Still in post-season mode. I decided to run Fairfield last night but was certainly not trained for it. On Friday I'd gone out and done a 75 minute run/40 minute time-trial brick and Saturday I'd ridden for three hours and mowed the lawn. I'm still icing the knee and my legs kind of hurt, so it was interesting decision, still, since I was planning on otherwise running for 90 minutes, I figured why not add an hour of driving time and a 35.00 t-shirt. You can never have enough of those.
Besides, I had a cool new kit to race in, courtesy of Dave Greenfield. My Elite Bicycles singlet and tri-shorts were just dying to be hauled through what is usually a brutal race. What makes the race so hard is a combination of factors- a top-notch field and a flat first two miles makes for over-cooking the early miles, the hills can wear you out early, if they don't get you the three mile downhill probably will, and the scorching humidity will broiling you in the home-stretch.
Today, for a change, coming off a 55 degree night, the heat was not a serious factor. And as Chris Schulten put it 'I looked like I was running comfortably.' In a sense this was ironic, because my knee was still hurting when Chris saw me (first mile), and because my calves hurt the entire race (on and off, but with lots of on). Nevertheless, my goal was to run comfortably, make the race a hard training run. I need to keep pushing myself because my legs tend to feel better the day after a good run or ride, not worse.
I went out about 6 minutes, which, while fast, was reasonable. I had some people around me I felt I could run with, I had a good mini-nutrition plan (Power-Gel at 2, 6, and 10 miles.) Except for being cut off by the same runner three times in the first three miles as they surged and then faded (finally going off the back and staying there), I felt like I was having a solid, if slightly slow, race. They changed the course this year and to me, the mile markers seemed to be a little funky. But I never started my watch and since there's very little flat running in the middle miles, who knows.
I was trying to run about the same pace as one of my teammates, Ian Frankel, who'd handed me my hat (visor ?) at Branford. He pulled away a few times, but I would close back on the hills and I was keeping him in my sights. I was also ignoring the occasional twinge in my left calf that felt like a knot was about to blossom. Finally, at around 7 miles, during what has to be a sustained three mile downhill, Ian paused to get some water and I passed him. I then surged past another runner as we went up a short rise. As soon as I passed him, he accelerated. At first I pushed again. I'd been gaining on this guy for some time, felt I'd established a faster pace and was a little confused by his decision to start trying to race mile 8.
I decided that I was not ready to race yet. And thus began a frustrating three miles. Now, I've gone on record saying that in a triathlon, I think there are times you battle to keep a cyclist from passing you as well as times you don't. For me, this is mostly about people I've already passed. Make no mistake, this is just about having to interrupt my own cadence and drop back for a rider who is going outside their previous pace to battle it out as well as not wanting to get involved in those back-and-forth battles on the bike, which I believe encourages drafting by the other riders in the area where it occurs. If you're going to pass someone, pass them. If you're struggling in the 15th second to get a tire-width ahead of someone, you shouldn't be there.
There's not a drafting rule in running though, and I've accepted that to run my own race, I cannot, absolutely cannot, battle with runners until very late in the race, when the outcome is actually up for grabs. Tack on to someone and let them help pull me into a group I'm already trying to close on, yes. Engage in psychological warfare with other runners trying to determine who has the biggest stones with 5 miles left to go in a race, no. alan go boom.
So I let the guy go, without backing off. The downhill was still going on, and I was trying to moderate my effort so I'd be ready for the last few hills. Ian caught up and then passed me after 9 miles. However, at around 10 miles he had to stop for water again. I continued pushing on the hills and on the very last uphill, I started by this same runner again. He immediately and obviously surged again and although I'm sure it was uncalled for I made a comment about runners and their egos (and hey, I was a runner once- not fast enough anymore to be one). I kept my pace consistent and on several occasions this led me to start to pass him. Each time he surged, or so it seemed to me. To be fair, it could have been my imagination, but it didn't seem like it.
Finally, after mile 11, I just picked it up a notch. After all, I'd been at about 95% and as I pushed, my legs felt good, better than they had all day. I ended up being glad this guy was behind me, because I really pushed those last two miles and finally felt like I was running well. Who knows ? I might just have been imagining what was going on, but it gave me the push I needed.
I felt bad for Ian. If he had not had to stop for water, he'd certainly have beaten me and ran a better race.
I surprised to see that I'd actually beaten my last time by about 15 seconds. It's a great race. But the drivers sure seem testy today.
A big nod to teammates Chris Schulten, who buried the course in 1:17, Ian Frankel, Steve Surprise, who skipped a sprint triathlon to do the right thing for his Lake Placid training, and Bill Sheetz, who looked like he had a great race.