Skipping ahead a few races to get to Timberman, which was actually my "A" race for the year. I had finally convinced Jerry and Marc to do this race with me, so I had a pretty strong bike focus this year.
We had Make-A-Wish parking passes, so we didn’t need to get to Ellacoya early enough to get into general parking. This allowed an extra hour of sleep, or more accurately an extra hour of lying in bed wishing I were asleep. The plan was to meet Jerry and Marc at the William Tell parking lot at 5:45 and head over to the event. Got our of bed at 5, had a bagel with jelly, Reliv mix, and coffee. Met the team and headed to the park. Got there and found our transition spot and got the details of the relay handoff. There was a pen right at the swim out arch where we had to exchange the timing chip. Our bike rack was also at the swim out corner, so that meant I was the one who would lug the bike the entire max distance of the transition area. I decided on the best path, and set up the bike. No need to set up a transition area as I’d have my helmet and shoes already on and just run like crazy with the bike to the mount area. Helped Jerry with his wetsuit and he took a few hundred yards of practice. Marc walked down to the start with him and I waited in the pen. The swim start is a few hundred yards down the beach including some waterways, so I didn’t want to get my feet wet and covered with sand.
Not much, just waited for Jerry to get out of the water. I did some dynamic stretches Baroody has shown me to warm the legs up, but didn't do any cycling.
We could follow Jerry as soon as the gun went off for the wave. He and another swimmer immediately went to the front and separated themselves quite a bit. By the first buoy they were already on the heels of the previous wave slowest swimmers. As they rounded the buoy to head in, they were still very close together but one of them was breaking ahead. It was impossible for me to tell whether it was Jerry or not, but I knew we’d be near the front of the relayers out of the water. He was also passing most of the previous wave, meaning there wouldn’t be many people at all in front of us since we were the second wave after the pros. Jerry came to the pen a few seconds behind the lead relay swimmer. We exchanged the timing chip strap and I was off.
The other cyclist who was slightly ahead of us took a different path to the mount line, and I really hustled through transition with my bike and got there first and mounted. I pushed out of the transition path to the cheers of the Make-A-Wish section and entered the road. I knew there were only about 10 people from the first wave ahead of me at that point, and I could see three on the first hill right out of transition. I pushed really hard immediately and passed two before the hill, and caught another as soon as the hill crested. By the time I turned at Sawyer’s 3 miles in, there were only 2 people I could see ahead. I decided to hammer the first 10 miles near threshold to the top of Marsh Hill and evaluate at that point.
I passed another person on the uphill before the sprint turnaround, and I could see one more pretty far ahead. It was very strange being almost completely alone in such a large race, and I was glad to have targets to chase down.
I passed another cyclist after the left off 11B and wasn’t sure if there were any more ahead. On the climb up Marsh Hill, I was passed back, but as soon as we crested and started down the fast downhill I zipped by. About a mile after turning onto 106 I went past the last age grouper and couldn’t see anyone ahead even though the straightaways gave me about ¾ mile of visibility, so I assumed I was in the lead among age groupers at that point.
Holy crap! First age grouper at Timberman! I knew we were only a relay team and the wave assignments made this a possibility, but still, holy crap! I decided then to have a goal to be the first into transition and settled in for the flat middle section of the course. I took a gel at about an hour in, and realized I’d only had one sip of my calorie drink.
Knowing I wouldn’t be running afterward, and also that my intensity was pretty high, I decided against consuming my normal amount of calories for this ride. I saw the pros coming the other way at mile 24; two were well ahead of the rest of the field and absolutely flying. The rest of the out was uneventful as I hammered through the course.
At the turn around, I passed a woman pro who looked to be having mechanical issues. She was going very slowly and was very encouraging as I went past. After that I seemed to lose focus a little and sort of went into “triathlon mode”. My brain was telling me to hold back and save something, and my body was listening. After about 5-7 miles of that, I “woke up” and remembered I wasn’t running afterward and hit it hard again.
When I turned onto the Farrahville crook, I looked back and still couldn’t see anyone. I powered up the short hill and was back on 106 before I knew it. After turning onto Leavitt again, I knew the Marsh Hill climb was ahead and decided to hit it as hard as I could. I was thankful we switched to the compact crank and I got out of the saddle and pushed hard all the way up. At the top, turning left for the downhill, I looked back again and still saw no one. 10 miles to go and still the first AG’er!
I was redlining now so I took a breather by coasting down Marsh Hill, still hitting 46. From there to home is only about 10 miles and one real hill, so I pushed up the hill and then rode hard down the other side. At the stretch near Sawyer’s two cars had stopped in a spot where I couldn’t get by and the police were trying to get them off the course, but I had to come to a stop while they cleared out.
After they pulled off, I clipped back in and continued on. As I turned right onto 11, I could see the road all the way back to the farm stand and knew with 3 miles to go no one would catch me. I rode hard for the final stretch, turned into Ellacoya, got the huge star treatment from the Make-A-Wish area, and dismounted. I ran my bike back to the rack, ran to the pen and handed of the strap to Marc.
What would you do differently?:
Not much. Saddle was uncomfortable, and the loss of focus was a mental midget moment, but overall this was about all I had to give.
Jerry and I waited for the next relay team, and they showed up 11 minutes later! We figured no one would catch Marc with an 11 minute lead, so at that point barring disaster we knew we had a great chance to win. At the end of the first 10k loop we told Marc he had a 9 minute lead to start (we didn’t want to tell him 11 and risk him slacking!) but didn’t see any other relayers for 6 minutes, so we stopped looking and knew no one could make up that much time on him in 10k. In the end, we won by about 8 minutes.
Surreal moment to be the first AG'er into transition in such a large event and to win the relay division. Never been near the podium, so even as a relayer it was a special moment. We got personally engraved pure Maple Syrup as prizes, so the pancakes the next morning were especially awesome.
My only slight disappointment was that Chrissie usually comes to this race and hangs out with the Make-A-Wish racers, but as she is taking this year off she wasn't there. She did send us an email greeting and gave us a copy of her book. Hopefully we'll see her next year. Not much more to say.