Excuses out of the way up front...I have been traveling the 2 weekends prior to the Rocketman. No matter how good my intentions were, training suffered. Schedule and/or weather really took a toll in the 3 weeks leading up to the race.
Now on with the story of Alabama's finest Olympic Triathlon --- ROCKETMAN!
This is my 2nd year to race Rocketman (not counting 1 year on a relay), so I felt confident that I could improve my times and be able to say "PR" when it was over (caveat with the swim time/distance). Pre-race day schedule....Sleep in, Rocketman Volunteer, coach soccer game, finish Rocketman Volunteer, and Daddy-Daughter date...Nothing to motivate you for race day like Smurfs 2. Woke up at 0400 so I could secure a good parking spot, since rack position is based on race number. Parking was different this year, so showing up early wasn't really worth it. But it still gave me plenty of time to mentally prepare without feeling rushed. I unsuccessfully tried to bribe my way to the volunteer parking (it was a little closer).
Found my bike rack and set up transition. It wasn't a bad spot, but was middle of the row about 3 rows from the front of transition, and I knew I would end up going down the wrong row coming out of the water. Got in a short warm-up on the bike. Not the best warm-up with traffic congestion and I prefer a flat area to do a few openers. A little surprised to see a uniformed USCG Auxiliary Commander come cruising around traffic in my lane angrily pointing at bikers (trying to warm up) to get out of his way. I really wanted to stop right in front of his car and ask him why he didn't show up earlier. It would have been very entertaining, but I decided I didn't have the time to deal with the tardy Commander. I appreciate their support on the swim course, but this guy was a hazard to all the bikers and had a bad attitude. Finished up my bike warm-up and made a short 1 mile run to make sure all the joints were awake.
Again, I am late for the picture?..Nope, it's picture time and as I'm leaving my running shoes in transition I spot Gregg (woo hoo!). I remind him our team picture is at the swim start in about 10 seconds. When I get to the swim start and finish the team picture, I decide to take a look up river to try and find the first turn buoy. Can't see it! It's out there somewhere. As the swim numbers began to tick off, I line up 3 places behind Dennis Mix. Objective is to catch his feet and draft the whole course. I ended up entering the water 2 "goes" behind him and never found him.
SWIM: Found a set of feet early on as they passed me, but after a few hundred yards the swimmer kept slowing down to site. This caused me to keep running into his feet. So I decided to pass him and swam the rest without the advantageous draft. Overall, the swim went well. I avoided the crowds and held a pretty straight line between the buoys. I think I left a little speed out there, but came out of the water feeling good and ready to bike.
T1: Steve Skonieczny and I came out of the water at the same time and fortunately he was racked right next to me and he remembered which row our bikes were on. I followed him into transition and made it out of T1 in 44 seconds. This was 2nd fastest in both the Military Division and in my AG. I point this out to show that I have no "free speed" left. If I want to get faster, I've got to train more or buy it.
BIKE: Bike course was as expected. I used 2 Apple Cinnamon Hammer Gels and sipped a one-hour bottle of Hammer Sustained Energy. Still testing out different nutrition strategies as I prepare for the Goosepond 70.3. This is my home drone and didn't hold any surprises. The only excitement came as I was making my way up the final hill and noticed something in the road. At first I thought a biker had wiped out. Then I realized there was no bike, so maybe a runner had tripped over their feet. Alas, as I came closer it was Gregg Gelmis taking another set of awesome triathlon photos. The Huntsville triathlon/running community is incredibly fortunate to have Gregg. He takes awesome pictures and makes them available right away. The negative side of the day was the wind. It felt great pushing 26+mph on the east bound sections of the course, but this was negative by the 16 mph average ont he west bound sections. I averaged 20.3 mph which is 2 mph faster than last year. IF I can pick up that much speed again before next year's race, there could be a podium in the MILITARY category. Always optimistic.
T2: Another fast T2, even though I decided to wear socks with the new Bondi Speed Hokas. I've only been running in the Hokas for about a month and haven't tried them sockless. I can say they are almost as light as my Sauconys and they provide incredible cushion, especially on a hilly, gravel course section like Rocketman. Even though they are heinously ugly and look as big as Little Bill's shoes. I only have about 50 miles on them, but I’m very satisfied with their performance.
RUN: You can’t always compare the swim because the distances can vary from year to year, believe it or not. You can’t always compare the bike, because a wind can make a difference. But the run is usually pretty much the same, minus some minor chance of an unseasonal heat wave. I wanted to break 8 min/mile this year. Got the first mile in at this goal, but slowed down after that and ended up averaging an 8:16 pace. This was 14 seconds per mile faster than last year, so..wait for it….PR!!!
This course brings it all….trail, gravel, hills and heat. Oh yeah, and that wind on the bike course, never saw it on the run course. The “Water In A Bag” on the race course was great. No it didn’t taste like heaven, but it was wet, cold, easy to drink, and served a dual purpose of cooling, if you “stored” it next to your skin before drinking it. It was definitely easier to drink from than a cup, and you could carry it and consume it at your own pace between aid stations. Furthermore, I discovered that if you happen to have a spare bag and you’re approaching the next station you can use it to squirt the runners going in the opposite direction….not that I would…, but you can. I’m not sure that this was an intended use.
Made it 7/29 in the Military category at 2:39:08. This would have put me at 19/38 in my AG. This was another well directed race by The Rocketman Mike Gerrity. Kudos to Katie-Beth Pierson as the volunteer coordinator. As a racer, it seemed to be a very smooth race. Saving the best for last was the Rocket Wedding. I’m not sure that I will ever again have the opportunity to attend a wedding at the race venue immediately following the race. Triathlon weddings are pretty cool, and I generally don’t like going to weddings. Congratulations to Mike and Debbie! See you all at Frantic Frog. !!