Patriot Half Iron – 1st Overall in 4:10:52 (29:32 swim; 2:17:17 bike; 1:21:40 run)
This is a fantastic race. It’s great course through rolling, rural, country roads; there’s an abundance of fantastic volunteers, and it’s really well organized from top to bottom. Overall, it managed to uphold the tradition that every non-WTC race I’ve done is infinitely better than every Ironman-branded event I’ve gone to. Unless your heart is set on going to “Worlds”, ditch Ironman and get out and race the local stuff (Patriot, Musselman, Montauk, Pumpkinman, etc). You won’t be disappointed.
Going into this race I really had no idea what to expect. I’ve been struggling with some IT-Band issues when running, and though it’s gradually been getting better, I hadn’t done any hard running in over 2 months, and nothing particularly long either. Not being able to run much meant I was riding more, but after only 6 weeks of decent volume, I wasn’t sure I’d have the base to really be able to hammer for 2.5 hours. As for the swim, well, I went with the not-swim-and-see-what-happens-approach over the winter (aaaaand the spring), followed by the oh-shit-i-better-swim-before-this-race panic training approach in the 10 days leading up to Patriot. Fortunately the weather cooperated and I was able swim more in the two weeks between Escape the Cape and Patriot than I had over the preceding 8 months. While I actually really enjoy Walden, my disdain for the pool only grew over this past winter as we moved farther away from a convenient swimming option, and my apparent allergy to swimming worsened. (If I keep telling myself this allergy is a ‘real thing’, I feel less bad about never swimming. So far it’s working).
The race started at 7am, and it’s about an hour drive south of Boston, so we kicked things off at 3:30 am, ate a reasonable amount of oatmeal and coffee, and blazed down to Freetown (Yup, the Patriot Half is in Freetown. Hell yeah MURICA). Fortunately for my bladder there was a Dunk’s right off the exit of the highway. Unfortunately for my brain they were blasting a country music song with one repetitious lyric that would obviously burn its way into my prefrontal cortex and remain there for the duration of the day. I’ll refrain from sharing the lyric with readers because I’m a good person, and don’t want to condemn you to the same fate. The musical selection and the Dunk’s clientele confirmed that we indeed were no longer in the Boston burbs. We were, in fact, in MURICA. (If you’re sensing a disdain for Freetown’s inhabitant’s, it’s because I was intentionally run over by one of the town’s fine citizens while attempting to preview the bike course 2 weeks ago. The police responded in typical small town fashion by absolving the driver of guilt, and instead scolding Carolyn, Whitney, and Jay for harassing old people – aka yelling at the car to stop driving while me and my bike were wedged underneath the vehicle. True story).
With no lingering issues to speak off, and my bike only slightly worse for wear, I figured I’d put that behind me once the race started and hoped that my 2nd attempt at the bike course would be better received by the local population. I was motivated to do well though, since we had friends and family watching (it was great that Carolyn’s parents drove up from NJ to watch one of the least spectator friendly sports ever conceived). Right from the gun I felt pretty good. The swim went well, and the panic-training definitely paid off. I lead for the first half, and managed to grab some feet on the second, and was able to build up a lead on my buddy Brett and some of the other guys whose cycling prowess I was fearing. I had a quick T1 despite some random hamstring charlie-horsing while running up from the beach.
