Thursday, June 12, 2014

Time in a Bottle

The hardest races have a way of sucking us in. We know we're going to suffer, but we keep coming back, looking for a moment of triumph. Maybe we catch a break; a tailwind, a cool day, a favorable current.

One of my favorite races is also my most feared: Eagleman. I learned about this race in college, when my training partner raced it. It was legendary in the triathlon community, and after all these years it hasn't lost any of its status. If you know about Eagleman, then you know to expect a blistering hot day, potentially big winds, humidity, warm water, and strong sun. You can prepare all you want, but once you're out there it's a different story.

I've raced here in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012. I've watched in 2010, 2013 and now this year. Not since 2007 has there been a day as reasonable as this past weekend, and I'd have to guess that Sunday was one of the best days on record out in Cambridge. Morning temperatures were in the mid 60s. There was barely a breeze. Humidity was nearly non-existent. The high for the day eventually worked into the mid 80s, and with the sun in full force it felt warm, so I'm not saying it wasn't still a tough day. It's a 70 mile race and you're running on unshaded roads - it's going to get hot.

Racing in the pro field, Alyssa Godesky had the added benefit of starting before 7am. The water was too warm for wetsuits (for everyone) and swim  She found a group to swim with and got onto the bike in a good position. She rode a 2:32, her fastest bike split in her 4 rides there, and ran an evenly split 1:37:21 to finish in a new half iron PR of 4:47:10. Not bad for someone who was training through the weekend on her way to Challenge Atlantic City at the end of the month!

Jackie Range was doing her first half iron. She's planning on doing her first IM later this year and is likely going to do Ironman Maryland, which is basically double-Eagleman. She had an awesome race, recording great swim and bike splits before running a 1:35:55 half marathon. Much like Suzanne Hurst did a week ago, Jackie finished way, way faster than my first half iron (Eagleman 08) and her run split was a whopping 2 hours faster than mine. Yup. Jackie was 136th F in 5:23:34.

Chris Scott had a good race, finishing in 5:26:17 and putting down a 2:30 bike split. Migs aka Miguel Ferrer made up for his busted day at IMTX with a 5:30:04, swimming particularly fast. And first-timer Frank Regan got done in 5:51:18.

But the race of the day belonged to Tom Stack. Tom is a big dude. Tall, muscular and powerful, the Eagleman bike course is perfect for him. I was worried, though, that if it was a hot day, he'd be in trouble on the run. After all, Tom just did his first half marathon at the end of April. When fortune smiled on the athletes, it merely smirked at Tom. Starting in one of the last waves, he was going to get onto the run after 11:15am - when the sun was high and even the relatively mild 80 degrees felt hot. Tom had an amazing swim (31:59) and then put down a 2:28 bike split. I was most impressed by his 1:31:40 run. Tom finished at 4:36:19 and was 141st overall. This was more than enough to earn him the Purple Drink Athlete of the Week!

While more of us take on Eagleman, the truly brave test themselves with the 4.4 mile swim across the Chesapeake Bay. Swimming from Sandy Point State Park, under the bridge to the eastern shore of the Bay Bridge, multiple-time race winner Brian Benda was out to stamp his authority on this race. Despite his advanced age, he still mixes it up with the young studs. He said Sunday's event was the toughest in his 11 times here, so I believe it. He still finished 4th in 1:33. Unbelievable!

Back in the old days it used to be the same day as the Survivor Harbor 7, and we'd all share our war stories in the evening from the day's activities. Alas, that race no longer exists. But some of June's big races are still around, like this weekend's Baltimore 10 Miler (although that's fairly new) and the Baltimore Women's Classic 5k. Most importantly, let's not forget Dreaded Druid Hills 10k on Saturday, June 28! If you can help out by volunteering, let me know.

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