One of the first things I did when I found out I was going to be in Maryland for work was start planning all the triathlons I was going to do while I was there, culminating with Ironman 70.3 Eagleman. I decided to make a weekend out of it with the family, despite burning out my husband on race-cations previously with RunDisney (as it turns out, having your partner wake up at 0330 the entirety of your trip and then wanting to go to bed at 8 pm doesn’t make for a fun time for the other person). To try to make it fun for him, and Screaming Rabbit, I booked us all a room at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay, mainly because it was the hotel recommended by the race site.
At the last minute, one of our dogs wasn’t feeling well after being stung by a hornet in the face so we decided to bring the two dogs along and just board our cat solo. Fortunately, Hyatt is very pet-friendly and the pet fee was actually cheaper than boarding (by a lot, actually). I was pretty nervous about how all of us would do with sleeping in the same room but actually, it wasn’t a problem. We moved the loveseat in the room to put Screaming Rabbit’s Pack-n-Play behind it so she couldn’t see us and protected her from any extra ambient light that might disturb her. She napped well and slept great. The hotel was awesome. In addition to a very affordable pet fee, they had a dog bed and dog treats in the room, which my dogs really appreciated. Plus, they offered a shuttle to and from the race start and opened their market early so we could get coffee and something to eat before taking the shuttle to the race.
I remembered how crowded the expo was at Augusta, and figured Screaming Rabbit might nap in the car so right after lunch on Friday we took off so we could get there as soon as the expo opened. We were so focused we forgot to eat any lunch ourselves, so we stopped at Maryland’s most surprisingly-crowded Chick-fil-A and scarfed down a Spicy Deluxe sandwich which Screaming Rabbit ate the fries. One sated, she settled down and did take a nap for the final hour of the drive. Not exactly the best nap duration, but she was in a pretty good mood. To save space we brought our Thule hiking pack instead of a stroller so ManSheep wore her and walked the dogs around while I checked in and bought a few things from the merchandise tent. Since the water temperature was a whopping 77.8 degrees, I didn’t bring my wetsuit with me. I swam Augusta without a wetsuit so I wasn’t worried and actually, the hair-matting I had from St. Mary’s kind of made me hesitant to wear it any time soon without needing it. They had an optional bike drop-off on Friday which I chose because I didn’t want to deal with crowds on Saturday. I wish I had taken a picture of it all alone on the rack because I thought it looked pretty, but I left my phone in the car.
Saturday we walked around downtown Cambridge, hoping Screaming Rabbit would take a morning nap (no) and had an early lunch at RaR. I’m not a fan of IPAs and so we had the only thing that wasn’t an IPA or Pale Ale on the menu, plus some very, very salty breadsticks and crab dip and beer cheese. I was pretty tired at that point and Screaming Rabbit was showing no signs of stopping so we went back to the room and she and I took a long nap.
I put all my race things together and set my alarm for 4 the next morning. I took the dogs out and then came back, braided my hair so it wouldn’t tangle and checked my bag one last time.
I always feel like an unperacker/minimalist next to everyone with big transition bags. What do they keep in there? I was carrying my full-size bike pump because I always forget to inflate my tires and carrying it makes me remember, but that was the only thing unusual. Everything else I had fit into the small dry bag they gave us at check-in, which was great also because the forecast called for rain.
I set up my area with plenty of time to spare so I wandered down to look at the water. To my dismay (and others’ happiness), the water temperature was under the wetsuit legal limit. The water looked a little choppy, but fine. I’d done a warm up swim the previous afternoon while ManSheep tried to keep Screaming Rabbit from eating sand, and the water was fine without a wetsuit. I waited around the swim start until a race official announced that due to a small craft advisory the swim was canceled and they would be doing a time-trial bike start by bib number beginning at 7:45. Whoop.
I wandered around for a bit, texted ManSheep about the swim cancellation, and debated buying a donut because I was hungry. They set the pros off on the bike with 45 second intervals in between, then the paracompetitors, then all of us by bib number. If you think 2,800 cyclists all starting together sounds crowded, it was. There was no way to avoid drafting on the course. The only time I was 6 bike lengths behind the bike in front of me was if the bike was six bike lengths ahead. I saw a few slips and falls and heard later there was at least one accident.
The course was definitely windy and the forecasted rain, which I’d been cautioned to not count on, also showed up. My visor fogged so much that I kept having to wipe the inside with a finger and debated just tossing or trying to put in my bib pocket. I lost my aero bottle and then one of my beloved Team SOAS bottles when I didn’t quite get it reseated in the bottle cage. I actually thought about going back for it. Despite all the traffic, I made really good time on the first half – almost 20 miles per hour which is awesome when you consider that at Augusta my average pace was a measly 15 miles per hour. Oof.
Then I turned the second half of the course and realized that what I’d considered wind before was like a slight breeze compared to what I now had to contend with. My pace slowed way, way down (though also I was getting a little tired at this point, and hungry and I kept thinking about what I’d eat after the race – chocolate croissants, a big turkey sandwich, anything and that’s when I took a Gatorade from an aid station and basically downed it before the trash point because I was so hungry). My average pace for the bike course still averaged out at about 17 miles per hour and I am SUPER proud of that! I felt like I had a good bike and was a little bummed to see it end, especially when I remembered I still had to run a half marathon.
I was momentarily distracted by seeing ManSheep and Screaming Rabbit at transition before heading out on the run. It was a good boost.
The run was still soggy and still windy and I was rewarded for all the long runs I’ve skipped in the training plan because my pace was s l o w .
I tried to keep myself to a 9:1 run walk interval and that worked for a long time until I convinced myself I felt pretty good and to see how far I could run until the wheels fell off and that I could negative split the second half.
Answer: No, kids who shortchange their training plans pay with interest on race day.
My second half was notably slower than the first half and my right knee felt so stiff. It actually hurt to walk and felt like the Tin Man when I ran. Still, the miles were ticking down and the volunteers out there were great. Plus, I saw several SOAS teammates out on the course and one at an aid station and we pep-talked each other. The last mile was just straight-on wind and man, that was rough. I admit I walked a bit. It was beautiful but so, so windy. I did manage to push out whatever I had left at the finish line and passed both guys in front of me who had slowed to open their arms overhead in the champion pose.
I gladly collected my finisher lunch box. I opted for vegetarian which was maybe not the best choice. It was a tortilla wrapped around some carrots and maybe a sauce? The chocolate chip cookie was the stuff of dreams though. Unfortunately, I got up and was suddenly unable to bend my right knee at all. My original plan was to ride my bike back to the hotel but this was definitely not going to happen now. I texted ManSheep and he drove to pick me up. I gimped around the hotel the rest of the evening and tried to google my symptoms (fortunately, not a torn meniscus like Google said, or probably an IT band syndrome, but probably a sudden irritation to said IT band).
I took a few days off following the race to rehab my knee and also refocus my efforts. I was really pleased with how I did at Eagleman and I think I will be able to beat my time at Augusta from last year. I’ve still got some baby/desk job weight hanging on that I need to cut and I think that will also help with increasing the output I can do.
Still, not too bad of an ending to my time here in Maryland.