*NOTE* Click on this link to watch the race in simulation format. Just type in my name or bib number, 2147.
Woke up at 5 AM Sunday, my heart fluttering around in my chest. I slept enough but woke up 10 separate times during the night, a typical race-eve sleep. I was excited. Gulped down a cup of oatmeal and ate a banana in 3 bites. Snapped my helmet and bike shoes to my backpack, pulled on my race suit and I was ready to go.
Michelle, her friend Carrie and I arrived at the race site around 8... the race had begun, but not our waves... we still had at least an hour until go time. Our bikes were pre-racked from the day before so all I had to do was lay down my shoes, helmet, grease my chain and pump up my tires. Bike was ready to go. I did my warmup, 10 minute run with agilities.
9:15... it was time for Michelle to do her thing. Gun went off and she set out with her wave of 30-34 year old women. Next was my turn.... 9:30. GO TIME!
I lined up 3 rows back with my wave of 18-29 year old men. I knew there would be some guys faster than me and a lot slower than me. I needed to make sure I didn't get overly excited and go out with the fastest guys. Ready? I am. GO!
The run started out FAST... very fast. Naturally... the first half mile was totally downhill. I stayed controlled though, just around sub-5 pace. But once the downhill ended, lots of guys were keeping the sub-5 pace. Really? That many fast runners? That can't be! I said "Relax, Andy... do your own thing," and this proved to be sound advice. The bikers started to slow and kept slowing. I started passing, but I wasn't increasing my speed. Perfect. They were tiring... I was barely breathing. I counted at least 15 guys in front of me. I was averaging a fine pace, a tiny bit slower than I planned, mid 5:20s. I climbed the hill into transition, picking off a few West Point cadets and threw myself into transition, feeling good. Run 1... DONE! 16:43. Good.
Slapped on my helmet, strapped my shoes IN transition to avoid a repeat of Doylestown. Ran my bike out of transition, READY to show the results of my bike training. However, right away there was a problem... my aero drink bottle had popped loose of its bracket and was rattling in my aerobars... and then I hit a small but sharp speed bump... and the bottle flew OUT of the bars, straight into the air! I instinctively put my hand out and caught it just as it was about to fly behind me, and stuffed it back into my bars. It was loose, but I could keep it in place with my forearms... nutrition crisis averted. Now, time to race.
I went for the first 2-3 miles more or less alone... waiting for the bikers to catch me. And they did. BUT... but... they weren't getting away. I was responding! I wasn't letting them break away! I've never held on to superior bikers before... but I was now. I looked at my speedometer... 23+ mph average! I started feeling confident, very confident. I was in a pack of good bikers... and was LEADING them! I was pulling them along. I told myself, "This is the result of my training. I'm here to fight and I'm here to win," and kept the effort level at max. The first lap ended... I was feeling fantastic. I still felt aggressive and strong. I was pushing the hills and hanging on on the flats. This was becoming the ride of my life. Never before had I rode this long at over 23 mph and never had I been so competitive and bloodthirsty on the bike. I wanted to crush the 8-9 guys in my bike pack. People were cursing and spewing accusations and obscenities at each other. It was a hellstorm of competitiveness and I was feeding off of it.
Lap 2 ended, 1 to go. I was feeling fresh still... last year, at this point, I'd be struggling and wishing the bike would end. I wanted 3 more laps!!! At the same time I felt a 5K waiting in my legs. I knew that despite my aggressiveness on the bike I had a good 5K left in me. "ZeroZeroTwo, let's get this bike done and not lose any placement." And that we did. I cruised through the hills and gave the last flat everything my quads had left -- I won't be using those muscles on the run, after all. I led the pack into transition, capping a fantastic ride... 1:01:08, 23.2 mph... a personal speed record by far.
Hopped into transition, got into the wrong bike rack aisle. I saw my rack 2 aisles away. I found some open space under the racks in between so ZeroZeroTwo and I ducked under and ran straight to my rack. Threw off my helmet and glasses, racked ZeroZeroTwo and slipped back on my Brooks flats. Off I go, time to catch some bikers!
I immediately surged past some of the guys I biked with. They were no longer a concern. The group of 4-5 ahead were my target... about 1/4th of a mile at least. I could catch them, I knew it. I was averaging low 5:20s to the first mile... made a turn and there they were, still in a pack of 5. I quickly came upon them and working together, they made a rookie/biker mistake of trying to surge to keep up with me more than 1.8 miles away from the finish. Goodbye, I'll be on my way. I never saw them again.
Continued my pace, not looking behind. I knew no one would catch me. I was tired, but not dead. I knew one guy, who appeared to be a runner, was 15-20 seconds back. I kept pushing. I reached mile 2, mid-high 5:20. Final stretch coming up... one mile to go. I knew I had qualified for Worlds at this point, and saw no one in my wave ahead of me. How high was I? No matter, just finish. I started to feel a small pain in my quad with a steep hill ahead. Finally looked behind me... as I expected, a guy 20 seconds behind. I thought... get a great time or prevent a possible injury and hang on to my placement? I decided the latter... wisely. I wouldn't be caught. I eased up and coasted to the finish... Run 2, DONE, 17:01...
FINISHED! I pumped my fist viciously as I crossed the finish line. I knew it. I qualified for Worlds, and I placed high.... 24th overall, 7th in the 20-24 age group. Epic. I thought on my best day I would be maybe top 40 overall, top 10 age group. Not once in this race did I want it to end. I just wanted to beat people. Never in my wildest dreams did I foresee a 23+ mph bike. Without a doubt, my best overall race ever. Michelle had a fantastic race too, 6th overall, 3rd age group, in a much tougher than expected women's field. She too qualified comfortably for Worlds. Superpower effort on her part.
Bring it, Columbia.