Pre-race: I stayed at the Magnuson Hotel in Elberton the night before. It’s an old Econo Lodge. My room didn’t have as many dead insects and curly hairs as Nathan’s did. It didn’t catch on fire either. (True story. Ask him.) The only excitement we had was our 3 week old daughter making poopy diapers for us. I woke up around 5:30AM to take care of my “morning routine” and immediately drank 20oz of Gatorade. For breakfast I forced myself to eat (read: choked down) a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. The hotel is about 11 miles away from the park and it only took about 15 minutes to get there. I underestimated how long it would take to repack all of my gear plus all of the stuff (read: crap) that babies require to travel, so I felt a little rushed and late. I was surprisingly not nervous. Normally I’d poop 10 times (too much detail?) and almost throw up 10 more, but the morning was oddly calm.
Warm-up: We’re supposed to warm up? I… stretched? I’ll wave my arms around and bend over to (try and) touch my toes. Maybe a few calf and hamstring things too. I swam a little bit in the water before the gun, but not really anything. I mean, I’ll ride my bike to set up at transition and I’ll jog to the registration tent, bathrooms, and transition area, but I don’t typically do a traditional warm-up routine. I never really have. I’m just afraid that I’ll use up too much energy.
Swim: The swim course was a triangle. It was two 750 meter loops without having to get out and run the sand in the middle. We started waist deep in the water and I chose to try and get out with the initial group instead of hanging back and letting the “fast” people get out of the way. Taylor was also doing this race and it had been exactly one year since we had competed. I am a stronger swimmer than he is so I wanted to get as much of a lead as I could before the bike. For the entire first lap I fell in behind someone, sighted less often than I normally do, and just plugged away until I got back. I looked at my watch briefly to get a sense of the time and I swam the first lap in 14:35. My pace is 2:00/100m so I felt good being 25 seconds ahead of schedule. I attribute it to drafting pretty much the entire lap. At the start of the second lap the person I was drafting off of started to slow down so I swam the entire second lap by myself. About half way through the second lap something on my goggles popped and my right eye filled with pond water. I wasn’t willing to keep swimming blind with one eye so I treaded water until I could fix it enough to continue. I pumped out the last half of the second lap and as I got out of the water, I completely forgot to look at my watch because Taylor, who I’m a stronger swimmer than, got out… right… next… to… me. Crap. Shoulder to shoulder we started the run to T1 and my heart dropped because he smokes me on the bike.
Swim Time: 00:32:22
T1: It was a nice little run from the water to T1 and I was pretty tired. I had only swam like 4 times in the 3 weeks leading up to the race. My gym was temporarily closed and we had just had a baby. My weekly training times were down. I was really just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other and getting to my gear. I sat down on my bucket (I use a bucket) and put on my socks. Taylor was already gone before I even got my them on. What a bummer. Socks were pre-rolled a little bit to make them go on easier. After the socks I grabbed my nutrition (three strawberry banana PowerBar PowerGels, 4 fingerling potatoes, and a pack of Clif Shot BLOKS) to put in my jersey. After the nutrition was in I put on my helmet and ran. I had my shoes already clipped on my pedals and was trying out getting in them while already on the bike. It went okay. I guess more on that later.
T1 Time: 00:01:12
Bike: The bike course was one lap and beautiful. Out from the park, pretty much around the park, and back down the entrance. I already knew what to expect because I had driven it the night before and made some notes about the downhills, climbs, and turns (#teamoxfordcomma) relative to the mile markers. I knew when to sprint, spin, aero, save, and climb. I felt better prepared for this bike than any other race I’ve ever done. And not because I’ve been putting in a ridiculous number of miles, but just mentally I felt like I knew the course already. I watched Taylor’s white jersey get further and further away and I tried my best to keep the distance the same. Many people passed me on the first half and I passed the same number on the second half, but I don’t think they were the same people. There’s a huge downhill at mile 11.5 that leads to a right angle left turn at mile 11.9 (from my notes) and I decided to push down that hill instead of just resting in aero. I turned the corner and I PASSED TAYLOR. Whhhatttt?!!? I said nothing, stood up, and pushed a little more. He passed me back within 30 seconds and I passed him back IMMEDIATELY. At every corner or turn I looked back briefly to see if I was putting any amount of distance between us. I never saw him again during the bike. I kept passing people, pushing it on the flats, resting on the huge downhills, and doing my best to keep a good cadence on the climbs.
