Yesterday’s triathlon on Assateague Island was the last on my agenda for the spring, and has brought me pause to reflect on this spring as a challenging, yet, rewarding string of weeks. Speckled with injury, personal bests, disappointment, and some hardware, this racing season has been fun. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Speaking of fun, how about running from the beach at full tilt with a hundred contemporaries into the surf? Us “old” guys (40+) had the third wave start at Assateague’s second annual triathlon. The course was set from the south with turning marks ½ mile (ha!) apart, set 200 yards off the beach. There were 2 intermediate marks that could be taken on either side of the course. The current or riptide was variable and confused; seas were calm, and wind cranking at 15 from the shore, which put the swimmers in the lee, a favorable state. As our start time approached clouds covered the morning sunshine; it was 7:30.
The day started for me at 3:10 when both my alarms went off within seconds of each other. I was in the truck loaded with gear and a fresh bowl of oatmeal and orange juice by 3:40. Corey Duncan and I met at the YMCA at 4:05 and were on the road by 4:10. Corey has an intense truck; diesel, extended cab, with a five-bike rack on the hitch. We gaggled like a couple of old hens during the whole ride to Assateague. It was great to get to know Corey better and to find out the common threads we have in Talbot County life. It was even better to have a buddy to prepare for the race; we picked up our packets, got body marked (my lady must have had a new marker because my numbers have yet to fade), set up transition, went for a warm-up 6 mile ride, and walked the beach to the starting line together. Corey was in the first wave. I was 10 minutes later in the 3rd wave. Once Corey’s U40 wave started I never saw him again until we were on the bikes and he was coming out of a neighborhood when I was going in.
I had a sweet start, positioning myself in the center, next to Stuart Horsey, and in front of the 75 guys in my wave. When the horn went off I bolted for the water, leaped over the first breaker and dove into the sea and started my thing. After a couple of strokes I took a peak and no one was on either side of my peripheral; was I in first place? On the second look I saw the buoy over to my far left; I was heading to Africa while the pack was swimming to the first buoy. I must have gotten disoriented in the seas. I took a hard left and found myself in the first dozen guys to round the mark.
Just like in sailing, I went off by myself and stayed left as we swam north to the finish. I kept a good line and even swam inside the last intermediate buoy. We had green caps. The women ahead of us had pink caps, and Corey’s wave had light-blue caps. I could see all colors on my right side, and that made me feel good about my swim. I over took another woman at the turn for the finish. We took a hard left and swam toward shore. The first breaker rolled over us and we felt the “suck” of the sea as it stopped our forward progress. After more strokes I noticed a few folks had stood up and were in chest high water. That’s when the second roller hit us. I, luckily, remembered that this was fun, and as the curling wave hit me, I did my body surfing-thing and rode the wave 200 feet into shore; it was perfect. I must have passed 8 swimmers with that maneuver.
Transition was quick and I hit the bike with a vengeance. I’ve learned that in a sprint distance triathlon I can go as hard on the bike as I possibly can and still have legs to run. I averaged 22.4 mph on a 14 mile ride that had a 10-15 mph headwind for the first half of the ride. Coming off the Verrazano Bridge on the return to Assateague I hit 32 mph with a tail wind. My ride was the 25th fastest of the 307 bikers. I passed many bikers and got passed by no one.
I felt out of breath going into the run; transition always takes it out of me. I settled into a good pace; a fast pace, I thought, and soon was passed by the only man to pass me all day. He and I had been battling on the bike; I won on the bike, he won in the run. He clearly was a runner, out pacing me with ease. I passed a few in my age group near the end as I was able to pick up the pace. The run course took us throught he camp grounds and around several ponies that were on the path. One pony got startled by a kid on a bike and reared up on its hind legs right in front of me. I had to jump off the path to avoid ending my day badly. Near the finish I overtook another in my age group and was able to keep him at baye through the finish.
After finishing I soon met up with Corey, who finished minutes ahead of me, and with Lee Babcock, the guy who passed me. Lee won the 40-44 year old age group. However, even though I am still 44 but will turn 45 this year, I was placed in the 45-49 age group bracket. I would have gotten 3rd in Lee’s group, but ended up 6th in mine. What a bummer. I always seem to be in a very competitive age group. To make matters worse, Lee was sure he had won his age group, and equally sure that I had won mine. So, my hopes were really high as we walked over to the score board. Those hopes were dashed and I came away not feeling good about the race. It has taken me to this morning to see clearly how well I did do.
After analyzing the results I’ve come to the conclusion that both the swim and run courses were longer than measured. And, my wave and the wave behind us may have encountered more fowl currents than the first two waves. The fastest swim time for the entire race was 14:32, which for a half mile swim is SLOW (should be down close to 11 minutes). Only 5 people broke 15 minutes in the swim. My swim time was 18:19; not a good half mile time, but a good one for the course yesterday. I was 12th in my wave. There were people in the wave behind me that I know should have beaten me, and they didn’t. There were swimmers in my wave that I thought should have had the best swim times and they didn’t. This gives me the theory that fowl current intensified for the later starting waves (there were only 4 waves). That’s ocean swimming. It was a fun swim. And, Bieb, I never once thought about sharks!
Yesterday’s fastest run time was 19:25, a 6:05 pace, which is SLOW! I, usually, run a sub 7 minute pace at these distances, not a 7:27 pace, which is much slower than the pace I was pulling yesterday. Supposedly the course was 3.2 miles, but, given these results I would say it was much longer. From looking at the first runner’s physique and stride (we passed each other when I was starting the run; he was finishing), I would say that guy could easily have been pushing a sub 5:45 pace. So, after studying these results closer I feel much better about yesterday’s performance.
Corey had a good race, as well, despite his hamstring issue, finishing in the upper 18% of the competitors. He was also 5th in his age group, earning him some press in the results (see MALE AGE GROUP: 35 – 39).
We stretched and ate, did a little socializing, then hit the road back to Easton. I met up with my family and we had a Father’s Day brunch at a local restaurant. Then I did what any father would want to do on Father’s Day…take a nap.
Log Canoe Racing starts next weekend, and Lark expects to be out to defend her title from last year. Love, swim, ride, run, and appreciate ~