Pre-race: I decided not to get a hotel for this race. I’m not sure if anyone else did, but I didn’t think the 1 hour drive straight out I-20 would be too big of a deal. I had packed everything up the night before and even put it all in the car (except the bike). When my alarm went off, I put on clothes I laid out, used the bathroom, and started to make breakfast. I’ve been off my depression and anxiety medication for a little over a month now and this morning was going to be a real big “what if” situation to figure out if I should go back on. It was a pretty calm morning and I was trying not to think about the race. I ate breakfast, checked the sky, kissed my girls, and headed out. About half way there it started pouring. I knew it was either going to be postponed, converted to a shorter race, or cancelled altogether. I didn’t care what happened as long as they didn’t cancel the whole thing. I was ready for any race format as I had been anxiously anticipating getting back to race season for a while now. I arrived at the park and basically just sat around and chatted with people. The two guys I got into triathlons with were there so I sat on a porch with them for the first hour to catch up and shoot the rain. After that I went to hang out with the club under the pavilion. Eventually they announced that the race was on in the full format so I started getting everything setup.
Warm-up: I jogged to and from my car to get things. I did a fair amount of stretching because it was cold and my knee is stiff sometimes when it’s cold. I also took my bike for a really short spin, mostly to get my shoes pre-clipped, but also to warm up my legs. I put my wetsuit on to head down to the water and swim around a little bit. This is the point where I realized I forgot my watch on the bedside table. It was low on battery and I charged it during the night instead of packing it up. I almost freaked out big time. I asked a few people if they had an extra watch I could borrow and ended up using a lap watch provided by my Guardian Angel Gurd. It did nothing but keep time and punch laps. Good enough. I just needed to know how much time was passing. I’ll do all the calculations in my head as I see bike and run mile markers. I headed into the water and was able to swim around for about 3-4 minutes to get warmed up. I was feeling good.
Swim: I was in the first wave with the yellow caps. I knew a ton of people in the wave and decided that I’d start directly behind John. My goal was to beat him, so I figured I’d see if I could keep up. The race started and I swam in his line the entire time until the first buoy. As I rounded the buoy I lost the ability to draft anyone and ended up swimming alone for most of the second leg of the triangle. Somewhere half way down that leg I caught up to someone and tried to pass them. They picked it up again so I just got in behind them as they pulled ahead. We rounded the last buoy together and I started to pick it up and kick my legs faster to get them ready to run. I swam as close to the shore as I could, stood up, checked my watch (10:40), and saw John not 10 feet in front of me. I was excited that I was able to keep up, but disappointed thinking about much faster he’ll be on the bike.
Swim Time: 11:05
T1: I didn’t run it too hard into T1 because I was focusing on keeping my transition times down. I have visualized everything many times so I just needed to do it. Anthony Nasser was a few steps behind my at the T1 mat, so I asked him if we wanted to trade ripping off wetsuits with me — and we did. I didn’t practice pulling off a soaked wetsuit so I was happy to trade services even if it cost me a few more seconds (but I have nothing to compare it with). As I ran up to my rack I saw John leaving with his bike. I yelled “You better go John!” I put my suit down on my towel, put a Clif Bar in my kit, put my helmet on, and ran with my bike. I had my shoes pre-clipped and held in place with rubber bands. I’ve been practicing my flying mount periodically and I practiced in about 5 times a few days before the race. I was confident in my ability to execute and get my feet in the shoes quickly. I was pretty happy with my transition and for now the only thing I think I could have done to go faster was to… run faster.
T1 Time: 1:13
Bike: The bike was sort of a blur for me. It was really nondescript and I was alone most of the time. The course was a good mix of rolling hills, a few climbs, and some fast sections. Ed passed me pretty early as did 1 or 2 others, but I passed a few people as well so I felt okay about keeping my overall position and continuing to do my race. I didn’t have my watch so I had no idea how fast I was going. I had to rely on my training and knowing my body. I only remember mile markers for miles 1, 2, and 10 so I wasn’t able to do many calculations about pacing where I wanted to be (anything above 20mph average). Oyler gave me some advice at Silk Sheets a few weeks ago: “There’s no prize for staying the big ring the longest.” I tested it a little bit at Silk Sheets after he had to turn around for CPR class, on my morning group rides from Agnes Scott, and my 70 miler in Augusta with Richard. Instead of clicking down a few gears in back on hills and staying in the big ring, I only moved between big and small up front. I was able to keep my cadence going into the hills and really keep my flow going. Water every 10 minutes and Clif bar bites every 30 minutes. I know it’s a sprint, but I need the calories or I’ll bonk. As I got closer to the park entrance I check my watch to see what my time was. I knew I wanted to be under 38 minutes. I picked it up coming back into the park and caught up to a pack of 3 or 4 people because of the downhill. I unstrapped my shoes and pulled my feet out to prepare for the flying dismount.
