Sunday, 17 June 2012

Eagleman 70.3 2012

Race History
TriColumbia has been running the Eagleman triathlon in Cambridge, Maryland since 1997.  The event is extremely popular with both professional and age group athletes, with strong fields in both categories coming to the race for the high level of competition and the Kona slots on offer for the age groupers. 

Past champions include three Ironman World Champions (Natascha Badmann, six-time winner of Ironman Hawaii, has won five times at Eagleman, Lori Bowden, two-time winner of Ironman Hawaii won here in 2003, and Mirinda Carfrae, Ironman Hawaii champion from 2010 is a two-time Eagleman winner and is the defending champion), as well as three Ironman 70.3 World Champions (Joanna Zeiger, Mirinda Carfrae and Terenzo Bozzone all two-time winners at Eagleman).  Also on the start this year is three-time Ironman World Champion and two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion Craig Alexander, who was supposed to race here last year but pulled out due to illness.

The Field
The male professional field was stacked for this race, featuring the following big names in the sport:
- Craig Alexander, three-time Ironman World Champion and two-time Ironman 70.3 World Champion
- Greg Bennett, ITU world #1 for 2002 and 2003, 4th in Athens Olympics, 2011 Hy-Vee Champion
- Richie Cunningham, currently ranked #2 in the 70.3 world rankings, 70.3 World Champs bronze medallist
- TJ Tollakson, defending Eagleman champion and 2011 Ironman Lake Placid champion
- David Kahn, 2011 Rhode Island 70.3 champion

Race Week
Not the ideal lead-in to a big race, I was in Vancouver and Victoria for work on the Monday-Friday period before the race.  Eating rich, heavy foods every meal, a collection of beers on Wednesday and Thursday night with some University friends I hadn't seen in a long time, then almost six hours of flying broken over two flights and almost three hours in a car on Friday to get from Vancouver to Cambridge.  During that week out west I got some good running in, but zero swimming and only two really short spins on a horrible, horrible LifeFitness exercise bike in the hotel gym.  
Not where you want to be doing your race-week cycling.
I was booked in to stay with my friend Jon Dow who was also racing, and his parents at 'America's Best Value Inn' which is a complete toilet of a motel, luckily the great folks at the Hyatt Chesapeake Bay found us a hospitality suite for the duration of our stay which was a phenomenal home base for the weekend. 

Race Morning
Awake at 4AM, breakfast was two bottles of Ensure (butter pecan flavour - yikes - thought it was vanilla), a banana, a multivitamin, colostrum, and a coffee.  We drove to a local middle school where we took the shuttle to the race site.  We were onsite at 5:45AM, so I had an hour to pump up the tubes, run a 3K warm-up, get into Jon's Nineteen Frequency wetsuit (I thought it was going to be too warm for wetsuits so only brought a speedsuit).  One drag off the EFS liquid shot for 100 calories at 6:15, short warm-up swim, and we were ready to rock.

Swim - 24:10, 8th in MPRO wave, 12th overall
The swim start had me nervous as I wasn't sure how hard the guys would hit it off the line.  It actually wasn't that bad, I started wide and away from the Big Dogs (mainly so I wouldn't be in their way), but after a 200 metre surge, the effort felt comfortable.  It was at 600 metres where there was a break in the pack - I found myself pulling away from pack two but getting dropped from the lead pack, so sprinted for 50-75 metres to regain contact.  Which was short-lived as we rounded the first turn buoy at 800 metres, and I relaxed thinking that with the bunching up at the turn I'd have the ability to relax for a second, and then they were all gone.  Swam the rest of the swim solo - lesson learned!  No relaxing around the turns.


T1 - 1:30, 16th in MPRO, 40th overall
Slower than it should have been as I had to find Jon after the swim to give him his wetsuit - also forgot to lube up my calves pre-race so the wetsuit strip wasn't as fast as it could have been.


Bike - 2:16:37, 12th MPRO, 25th overall
My bike, T2 and run splits are wrong on ironman.com, my chip malfunctioned during the race and they must have guessed at where I came in off the bike.

A big component of my race plan was to get out and practise riding in a legal paceline with the pro guys - though leaving T1 with TJ Tollakson and James Bowstead, I immediately saw them ride away (TJ rode a bike course record 2:02, James was 2:08).  I'm not in that league so settled into my pace, which was slower than what I wanted.  In the first 20K I was passed by Jack Smith and Zach Ruble, who caught James Lamastra who was just up the road.  I made the decision at that point to forget about watts and just bury myself to catch those guys.  It took about 5-6 minutes over 300 watts to make the catch, then we rode almost the entire last 65K together.  Kyle Pawlaczyk caught and passed us around 70K, but other than that we saw no one else the entire ride.

Quads started to feel mangled around the 80K mark - stood up a few times to try and shake them out.  The relentless 'flatness' of the course took its toll, not often in Ontario are you in the same gear grinding it out for over two hours straight in the aero position.

Ride data:
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/189840734 (Garmin Connect)
http://app.strava.com/rides/10527344 (Strava)

Nutrition was one 300 calorie bottle of Infinit and two 160 calorie bottles of Gatorade Endurance, plus 300 calories of EFS Liquid Shot, for a total of just over 900 calories in 2.25 hours (400/hr).

T2 - 1:56, 15th MPRO, 76th Overall
Not so fast here, though I did come into, and out of, transition with the two guys I finished the bike ride with.   I'm pretty sure I'll always be a 'socks' guy in T2 as my feet get mangled pretty quickly without, but this needs to speed up.  Part of the slowness was just how slow I was shuffling through transition trying to avoid quad cramps.

Run - 1:22.49, 6th MPRO, 11th Overall
Quads were a mess out of transition, was pretty sure they were going to cramp, so I took it slow.  First KM of 4:12, second of 4:08 - yikes.  Managed to work out some of the knots in the quads and built into the run, running a negative split half-marathon.  I started the run in 12th, and managed to hit the turnaround in 8th.  Made one more pass on the way home and was pushing hard for 6th although I could see at the turnaround I was five minutes down on him and needed a combination of strong running and a breakdown by him to make the catch.  By 18K I couldn't see him up the road so backed off the pace slightly to secure 7th.  
Happy to be done after 4 hard hours of racing - photo credit: Sharon Dow

Nutrition was a cup of coke at each aid station (roughly every mile).  Missed one station completely and at another station I had coke and gatorade.

Total: 4:07:02, 7th in MPRO and 10th overall
I had a few goals for my first pro race:
1. Push out of my comfort zone to stay with a fast pack of swimmers - success until the first turn buoy.
2. Ride with a group to experience that dynamic - good from 20K on, but need to get up to pace faster.
3. For placing I'd hoped to be top half of the pro field and beat all the age groupers.  Success on the first part (7 of 19) but had three AG'ers slip in.  First overall age grouper was Steve Johnson who I ran with in Kona, this race draws a very competitive AG field because of the Kona spots on offer.  
With JD post-race.  Photo credit: Bob Dow.
Next up is the Syracuse 70.3 in Syracuse, New York on June 24 - hopefully two weeks is enough time to recover from this hard effort!

Happy training!

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