When I first incepted my Short Season, the Fingerlakes Triathlon (FLT) was the original race I had pegged as my climax. Intelligent seasons must have a goal and I wanted this race to be it. The FLT seemed to be an obvious choice, given that it's the last triathlon in the area until next June. It has a lot of amazing aspects. It's held on the lake shore of beautiful Canandaigua Lake. The setting makes for a good swim (more on this later), scenic bike, and a fast run. What a perfect venue for an A-race!
Then, of course, my brain got in the way and I signed up for Syracuse 70.3. A-race got switched to last minute tune-up. Still, I couldn't help but want a good showing at the FLT. I thought I had a good race in me. I went for it.
Thank goodness I don't warm up. Seriously. If I had been in the habit of warming up, it would have totally been wasted on the FLT. The overnight low was a crisp 51º and that was the temp that greeted me and the Wife as we begrudgingly limped into the car. The sun had not yet made an appearance over the horizon as we trekked the 35 minute drive to the race site. It was not any warmer when we arrived.
We got to the transition area about 10 minutes pre-closing, a new Banter record for race promptness. For me, setting up my gear is a 4 minute endeavor. Upon conclusion, I learned that I had failed miserably in overachieving. See, when you go and pick up your race packet including cap and timing chip, you should actually bring them to the race. Mine? Sitting at home with my goggles, in my garage, next to my bike stand. It was off to the registration table to get more.
With a new set of official timing gear, ski-mask type goggles borrowed from the Wife and a bit of egg on my face, we were promptly kicked out of transition. Race time 7:15 am. I was slated for the sprint distance race, which was slated to follow the Olympic Distance race. The first wave of the sprint was scheduled to 8:15. My wave was to splash at ~8:40. We've been standing around in nothing but our skivvies and wetsuits, in mid-50º temps for almost 2 hours. Again, thank goodness I don't warm up.
The swim portion of this race is both a blessing and a curse. The 750 yard course is a U-shaped. Swim out, turn left, very shortly thereafter turn left again, swim back. If I were actively coaching any new triathletes, this is the race I would have them do. I have referred countless numbers of people to the FLT just for its swim venue. Most new triathletes have not been through the Natural Progression of Swimming and have a swimming fear/ weakness. The FLT solves this problem completely. The water depth is roughly 4 feet deep the entire way around the course. Should an athlete get in trouble, they can simply stand up and get out of trouble.
That simple fact alone makes this a great race for the unconditioned athlete. Low risk/ high reward. You could literally walk the entire swim. And that simple fact makes this race a bane for swimmers. Wave starts mean that (except for the first wave) there may/ will be someone walking in front of you during the swim. I have slammed (literally) into the back of several 'swimmers' during this event in the past. This year went uneventful for me but the Wife did get a nice backhand from a woman who spontaneously decided to change from freestyle to breaststroke.
Since I didn't want to be caught behind any walkers, I started the swim off quickly. I don't normally sprint off the gun (air horn), but it seemed prudent today. I was the first in my wave to the first turn buoy. I rounded the second buoy still in first place thanking the Wife for my borrowed goggles. I believe that I took the turn a little wide and swam an arc path in lieu of a straight line back to the shore. I don't remember being passed (something I would surely have seen in my windshield lenses). Sure enough, I was 3rd out of the water behind Peter and Jason.
The jaunt from the water wound along a painfully strewn pea-gravel path up towards transition. I had everything I needed already on my body. The Wife had the good wetsuit leaving me with the old sleeveless, which consequently peels off much easier. I was on the bike quicker than expected.
I passed the 2nd place guy in my age group, Peter, almost immediately. I have a better running mount on my bike than he. I didn't look back. The RD had to change the bike course due to road construction this year. Still, the first 5 miles or so were uphill. Before the end of the 4th mile, I had gained the pole position. See ya, Jason. (Who shouted out words of encouragement as I went by. He's a spokes-model for good sportsmanship.)
Granted, I had absolutely no idea how I was doing in the overall race. With a wave start, I was consistently passing athletes in the previous waves. Plus, there were some amazingly strong athletes in the waves behind me. I was racing them too, so no time to relax.
One aspect of the race that did not change, although I wish it had, was a loop around the CMAC (which stands for the Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center). It is a concert hall type amphitheater complete with speed bumps. I'm not sure it's fair to have a race with speed bumps on the course.
I flew off the bike and into transition. I found my bike spot conveniently marked with my socks and shoes. I briefly wiped my soles with the socks, slid them over my phalanges, inserted my newly adorned feet into my shoes and took off. Sure enough, there was Jason cursing at me because I beat him out of transition. I had no idea he was that close.
The run course was mostly flat, just like every other triathlon in the area. Running is my weakest part of the race compared to the other guys at the top of my AG. My only hope is to gain enough time in the earlier parts of the race and hang on. I took off.
The beginning of the course took us down the road and into a small, cute nature-preserve-type area. (Complete with a guy in camouflage fishing in the lake. I giggled because I'm pretty sure that camo is unnecessary for fish.) My first mile beeped in at a plush 6:47. Not a single person had passed me. This is a bit unusual. I was expecting Jason any moment now.
Upon exiting the nature preserve, I saw Jason. He was standing on the course rooting and cheering. I gave him a weird look. "Calf injury," he responded. Well, that problem was solved. Jason was my closest competition and had taken himself out of the race. I trudged on, only now a little more cocky.
Mile 2 came and went with remarkably boring details. I ran past many people, none of which were in my age group. Many were in the Olympic distance race. Those poor, sorry saps had 2 laps. I had one. I really like this distance. When lap 2 buzzed, I glanced down and saw a 6:43. I was getting faster. Should this trend continue, I had just over 7 minutes of running. Still no one had passed. I was getting nervous. I picked up the pace.
My new found pace was down into the 6:20s for a brief period of time. My legs felt good. My energy level was high. My fear factor was decreasing as I was slowly getting closer to the end. Then, at the 2.75 mile mark, 3 things happened simultaneously. 1. The watched beeped signaling 2.75 miles (hence the reason I know the details). 2. A near crippling side-stitch deposited itself on my right side, just below my ribs. 3. Peter had finally arrived.
Under normal circumstances, I think I could have held Peter off. He's a good runner but I had the lead, Ego motivation, and some juice left in the tank. My training has been geared towards longer distances. But, the side-stitch had a voice in the matter. It was clearly stating, '7 min per mile, max.' My 6:20 pace had been relegated to the past. Peter was nice. He hung with me for about 15 seconds before making the pass. I sped up and the side-stitch spoke up. Peter beat me to the line by 18 seconds, relegating me to a 2nd place finish in the AG.
Swim= 3/AG, 14/Overall
Bike= 1/AG, 5/Overall
Run= 4/AG, 18/Overall
Race= 2/AG, 7/Overall