After the pre-race ride on Saturday morning, we generally just chilled at home until mid-afternoon and then made the short journey up to Columbia, MD, only about 30 miles away. Although it is only a short trip we decided to book a hotel nearby as it relieves any pre-morning stresses of travelling to the race. At Columbia you have to pick-up all information the day before and then go to the race site and rack your bike in transition. With over 1500 racers this is a pretty good idea and creates much less hassle on race morning. However, the weather wasn't cooperating and with rain in the forecast it was fortunate that I had two bin liners to cover the bike.
So with the bike safely racked at the park it was off to the hotel and to try and find a local italian restaurant for the habitual pasta loading. Fortunately we found a great little (but busy) bistro/wine bar and had a good meal, which was finished off with a great creme brulee and good luck for the race from the owners.
Race morning was the typical early start with a short 10min drive to the race site at Centennial Lake. Just as we had finished parking we saw Marc and Jessica so we waited for them and headed to see the first of the swim waves start. I was in swim wave 7, about 45 mins after wave 1. For the first time in my triathlon career it was raining at a race and did so until about halfway through the bike. My swim wave consisted of just the 30-34 Men age group and comprised about 175 of us. Luckily the water at the lake is relatively clean and for a late May race not too cold. I positioned myself at the head of the start line and decided to go out hard on the swim.....you don't use your arms for the rest of the race so you might as well use the energy in them to swim as hard as possible. Fortunately this strategy worked out well and I maintained my strong start around the 1500m course and came out in 9th position after a personal best of 22mins 41seconds. I think it slightly caught Sarah unawares as I am normally a little slower in the swim, perhaps the new approach is the way to go.
Transition 1 was good and much better than my previous two races and so I was quickly out onto the now wet and greasy roads for the 41km bike. Columbia is one of the toughest olympic triathlons in the region due to the hills on the bike and run courses and a strong bike can put you in good shape for a high overall finish. Once again the new triathlon bike was feeling much faster than my normal road bike but the slight down side was that the cornering and roundabouts had to be taken carefully due to the road conditions, what with the rain still coming down. It also took me a while to get my heart rate back down after pushing so hard on the swim. It wasn't until about halfway around the bike course that I began to feel a bit more comfortable. Coming back into the transition area I had the 8th fastest bike in my age group and interestingly enough was exactly the same time to the second that I had done on the bike section back in 2005. It just goes to show that despite being faster on the new bike, the rain must have had a big effect on the corners.
I consistently have fast transitions from the bike to the run and Columbia was no exception, just 56 seconds and that was the quickest in my age group. Just the 10km to go and about 8 serious climbs are scattered throughout the course. This is seriously a tough run and with the run probably being my strongest facet of triathlon, the tougher the better. I managed to push through and crank out a decent pace for a 39min 58sec 10km and finished under a sunny sky in 2hrs 14mins 33secs. Upon finishing I realised why I don't do too many olympic distance triathlons and prefer the longer distances.....I was way spent and had basically sprinted for the past 2hrs. Th longer distances at least require some pacing and management of energy. Olympic is just balls to the wall for the entire distance!!!!
We now had to wait for the results and I hadn't really known where I was for the whole race. I knew that I had gone well and only three people had passed me on the bike, I had a quick transition and no-one had passed on the run. I was hoping for top 5 but would be pleased with a PB and a top 10. Much to my surprise the results came up and I had finished third in my age-group and 36th overall out of 1500. Managed to snag a nice trophy as well for my efforts. All in all a good day, Marc and Jessica enjoyed watching and may have inspired Marc to enter next year!!! The day was finished off later in the afternoon/evening by stoking up the grill under brilliant sunny skies. All is looking good for Eagleman in three weeks and lets hope the form continues to improve, we could do with a trip to Hawaii or Clearwater.