Training for this race started on May 9, and about 250 hours went into it. Plus the forgiveness of the family to embark on such a foolish venture. Full metrics are pending. This was an intimate race, well organized, with great volunteers and participants. If Eagleman is as good, that must be a great race. It’s the people, not the landscape on this one…
I arrived in Cambridge, Maryland on Thursday afternoon, with the goal of scoping out the bike course and taking a swim before checking in and eating the pasta dinner. The course was less than two hours from DC, an easy drive.
I stumbled onto the course by following the road markings, and I was able to drive most of it, including traversing the car through the Blackwater Nature Reserve, where the tides ensure brackish water cover about 1.2 miles of the road. At some points it wasn’t quite touching the rim of the wheel, but still about 2-3 inches deep. It was to be deeper on race day.
After driving the course, I went for maybe 1,000m swim on the course, in a fairly protected area of the Choptank river. I wore the sleeveless wetsuit and no Vaseline on my arms. The water was fine, but the ramp super slippy and I got a stellar jellyfish (aka sea nettle) sting up my right arm. It stayed with me for a while.
I toweled off and drove to the quite nice and secluded Hyatt resort to check in, get my shirt and chat with some folks about the logistics of the event. Turns out the weather was shaping up to be wet, but smooth, and that the earlier in the year Eagleman tends to have more challenging weather. The water covering the course is normal – one thing I didn’t see in the briefing pack was instructions on how to give the bike a good clean post-ride to ensure it doesn’t get rusty!
On the whole the guide was accurate, especially about letting you know about the jellies.
Once I checked in, got my wristband and numbers, it was time to eat. I was at a table of folks, some local, one guy from Texas, and another who I saw several times over the next few days. It was good to talk about the swim and to share stories about the course.
I drove back to DC that night to pack up and prepare to head back the next day.
On the Friday, I left about 1030 and drove through major storms and torrential rain to get back out to Cambridge. Luckily, 50 was pretty straightforward and I arrived with no troubles. I immediately went to the Hyatt, the weather had cleared up somewhat, and chatted to a guy coming out of the water who was getting ready to compete in his 46th Iron distance event. He was also familiar with Guernsey, habving lived in the UK. I put the wetsuit on and headed out for a 20 minute swim, which felt fine, and got another big sting on the arm, which did not feel fine. Still, it wouldn’t have been fun to encounter that on race day, so I was glad to get the water-bearings and feel for the stings in advance (definitely paid off). Water was nice, low 70s.
I left the hotel after toweling off and took the car and bike to Great Marsh Park – where T1 and the swim was to be held. I took the bike for a 20 minute ride to get the feel of the start of the course and then racked it. I knew the bike would be exposed to the rain, but at least rain isn’t salty. I took a 15 minute run but ended it sooner as the rain started coming down heavily. The day took longer than I wanted so it was 3 by the time I said screw it and went to Dennys for lunch. Had an omlette and hash browns, followed by coffee and Gatorade from the Royal Farms. Hustled back to the hotel thinking the briefing was at 4 –it was at 6, so used the time to catch up on a book, and chat to the Hammer guy, plus bought some gels and gel bottles for upcoming use.
The briefing began at 6, nothing too earth shattering, but my blood pressure rose when they talked about the contingency if the swim needed to be cancelled – they only had a 30 minute window to start the swim, so lighting and back weather would cause a duathlon, with a TT start. That would be bad, I didn’t train five months for a duathlon. The rest of the briefing was useful, and logistical, definitely glad I went.
After the briefing, I chatted to some people then drove the 45 minutes to the hotel in Salisbury. I knew I needed to eat again, but had no appetite – nerves were picking up. I stopped at the Food Lion, and picked up microwavable brown rice and a chocolate milk to eat at the hotel. I checked in at the hotel, right near the shops and made the food, put some music on and pulled out the five race days bags to sort and prep all my equipement. I had done a light sort, but spent a ton of time getting the bags right. After I was done, realized I forgot to put goggles in, so I got that done. I had a checklist, but didn’t print it out to use. Need to do that next time. Quite nerve racking to be sure the bags had everything I needed, not having something could be real trouble. The bags were Pre-Swim (clothes to the race, water bottle with accelerade), Bike and Run Gear Bags, bike and run special needs bags.
Mixed up the water bottles – three with two for bike and one pre-race, all with Accelerade.
Called Jess, had a shower and went to bed. Had a tough time getting to sleep – pre race nerves, finally out a little after 2300.
