Sunday, June 8, 2008

Eagleman AquaVelo

I did this race completely on my own.  It's a little lonely doing these big races solo, not knowing anyone, not having anyone around to help ease the nerves or hug you when you're finished.  But this was just a warm up for me, a practice doing half iron distances in the swim and bike before the big event in September, so I didn't ask anyone to come.  In fact, I think I turned down offers from Jon and Joann, knowing I'd rather have them there for the big event.  This was just a glorified brick workout... or so I thought.

I made the drive to Cambridge for packet pickup not really knowing what I was getting myself into.  Up until now, all my races, while big to me, were just regular events.  I was not prepared for the hugeness that was this event.  The cumulative value of all the bikes was probably more than my house.  People were carrying their bikes so as not to have to roll them over the grass, protecting the tires.  What?  Definitely in over my head, I made my way to the back corner where all of the aqua velo people were assigned.  I racked my bike, took in the scene, and made my way over to Salisbury where I'd be spending the evening.

The hotel was a dump, but that really didn't matter too much.  I made a stop at the local Target and grabbed some dinner before settling in for the evening.  Morning came and I made the drive back to Cambridge.  It wasn't too hard to find a place to park and so I arrived in transition a little earlier than expected.  I started chatting with one of the girls -- Maria -- who's bike was racked next to mine.  It was her first attempt at these distances also and we shared stories of training (neither of us had done a ride greater than 40 miles).  I hung out with Maria in the hours that led up to our wave start (aqua velo went last) and met her family.  It was nice having someone to talk to since I didn't have any of my own crew around.  It turns out Maria's family lives right on the Eagleman run course about a mile from where we were, and were having a BBQ after the race, which they invited me to.

It was time for our start and Maria and I made our way into the water.  Soon we were off and I just took this swim one stroke at a time.  1.2 miles is not too much further than 1500 meters, the distance of Olympic distance races which I had done plenty of times before, so I figured I'd be OK.  We lucked out with the currents and the lack of choppiness (it's not called the Choptank River for nothing!) and I ran out of the river in 53 minutes to see Maria's family cheering for me.  That was nice. 

I hopped on the bike and I was off.  I passed a couple people and was passed by plenty others within the first few miles, but that was it.  This might have been the loneliest bike course in history as I didn't see another human being practically the entire time.  In fact, for the entire 56 miles, I think I only saw (and passed) 2 other people.  At times, I wondered if I had veered off the course since it was so quiet.  I kept expecting Maria to catch up with me as I had seen her bike still in transition and knew she finished the swim after me.  At about mile 45 I started getting really really tired and wished I could just coast along, except this is the flattest (and windiest) course ever, so anytime I stopped pedaling, I slowed to almost a stop, if not going backwards or to the sides.  My butt hurt and I kept standing up trying to shift my position. 

As I got closer to transition, there were already plenty of runners on the course and I had to scream to announce my bike coming through.  This obsticle course lasted the last few miles until I was finally on the home stretch.  Everyone was cheering me on, telling me that I only had 13.1 miles to go - HA, I'm not doing the run portion!!!  I pulled up to the aqua velo finish, got off my bike and sat down.  There was no way I could walk one step let alone run 13.1 miles.  How the heck am I going to do the full race in Oklahoma?  Well... that's not to think about right now.  Maria came in not too long after me and we were both so happy to be done.  We collected our medals and then Maria, who's car was closer, gave me a ride to my car and then we drove to her mom's house for the BBQ.  Good thing for the ride because I was really hurting.  Turns out I should have applied some more sunblock because I ended up with 2nd degree burns and had slight heat exhaustion.  

I stayed at Maria's for a bit before heading to Annapolis for my cousin's high school graduation party and then finally got home for a shower and a nap.  I did it and was pleased with myself, if not a little unsure how I was going to manage the full 70.3 a few months later.....