Being in the lead so early in the bike was a bit terrifying, so I pursued the only logical course of action (or illogical – depending on your definition of logic) and started riding my bike literally as hard as possible. Last season most of my races were between 255-265w, with Timberman being 275w thanks to the abundance of hills. Patriot was rolling but not hilly, so I wasn’t expecting any kind of crazy numbers. Nevertheless, the go hard from the gun approach meant that I was riding 295w for the first 30 minutes. I can sustain around 310 for an all out hour effort, so this was fairly aggressive, but it was fun, and I was averaging a lot of watts and a lot of miles per hour – despite the soaking wet roads and taking the turns really gingerly. I couldn’t imagine anyone else riding much harder and catching me. Well, until the 2nd lap. Then it got real. After 70 minutes riding balls to wall, the legs were killing me. Fortunately, and I have no idea how, I was able to sustain a touch below the first lap power for the entire 2nd half of the bike and averaged just over 280 for the 56 miles, despite some cramping and coasting in the last 10 miles. I did a really good job staying in aero for the first time in a race this long, and I think that made a huge difference in average speed. Aside from several massholes in pick-ups nearly clipping me, two student drivers clearly overwhelmed by the cyclists on the road, and the worst attempt at driving stick shift I’ve ever seen by a kid who kept hastily accelerating around me and then stalling directly in front of me (forcing some fancy evasive maneuvers on my part several times over), it was a fairly uneventful and scenic ride. Pine forests, green fields, farms, ponds, bogs, causeways, and quiet neighborhoods – this course contained more New England in one 28 mile loop than anyone’s brain had room for.
Starting the run I got conflicting information from spectators and friends about where I was at. I was somewhere between 3 minutes ahead of 2nd place, and in dead last place. It wasn’t really clear to me. But also my brain may not have been functioning at full capacity – no thanks in part to that friggin country song which had turned itself up to 11 despite my repeated efforts to expunge it from my brain.
There’s actually not a whole lot else to say about the run. It was really hard, and I was really scared that I was going to cramp up and get caught. My calves, hammies, and quads would twinge and charlie-horse every few minutes, and I had to stop and walk for about 50 meters at one point. I took that opportunity to use the facilities (aka a garden of poison ivy on the side of the road). About halfway through my IT band starting to hurt after hammering a downhill turn a bit too aggressively, but miraculously it never fully locked up and I was able to keep clicking off the miles. It was crazy humid and it felt like my face was melting like in that Indiana Jones scene, but fortunately the sun stayed hidden for most of the run. I had no idea what pace I was running, and didn’t really care. It wouldn’t have made much of a difference, other than maybe to calm me down. Ultimately that fear of getting gobbled up worked to my advantage, as I was able to push all the way to the line finishing in 4:10, setting a 2.5 minute pr, and apparently breaking the current course record – which was surprising because even with 3 miles to go my suspect math skills were estimating a 4:25 finish. (Hmmm let’s see if you’re at 3:57 w/ two miles to go, and you can run two 14 minute miles, and you only stop to go to the bathroom twice, you might be able to crack 4:30). Fortunately for children with aspirations of one day being able to add numbers together, I’m no longer a math teacher.
Afterwards I sat on the grass unable to move for a long time. I really wanted to jog back onto the course and cheer for Carolyn (aka embarrass her with loud cheering normal reserved for underground arm wrestling competitions), but I only made it about 50 meters before failing to advance any further, and ended up just hanging out with Carolyn’s parents until she blasted in a few minutes later in 2nd place overall behind our friend and teammate Jana, having also pr’d by 2.5 minutes, ridden the most watts she’s ever ridden, and run the fastest run-split of the day. I was super proud of her, and I was thrilled that she was equally amped about her race. She had a much taller order than I did to end up on the podium – but she managed to extend her lead over all the chasers after the run and finish only a few minutes behind Jana with a pr performance. Can’t ask for much more than that. You can read about her breakthrough race here.
Overall it was a great day. Massive appreciation for the support from Carolyn’s parents, the cheers from Jorge, Brett and the rest of the E3 gang, the nutrition from Powerbar (which we know can be a weakness for me), and the cheering on the run from David Lamoureux who didn’t let me get too complacent with only a 15 minute lead.
We have another race coming up July 6th, so we’ll mostly focus on getting recovered, then hit a few key workouts, and taper again. The next one should be pretty hilly though and much more competitive, so I’m hoping we can replicate these efforts in a few weeks and see where we stack up against the big kids.