Ali and I were excited for our first race together of the season. This race was all about practicing. Practicing following race plans, practicing pre-race logistics (including rental cars, directions, etc), practicing transitions, and practicing winning….. If you don’t feel like reading the whole report, what you really need to know is that Ali took 1st place overall and I took 15th overall and 4th in my Age Group, certainly a successful outing.
The overwhelming feeling pre-race was excitement, for both of us. We had put in 3 hard months of training and were ready to test ourselves in a race situation. We were both a little nervous but we both felt confident, healthy and not too tired. Probably the most stressful part of this race, and a new thing for us this year, is figuring out how to get there. In previous years we have had a car and it was simple to just throw the stuff in, plug the address into our phone and go. But now, each race requires a little extra planning both in the week leading up to the race and on race morning, including reserving a car, picking it up, finding a parking spot, etc etc etc. A little extra stress added to race morning, but also something that allows us to focus on the upcoming race.
The other big debate was the “flying mount.” We practiced our transitions a bit on Saturday in the park, but it would be generous to say that we looked “decent.” Both of us, up till this race had stuck with the old school put your bike shoes on, grab your bike and mount, still a bit intimidated by the whole shoes already clipped in thing. NOT THIS TIME. We both decided to go for it, hopefully it wouldn’t backfire.
The Course and the Plan
We were excited to execute on a race plan for the first time. The course is a 2.4 mile run out on the Orchard Beach Boardwalk (which is more like a concrete sidewalk), followed by a 14.4 mile bike made up of 6 laps of 2.4 miles each. This made the bike very much like a Crit, which lead to some unique tactics that don’t really match up with an Olympic distance triathlon race but still some good bike handling practice, a chance to hammer a bit and really fun. Finally, another 2.4 mile run on the Boardwalk to finish up.
We knew going in that we would be “holding back” a bit on the first run. Basing that run off a relatively conservativeheart-rateto set ourselves up for a strong bike and hopefully a really strong finishing leg. We had slightly different strategies for the final run but our plans closely mirrored each other. Largely the race would be a test of our running legs post-bike and our transition times and fluidity. If we were lucky enough to get results, great!
Me, Pre-race with my super sweet DA4 and my new Lazer Aero Helmet
Run 1: Stay Within Yourself
The first run felt slow. It was hard to watch people running past. I saw Ali watch the girl who had beat her at the Central Park Duathlon slowly pull away, I could almost feel the agony, probably because I had similar agony watching Ali pull away from me…. But, we had a plan and for the day it made sense to stick with it and see what panned out. The run is actually quite nice, very flat, very fast and runs the full length of the boardwalk with two out and back sections. The beach is beautiful, a little gem tucked into a corner of the Bronx.
Bike: Round and Round We Go (watch the speed bumps)
First off, TWO SUCCESSFUL FLYING MOUNTS. I was half looking for Ali on the side of the road chasing after her shoes, but nope, we both pulled it off. Which is great, and it was fast! my best transitions ever, actually. Ok back to it….
It was clear before the race that a lot of people were nervous about the bike. Triathletes aren’t exactly known for their bike handling skills, and, frankly, the course looked like a big parking lot with soccer cones around with small signs telling you where to turn. It did not inspire confidence. We were lucky enough to have Coach Cliff, the founder of Tri Star Athletes, on hand racing (Congrats on 2nd Overall!), who rode a warm up lap of the course and shared some insider knowledge about the layout, the turns and things to watch out for. The race director also shared his thoughts and at the end of the day, I thought the race director and the volunteers did a fantastic job manning the course. We commented after that one sweep with a street cleaner would go a long way, but, what can you do.
The bike was actually a ton of fun, lots of turns, quick accelerations and then dropping back down into the aero position. I caught up to Ali on the 4th loop, giving her a cheeky “on your left” as I whizzed by. I felt like I was moving pretty good and was only passed by one young gentleman who flew past me like I was standing still….reality check. Other than that, I mowed through a lot of guys who may have burned their legs on the first run and some who clearly weren’t used to “turning” on their bikes. Riding a road bike on hilly, twisty roads for the last 3 years FINALLY paid off…. That being said, the speed bumps after the toll booths (yea…) were pretty gnarly and I saw a poor guy go down hard on his shoulder after flying over one. If you are doing the race next year, have fun on the course but seriously, watch the speed bumps…
I came into transition way off the lead, but happy with the bike and focused on putting in a huge effort on the run. My legs felt better than I expected and I even had pipe dreams of holding off Ali.
Ali meanwhile laid down a great bike split, the best of the day for the women, and came in about 30 seconds behind me. As usual, she flew through transition.
Run 2: GO GET HER
Really it is Ali that should be writing this part of the report, because this leg of the race was all about her. It really was an amazing thing to watch. Ali came off the bike in 2nd place, a full 43 seconds down on the 1st place girl WHO just happened to be the girl that outsprinted her in the Central Park Duathlon. She knew she was out in front, and she knew she was a strong runner and in her heart and mind she knew that neither of those things mattered.
