunker down for the heavy load coming up for my A race in September.