It is now 2010, eleven years after my first Eagleman and 10 years after my second. I’m considerably older, but not much slower than the old days. I cracked the 4hr barrier two years ago in Montreal, went 4:02 just last year.
I trained hard on the bike all winter and swam on a regular basis, something that is new for me. Due to a foot injury, running was minimal and very low quality, but things were starting to come around. It was and always has been my strength, so I figured I could count on it in a pinch.
New this year was the fact a large crew from Ottawa was headed down, most of them from Zone3sports. Ryan Grant was an honorary member for the weekend, then Ryan Cain, Leslie Sanderson, Mike Giles, Len and Heather Ireland and super spectator Lauren. Sindy Dobson was also there to do the aqua-bike with hubby John Hooper there as her support crew.
Leslie managed to find a house for us to rent and take over for the weekend, so we stayed about 15k out of town. It was a great little farmhouse with lots of land, a garage and water less than 100m away across the road. It was quiet and away from all the hoopla in town.
We went for a swim on Saturday to check out the water and the wetsuits. The Choptank River is a fairly fast moving brackish one. Brackish water contains a mixture of seawater and fresh water. It is therefore somewhat salty. And the water was murky. So murky, in fact, you could not see the toes of the person in front that were close enough to touch. I’d forgotten about that.
It was also quite warm. The air temperature was 85 degrees Fahrenheit and upon stepping into the water, it was obvious the water was not far off that. The only difference between being in or out of the water was dry or wet, not the temperature. Race officials would later say it was measured at 83 degrees.
The USAT rule for wetsuits states that anything over 78 degrees Fahrenheit is to be a non-wetsuit swim.
At the race meeting, Director extraordinaire Rob Vigorito stated he was sure it would not be that warm by the next morning. A lot of people were calmed by this news.
I advised everyone in our group to get their heads around a no wetsuit swim. I doubted the water would drop that much in 20 hours, especially with the forecast of an overnight low of 75.
Anyway, race morning dawned and we all awoke at 4 for coffee on the porch. We sat in the dark looking out over the road and water. It was very surreal and relaxing.
Eventually, we reminded ourselves that we had a job to do and got our race preparations in high gear.
RG and I drove in first, since he was in the first wave and needed to be there before the others. We lucked into a parking spot by taking a wrong turn that worked out to be a very good thing. The day was looking up.
The others trickled in and eventually, we all connected with each other at least once for the mandatory good luck wish.
The announcer was very good with information and helpful hints in dealing with the projected high temperatures of 90 degrees.
He also informed us there would be no wetsuits allowed. The water temperature was 81. The new USAT rules say that wetsuits can still be worn, but you would not count in the awards. However, there was no method to keep track of those that do or don’t, so there really was no option. No problem for us, though, we were all ready.
Wave by wave, the competitors were off. Ryan Grant was in the first wave, the Irelands in the 3rd, Mike Giles in the 4th, I was in the 5th. Leslie was in the 9th and Cainman was in the 11th.
I had a great start, and indeed swim, with not one single bump the entire way. Not a toe tap either. I felt strong and in control, with only a few guys in front. I exited the water in 7th, had a smooth transition and was off on the bike. It was only later that we learned the swim was likely about 5-6 min longer than it should have been.
Once on the bike, I went hard, with lots of targets on the pancake flat ride to chase. I went by Len, then Heather and expected to see Mike Giles somewhere, but must have passed him in transition. I rode well and generally flew by people the entire ride. I had no idea where I was in my race, but at 75k, a guy told me there was one guy in my category up front. At 80k, I could finally see one rider that was really, really hard to gain on. I reeled him in with just a few kilos to go and sure enough, he was in my category. I saw that Ryan Grant was running well and was about 3.5 miles into the final segment of the day.
We racked our bikes at the same time, but I needed to put on socks, so lost touch with him in transition. He looked like he was pulling away in the first mile, but then began to get bigger in my sights. I was gaining, even though my legs were not moving well.
Eventually, I caught and passed him, just in time for Lauren to see me in front (gotta look good for the chicks!!). Unfortunately, the insole in my shoe was scrunching up, so I had to stop, and he passed me back. Then I passed him back and put some time on him.
I was already feeling the heat, but we had a very slight and, if you can call it this, a cooling headwind on the way out. Once at the turn around, now with a following wind about the same speed as I was running, the temperature soared. It felt like a blast furnace. In reality, the temperature was about 90 degrees at this point and the heavy legs got heavier. I walked through an aid station to get some water, ice and Gatorade, and yes, was passed back.
There were three guys coming towards me that looked to be running well. Troy Jacobson (Spinervals guys), blasted by me, taking the lead in our category. I ran to the next aid station and slowed for more water, ice and Gatorade. I was passed again and again.
I saw Len looking strong, Mike Giles looking great, Ryan Cain looking almost too easy, and at 3 miles for me to go, Leslie on her way out, looking a bit shaken (remember she started in many waves behind me).
I ran as fast as I could muster without putting myself in jeopardy of having to walk again. By the time I got to the finish, I had lost 11minutes on the lead I had at half way.
I crossed the line in 4:37. Eagleman was the race where I had my two fastest half IM races and now my second slowest. Especially in my shattered state, the irony was not lost on me.
Unfortunately, Heather had to drop out due to a seized hip and hamstring, so she was there when I arrived.
Len was next across the line, 2nd in his category, qualifying for Kona, but not accepting it.
Mike was next, with a very solid day.
Ryan Cain flew through the race and won the 25-29 age group, snagging a well-deserved Kona slot.
As it turns out, Leslie was having a bit of a rough patch when I saw her, but she gathered herself up and got herself together to finish a strong second in her category. She also snagged a spot for Kona.
I ended up 4th 40-44 guy across the line, but they have a special Master’s category that takes out the top 3, so I actually won my category. I qualified for Kona, but was not present for the roll down: the ceremony was more than 2hrs late and I had a long, long drive ahead, so we left. I did not know about the separate category, otherwise, we would have stuck it out.
Ryan Grant continued his string of 9th place finishes at 70.3 events. This one, I think, is the most impressive one so far though.
Sindy reported she had a good day in the aqua-velo, but they do not seem to have official results.
To put in perspective of just how good Ottawa is, there were 6 people competing at Eagleman 70.3. Of that 6, we had 9th overall, two category wins and two 2nd place finishes. 4 people qualified for Kona with 2 of them taking the option.
Thanks for reading.