03:30 came awfully early. Another joy of triathlon is the need to get to the race start even earlier than one does for a running race. The transition area was opening at 5AM and closing at 6:40 for the 7AM start. Upon rising and downing some UltraFuel, I went out to get "things moving" with a very easy 10 minute jog around the parking lot of the big Little League complex behind the hotel. Things moved and after the usual morning ablutions I had my usual UltraFuel/banana/energy bar breakfast and sipped on Gatorade. Per Joyce's wise suggestion, I pumped up my bike tires in the room, so I wouldn't have to bring the pump with me and loaded my stuff in the car.
It had rained overnight, but hadn't been raining when I was out for my shakeout run. However, it started to rain again as I got in the car to leave for the park. The rain was steady and moderate. I really hoped it would pass quickly since the latest weather report I'd heard said that there'd only be intermittent rain before it started to clear. It was still raining when I got to the park. I lingered in my car for a couple of minutes and then decided that I'd better get going or end up having to rush through the pre-race ritual. So I got my bike, helmet, transition bag and fluid bottles out of the car and walked them over to transition. We had assigned spots on the bike racks and I was lucky enough to have an end spot. Even better there was a funky looking little tree right next to it that made a perfect landmark. It was really a great spot. I was on the far end from the swim-in/run-out entrance but there was a smooth sidewalk to run along in between and the bike-out/in entrance was pretty close.
After I got my stuff organized, I walked over from my spot (bib# 357) and found Joyce (#314) at the other end of the same row...............how conveeeeenient. By then the rain had stopped and it didn't rain for the rest of the day. We walked over to the timing van to get our chips and then got body marked. After a quick trip to the loo it was time for my 15-minute warm-up run. Halfway out, I found an open park bathroom and took the opportunity to further lighten the load in peace. Ran into Joyce on the way back and it was time to get into our wetsuits. Greased up and pulled on the neoprene by my bike and then walked over to Joyce and headed out to the swim start.
It was during the wait for the start that I had my brush with celebrity. A very fit looking guy was running his hybrid bike through the crowd looking for a tree to lean it against. As he went behind me, a pedal caught me in the Achilles. I "oh shitted", mostly out of surprise, since I wasn't hurt, but he asked me if I was alright like five time and then ran off. Someone turned to me and asked me if I knew who that was. Ahhhhh, no. It turns out it was Victor Plata, 2004 Olympian, the winner of the ITU race the day before and the official starter of the Musselman. Guess ol' Vic had been out late celebrating his victory.
Joyce was in the first swim wave (pink caps) and I was going in the second wave (green caps) seven minutes later. I helped her zip up her wet suit, wished her luck and started to put my game face on. Joyce's wave went off and it was time for us to get in the water. The water level on Seneca Lake is low this year and we had to walk well over 100 meters to the start line. Even there the water was maybe mid-thigh deep. We were briefed on the course layout (triangular, 2 loops, counter-clockwise, break off towards the arch on shore after the second loop) and my pal Victor exhorted us to be good sports. No punching, no elbowing, no peeing..............too late on that last one, Vic........
Finally (dear, patient readers) the horn sounded and we were off. I dove in and tried to swim past a lot of people who were walking, but we cam to an even shallower spot and it was on my feet for about 30 meters before it got deep enough to swim again. Shortly, we were over some deeper water. That was good, but we were also now in a current that seemed stronger than I would have thought based on the placid look of the surface. Nothing horrible, but it added some challenge. On the first reach I kept getting pushed to the right and had to angle back in to the buoy line. It was a pretty uneventful swim with very little jostling after the first 50 meters. During the second lap I did need to move aside a few time to let by the faster swimmers from the wave that went off four minutes behind us. As I rounded the last buoy to head for shore, I felt pretty good. I tried hard to swim steadily and not waste a lot of energy since I had a long race ahead of me. I tried to swim as far in as I could but started scraping my elbows at about 150 meters out and had to walk in. I came out of the water at 42 minutes which was a real disappointment. I was hoping for 35, but after the race everyone noted the consistently slow swim times and we concluded (rightly, or wrongly) that the swim was long. The run from the lake to the timing mats gave me an official swim time of 43:11.
I was purposely deliberate in transition. My wetsuit came off easily enough, but I took the time to spray on more sunscreen and take a good pull on a bottle of Gatorade before putting on my socks, bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses. A quick trot to the exit and I was out of T1 in 3:03.
After mounting the bike we made a quick right turn and then about 100 meters down the road we had to make a left onto some carpeting that covered the grass on the access path out to the main road. One more right turn and we were off on our 56 miles tour of the western Finger Lakes region. The course is mainly gently rolling with two or three climbs of any note. Seneca Lake State Park is at the very north end of the lake. The bike course proceeds south along the east shore of Seneca lake and the turns west for the 8 or so miles over to Cayuga Lake, then north up the west shore of Cayuga before heading back over to the race site. It should be a fast bike course, but we had some interesting wind conditions to contend with. It was cloudy and humid at the start with the wind (~10 mph) out of the south which gave us a headwind for the first 20 mile reach, which is a net uphill. Then a cold front came through and we finished in sunny, dry conditions. As the weather changed the wind swung into the southwest, then the west and finally the northwest and increased to around 15 mph. As a result we only had a tail wind on the crossing from Seneca to Cayuga. After that we had either a crosswind or a quartering headwind. Afterwards, everyone was bitching about it some, so I'm glad it wasn't just me whining.
