Saturday, May 9th was the Jerseyman Triathlon in Clinton, NJ. I went into this race with really good fitness after a strong winter run focus and a good bike focus in Feb-March. I was looking forward to breaking 5 hrs, which I was more than confident I would easily do, and was even envisioning the hope of an age group spot if things went well.
I planned on doing the race with fellow John Hirsch coached athlete Joe, so I took off for Joe's place Friday morning. Arrived Friday evening, got some great pasta and chicken and headed back to watch Joe try to put his bike together in the driveway to get it ready to go the next day. Nothing like waiting till the last minute.
Slept very well and felt good and rested despite the 5am wakeup for the 1 hr drive to the State Park where the race was being held.
Swim: 30:31 (22nd OA/ 25:26/mile). Not my best effort, but I was holding back a little. I was in the first wave and they had us go through the swim start chute and then said we could enter the water up to our ankles. Eveyone lined up just in front of the chute, which really compacted everyone, and I noticed a few guys going way to the right. This actually presented a straighter line to the far turn buoy, and a few of the guys looked fast so I too ventured all the way to the right. Horn went off, and I pushed the first 2-3 hundred yards pretty good. Looked left and there was a group of about 10 people about even with me on the inside line of the course, looked to my right and there was no one. I angled left towards the inside line to try to catch the group but just missed them and ended up swimming the entire course solo.
Bike: 2:45:47 (34th OA/20.5 mph) After a good Spain camp and feeling great on the bike all spring I really was counting on having a great bike split while keeping the effort light. Unfortunately, this got off to a bad start. Coming up out of the park to the main road there was a park road with a blue sign and yellow arrow pointing right. At the pre-race they said follow the yellow arrows. I was in a small group with 2 other guys climbing out of the park and there was no one in front of or behind us, and no one at this intersection. The guy ahead of me went right, I thought he was doing the correct thing so I followed and the guy a little behind me went right also. We rode about 1/2 mile and came to a table set up (with no one there) for a run aid station and I thought this does not look right. Went about another half mile and came to another right arrow at a dead end that was pointing to a gravel trail. Apparently we had just ridden part of the run course. Damn! We all turned around and headed back and by this time when we got to the road out of the park there was a steady stream of traffic going straight past the road we had just ridden down and out to the main road to begin the bike course. Probably lost 5-6 minutes easily doing the little down and back.
Once on the course I was frustrated but determined not to try to hammer and get the time back. The first 10 miles or so were gently rolling, the middle thirds was flat and fast and the last few miles were hilly but with only one hill that made you shift to the small ring. Overall though the course was very technical with a lot of turns and traffic at busy intersections. Several times as you approached a busy road the volunteer or cop would only half be paying attention and only after you almost completely stopped would they waive you on and stop opposing traffic. Lots of momentum breaking stops. The last few miles also came with the added bonus of catching traffic on the sprint race that started later that day. It looked like a charity century ride at times with a ton of slow bike traffice and at two intersections cars were backed up quite a ways forcing you to ride single file along the shoulder bhind slower sprint riders to get past the cars.
Final totals on the Garmin showed I rode just under 59 miles at an average speed of 21.3 mph.
Run: 1:48:27 (47th OA, 8:17/mile). Here's where the wheels came off, but not in the usual blow up and start walking kind of way. The plan was to run steady for the first 6-7 miles then pick it up if I could the last 6. Felt good right away and mile 1 went by in just over 7 minutes. Same with miles 2 and 3. During the second mile however as I was headed out the park and came to the arrow where I turned right earlier in the day I was confused as the guy running ahead of me kept going straight out to the main road. Now I was really confused as the arrow pointed right, I knew the 2 mile mark was down that road and I knew there was an aid station. I stopped, yelled for someone to tell me where to go and finally another guy further ahead of me said to turn right. I never saw the guy that went straight again! Turns out the road to the right was the way to go and I continued on. Stopped for a second at mile 4 to take a pebble out of my shoe and continued down the main road, which was a steady climb to a turn around, to mile marker 5. Reached this in just over 37 minutes and was feeling good.
Now I was trying to do math in my head, adding up how much time had elapsed, how much time I had left vs how far I had to run yet and so on. I figured that even with the lost time on the bike I could still run a 1:40, which I felt I could easily do, and be sub 5 (although I thought the bike screw up did take me out of any AG contentions). So I planned to be safe, run steady to mile marker 7 and then try to pick up the pace for the last 6.
I started looking for mile marker 6 at about 44 mintues into my run, but didn't see it. Thought I just missed it and no big deal, I'd stick with the plan and pick things up at mile 7. Around 51 minutes I started looking for marker 7 (meanwhile I was still running with people so I know I never went off course) but didn't see it. Finally after a little out and back in the park I see a marker ahead on the road and look at my watch. I realize I'm going to hit the 7 mile mark at around 57 minutes and I get confused as I know it did not take me 20 minutes to run the last two mile as I felt good. Maybe it was the 8 mile marker coming up, that would make more sense but I didn't pick things up that fast.
My heart/spirit literally sank when I got up there and it said 6-miles. WTF! I had just 'run' a 20 minute mile! There was no way, I must have been sent off course. I walked for a minute ready to quit, as at that point I was right by the start/finish. Then I thought, maybe that was a mistake, run to the next marker and see what it says. I run, starting the second loop, and on the road down to the marina I come to the 7 mile mark. Now I'm pissed. I stop at the aid station to tell them something is wrong, someone is sending people off course or something but they are just a bunch of young kid volunteers that don't seem to know what to do. As I'm talking to them (at this point I've given up on the day, breaking 5 etc....) another runner is coming the other way after doing the marina loop and he sees the 8 mile marker facing him. He stops and says the same thing I do, that something is way off, he's on a much faster pace and so on... He starts walking as I jog the rest of the marina loop and head out on the main road. I pretty much trot the next mile or two until I realize I didn't see a 9 mile mark and I'm at the 10 mile mark all of a sudden. I then am really confused and just run a steady pace the rest of the way in not wanting to dig too deep or bury myself for no reason after all the miscues of the day.
You can see the look of excitement on my face after driving 6 hours, each way, to run a messed up race as I finish dejected/frustrated and unsure of what just happened.
5:08:48, 31st Overall, 4th in AG.
UGHHHH....even with all the miscues I missed 3rd by only 2 minutes and second by 8 minutes. I know I lost at least 5 minutes on the bike and another 10 minutes on the run walking/talking to people at 3 different atid stations trying to figure out what was going on!
Post Race: When I got home and saw the results and how close I came to an AG spot I was pissed. I sent an e-mail to the RD asking just what happened. He stated that the mile markers were messed up and that markers 6,7 and 8 were in the wrong spots apparently. Well, actually marker 8 was in the right spot but it was at an out and back and it was facing the wrong way!
Despite all the miscues, and another disappointment at the half distance, I felt really good fitness wise and looking forward to the next race.