4 Miles of Fame - Behind the Pace Vehicle and Running Scared (Read 947 times)

    It has been a while since I have written a race report, maybe because, although I enjoy racing, they’re all pretty much the same except for the big ones like my first Ironman. (Or maybe it’s just that I’m getting lazy.) But this weekend, I wanted to write about my race because, honestly, I don’t want to forget it. Yes, it was THAT MUCH FUN!


    This year I had decided not to include the local sprint (Mach Tenn Triathlon) in my plans. It is basically a 2/3 Olympic distance (0.6 mile swim/16 mile bike/4 mile run) and the longer swim doesn’t play to my strengths at all. I can sometimes recover time lost in 200-400 yards on the swim, but 1050 yards puts me so far behind that a 16 mile bike is just way too short to recover enough time to be competitive. Also, the competition at Mach Tenn is REALLY strong, which I knew, but realized even more yesterday from the very different perspective I raced.


    So if I planned not to do it, why did I change my mind? Sometimes peer pressure is a good thing. My friend Tiago Barreira and his wife Paula Sanematsu had a last minute change of plans (one of his business trips was cancelled) and he called and said they were coming in from Louisiana to do the race.


    I have done no open water swimming yet this season (there hasn’t really been a reason since my only open water swim will be Augusta, GA Half Ironman in September), so when he called, I told him I was definitely not doing it…they were welcome to stay with me and I would go to the race, but not gonna do it. No sir.


    Then Tiago said, “Just do the relay.” Well this was 3 days before the race and I wasn’t sure I could find a swimmer, so he said he could do the swim. Anyone who knows Tiago, knows he’s almost always first out of the water… and anyone who knows me knows I’m, well, totally NOT first out of the water, so I thought… ok, this could be a race pace brick workout. Tiago does the swim (he was also doing the full triathlon, just wearing two chips and transferring my chip to me in T1), and I do the bike and run. “Ok, I’ll do it.” Even though I told myself it’s a race pace brick… immediately after registering, I started my obsessive analysis of last year’s relay times, looking at this years relay teams, figuring what kind of times it would take to win the relay.


    Tiago’s swim time last year was about 12 minutes (my best swim of the two Mach Tenns I’ve done is 22 minutes…just to give you some perspective.) In looking at the relay teams, I immediately noticed that one of the teams included 3 people I knew… the swimmer was pretty strong, the cyclist was pretty strong, but the runner was insanely fast. I’m talking 15 minute 5k fast. So after I calculated everything out, thinking what my most likely bike and run would be, I told Tiago he was going to have to do about an 8 minute swim for me to hold on to the lead. I knew that was impossible, even for Tiago, so he suggested that I bike and run faster. Haha! Good idea. I’ll try.


    The race starts and Tiago is 2nd into the water (it’s a time trial start) and I’m waiting in the transition area watching as he pulls far ahead of the rest of the field. In very little time at all (less than 12 minutes) Tiago is running up the hill to transition. I have my helmet and sunglasses on, so all I have to do is get the timing chip, put it around my ankle, unrack my bike and head out for the bike leg.


    Obviously I got a little bit of a headstart on Tiago because he had to finish removing his wetsuit, put his helmet and sunglasses on, then unrack his bike and head out (also… unlike me, he had just swam a ridiculously fast 0.6 mile swim).


    So out of transition I go, like a rocket. Immediately I saw something I hadn’t really expected. The pace vehilcles. A truck in front of a motorcycle with flashing lights right there ahead, showing me the way to go. “Hey everybody, look! I’m winning!” So the nervous energy and the totally cool feeling of being right behind the pace vehicle made my first few miles pretty fast. I knew Tiago would be along soon and expected him to pass before the first mile, but mile one and he wasn’t there yet. On one of the downhills before mile one, for some reason the pace vehicle stopped and I had a lot of speed built up, so I was certainly not stopping. (Maybe they were confused because they weren't expecting to see me. Haha!) I passed them and kept hammering. They soon caught back up and got in front and I was riding scared, knowing Tiago would be along soon. Mile 2 and I’m still in the lead… and my mile split was 2:18 (that’s 26 mph)… I thought, “cool! This is going pretty well!” Then I was hoping I didn’t mess Tiago’s race up because he was a serious contender for winning the race outright. I looked and was glad to see he was on his way. So onward, I hammered feeling totally like a rock star.


    Mile 3 and I’m still in the lead, but my mile split is only 2:52 (just under 21 mph). Just keep hammering.


    Mile 4 split 2:30 (24 mph), and yet, shortly after the mile 4 split, Tiago comes up beside me. “Good job Tiago!” and just like that, the lead was gone. I tried to keep him close, but I just may have started too fast… or maybe his legs got warmed up at mile 4. Regardless, he and my pace vehicle, flashing lights an all got smaller and smaller as they pulled away.


    Because I’m not a strong swimmer, in every triathlon I’ve done, I pass a lot of people on the bike leg. Clearly this time was very different. I knew it was only a matter of time until last years winner, who started first, would catch me. I tried to settle into a good pace and just rode. I thought I’d do well to hold him off until the halfway point (mile 8), so when I got to mile 8 still in 2nd, I was happy.


