It was not a typical race day. I had nerves which is a good sign. I just wasn't sure what time to get there and what to do once I was there. Dave's swim heat began at 7am and it was only going to take him 20-25 minutes. Then Ethan was planning to be 2:15-2:30 on the bike. So most likely I would start my running leg at 10am. I arrived at 9am. On the way I got to see Ethan killing the bike portion way out in the lead. I knew this probably meant I would be running solo. Hopefully the pressure to perform would keep me motivated on the run. At the transition area, I checked in - or more accurately, asked someone if I was all set, which I was. Not many athletes were milling about, since most were out on the courses (half ironman and sprint tri). I found my team's spot and dropped my bag. I decided to go for a warm up - 2 miles out and back along the seawall. Good surf, overcast and not warm (about 70 degrees), but of course muggy, with a breeze that I couldn't figure out. I returned to transition where the director announced that it would be another 45 minutes before the first biker would be finishing, which I assumed was my teammate. What to do? I saw local runner Glenn G. milling about (not racing) and chatted with him and a couple of other NRA runners for a while. I reconfirmed with an official that I was all set. Then I spent the last 15 minutes talking with Tommy 5K who was there cheering on his wife doing the half ironman. The director kept counting down the time until the first bike would be arriving. I was getting really pumped up now. Tom snapped my picture:
Pre-race jitters at transition. Photo by Tommy 5K
They announced one more time that the first bike's arrival was imminent, and Dave showed up in a wet suit (just got out of the water to see the transition). And then Ethan came roaring in on his bike, gave me the team ankle strap, I slapped it on my ankle, and then I was off. I weaved through transition and out onto the road. The adrenaline level was high. The team excitement and also the excellent crowd support fueled the rush.
And it begins. Photo by Tommy 5K
I tried to slow down and focus on my form as I jumped on the empty (of runners) road. I was a tad nervous about staying on course, but then I got a bike escort which was nice. There were aid stations every mile (some even with portapotties). The volunteers were awesome. I felt bad not taking any water or Gatorade from them. I was well hydrated and had eaten a granola bar and GU beforehand. I debated grabbing water to throw over my head, but I just kept trucking on. Even though I was all alone, running on roads (not my cup of tea), I was continually passing by people who would utter words of encouragement. It was pretty fun leading a race.
The course itself seems flat. This wasn't the case when running. I felt like there were many sneaky uphills that I needed to be aware of. There also were two out and backs along the narrow river. First on the east side, through neighborhoods I had never been in. The second was on the west side along Middlebridge Road. I'm very familiar with this road and have done tempo workouts on it in the past.
My plan was to try to keep my miles just under 6 minutes for as long as possible. If I was better rested, I would have been very optimistic that I could do this for the duration. Today I wasn't sure what would happen. My GPS watch was not cooperating today, and even though I did a lot of pace watching, the miles rarely matched up. This was usually in a good way, but it was frustrating.
My splits according to the course markings were as follows:
Mile 1: 5:56 slight uphill from town beach to Narrow River
Mile 2: 5:52 uphill near Camp Varnum then slight downhill on Rte 1A
Mile 3: 5:42 downhill through neighborhood on east side of Narrow River
Mile 4: 5:45 same as mile 3
Mile 5: 6:24 seemed long - cone turnaround then uphill
Mile 6: 5:56 up out of the neighborhood then big downhill to Middlebridge
Mile 7: 6:06 very slight uphill along Middlebridge Rd
Mile 8: 6:09 basically flat along Middlebridge Rd
Mile 9: 5:53 cone turnaround and slight downhill along Middlebridge Rd
Mile 10: 6:10 basically flat
Mile 11: 5:48 flat then tough uphill out of Middlebridge
Mile 12: 5:43 downill heading back
Mile 13: 6:44 flat but this was a mess - read below
Last .1: 5:40 sand then cone turnaround on pavement through chute
Total: 1:18:36 (this is not official - should be a few seconds less, started watch in transition area)
Relay Champs - Dave, myself, Ethan
The end result was an average pace of about 6 flat. I'll take it. It looks like I lost 45 seconds to a minute on mile 13. I was following the bike when he stopped and waved me to turn around. I backtracked to an entrance in a parking lot and ran to the beach (this is where registration was the day before so it made sense to me). When I got out onto the beach, I saw no markings, except much further down where the course really went. Ugh. I trudged through the thick sand. It was miserable. I then reached the flags on the real course. It was only about 200m of sand running rather than the 1/3 of a mile I ended up doing. It all evens out considering that the course runs about a minute short (as per Glen G and others I've talked to). It's not easy running a race by yourself (I finally saw 2nd place after crossing Mile 11 - his Mile 6). It was like a time trial, but with lots of support. It was cool to have my family there at the finish and getting to hear my name called as I approached. Dave and Ethan did awesome and they were great guys to hang out with post race. This is definitely a possibility for next year.
UPDATE: OFFICIAL RUN TIME WAS 1:18:28. OUR TEAM TIME WAS 4:03:12 - RESULTS