My plan on the bike was to take it steady and relaxed and save myself for the run. I pretty much stuck to plan, although the last few miles were tough. Between 22 and 45 is a net downhill, so I moved along pretty well. I got a little uncomfortable near the end and was coming out of aero position on the hills once my speed dropped below 15 mph. My legs needed the break. The last couple of miles into the park are flat to slightly downhill, so I could finish looking good for my photos anyway.
Back over the carpet and into the park. Bike time is 2:57:04. 19.0 mph. I was hoping for 7 - 10 minutes faster, but with the wind, I guess I'll take it. 2:42 for another relaxed transition with more Gatorade and sunscreen and it was off to the fun part.
I wanted to take it easy for the first 5K or so of the run to let my legs come back after the bike. And while they were a little stiff, I was running pretty smoothly right from the start. And passing people in bunches right away too. I love being a runner at this point in a tri!! I looked at my watch at the first mile marker and it said 7:06. Ummmmmm, either this is gonna be a dream come true run or the marker is off. It became pretty clear after the next few mile markers, that they were not to be relied on, so I don't have any splits. All I know is that I was continually passing people and might have gone by over a hundred during the course of the run. The handful of folks that passed me were studs from the later swim waves who went by me like I was standing still.
The run course is dead flat for the first 2-1/2 miles as it goes from the state park, to the city park and then through a tunnel under the main road and into town. It's then a net uphill to mile 7-1/2 with on long gradual hill to mile 5 and then a mile of gravel road that leads to the 700 meter "signature hill" at mile seven. It's a decent hill, but wouldn't scare anyone here in a stand-alone half marathon. But its position in the race, combined with the less than ideal footing makes it quite a challenge. I shortened my stride and made it too the top. I was surprised that it took as much out of me as it did and it took two or three minutes on the flatter road after the top to get back into rhythm. There were some steeper downhills that were a little tricky with tired legs, but generally it was mostly gentle downhill or flat to the finish wit the last 2-/12 miles going back the way we came on dead flat paths through the parks. At that point it was a matter of concentrating and staying on task. I think I was able to pick it up a little bit the last couple of miles and got to pass a bunch more people.
Finally, I could see the end of the path and knew it was about 100 meter on a dirt path through the grass to the finish. I sort of kicked it in and crossed the line finish line lifting my arms for the photographers. I was hoping to run 1:45, so my time of 1:41:54 left me thrilled. Final time was 5:27:54. My "realistic" goal had been 5:30 with a "Yahoo" goal of 5:15. A more accurate swim and maybe a consistent wind and I might have been yahooing, but in any case I was still pretty pleased. My finish time was good enough for 131 of 512 OA and 15 of 52 in my age group. I gotta get faster on the bike..............
After getting my medal, some water and a couple of mini-Clif bars, I walked down the finishing chute to await Joyce. It turns out she'd gotten a calf cramp on the first lap of the swim and had to slow way down to work it out, so she was a little bit behind her predicted time, but she came across the finish line looking strong .
After Joyce got done with her finish line machinations we walked over to the kiddie pool they had filled with ice water to soak our tired legs. Sweet Mother O' Mercy! That water was cold!!! We didn't stay in very long, but it did help cool us down. Then wandered over to transition and went through the long drawn-out process of organizing our stuff and getting it back to our cars. We then went and got some food including ICE CREAM and waited for the awards ceremony. While there weren't a lot of women in Joyce's AG (50 - 54) she figured her problems on the swim would preclude her from an award. Wrongo, chicky! She was second and got a bottle of local wine label specifically for the race. She's such a stud!!!
Then it was time to head back to the rooms. I took a longer, slightly less frigid ice bath and had a shower. Brought the stuff in from the car and put my feet up for a while. Then Joyce called and we headed out to dinner at the same place we'd eaten with Trisha. Instead of a hummus pita and ice water, it was a shaved prime rib philly cheesesteak and a couple of Guinness for me this time around. Then we asked if there was someplace besides Friendly's to get ice cream(!) and were directed to an outdoor stand a few minutes away. Another stop at Dunkin' Donuts on the way. We sat at a picnic table at the ice cream stand eating our decadent sundaes, drinking coffee and telling war stories.
After a good night's sleep we met for breakfast (sausage, eggs, home fries, homemade sourdough toast and coffee for me) and then headed home.
I wanna take a moment to talk about this event. RD Jeff and his crew of over 600 volunteers do a fantastic job and makes everyone feel like an elite. The town of Geneva is really friendly and welcoming as well. Next year won't work for me, but I'll definitely be back.