“I am waking up to ash and dust; I wipe my brow as I swear rust.” -imagine dragon
There are a few half ironman races that get spoken in the same breath: Savageman, Auburn aka Worlds Toughest Half/ and Harryman.
Located 45 minutes from NYC it’s a famed spot for all kinds of racing. Bikes, sprints and Olympic distance take place here often (the race has an Olympic that goes off at the same time) but because the park is a series of mountains no one else dares but on a half out of fear that it’s just too hard. Except the high adventure race company of http://www.genesisadventures.com who are fear in their attempts to challenge triathletes. How hard I’d this race? In almost 10 years until this weekend only 2 people ever broke 5 hours.
The event started on glassy water which was cold but not so cold as to require a hood or fear. But a proper warm up helped and I found myself at the first turn in first with one swimmer dangling behind me. I kept the pace reasonable and at the end of the first of 2 laps I had a small gap. The smart move would have been to sit up and let him catch up and draft off him to save a to of energy for this long day. But then I though WWJD: what would Jens Voight do. My new www.xterrawetsuits.com suit kept me warm and fast as I powered away to win-the-swim. I left T1 with a 2 minute lead I think. My swim time wasn’t impressive but that’s as much to do with the run to the timing matt as it does to any swim form. Also it’s a lot of work being out front solo!
The bike was a series of climbs and descents through an amazing park and by lake after lake. The trees were that vibrant green of spring and the conditions were outstanding. I road each of the 4 laps nearly dead even. The problem with me as an athlete is at 37 I have one speed. And it’s not bad for ironman but its just not fast for anything else. The course is defined by a 3-4 mile climb you do each lap and each one hurts your legs worse and worse but my Valdora Cycles PHX is a great climbing bike, as its a compact frame making it light fast uphill and handles great on the tricky curvy downhills. I had 4 minutes as I headed out on the run.
With no-one in sight I felt confident heading out in the run. The run like the bike has no flat steps and my legs protested as I took the first uphill mile out in about a 7 minute pace. Slower than a normal mile but reasonable considering I was running uphill for the whole thing. The run is a double out and back and When I got to the turn around I was shocked to see a hard charging young man only 2 minutes or so down from me. I did the math and realized I needed to take some chances and I hammered the next leg. WWJD: Attack!
As I ran flat out I was hoping to hold him off and as we came into the race site I was hoping to get an encouraging split as we went around “the magic tree.” sadly what was him 30m behind me! I had just buried myself and he had still made up ground. So I did the only thing one can do in just a stop. WWJD: attack! I took off and put 5-10 seconds into him but he reeled me in. He hadn’t paced wrong. He wasn’t blowing up. What he was doing was running a sun 80 minute half on a tough course at the end of a brutal day. When he went by me I tried to go with him and at mile 8 I blew up and almost dnf-ed. I rarely of ever get passed on the run and the emotions of losing after thinking you are going to win for 4 hours are intense. But I focused on putting one foot in front of another, not losing another spot and just finishing. Plus if he was going to fad I wanted a shot to catch him. So you have to keep hope even when all hope is gone. I crossed the line second. My 3rd podium of the multistory year and my second over all at a half in my life. Then I realized how much of a price I paid for my effort. I was a mess. I took comfort in how bad I felt as I know I gave it what I had to give. Congrats to Adam Quinn, with a sub 80 half on that course I think we are going to hear a lot from this 24 year old.
Photo: thanks to Valdora Cycle: the bike is so fast it had to wait in T2 for 4 minutes until it had any company!