Bike Time: 01:03:45
T2: At the top of the hill coming down to the dismount line I started getting my feet out of my shoes. I did the ol’ throw-one-leg-over-and-hop-off-right-before-the-line trick. It worked well. We had to run a good bit to get into transition. I’m not sure why, but the dismount line was a good 50 yards from the transition area even though we were allowed to mount right next to it. Whatever. I racked my bike and sat back down on my bucket. I took off my helmet, put on my shoes (I used to use Yankz but now I use Lock Laces – get some if you don’t have them already), put on my sun glasses (my aero helmet doesn’t have enough room for me to wear them), and grabbed my race belt. Right as I stand up to leave Taylor’s wife yells for him to “hurry up.” As I stand up I see him CARRYING HIS FREAKING BIKE into T2 across the mat. He later said his shoe got caught on something and he was having trouble running with his bike so he just PICKED IT UP AND SHOULDERED IT. What a beast. I wasn’t worried though. I’m a much stronger runner than him. (But that’s what I said about the swim earlier too.) As I cross the mat to leave I hear him yell “YOU BETTER RUN CHARLIE.”
T2 Time: 00:00:54
Run: The run was a really nice, two lap course. It was mostly flat and pretty dang fast. The beginning of the run featured a 0.4 mile? run through a wooded area before putting you out on the road until you were back for lap two. The aid station was in a good spot and you hit it on the way out to the turn around and the way back. I wasn’t sure how much I had left in my legs because I pushed it on the bike to stay ahead of Taylor. About every half mile I would turn around just for a second to see if he was there. And. He. Was. Every time. I started out with a decent pace to gauge how much I had and ended up with a 7:50 first mile. Taylor was close behind. So I picked it up for mile 2 and 3 running 7:24 and 7:21. I figured there’s no way he could keep up with me. He did. I hit the wooded area again and slapped Andrei on the butt as he started his run. He tried to keep up with me, but that was a lost cause. I was in the zone trying to put some distance on Taylor. This guy just kept hanging around. Mile 4 was roughly the same pace at 7:24 and he was gaining on me. I appreciated the run much more on the first lap. I wasn’t so worried about him catching me the first time around. I was able to look at people, check out the scenery, and watch Chris Nasser FLY around the course shirtless while some tiny guy tried his best to catch him. So for mile 5 I picked it up a little bit to 7:11 and mile 6 I decided to try and go sub 7 but I only managed a 7:01. I turned the last corner and briefly looked back one last time. Taylor was literally ducking and hiding behind two guys so I wouldn’t see him. He thought I wouldn’t notice him and he would catch me easy. I laughed out loud and started my kick. We crested the hill together and had maybe 100m left. Shoulder to shoulder again and it was a foot race to the finish. He pulled slightly ahead and I started my sprint. I finished ahead by 2 seconds.
Run Time: 00:44:59
Post Race: The first thing I did was lay on the group and almost throw up. That’s how I met Sam Smith. Someone had called for medical help thinking I was in need. She was really nice and brought me some water (I think). I sat around for 5 minutes or so sipping on water and then walked about a bit to get some of the fruit and bagels. When my heart rate calmed down I stretched a bit and went for a light jog to my car and back so as to grab my teeth for pictures. Yes you read that correctly.
What would you do differently: There were only a few of things that stuck out that I would do differently. First, freaking goggles man. I feel like I lost at least a minute and a half. IDK what the heck to do there tough. Maybe get another pair. They don’t fog (I use Quick Spit Antifog) and they fit fairly well. I do feel like I get water in them more lately though. Second, next race I’ll try to have as much of my nutrition already on the bike as I can. Taping my gels to my tube and maybe putting other food in some kind of bento box should help decrease some of my T1 time. There was too much stuff to grab. Third, I’m not sure if I want to keep leaving my shoes on the bike. They’re not hard to put on, but it’s not as easy as it is when I’m sitting on my bucket. So I either need to practice more or just run through T1 in them. I saw someone using rubber bands to keep them in place, so I’ll have to check that out and see if I think that might help as well. Overall I think I had a pretty successful race.
Rate your overall experience with this race: I would give this race a 4 for the following reasons. First, the venue was amazing. It was a beautiful park with a very nice course. The water temperature was great, the bike wasn’t boring or too challenging, and the run was flat with lots of time to people watch. I really liked the location. However, the hotel selection for the location wasn’t that great. Since the race I’ve learned that one of my wife’s co-workers has a farm nearby and that we’re welcome to stay there. Definitely going to hit that up next year if I do the race again. Second, I didn’t like the transitions. Maybe it’s because it was just the longest transition that I’ve ever had, but it was an uphill run out of the water for what felt like over 100 meters and a very long run into T2 from the dismount line. Third, the course is compact. The two loop run at the end was great because it gave us the opportunity to see the spectators and get cheered on by more people. I like races that loop the course and have the finish line near the transition. Fourth, does anyone else feel like race photos are almost a waste of time? I’ve never really gotten pictures good enough for me to want to buy them. This race didn’t offer nearly as many pictures as any race I’d had previously done either. I think I got two pictures for each leg and none of me crossing the finish line. But the venue carried much more weight with me than the transitions and race photography.