    I think it was about mile 10 when he passed me. This was pretty cool.. like having a front row seat seeing the race unfold. I knew Tiago had a good lead and was hoping he could keep a good one going into the run. Not much later, two guys in red tri suits passed me… one had the name “Evans” across the back, as in “Craig Evans”, professional triathlete, who just placed 2nd in the Xterra World Championships. So between mile 13 and 14, I got passed on the bike by a pro. How cool is that?!! Man, that guy was flying!


    I get close to the bike finish and start thinking about the run. I had to make myself NOT think about the run during the ride, and NOT think about the runner who would be running sub-5s chasing me down to win the relay, and just focus on a good, fast transition.


    I got my feet out of my shoes well before transition, and as I approached at a good speed, swung my right leg over the bike riding on my left pedal. Just before the dismount line, I stepped off the bike and flowed into a full sprint. This transition felt the best of any I’ve ever done. I racked my bike, took my helmet off, slipped my shoes on, grabbed my race belt and ran toward the “run out” transition exit.


    My legs felt ok, but I had put a really good effort in on the bike, so I was concerned that I would be able to hit an 8 minute pace (which is what I was thinking would be a good goal). I felt like I was running through mud and really figured I was running close to a 9 minute pace, so I was happy to see 7:50 for the first mile split. “Sweet! I banked 10 seconds.” At the same time I thought about this, I thought about Brad, and that feeling of “running scared” hit me. Still I thought the best I was doing was about an 8 min pace. Mile 2 just after the turnaround 7:22! This was good news. I had hoped to stay ahead of Brad for the turnaround, but knew it wouldn’t be long after the turnaround until I saw him. Sure enough, not far after I headed back toward the finish, there he was. I managed a smile and yelled out, “There he is!”


    Now you have to understand, all the people on the run course at this time were top of the field. I saw several Team USA tri kits, which meant the folks wearing these had qualified for the USAT World Championships. Yet Brad was mowing them down like a madman, and I was the guy with the target on my back, headed to the finish, trying to hang on to the lead as long as I could. I knew about a quarter mile lead at this point was not enough. I also knew that all I could do is all I could do, so I continued with my best effort. I hit mile 3 at 7:48, and not long after, I heard the sound I had dreaded for the entire run - footsteps behind me. They weren’t behind me for long. I managed to get a “Good job Brad!” out as he passed me, and he quickly pulled ahead (He finished well under 20 min.. 19:20 I think). My thought now was, “just finish strong”.


    It was pretty fun to see the really fast guys on the course on the “out” portion of the out and back as they met me coming in because I KNOW they were thinking, “Who’s that guy and how is he AHEAD of ME?!!”


    I made the left turn about 0.2 miles from the finish, and passed the guy who is always there in a wheel chair cheering folks on and he said “just a few more yards to free beer!” I smiled and thanked him and pressed to the finish. I crossed the finish with an official time of 1:26:29.


    Tiago’s swim was 11:46, and our T1 was 50 sec (his T1 was 1:04, so I had held the 14 sec headstart for 4 miles), my bike was 43:55 (about 22 mph avg); T2 was 35 seconds (I was faster in T2 than the Pro whose T2 was 46 seconds… it’s those small victories that keep us going. Haha!); and my run was 29:24 for 4 miles (Garmin said 3.9, so about a 7:32 pace)


    This was good enough for 2nd, and Tiago won first overall for the Age Group (non-Pro division). I told him after the race that he did so well that he got First AND Second.


    So for me, there were several “Firsts” in this race:


    - I had never been in the lead behind the pace vehicle coming out of the swim in a triathlon


    - I had never rode the bike leg of a triathlon without passing a single person


    - I had never ran the run leg of a triathlon without passing a single person


    - I had never showed up at a triathlon NOT nervous about the swim


    - I had never been passed by a Pro Triathlete in a triathlon


    And although I wasn’t crazy about “running scared” trying to hold on to the lead as long as I could, I think it pushed me to do better than I would have, especially on the run. This was a really fun day!

    Will Crew for Beer

      Awesome Tony! Thanks for sharing.

      Rule number one of a gunfight, bring a gun. Rule number two of a gunfight, bring friends with guns.


        Cool report! Sounds like a blast Smile Congrats to you and your friend for a fantastic day of racing!!


        I'm always one of the first out of the swim, then spend the next hour or so pedaling like a crazy woman on my Schwinn watching people like you fly past me on the bike leg, LOL.


        I say bring back the Aquathlon!!!!!!!!!!!!! Big grin

          One of the best race reports that I have ever read!  Felt like I was there with you experiencing the same sense of awe.  I love how you really appreciated the entire experience and the memory is something that you will always cherish.

          Half Fanatic #846

            One of the best race reports that I have ever read!  Felt like I was there with you experiencing the same sense of awe.  I love how you really appreciated the entire experience and the memory is something that you will always cherish.




             Awesome Report!

            "I don't always roll a joint, but when I do, it's usually my ankle" - unk.                          Run like the winded

             I ran half my last race on my left foot!                   "Frankly autocorrect, I'm getting a bit tired of your shirt"

              Thanks Richard!


              Vegefrog - it was a truly awesome experience... I really wish I could swim like you!


              Pink - Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it!


              brerfootbill - Thanks!