This race brought me back to the Buckeye State..good old O- H - I - O! After going there for my Doctorate degree I had a great bit of nostalgia. The actual race was in the small town of New Albany - just Northeast of Columbus. I used to ride out in New Albany every Thursday night for a great group ride with some of the area's best cyclists. This is where I truly learned to ride and suffer on the bike. It has just the right combinations of flats and hills to make things interesting. I thank my best bud from Optometry school - Bill Catt, for showing me the way. I was especially excited to be doing this race because much of the second half of the bike course was on the same loop we used to do on Thursdays. When every advantage helps I was going to try to milk this to the fullest. Another reason I was excited to race was the fact that this was a Challenge event - a first for me. I had heard great things about them with their roots strong in Europe- Challenge Roth being the most known. I was very happy to hear that they would be paying out to the top 10 Pros as well. In today's triathlon world there have been many discussions regarding prize money for Pro athletes. Take Eric Limkemann's view here. I know I have a lot of hard work still to do to say I really make money as a triathlete but thankfully I can race at a high level while still practicing as an Optometrist. Would I like to make more money doing this?...absolutely! I just have to keep putting the time in, find the right races and with a little bit of luck I can say I do this as part of my living.
After working all week, Chelsea (my wife), my training partner Dan Harris and I filled up the car and left early Friday evening. After an uneventful drive and stay in beautiful Ripley, WV we finally got to the race site mid-day Saturday. We were able to check out the swim course in Alum Creek then proceeded to drive the course. I always drive the course the day before if I haven't had the opportunity to ride the whole thing. I always recommend doing one or the other as it makes for a faster split on race day knowing the course.
After taking care of registration with packet pickup I actually ended up meeting with Bill from TrifromanceSBR- he was my mechanic back in my days at Ohio State. It was great catching up with him and he did a great job on my rear brake as it needed an adjustment.
Afterward we made it to the Pro meeting where we went over the USAT rules for Pros which are very different than those of WTC/Ironman. The two biggest differences are in the swim where wetsuit rules are different with types allowed and temperatures at which a wetsuit can be allowed as well as in the bike with the different rules related to drafting.
That night our amazing hosts, Bill and Charlene Catt, opened up their home to us and made us a delicious meal. The Catt's had been like parents to me while I was in Optometry school and it was really good to catch up with them this time around as well. After dinner I set up all my stuff for the next day and put the numbers on the bike. I really liked the bike numbers - they connected to the seat post via zip ties and went directly behind the bike- a nice change from numbers that leave sticky residue.
Race morning and 3:00 came early...very early! I felt a little more rushed in the race due to the fact that we had to go to T2 first, drop off our bags/set up transition then drive the 20-25 mins back to T1/swim start. Two transition races always add to the anxiety dealing with race morning- but I commend Challenge for doing a good job with this one as we ended up getting to T1/swim start in plenty of time. The weather ended up being a little humid but the temperatures were excellent. Due to USAT wetsuit rules for pros this was not going to be a wet-suit legal swim for the Pros but it was going to be for the age-groupers. I knew this race would go out quickly as you had Eric Limkemann and Andrew Starykowicz on the start line. After the gun went off on this beautiful morning and I was happy to see the swim arms were there. I had done a little longer swim warm up this time with some sprints to really get the arms ready and I think it paid off. I felt strong in the water and did my best to stay with 3 other swimmers. At one point about 2/3 the way through I almost dropped off but I was able to hang on all the way into the finish. I would have to say this was one of my better swims as I maintained the whole way. I knew my time would be a little slower than previous races as it was not wet-suit legal. I just wanted to do my best to minimize the damage and allow my bike to put me back in it. I ended up swimming 29:17 which embarrassingly I think is my PR for a non wet-suit legal swim.
When I got out of the water I ended up fumbling with my zipper on my TYR Torque Pro swim skin. After getting it off I finally was able to get rolling on the bike.
After a few minutes I knew my bike legs were there. I started hitting my power numbers and started to catch other competitors. The bike course is a mix of flats the first 20 miles to some rolling hills then the last 10 miles are flat again. I enjoyed the course very much as I knew the last half the course well from all the years of riding on it. There was one stretch of road I do say was riddled with pot holes and cracks- besides that 2-3 mile section the road surface was great as well. I was moving myself up through the field and having a great bike...I ended up averaging 328 watts with a Normalized power of 331. My goal for this race was to hit 330. I ended up coming into T2 in 6th place with the 4th fastest bike of the day in 2:11:06. However, there were two guys right with me coming off the bike.
After getting out of T2 I realized my run legs were not there. I think had I hit 320-325 it would have been better but it is always hard to tell which is faster.: bike less power and run faster or bike more power and run slower. I tell you from experience finding that balance is the best way to go. Today's bike faster, run slower was by far the most painful way to go! I tried going with the 2 guys that were with me off the bike but they were just moving too fast and had I tried to run with them any longer than the 2.5 miles I did would have been catastrophic. After lap one of two I was in a world of pain. I was still in 8th place but knew others were coming and I would have difficulty holding them off. I started to count the time of the racers behind me on the out and back and realized I had about a 3 minute lead to stay in the top 10. There were plenty of aid stations on the course but starting that second lap I really could have used some coke to help spark the system again. However, even though the race was sponsored by Pepsi there was NONE on the course. If I were to change one thing that Challenge had done differently it would have been to have that coke on course. As I have been doing my long training rides and runs, my body has come to rely on that to kick start my system again. Anyhow, before I knew it I was in 10th place and doing everything I could to get to the finish. With one last final push I crossed the line in 10th place with a run time of 1:24:43. A time I am not proud of but a time that did the job and kept me in the top 10. I would say that was the hardest mentally I have ever had to push myself just to stay with it. I am proud of myself for that and walked away with my first race pay check of the year. Overall I finished in 4:07:17.
As the season progresses I feel as though I am getting stronger, more fit and even more experienced. I am going to enjoy a down week then get right back at training hard for Ironman Chattanooga come end of September. I still have a few long hard swims, bikes and runs to get my body ready for that distance. I am excited for the Ironman race yet inside there is always doubt - are you fully prepared, did I taper properly, etc... However, with Coach Doug Bush there to assist and my continual perseverance I believe the Ironman will be a distance I can excel at. Up next I will be taking part in the Luray Triathlon in Luray, VA about 90 mins north of Charlottesville. It will be nice to race so close to home and it will be a weekend affair. I will be doing the Olympic race on Saturday and a sprint on Sunday. Should be fun to mix in some shorter racing.
I want to thank everyone who has helped me along the way- to my family, to my friends and to my sponsors. This is an amazing journey we are taking and I am happy to have you all here to help me as we continue to share more experiences. It is especially important for me to thank my wife Chelsea, as she has to deal with all the lows of training/races, all the time spent away but then fortunately she gets to be there for the moments of celebration and the amazing places that this sport takes us. Till next time, if you ever have any questions or just want to say hi feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
For a race recap from the Challenge race organizers take a look at this video.