On May 20 the town of Columbia, MD hosted its 29th Columbia Triathlon. This was an international distance competition consisting of a 1500 meter swim, 41 kilometer bike and 10 kilometer run. I had done the Columbia tri in 2007 and the primary issues that stuck in my mind were the hilly bike and run. It’s not a course that encourages super fast times but more of a short and tough event. Worse yet, it’s so early in the season that, living in the colder hills WV, I don’t have the ability to do any real open water swim practice in the weeks beforehand. My first open water swim of the year came upon arrival to the Columbia course on the day prior. Fortunately it felt comfortable. Race day came and I managed to swim 25:13 for the course. My pacing was a little too slow and technique suffering from lack of winter swim practice. The bike was exactly as I had remembered – quite hilly. I was pleased with the outcome on the bike course though as I averaged 23.9 mph for 1:03:51. The run was difficult but accomplished in 40:12. My overall time of 2:12:26 was good enough for 2nd in the 30-34 age group. That was a little motivating for me because I managed to best the age group winner later in the Mountaineer Triathlon on June 24.
The Eagleman Triathlon on June 10 in Cambridge, MD consisted of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run. My last attempt at competition here came in 2009 during which I learned the biggest factor at Eagleman is the heat exposure. I had become better at managing my nutrition in these longer races and my fitness coming into race day was good so I was anxious to see how it would all turn out. I was in one of the final swim waves, which unfortunately meant I would be in the heat longer than the people starting 30-60 minutes ahead of my time. The swim went very well and I exited the water in 33:25. It was probably the straightest I have ever swam, particularly on a course with choppy water, despite the amount of body contact early in the course. On the bike, though notoriously windy, I averaged 23.4 mph for a 2:23:53 split. The run was almost entirely open farm fields with no shade. I had brought some energy gel with me but unfortunately some of the aid stations were running out of supplies when I needed it the most, around mile 11. I had been averaging around 7:10-7:20 min per mile up to that point, which I thought was fine for such a brutally hot day. Turns out it was the hottest day of the spring up to that point, at well over 90 degrees. When the hypoglycemic bonk eventually came it brought some strange asthmatic respiratory issues as well so I couldn’t take a full breath and I started wheezing. A similar issue had happened the last time I raced Eagleman so I’m starting to think I should avoid triathlons at sea level. I limped home those last couple miles to have a disappointing 1:44:08 run split. My overall time was 4:44:51, about 10 minutes slower than I was initially hoping but I was seriously glad to be done. I had at least 10 guys from my age range pass me in that brief period of misery and ultimately finished 26th in my age group. It’s frustrating to have such a good race for so many hours and lose it all in just a short period of time. Next time I suppose I am going to need to prepare better with a backup gel to my backup gel!