The Hat Trick

Niantic Bay Triathlon Race Report

2004 – 1:02:22 – 1st Overall
2005 – 1:01:40 – 1st Overall
2006 – ?

So after a bit of disappointing racing my last two times out, I decided to head back to familiar turf for a little bit of intensity and speed before I head out to California for the Vineman 70.3 on Sunday July 30th. The Niantic Bay Sprint Triathlon was my first ever overall win back in 2004, so the race is a bit of a sentimental favorite. My first year out, I broke the course record, which I then broke again in 2005. So this year, the goal was to break the one hour mark and, hopefully, snag my third win in a row at the race in the process.

I started out the morning with a strong cup of coffee. As the morning wore on, I started to think it was too strong, as my stomach felt a bit funny. When we got to the race, and I started to do my warm-up, I continued to feel a little bit off. Just sort of woozy and a bit light-headed. I decided to just a quick run and bike warm-up, thinking I’d get down and take a longer, more relaxed swim warm-up to try and relax.

With my goal of breaking one hour, I decided that I’d swim with my wetsuit. In the past, I’d felt like over the sprint distance, it took me just as much time to get my wetsuit off as I saved swimming in it. But with my new suit, I felt much better about swimming in it. Last year, I had been among the first pack coming out of the water swimming without a wetsuit, so this year, with all the swimming I’d been doing and with my QR suit, I really wanted to go for it on the swim. I’d practiced a lot of open water swimming, and I felt like I was sighting well and swimming straight.

I lined up in a straight line on the first buoy, since I hadn’t felt any current during my warm-up. I started off well and was next to only one swimmer after the initial hard strokes. As soon I started swimming hard, all the wooziness and light-headedness disappeared, and I felt really strong. I continued to pull away from the other swimmers, and for the first time ever, I was in the lead during the swim. As I rounded the turnaround point at the halfway mark of the triangular course, I saw for the first time that I had a real lead, with no swimmers even on my feet. My parents would later recount that as they watched from the bluff above the swim course, they were very nervous since swimming is normally my weakest event, and this “one guy” was really way out front. They were hopeful that I’d catch “this guy” on the bike. As I exited the swim, they realized “that guy” was me! I came into transition with almost a minute lead, and was out on my bike before the next swimmer even hit transition. I shaved over a minute off my swim time from last year, coming out of the water in 11:37 for the slightly more than half-mile swim, and had the fastest swim split of the day by over a minute! The morale of that story is swim lots, with lots of band-only and lots of pulling with paddles.

Out on the bike course, I felt great about leading right from the start. The past two years, I’d had the fastest bike split at this race, and I intended to follow up my swim with a strong showing during my best event. The course is a little bit speed limited, so I rode hard, but there is a lot of up and down and braking, so it’s tought to really gauge your speed, since some spots you just can’t go any faster. I ended up coming into transition with my sub-hour performance still a very real possibility. Despite riding with lower wattage than last year, I improved my bike split by about 40 seconds, riding 26:53 for the 11.5 mile course, which was the fastest split of the day, so I was two for two on best-splits.

Out onto the run, I knew I’d have to run well to break an hour, but I felt really strong. The run course goes up and down, and you have to use the downhill sections to re-establish good turnover and speed. I kept the pace strong, always pushing harder when I felt myself starting to fade a little bit. After heading through the turnaround about 2/3 through the run course, I saw that I had almost a four minute lead with about a mile to go. I knew at that point that I had won, but breaking an hour was still a question mark. I picked up the pace again, and tried to build my speed before the final section on the beach, which I knew would be slow going. As I hit the sand, the finish line seemed very far away. I checked my watch and started counting down the last two minutes. As I got to one minute to go, I was already in the finishline chute, and I crossed the line not long after. My run time of 17:46 for the advertised 3.5 mile run (which is probably closer to 3.2 or so) would also end up being the fastest of the day.

For the first time, I led a race wire-to-wire, posting the fastest splits in all three disciplines. It was really a great day. I ended up winning the race by almost five minutes, with the second place finisher crossing in 1:03:48. In the end, it was a really great day, which gave me great confidence in my abilities in all three sports heading into Vineman. My hard training in Cananda is starting to pay off, and I’m really exciting to move back to racing my preferred distance – the Half-Ironman. On that note, I’ve spent too long being excited about the race, and I need to get to bed, since I’ve already lost a recovery point for going to bed so late. But it really awesome, so maybe it’s okay to just spend some time enjoying a very successful July 23rd!

2006 Final Time: 59:07 – 1st Overall

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