Bike Time: 38:33
T2: Perfect flying dismount and ran my bike to the rack. No socks for the run so all I needed to do was take off my helmet and put on my running shoes. As I was putting on my running shoes my bike fell off the rack. Picked it up, grabbed my hat (which had my sunglasses, race bib, and a few salt pills inside it), and ran out of T2. I couldn’t see John so I figured he smoked me on the bike.
T2 Time: 0:47
Run: A small child was working the aid station right outside of T2. I almost didn’t get any water to gulp my salt pills down with. I ran through the grass (which reminded me of high school cross country for a moment) to get to the parking lot. I saw someone, Tony I think, who let me know John was only 20-30 seconds ahead of me and that Ed was just ahead of John. It was go time. I actually researched John’s run times on his Athlinks page so I knew he would most likely run just under 21 minutes. With a 20-30 second lead I knew I had to lay down something in the 19s. The first mile was pretty flat. My watch said 6:30 at mile 1. The second mile is where the hills started. I was closing slowly on John and Ed as the leaders started to come at me from the turnaround. I liked having the turnaround because I was able to tell exactly how much of a lead they had on me coming up to the end of mile 2. Time at mile 2 was 14:30 so I ran a 7:00 and felt bad about it. I lost 30 seconds on the hills and figured all hope was lost. With all the turns coming back to the finish I lost sight of both Ed and John. I trudged on making sure that this guy in my AG who was on my heels the entire run wasn’t too close behind me. We had been neck and neck at mile 1 so I was determined to at least beat him if I couldn’t catch anyone else. I had no idea how fast a pace I was running or how far was left in the race, but as my time ticked closer to the 20s I knew it had to been soon. As I rounded the corner coming out of the woods Peter Gurd yelled “If you’re going to catch him you have to go now!” That was all the fire I needed. Cue the Jaws music. I gave it everything I had for the last sprint around the water and up the hill. I didn’t have anything left but he was so close. The only thing I could do was yell to summon more energy. And I guess it worked. A total of .3 seconds separated us at the finish line.
Run Time: 20:00.5
Post Race: I wasn’t sure I had actually beat him honestly. What if the chip didn’t register? Did I lead with the wrong foot? I feel like I led with the left foot and stepped on the mat. I walked around for a few minutes sipping on water and grabbing some food. Other people started to roll in. It was the best post race finish line that I had ever experienced. The more people that finished, the more people that lined the finish chute. It became a tunnel of cheers, high fives, and pictures. It was amazing. I saw tons of people finish and got to celebrate with them.
What would you do differently: I wouldn’t forgot my watch that’s for sure. I wear a 910xt during training and races. Having the data mid-bike and mid-run to show me my pace is very helpful. In the end I’m not sure I really needed it because I’m not sure I could have gone any faster on the bike or run. I was pushing it on both to the limit I felt comfortable with. I’m happy to say that I think I executed my race pretty dang well. I may have gone for a 6:30 split on mile 2 had I known I was slipping, but I’m really happy with the way everything turned out. The only other thing I can think of would be to run faster up to and through T1 and try to shave 10-20 seconds off that time. Another 20 seconds and I could have been sprinting for Ed instead of John.
Rate your overall experience with this race: 5. A big old 5. Even with the rain and delayed start, that was the best race I’ve ever been at. And not just because I got 1st in AG and beat someone I was hoping to beat. Everyone loved watching everyone run in to the finish and it was amazing to be part of that. The course wasn’t easy but it wasn’t hard either. The water was great, the bike was simple to follow, and the run had a nice mix of flat and hills with a turnaround. I couldn’t ask for a better setup. Well, I could have done without the downpour beforehand. But that’s really the only thing I would have wanted to change. If you’ve never done JT, put it on your bucket list.