Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The 2014 Eagleman Experience(Cheaters Never Win but They Can Slow You Down)

Amber is a Beast!
I never watch horse racing but it was playing where we were staying in Annapolis for Eagleman. Supposedly the expected winner didn't and they had an interview with the owner afterwards and he was complaining about the injustice of the race, unfair rules or whatnot, blah blah blah. To me it just sounded like sour grapes. Which I hate. And which I hope I don't sound like when I write this blog.  As always, I'll let Amber do the full write-up of her Eagleman race but I just wanted to put my two cents in, especially since this is the first race that I've seen where another athlete has directly(and negatively) impacted Amber's performance.

Wow! That got your attention huh? While it is true that an athlete probably did prevent Amber from taking a top 5 spot, I don't think it really affected her race day and I know Amber will write nothing but positive things.

The Run-Down
Unfortunately, Amber's swim wasn't all that great having missed the lead pack of swimmers. This meant that she gave up 2 minutes on several females who she should have been with, or ahead of.

Things happen. The key is to deal with it and get as much time as you can back on the bike. Amber did come out of the water with several similar paced riders and they all starting by riding pretty much the same speed.
Amber slipping out of her speedsuit

After having driven the courses of Ironman Texas and Florida and having a blast being able to cheer on Amber multiple times along the way, I decided to do the same thing for Eagleman. I therefore was able to witness first hand the intricacies of pro racing as well as the officiating. For almost the whole 56 miles, there was a biker and official beside Amber's pack to ensure that drafting(or any other penalty for that matter) didn't occur.

Of Note: While drafting(using another rider to block the wind for you thus allowing you to work less hard for the same speed) is illegal, being 6 bike lengths from the athlete in front of you is not. This group of girls were pretty much using each other as pacers, which typically allows you to go at a faster clip. Contrast this to IM Texas where Amber was pretty much alone for the entire 112 bike ride.

I obviously couldn't trail behind the pack the whole ride so what I would do is speed past and the stop alongside the road, take pictures and cheer her on. This allowed me the opportunity to also see the race leaders, Rachel McBride and Heather Wurtele battling for first and speedy Caitlin Snow riding solo in hot pursuit. I was able stop probably 6 times by the half way mark and also was able to witness the sheer frustration that must occur waiting at the penalty tent as I saw a female athlete chomping at the bit after having drafted earlier on the course.

In fact, I was so interested in this that I missed the next turn and continued driving on the road which got more and more windy and narrow. After several miles out of my way I realized that I had made an error and retraced my steps. I was annoyed with myself having potentially missed opportunities for viewing but then I read Jesse Thomas' blog and realized he did it during the race. Yikes! Now that sucks.

I got back on track and came upon the pack again but now there was one more person in the group: the rider who had been waiting in the penalty tent. Now this was a narrow part of the course so I couldn't make a pass so waiting behind the pack of girls so was in prime spot to see how this unfolded. Amber or Radka Vodickova would be leading the group and then this other rider would slipstream in and then pull around them or slot in between them. Slipstreaming(using someone's draft while passing) is illegal for pros as is slotting in between two riders(if two riders are at 6 bike lengths, a 3rd rider cannot cut in between them). What's not necessarily illegal but plain obnoxious is sprinting to make a pass and then sitting up and slowing the whole field down. Radka or Amber would back out of the draft zone to make sure they weren't drafting and thus slowing down the pace.This happened to Amber three times in the course of less than 10 miles and at least once for Radka that I saw. In essence, this one triathlete was able to control the whole pace of the riders behind her. It was ridiculous. What made it worse was that after a few miles of this the official gave the athlete a second red card which meant she was disqualified. Did she concede the race and stop with the BS? Nope. She continued to pull the same thing for the remainder of the ride(at least the part I was able to witness)-now with no recourse of the officials. How do you disqualify someone already disqualified? I'm not sure how everyone else felt but it sure riled me up.
Amber leading the pack
Amber got off the bike in 8th place, reporting as she passed me the first time that she wasn't feeling well. 5 porta-potty stops later confirmed it. I'd see her run a low 6 minute mile and then wait around for an 8 minute one because she stopped again. Amazingly, despite this she was still able to run down two athletes and finish 6th. Between the athlete who will remain unnamed slowing her down on the bike and all of her bathroom breaks, a sixth place finish isn't too bad. I just know she could have done considerably better. Guess we'll have to wait until Lake Placid to see how she does:)



If one Amber is this fast, imagine three!

Amber after the race: trying to warm up after sitting in AC for drug testing

After the race Amber got "randomly" drug tested, which involved sitting a freezing cold room waiting her turn to pee. This may have been the second hardest part of the race for her but we finally finished and headed home. And this was the hardest part of the triathlon: an eight hour ride taking 11. I think we should fly next year.

Up Next: June 21 Midnight Sun Marathon(Danny)

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