Monday, July 13, 2009

My RI race, part 1 (not that I want to drag this out...)

...but it was getting lengthy and I'm done for the day.

Triathlon is pretty simple. The gun goes off, you swim, change quickly, bike, change quickly, then run. I don’t know what it is about this simplistic sport that draws me in so much. I’ve pondered this over and over, searching, and maybe even creating some reason. The bottom line is that I love it, simple as that, simple as the sport is. Maybe I’m just simple?

The skinny: I had a big breakfast. I swam 27 something, biked 2:19 something, ran 1:26 something for a 4:16 w/ transitions. I drank my calories on the bike and used water and coke on the run. I loved the course. The race was very well organized. I didn’t think there were any hills in Rhode Island. My Nineteen wetsuit felt great, My Cannondale Slice was amazing, I saw really well through my Oakleys, and the hammer nutrition products were just right. After a year off, it was great to be back on the starting line. I’m going back to race Kona.

If you don’t want to hear any of my personal emotions on this day, then you can stop reading now. Once again, this blog is my personal journal and I want to mark down some things to remember this day.

The last time I raced was Clearwater in 2007. I did the Lake Warmaug sprint and the NYC marathon in 2008 – both great and different races, but they were more spontaneous fun than setting a goal, training specifically, going through the process. I enjoy the process of training towards a goal. So as I drove up to Rhode Island Saturday morning, Big Rocks riding shotgun, I thought about the fact that I’ve had a lot of downtime. I wondered if I had lost that edge.

One thing I knew is that I was going up to this race for a reason – to get a Kona slot. I last raced in Hawaii in 2006. In 2007, I went out to the race to work it for MyAthlete. I remember standing on Palani Hill as the athletes ran by, thinking “man, am I glad I’m not racing this year!” I went back out last year to work it once again for MyAthlete, and standing on Palani Hill, watching the athletes run by, I thought “fuck, I wish I was racing!”. I had the itch again, but also new my priorities in life are way different now. The thing is, I also feel I could race well on limited training. I wouldn’t want to go there if I couldn’t race it. I have no desire to do an Ironman just to cross the finish line. That’s a great goal for your first IM. So I sat down with Lisa and asked what she thought about going back to Hawaii in 2009 if I qualified. I still recall her response clearly of “you better qualify bitch!”.

This Spring has been very busy. I have the tendency to burn the candle a bit too often and found myself run down and sick through a good portion of June. My training for RI wasn’t optimal by any means, yet I still had the sense that I could put it together, and I had confidence in getting a Kona slot. Not cockiness, but confidence. I think that if your goal is to get a slot for Hawaii, you have to show up at the qualifier confident that the slot is yours, and yours to lose. If you go there thinking “I hope I get a slot” then you don’t stand a good chance. Just my opinion, but hope doesn’t show signs of confidence. “Hope” is what you do when something is out of your control.

OK, back to the race. My manager (my dad) and I had a nice day on Saturday. We got up to Providence early, got all the registration and pre race BS done, had some good meals, … Not much relaxing time and it seemed like we walked a ton, but it’s a gift to have the opportunity as an adult to do things like this with your father and I don’t take it for granted. I ran into Bruce Gennari from Nashville in front of our hotel. Bruce is an amazing athlete, a hell of a nice guy, and who I thought would be my biggest competition in my age group on Sunday. Bruce is an amazing swimmer. He’s been first out of the water in Kona overall before in 46 minutes and he can ride and run as well. In fact, he’s been the overall national triathlon champ before. Bruce and I have been racing each other for a long time now. Having a competitor like this certainly brings out the best in you, and our race on Sunday wouldn’t disappoint.

Sunday wake up call was at 3:15am. We had to be in Narraganset for bike check in before 5am. Gus came up to spectate and joined us for the trip to the swim start. It was great having him here as well. It’s always cool to have good energy around pre race. Gus has a little race coming up in two weeks that he’s primed for and I think that being up at this race may give him the extra bit of motivation he needs to have that exceptional day. I ran into a bunch of familiar faces at the swim start including some of my athletes. The wind was really blowing and the water was extremely choppy, leaving most that I ran into very nervous. Most except for Bruce G. who was hoping for tough swim conditions so he could capitalize even more on his strength.

My age group was the 12th wave, going off 50 minutes after the mail pro’s begun. Not the best situation but what are you gonna do? I lined up direct center in the front of my wave start right next to Bruce. The swells looked huge! A friend in my wave spotted me and asked what I’m doing here racing. I asked what he meant? He said “I thought you weren’t racing much nowadays?” I replied “they got some Hawaii slots at this race and I’m getting the itch again.” Bruce mentioned that he wasn’t going for a slot, but I still was racing for first regardless. Then, quickly, the gun fired and we charged into the surf. I ran in through some breaks and watched as most to my sides hit it and began stroking. I continued to take a few dolphin dives since it was shallow and gained a body length on everyone. It was short lived though as Bruce came by. I thought “get on his toes and hold for as long as possible” which lasted for all of five seconds – and that’s being generous. Soon, very soon, he disappeared into the huge surf. I was still all alone out there. No contact from other competitors which is always nice. The ocean was rough though – maybe the roughest open water race swim I’ve ever been in. You’d be sitting high on top of a wave, and then drop deep into the swell before crashing into the next wave. This lasted the whole way out. There was another swimmer swimming parallel to me on the way out. I put in some stronger efforts and he stayed right next to me. I could see I wasn’t going to pull ahead, so instead, I actually dropped back behind him. The pace felt easy although each time I tried to break around him, it felt tough. So I stayed relaxed and let him set the pace. Coming back into shore, if you timed it right, you would get a nice push form the incoming rollers. The rhythm of these rollers was not consistent however. Anyways. After getting tossed around and drinking a lot of salt water, I ended up on shore in 27 minutes. Not bad considering I swam eight times since last October. But pathetic considering Bruce put 6 minutes into me in the swim. Six freakin minutes!!! He had the fastest swim of the day swimming 21 minutes!!! I had my work cut out for me for the next two legs…


MandyB said...

awesome, E! Just awesome.

Eric said...

Great job Hods. I want to hear about the bike course. It seemed very fast. One of my Cleveland friends won the 30-34 age group.

Fast times.

Anonymous said...

Was the swim course short, a lot of 33-34 min. guys were swimming around 31?