Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pocono Mountains 70.3 Race Report

As noted in last blog, the swim was canceled due to substantial flooding on the Delaware River. After seeing the river for myself, I could appreciate that they canceled it. This river typically runs at around 4-5 feet of water and it was at nearly 18 feet. The flooding was immense and the water looked like it was going very fast. The course required that we swim upstream to the first buoy, then downstream until the last few hundred yards which would go back upstream. I could just imagine myself getting pulled out of the water due to the time cut-off without ever having made it to the first turn.

I expected that the lack of a swim, the predicted rain and cold temperatures would deter some racers but come race day, close to the 2,000 pre-registered athletes showed up. All except one pro female triathlete made the start.

Without the swim, the race became a time trial with the pro's taking off every 30 seconds followed by the age-groupers every 3-5 seconds. As a pro Amber started out almost an hour ahead of me as my bib number of 1919 put me almost all the way in the back of the pack. Both starts had their advantages and disadvantages. For Amber's part she had an unimpeded ride on the course, but was second guessing herself at several road junctions where she wasn't sure on which way to go and also couldn't necessarily pace herself off any other riders as there were none around. I, on the other hand, had the benefit of the draft of 1,900+ previous riders, but also had to continuously ride around many of these riders; some of whom appeared to never have gotten on a bike before. There was passing to the left of me, passing to the right and here I was stuck in the middle with you. Not YOU, but the ubiquitous you embodied in the form of the sluggish, mountain or hybrid bike rider who must have at the last minute decided a 56 mile bike ride would be fun. Lots of braking, skidding, ducking and dodging ensued for my ride.

As much as I like to say that all those people blocking my way was a disadvantage, I actually believe that it may have helped me, because there was never a time that I could just leisurely ride as I was always coming into people's drafts. This forced me to be continuously picking up my pace to get past each group. Also, since there was so many people around me all the time, I couldn't do my typical "I'm the king of the world" riding which involves no-hands and upright sitting while singing various show tunes.

I got off the bike feeling strong and ready to run. Elapsed time: 2:37:00- 21 mph, 100th overall.

The night before I had decided that I waste too much time in transition tying my shoes. Apparently in kindergarten I learned how to tie laces with two bunny ears and to this day that's the extent of my knot tying abilities. As such, I end up struggling to get out of transition with my age-group(and otherwise age appropriate) peers. I, thus, came up with this ingenious plan to tie my shoes the night before and just slip them on for the run. Fool-proof. Except: Apparently I hadn't tied them tight enough because within the first mile my feet were killing me as I tried with all my might to keep from kicking off my shoes with every step. I finally resolved to stop at which point my ape hands prevented me from untying the double knot that I was fastidiously tied the night before. After about a minute or so fumbling with the laces, I finally was able to untie, tighten, and re-tie my laces. And I was back!

Prior to untying my laces, I had seen Tim Snow and Ryan Kelly pass me going towards the finish. Ryan yelled over to me to watch out for the hills. "Oh great, Adirondack Marathon all over again." I thought. Rather than beat myself up over the impending hills, I just settled into a comfortably hard pace, picking off runners as I ran by. I got to the turn-around averaging slightly under 6:30 pace which was about 15 seconds off pace but with all the hills I had just climbed I was pretty happy with. All downhill from here, right? Well, apparently not. Although I thought I had been climbing the whole way out, I had missed all the downhills that I had also covered. Now as uphills, I definitely did not miss them. I slowed a little over the last few miles, which I blame on the lack of people running a similar pace. It is really easy sometimes to get into other runners' paces and not push yourself as hard as you could. Despite the slightly slower second half, I finished up with a 1:25:28 which brought me to 45th overall finish for the day with a time of 4:03:56. An excellent time if there was a swim involved.

 Amber had a tough race, having picked up the cold that I gave her, racing somewhat blind to her competitors as well as not having the advantage of a swim to get a lead on some of the other pros. Despite a bike best described as below her abilities, she did manage to have a solid run on a very hilly course against some very strong competitors, including Desiree Ficker, a pro triathlete that Amber used to follow before she even got into the sport herself.

So while Amber may tell you that she was disappointed with the final outcome of the day, I would say that she gained a lot of insight of the importance of pacing and sighting on the bike and how never to give up as she, on another day, could have run herself back into top five. As it was she finished with  a solid 4:16 for Top Ten Female.

Up Next: Danny's off to China, then back for the Granite State 10 Miler with Am on October 23rd.

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