Monday, September 29, 2008

FirmMan Race Report - better late than never

Sorry for the delay, I just haven't had much time to sit down and put together my race report from my final tri of the season - FirmMan Rhode Island Half Iron. This was my 3rd time in 4 years doing this race and I had a few goals in mind:

1. Win my age group - I have come in 2nd in my age group both times I have done this race.
2. Set a PR - My best time coming into the race was 4:39 and I hoped to better it.
3. Break 4:30 - This would help achieve goal 2 as well as break a new barrier for me.
4. Race Ron Jacobs and Mike Roberts - 2 of the strongest guys on my team, especially at this distance. Ron is a former pro and this was his taper race, and Mike was coming off a 10:06 at IMLP.

With all of the goals in mind, I knew it would take some serious effort to accomplish all that I had set forth to. Kara and I arrived in Narragansette the day before and met up with fellow cyclonauts at the town beach for some R&R. We then headed to dinner at Arturo Joe's for some pasta with a group of 10-12, had a few drinks and then called it a night.

The day began at 5:00 am (for Kara about 5:15 - she is a rockstar for putting up with the early mornings that come with triathlon) and after the backs and bike were packed, it was off to Dunks for some breakfast.

As we got to the venue, the sun was just coming up (pic below) and it promised to be a perfect day for racing. After a quick set up of tranisition, I put on my wetsuit and Kara and I headed down the beach 1 mile to the start of the swim. Water looked fairly calm with some rollers coming in slowly along the race course. The race course involves swimming out beyond the break point, turning the 1st buoy, swimming 1 mile parallel to the beach, then making 1 more turn and heading for shore.

I was in the last of 5 waves alongside Ron and 4 minutes behind Mike. The gun went off for my wave and I went immediately to the front of the pack, battling through the breaking point. The breaking point provides a clear idea of who the strong swimmers are in the pack, as the weaker swimmers tend to take their time getting through the surf.

I turned the 1st buoy in 2nd place ( in my wave) and, after a long, not so direct swim, I turned the 2nd and final buoy and headed for the beach. After riding 1 or 2 waves in, I found my footing and starting running for transition. No sooner did I stand up, then I heard, "Hey! You're not suppossed to be here!" It was Mike Roberts! I had made up 4 minutes on him and was stoked! I made it in and out of T1 in 1:06 and ready to hammer the bike. My swim would be good enough for 2nd in age group and 7th overall.

As soon as I was on my bike I began hammering. I knew 56 miles was a long way to hammer, but I decided before the race that I wanted to have a fast bike split, and see how long I could hold a decent run pace for. The good thing about starting in the last wave is you pass a lot of people along the way. I headed out of town on Route 1 in the breakdown lane and felt great! I had a steady cadence going and hadn't been passed by anyone except the FedEx man (renowned time trialist that competes in the team category). I hit the lollipop section and kept pressing. This is the only part of the bike course that realy requires you to get out of the saddle and as a result my heart rate jumped a bit.

I came out of the lollipop section still feeling strong and still making up time. At the final turn around of the bike (somewhere around 35-40 miles) the first oppurtunity presented itself to see who was close behind. I saw Mike not too far behind, along with Ron, Tom DeLuca, Jim, Bill T and some other non-Naut racers. At about mile 40 I passed a 20 year old that had spanked me in the swim by 4 minutes. I was sure this would be the competition for me in my age group and kept an eye on him till about 10 miles to go in the bike, when I pushed even harder. I came into T2 after my best bike split ever in about 7th or 8th place (not counting the time difference from the start waves). I checked my computer as I rolled in and couldn't believe my eyes, I had averaged just over 23mph!!

After about 30 seconds in T2, it was off to the run course. The first mile my legs felt really heavy and I had serious doubts about the rest of the run, but as I looked down at my watch I understood why - 6:38! Phew, that was a sign that I could back off and get into a much smoother and more comfortable rhythm.

Just after the first mile marker I was passed by the 20yr who was looking strong and experienced, once again I had doubts about catching him. Just before the 2nd mile marker I heard a shout from behind me, "Man, you gotta teach me how to swim." Mike Roberts had caught up to me and after we exchanged a few words he was off at a blistering pace. I fluctuated over the course of the next few miles but still stayed between 7:00 and 7:45 miles for the most part.

I was able to see where I stood after the first turn around, and excluding time differences I was 7th overall and 2nd in age group after 6 miles. After the long stretch of the 2nd turn around I could see that Mike was really making up ground and I had a feeling he could take the race outright! As I kept an eye on my watch, I noticed that with 5K remaining I had 30 minutes to cover 3.1 miles and achieve my PR as well as break 4:30. I also realized that I still had the big hill and a sandy finish on the beach, and with that I kept calm and maintained my pace.

As I approached the top of the hill I saw that my age group competition was beginning to crack, and I made the pass at the top of the hill with just over 2 miles to go. I picked up my pace in order try and defeat him mentally, even though I was also hurting at that time. I didn't look back until I was half way down the beach (I was taught that looking back is a sign of weakness and anxiety). At this point I get passed by a 40-44 year old (he was in my same starting wave) and realize that he is my competition for the overall finish. I contemplate letting him have it, as I am about to cramp up (the fists are about to punch throught the back of my legs), then Bill Terry pushes me to beat him with some encouraging and motivating words.

I push through the pain and pass him with about 50 yards to go and cross the line in 4:29.32~ a new PR!! That time was good enough for 1st in my age group and 4th overall~I just missed the podium. Its okay with me as I accomplished all goals with the exception of beating Mike Roberts. He finished in 4:22 and was the overall winner. A huge congrats to Mike as I believe he is the first ever Cyclonaut to win FirmMan. I was lucky enough to hold on to beat Ron, who had an awesome run (1:27.17=7th fastest run split) and a great race finishing in 6th with a time of 4:30.09. It was a great day that was finished off with a feast from Boston Market, and beers from Harpoon! Furthermore, I could not have asked for a better end of the season race

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