This past Sunday marked the 6th year that I have done the Keuka Lake Triathlon in Penn Yan, NY. I'd done the Olympic (International) distance race since 2005 and this one holds a dear spot in my heart as being the first triathlon I had ever run in 2004 (I did the sprint tri that year and that's the one that got me hooked)
This year was going to be a little bit different. I knew going into this race that I wanted to do well, as I had won it overall last year, but I also knew that would be a fairly lofty goal considering the condition that my legs were in from all of the training over the last few weeks/months. My legs definitely did not have the "spring" to their step as they had in years past, but regardless I was bound to put in my best effort of the day and see what transpired.
Getting down to Keuka College nice and early this year was a good start to the day. Most of the time if the race starts at 7:30am, I sneak in at 7:20am and scramble to get my stuff set up, chip on the ankle and down to the water before the gun goes off. This year was a nice relaxing change of pace. Our wave was the male under 35 wave and we went off first. Most of my big competition was in wave#2 and starting 5 minutes back and I knew I was going to get chased down, just didn't know it was going to happen so quickly!
Race morning came and I was putting on my wetsuit leisurely and ripped my right heel COMPLETELY thru the back of the right knee. We were waiting for a sherriff to show up for the race to begin and cracking wise at the waters edge and there were several funny comments about my "new-vented-wetsuit". I told folks that I'm probably going to just duct tape it for Lake Placid, and that's the truth.
Regardless, the sherriff finally arrived and I hadn't even braved the extremely cold waters to warm up yet, so as the race started and I dove in, my shoulders were very tight and not quite ready for the shock of 1500 fast meters. They were more used to the last several years of doing a little warm up at MCC, then stretching deck side and having some coffee while we waited for the main set at Masters swim practice. I led around the first bouy and there were some fingertips tickling my feet. I made it about halfway around the "triangle" before I felt them again and I knew we had pulled a group of three of us separated from the main pack of swimmers in our wave. (I knew it was three of us because I flipped on my back and did a few strokes of backstroke about midway to catch a glimpse)
Around the last swim bouy, the guy that was in third place in the water, just completely sling shotted (is that a word?) around us all and into the lead. He was wearing a white cap. I tried to get on his feet, but he went wide and I decided to keep the straight line. He exited about 20-30 seconds in front and the guy that was tapping my feet all swim (who I would later find out was Greg Horrocks) came around and we hit the stairs about even.
That's me being really dainty on the stairs with half of a wetsuit ripped off trying not to slip on the wet wooden stairs. I think Greg passed me up the stairs and as we neared the timing mats, I slyly looked over at him and sprinted towards the mats trying to get my chip to signal first. As we ran towards our bikes in transition, I apologized for the "veteran move" of getting the better swim time and Greg was cool with it. We introduced ourselves too right then and there while sucking wind. But as karma would have it, even though we had the same swim time in the results, they listed Greg as the 4th fastest swim and me as the 5th, blast! :o)
Transition was nothing special, other than the first guy out of the water seemed to take forever and I ended up being the first one on the bike course. I was right behind the lead vehicle and my legs were feeling not-so-fresh this day. Maybe it was the prior three weeks (including this current week) of over 760 miles of cycling (230, 310, and 230 miles respectively), maybe it was the massive hours that I've been putting in, I don't know. I don't want to sound like a douche, but I went into this race last year at the end of a rest week (kinda tapered) and had something to prove (with it being my first triathlon after the accident). This year, it was the last day of a MASSIVE three week build and my body was pretty beaten up. As I've said, I've never really raced on dead legs and this was my shot at it. I still wanted to go after it 100% though becuase as I've said in many conversations before "your body is capable of MUCH more than you actually think it is...".
My goal for the race was to just bike with COMPLETE disregard for the run as I have in years past and just ignore my FTP and my power meter watts and just go by feel. I turned the pedals round and round with high hopes, however the first uphill section, I knew that I was in for a long day. I kept on trying to produce higher watts, but my legs were truly flat and I wasn't able to get anything else out of them. About 10 miles into the bike, I got passed like I was standing still and it was Nick Brodnicki who rode by me. I mentioned something about needing to borrow some of his extra gears (as I was tapped out) but I don't know if he knew what I meant. He just completely rode away from me too, I mean I looked up and he was GONE. At both turn around sections on the course I saw resident fast-guy, Jeff Henderson tearing it up on the bike too. Oh and did I mention that he started in the 2nd wave? Yeah, he was about a solid minute behind me on the course (meaning he had already made up 4 minutes) and looked like he was gaining speed. Crazy fast...
I got done with the bike portion and tried to wrap my head around the 10k that I had to now run. I had a little bit of problems putting on the new Pearl Izumi Iso Transition tri shoes in transition, but that might have been because I didn't body glide them prior to leaving them out in transition and the laces were a little tight. I went out and thought for a minute that the training I had done in the days/weeks/months prior wouldn't catch up to me. As I hit the first mile in 5:38, I honestly thought maybe I could pull this off?? Nearing the turn around (and STILL not catching up to Nick) I started to realize that even a "best effort" run wouldn't pull off the win today. I was already in 3rd place overall (Jeff had made up that 5 minutes from wave#2 and Nick was in front of me) and the only thing I could do was maintain.
Hitting the 5k mark in 18:20, I pulled a spin move for the little kids there watching and they all cheered :o) However that time would come as a dissappointment to me because I've always chased down the ellusive 36 minute 10k at this flat and fast course and today (with the way my legs were feeling) that was just NOT happening... I decided to dial my efforts back and not really turn myself inside out for the rest of the run and the proverbial wheels kind of fell off at mile 4. So I started cheering everyone on around me and getting folks to come with me as I passed the sprint tri folks turning around at the cone. I made it to the line in a little over 2:10 and I knew that was far off from my PR of a 2:06 last year. Regardless I was happy and had no idea how I had placed. (turns out I'm glad I didn't ease up any more as there was a guy 2 seconds behind me in wave#2!)
I eventually hit the line and got a 3rd place overall finish, behind Jeff and Nick respectively. Above is a shot of us on the podium each with our etched wine glasses, race logoed steel nalgenes and belt buckles and gels for the top 3 overall. Not a great performance by me, but I will take it for being as trashed as I was at the start line. My times in years past have been pretty consistent at this race and are as follows:
I didn't race in 2009 as I was holding off and stoking the fire for IMLP, but I've been consistently on the podium or JUST off of it every year that I've raced this race. Which I'm uber proud of. It was a good fun day with lots of busting chops with friends (whoooomp whoooomp whooomp) and seemed to be exactly what I needed to get my racing fix started this year. Congrats goes out to Matt Curbeau for nabbing his first overall win in the Sprint tri against some seriously old dudes :o) No more racing until the big dance in July and I'm hoping my nerves will be as settled as they can be so I can get down the descent appropriately without any issue this year. But right now there's a HUGE rest week and I cannot look more forward to it. I'm putting my feet up and getting some sleep because after all that training, it's MUCH needed. So feet up friends and rest hard, cheers!