This weekend I headed up to the Pocono Mountains for their inaugural 70.3 race in Stroudsburg, PA. It was an interesting weekend to say the least, but I came away with a race that I'm proud of despite being beaten by the entire women's pro field!
Race weekend started with a traffic-filled drive up from Richmond. During the drive, I learned that the swim had been cancelled due to the terrible weather the region has been having the past month or so. It was disappointing, but completely necessary for safety. I mentally prepared for a duathlon as I sat in DC traffic for hours! After arriving and loosening up on a bit of the course, I went to bed in a pretty good mindset. The next day, I went through the pre-race routine and was told at the race meeting that they expected another almost 1/2 inch of rain overnight and the bike course had been altered to account for a few road problems. One of my athletes (Justin Galbreath) and I drove the course and I noted how hilly, technical, and rough the roads were. We finalized our plan for the cold, wet duathlon and went to bed to the sound of pouring rain.
Race morning was cold and wet as expected. Everything went smoothly as I warmed up for the time trial bike start (without being able to ride the bike!) and I was the 2nd one to take off around 7:30am. The first few miles made me realize how much I rely on the swim to warm my body up and get ready to ride! I pushed the pace and was able to maintain my bike position for the first hour or so until a group came by me around mile 25. I stayed relaxed and tried to ignore the numbness creeping into my upper body and feet. After a few rolling hills, I lost sight of the group only to re-find them 10 minutes later. I knew I had more in the tank and picked up the pace to try to bridge the gap.
Around mile 35 or 40, I still had them in sight when I came into a sharp wet, turn. The wet, rough road got the best of me and I suddenly found myself lying on the road! I sat there for a second collecting my thoughts and realized that nothing was broken on either myself or my bike. I stood up and had to decide what came next. I've never dropped out of race, so my decision was pretty easy: get back on the bike and go. I put it in the easiest gear I had and started spinning through the rest of the course. My hip and knee were injured enough to not attempt to push the pace despite watching almost the entire pro field come by! Without a high heart rate to keep me warm, the last 15 miles were some of the coldest I've ever ridden. I couldn't lean on my aero bars, so I sat up in the wind during the descents and counted the seconds until I could get off the bike!
I made it into T2 and realized there were less than 10 bikes on the rack... I can only assume that the cold or the roads or common sense had a few of the other guys drop out, but I slowly put on my running shoes and started to walk out onto the run. My goal was to use the run to loosen up my hip and 'make lemonaide' from the situation. Bloody and sore, I jogged along and constantly checked for pain. The spectators were great and I spent the next 13.1 miles encouraging others and talking with the aid station volunteers. It's a different side of the sport than I've seen before and it was great!
I watched the Men's race unfold. Then the women's. Then the age group athletes came through the out and back course. I held steady 8 minute miles and made it a point to engage anyone who was cheering along the side of the road. It was a long, tough run that put my positive attitude to the test, but I made it to the finish line about an hour after the first place finisher. Thinking of the fighting spirit that is associated with this sport, I capped the race off with a Blazeman Roll and a 13th place finish (13th out of 13 pro men, but probably in the 100's overall finish).
The medical tent was great as they dressed my wounds and did their best to keep me warm. I was absolutely freezing (which probably helped with swelling!) due to the cold, wet weather and my low heart rate over the last 2 hours. I came out of the tent just in time to see Justin come through the finish for a 3rd place age group finish in his first 70.3 race.
All in all, a great deal went wrong with the weekend. From the weather to the swim to the crash, I can name a lot of things to complain about, but I'm strangely proud of the fact that I finished the race and really didn't think twice about the decision when many of the other pros decided not to finish. I'm sitting here typing with a baseball for an elbow, but I'll be ready to race my last race of the year in 4 weeks down in Miami. Had this been my last one, I probably could have toughed it out and fought for a money position. Honestly, I'm happy with the way it turned out!
Thanks to the Reinhardts and Galbreaths for making the time outside of the race enjoyable and congratulations to Justin on almost getting a 70.3 worlds spot. Considering it's his first race and he's a swimmer, I have a feeling that spot will come soon enough! Of course thank you to my sponsors and everyone who helps me do what I do. If you don't know why I rolled across the finish line, please find out and support the Blazeman Foundation. With Kona coming up next weekend, a quick YouTube search will provide all the motivation you'll need to live life to the fullest!