Alarm went off at 0400, and was awake pretty easily (for me). Finished the bottle of chocolate milk and ate a banana, took a small cup of coffee with me out of the hotel. Ended up not getting to an open McDonalds until Cambridge, got the oatmeal at about 0515, went to the high school to drop bags and get shuttle to race start. After a foggy drive, it was not raining, and in the high 60s, very humid.
Dropped the bags and waited in line for about 20 minutes to get the 10 minute shuttle ride to the start. Once I was there, I got marked, pumped up the tyres and waited a long time to use the bathroom – timing was a pain on that, but better done there. Slathered my arms, feet and face with Vaseline – supposed to help with the jelly stings, and sipped on Accelerade.
Anthem just before 7, and we all walked down the uncarpeted boat ramp to the start – you could walk on the bottom, but I swam to acclimate as I didn’t get to warm up as I had wanted. The whistle went off shortly after 7 and so it began.
I didn’t have any chest issues when starting the swim and the water was nice, about 71 degrees. I felt a bit of current pushing me on the first half of the first lap, and as I got near the turn at the end, my wetsuit was bothering me, so I had to fiddle with it to stop it rubbing my neck. That was the main discomfort. Was stung maybe four or five times, two were proper arm length stings, but one on my ankle bugged me for a while. My swim was faster – a testament to training, as such, there was more knocking around with others. I was comfortable on the whole, against current on the way back to start line, and the chop was light, but picked up a bit for the second lap. Sighting was terrible the last quarter of the second lap with foggy goggles and not seeing well.
Out of the water at 1:24:34 144/212. Cut my toe on the ramp to T1. HR about 140 (if accurate)
Wasn’t cold, picked up my back, pulled suit off and put short socks and shirt on, loaded shirt and bag.
Ride was uneventful. Started in the low 70s and stayed about that. Picked up people aggressively for the first 20-odd miles until the first lap began, at which point it slowed down. Focused on drinking my two bottles of accelerade and taking my Powerbar strawberry/banana 25 mg gel flask. Was quite quick until entering the exposed nature reserve area, some bumpy roads and had to stop to pee, plus about 1.2 miles of on an off flooded road to traverse. Kept HR at Z2, close to 140. Had to throttle it back a bit over the opening miles. Also had a Clif bar shortly after starting bike, and forgot about enduralytes until near the end of the first lap, so took three right then. Luckily it was quite cool out.
Picked up special needs – protein bar and new gel bottle. Lap 2 was toughter mentally – keeping cadence up, wind was light, but picked up a hair, and it was just pretty quiet, luckily I had some marks to chase down. HR slipped late second lap, as did cadence, needed motivation which didn’t really come until I went through the water again – much higher this time, close to the pedal at bottom centre. Took mostly water, one shot of accelerade gel, one 30mg protein plus bar, one Gatorade, and three bottles of water this lap (lots to wash the salt water off the chainset). Took another 5 endurolytes over the second lap.
I was where I needed to be with calories – close to 300/hr.
Went fine, but slow as I changed shirt from a bike one and put knee length socks on – that was a mistake – had it been calf socks, would have been ok, but pulling the whole sock up damp legs was a bit of a nightmare and took lots of time.
Put on the yellow Nike stabilities and got on with the run once I was pointed in the right direction.
Started off really trying to be moderated with my pace, ended up having quite a fast one, 8.08 I think and it slowed up from there as I started sweating. Luckily it was only in the 70s, but the stations each mile had gels, water and mealtimes, but no salt pills, which I had planned on. 9 to 11 were my worst on the run, not that I felt bad, just fatigued. I was drinking water each mile, but still think my nutrition was weak. Had some saltines and perked up when a caffeine gel was found.
The three lap concept was tough, and the course was a grind, long and flat. Luckily a guy named Doug, who did Savageman the week before was good company. I think the run was definitely toughest especially as I felt I couldn’t motor, which only ever really happened the day after a heavy brick.
Picked up special needs – a banana and a bottle of Accelerade with a lap to go, that, and seeing the fam helped perk me up.
Finished at 11h 05 mins, I only ever had my HR on the watch, so had no idea I was close to 11 hours, but wouldn’t change how I ran the race- but could easily account for those 5 minutes. In hindsight, I could still crouch for pics after the race, and I didn’t look that banged up – so maybe I could hammer it a bit more next time, but the best advice I received is that you have to run your own race, and I did that.
During the run, my shoe became bloody, turned out I had sliced my toe exiting the swim, ems was nice enough to bandage me up post race.
Had a post race massage, didn’t eat enough, but was pretty perky on the whole thanks to the mild weather.
I pulled my bike out of the car the next day to give it a thorough cleaning, and the back tire was low on air, turns out the tube stem joint had failed. Wow was I lucky.