In 2000, I returned to Cambridge, Maryland for another shot at Eagleman. I had come so close to winning in 1999 that I felt I had to race it again. This time, though, I dropped down to race as an Age Grouper. Zone3sports was up and running full tilt and training was sporadic to say the least. I was working way more than 40hrs per week, so I figured it was easily justifiable. They also had age group Kona slots, and I wanted one.
For the first time ever, I started in a wave that was not first. This would be a new experience in itself.
The gun sounded and off we went. I had a good swim and exited the water not far off the lead swimmers. We were all in the t-zone at the same time, but that was the last I saw of the front of the race. Lukas Zgraggen got on his bike and blew the field apart with a startling 2:04 ride. I rode 2:10 and when informed I’d lost 6min, almost sat down to grasp it.
Since I had left in the 2nd wave, I really did not know where I was in the overall scheme of things, but I did know there were people in front of me. I ran hard to try to make up some time, thinking not many can ride that fast and also run well, so maybe the guys in front would blow up. No such luck. And this time, there were just too many guys better than me to run them down. I can’t remember how many I got, but it was not many at all.
I finished in 3:58:33. I was 90 seconds faster than in 1999 and would have won the previous year hands down, but this year, it was only good enough for 5th overall.
This race was as close to perfect as I could have asked for—good swim, bike and run, transitions and nutrition. I could not anything better. The other guys were just faster. There was nothing I could do about it.
As it turns out, Lukas was in my category, and his 3:47 kicked my ass off the top rung of even the Age Group podium. I got my spot for Kona anyway, but was also handed some humble pie from the super Swiss.
I was also beaten by another age grouper, John Brockenborough, one minute in front of me. In fact, only two pros cracked the top 5 that day: Michael Lovato and Todd Wiley.
At that point, I had no reason to want to go back and test myself again.