Monday, July 28, 2014

Challenge New Albany Race Report

Sometimes everything goes right and sometimes everything goes wrong.  This weekend's Challenge New Albany race was somewhere in between with both extremes well represented.  Going up against a strong field of competitors including Leon Griffin and Andrew Starykowitz, I knew I would have to be ready to race.  Being one of the first few US Challenge races, I was looking forward to testing myself and being a part of an inaugural event.  Luckily, in the end, the good stuff outweighed the bad and I was able to come away with my first win of the season!

The race weekend started off with our first long car ride with Sidney that included a 5am diaper blow out at a West Virginia McDonalds... Classy.  We made it to Ohio and connected with family who were only 5 min from the race site.  It was nice to be around a great support group and race on what was basically my home turf.  I knew my body was a bit beat up from my current IM training load, but I was hoping that a few home-cooked meals and bit of sleep would get me to the start line ready to go.  The lead up to the race was smooth, but also featured intense thunderstorms, a 2am Sidney pre-race feeding and a power outage that made me worry that the race would be a duathlon or not even happen!
Race Morning Alarm Clock!
Fortunately, the storms passed overnight and race morning was perfect.  I was able to spend a rare pre-race morning with Ashley as she drove me to the swim start and helped get me ready to go with last minute bike set up and warm up.  The swim was exactly what I needed to start the race off right with a non-wetsuit swim and a fast pair of feet to follow in John Kenny.  I was able to stay relaxed and swim in 2nd or 3rd position while still putting a pretty serious gap on the rest of the field.  The BlueSeventy PZ3TX helped me feel like a swimmer again with a balanced, tight stroke.  I hit T1 feeling fresh and ready to put some hurt in the legs of my competitors.

After about 10 min on the bike, I started to get into a groove and took the lead.  As always, my ISM Attack made it as comfortable as possible to sit at 325w knowing I had 2 hours of pain to come.  I pushed the pace a bit more than I normally do since I wanted to test myself for the upcoming IM Mt. Tremblant race.  I focused on over-fueling and following the nutrition plan that I've developed with Robert from First Endurance.  I knew I was in good shape when the 40k went by in just over 55 minutes and was able to smile and wave at my wife and father-in-law as I passed them on the course.  Not everything was problem free though as my Garmin unit developed a short of some sort and started madly scrolling every time I hit a bump.  With the Ohio roads being somewhat un-smooth, the last 30 miles of my ride were data-less with a constant refrain of bump, beep, beep, beep, beep, bump, beep, beep, beep!
Smiling at my wife!
I knew my body was good but my mind was turning to mush with the constant distraction.  To make matters worse, around mile 35 a car pulled out in front of the lead vehicle and blocked our path.  I had to make a turn and pass both cars, but they were on top of the arrows on the road!  I made the decision to go left and at the last minute I saw the right turn arrow in front of the cars.  I basically closed my eyes and cut in front of the car while yelling like a madman.  Good news: I stayed on course.  Bad news: by yelling, I somehow caused my helmet strap to come unthreaded!  Knowing that it is a USAT penalty to not have your helmet securely fastened, I put my elbows on my aero bars and quickly tied a knot... at 25mph.  Not the smartest thing to do but I wasn't about to stop the train from rolling!  I was able to secure the helmet but constantly had to reach up and cinch the knot to keep it from coming loose.  So the last 20 miles of my ride were a cycle of beep, beep, beep, cinch, beep, beep, beep...

I made it through the bike and knew I had ridden well despite the mishaps and lack of data.  I didn't know my split, didn't know my power,  and didn't know my gap to the rest of the group .  I did know that I felt strong and was ready to run... Until I hit a groove in the sidewalk heading into T2 and sent my bike end over end causing the front wheel to lock up and the chain to come flying off...  So as they are announcing "first pro coming in to transition", I'm stumbling and carrying a non-functional bike on my shoulder... perfect... Classy.

I made a quick change in to my run gear and took off.  I had to wait until the first turn around to see just how much of a gap I had on the field.  To my surprise/relief, I had over a 4 minute lead to the first two chasers and more importantly a 6 minute gap to the stronger runners.  The rest of the run was uneventful as I focused on maintaining form and clicking off sub 6:00 miles. Again, I was focusing on fueling for IM and made an effort to keep the FE Liquid Shot coming.  By the 2nd loop, I knew I wasn't going to get caught so I relaxed and enjoyed the finish with friends and family.

I'm extremely happy earn my first win of the season in my first Challenge Family race, but I'm even more excited for what it means for my long course training.  It's been a long time coming, but I'm going to be 100% focused on the long stuff for the coming years and IM Mt Tremblant is the first step in that journey.  Thank you to all the friends and family who came out to the race and to my great sponsors for making it happen.

No more race photos.. so here's more SID!
More pictures/media to be added as it becomes available.  I wanted to get this report out before getting caught up in the coming hours of cycling and baby duty!  Thanks for reading!


  1. Great report and great win Eric!!
    bmom and bdad

  2. Great performance coach. Nice work!

  3. Congrats Eric on your race!!! Inspiring to read the details of your race report!!