Ali hit the run course and within a half mile flew past me. I wasn’t running slow either. In fact, this run was BY FAR, my best run ever off a bike. And there she was, a woman possessed, HAMMERING already. I was excited to watch.
The best part of the layout of the course was that the two out and backs allowed you lots of glimpses at the people in front of and behind you. This meant that Ali could see the leader pretty much the whole race and that I could see (and talk to Ali) for the whole race as well. Throughout the first mile Ali was closing on the leader and at the first turn around she was taking off her long sleeve top and trying to tie it around her waste.
“Drop the shirt, we’ll get it later, go get her, you’ve got this,” I yelled to her. She dropped the top. (We never went back for it, totally forgot, a sacrifice to the tri-Gods). I watched as she pulled away from me (even as I kept increasing my pace each quarter mile as planned), and pulled closer to the leader. (I admitted later that it was really hard for me to focus on my own race as I was watching her race unfold. Here I am having the run of my life probably BECAUSE I’m not thinking about my run at all instead I’m trying to somehow give all my run energy to Ali so that she can chase down the leader.
At the second turn around I was busy taking splits for Ali, which I also shouldn’t have been doing… What happened to running your own race Ryan?!? Oh well, who cares, this is too much fun. I could tell she was about 7 seconds down, with about .4 miles to go. The leader looked tired, she was oncruisecontrol, didn’t have her foot on the gas. Meanwhile, Ali was like that motorcyclist that passes you at 165 mph on the right side of your car on the freeway and you are like, “man that guy is going to die or kill someone but whoa he is going fast.” Ok, maybe not that fast, but she was HAULING. I yelled to her, “You’ve got her, she is fading. When you go past her, go right past her.” (This I have to attribute to reading Jesse Thomas’s blogs about races he has won (and lost) in the final miles. I love the quote he uses about having 5 seconds in a running race to respond to an attack. That was what I was thinking about….again….super focused…..)
The course turns off the Boardwalk for the last quarter mile for a sprint down the finishing shoot back to transition. As I turned the corner I got to watch as Ali flew past the leader in the last 800 meters, running a sub 6 minute pace for the whole leg, and claiming victory. What did I do? I literally jumped. yea, i jumped, in the middle of a race. Then I just sprinted, as hard as I could, mostly so I could congratulate her and laid down BY FAR the best quarter mile I’ve ever run in a race…… funny how that works out.
It really was a pleasure and aprivilegeto watch Ali on the hunt for the win. The focus, determination, athleticism and effort that she put in were staggering. She was smart throughout the race, trusted Coach Adam and delivered in crunch time. All signs of a maturing, smart, strong, tough athlete. She is going to be tough to beat this year.
Reflections and Lessons Learned:
For me, I learned that I can no longer say I suck at running. In fact, I am quickly getting dangerously close to laying down respectable run splits. I’m no longer a swimmer that loves biking and hates running and does triathlons. I’m starting to find that balance and the reality is I owe that all to consistency. In previous years I found unique and innovative ways to cut short my runs, or not hit my numbers and this year, every time i’m out on a run it is the most important thing I’m doing. This race offered me a reminder that the hard work IS paying off, which is always a good feeling.
For Ali, first and foremost her first overall WIN. A huge hurdle and a huge accomplishment. She knows the feeling now, knows what it takes. I think her biggest learning comes from execution and in a new found ability to trust in her run. Previously Ali always used her very strong bike to mow through the field and then try and hold on for the run. She, too, is finding a balance, one that is allowing her to be a force to be reckoned with on both the bike and the run, a scary and exciting 1-2 punch.
A few people to thank for another great race:
Coach Adam at Tristar Athletes. We really can’t say enough. Great race plans, great training plans, great support, great attitude and probably above everything else a coach that communicates and listens. Coach Cliff, for setting us up with Coach Adam, first and foremost, and for the race day support and debrief afterward. We are super excited about the season ahead. Frank Totino and the crew at Sunrise Tri for setting us up with new bikes this year and getting us the perfect fit. We are both super comfortable and feeling fast. The team at the New York Triathlon Club who put on a another great race. They kept it safe, fun, and fast, just how it should be. To our Wild Turkeys teammates, we are excited to get your race reports soon and proud to be representing on the east coast. To the team at Picky Bars, we LOVE your bars and are so proud to be a Picky Team, proud to be “PickyPowered” and will continue to spread the good word and a special thank you to Jesse Thomas, Picky Bar CEO (who I don’t know at all but find hilarious and is also pretty good at triathlon) for his run tactics advice, that paid off. To Gwen Jorgensen (who we also don’t know, Hi Gwen!) who inspired Ali with her crazy San Diego ITU run split, to just hammer the whole run and reel in the leader. And finally, as always to our families who give us lots of love and endless support.