Two of my co-workers at the Library of Congress and I formed "Team lazy.gov" and entered an International distance Triathlon on Saturday on the banks of the Potomac River in Maryland. Since I'm a horrible swimmer and don't own a bike, I've always wanted to hook myself up with a couple friends talented in those areas and give this team relay thing a try. Thanks to Rob (our swimmer and previous IronMan Triathlon finisher) and Chris (lightning quick on the bike), I had my chance to compete as a teammate once again!
Triumphant Team lazy.gov at the Awards CeremonyThe weather for the day was beautiful, and Rob started us off in style by rocking the 1500m swim like a star. This guy is built perfectly to power through crowded open water swims. By time we took the timing chip off his ankle and strapped it on Chris, we had a couple minute lead over the next team heading into the 24 mile bike portion of the race.
After Chris took off, I had about an hour to try and warm up the ol' engine for my 6.2 mile run. It has been so long since I've run hard on asphalt, I wasn't sure how my body would respond (most specifically my shin). One thing was certain: I didn't want to run too hard and re-injure myself this close to the 24 Hour championships in two weeks. I told Rob my plan would be to run just fast enough to win, regardless of my time, and I certainly didn't want to let my team down.
After a couple miles of warm up and stretching, I was ready to get the party started on the rolling hills of the road course. I sized up the competition in the transition area, and one guy in particular looked to be a potential "problem"....mostly because he was wearing the full University of Maryland Track uniform (crap!). He was also built exactly how one would assume a distance specialist would look (double crap!!).
Just about right at his predicted time (which was fast!), Chris came bombing around the corner to the transition area. Just like Rob's swim, he nailed the bike leg, and after a quick swap of the timing chip to my ankle, I was off and running. I had no idea what kind of lead I had over the next team (which I assumed was Mr. Maryland's), so I just set off on a steady pace to get my lungs open and find my rhythm. I thought I was moving at a respectable pace, but when I crossed the first mile marker my watch read 7:14 (ack!! way too slow!!). My first thought was maybe the course was marked incorrectly, but then I thought "it can't be off by that much...I'm running way too slowly!". I quickly shifted gears and attacked the hills a little harder to get back to a respectable pace. Mile 2 passed by as a 5:40 split, so I felt a little better about things...especially since I was now feeling warmed up too.
As I made my way toward the mile 3 turn-around post, I was quite happy I would be able to get my first view of the competition behind me as I headed back into the oncoming chase pack. When I made the turn and didn't see anyone immediately on my heels, I saw it as a great opportunity to put the hammer down and stretch my lead. I figured I could break the will of the chasers if they thought I had an insurmountable lead at the 1/2 way point. I kept pushing hard until I saw the red of Maryland coming toward me. It helped that I was on a downhill while he was climbing as we passed; I'm sure I looked like I was running faster than reality. His stride looked great, but the look on his face when he saw me pretty much told me he knew the race was over. It's been a while since I've made any in-race psychological moves like that, but this one was definitely a success!
I did some quick math and realized I just needed to cruise it in with some 6s and I'd still win comfortably....and when the course surprisingly switched off the road for a mile-long trail section, I figured this was the trail gods doing me a favor....then I quickly realized why we don't wear road flats in the mountains: it was a slip-sliding adventure for the first few steps as I figured out the appropriate stride for the terrain. Once I settled into this new rhythm, I knew no one would catch me on the trail. A few minutes later I crossed over the wooden bridge and up the final hill to the finish line area. It was great to hear the announcer say "Team lazy.gov are the relay champions!" as I crossed the tape. It's always nice to win a race by yourself, but it's even better to do it as part of a team - especially when your teammates do all the hard work for you! Thanks Rob and Chris!!
With just a couple weeks left before the big race in Cleveland, I'm just about as ready as I can be. I didn't have the chance to build a proper base in my rehab months this summer, and I'm definitely not in the kind of shape I was last fall, but I'm confident I did everything I could to get the most out of my 2 months of training while staying healthy. I'm also encouraged by my new pacing strategy and the dividends it will pay off in the final third of the race. The competition will be stiff (I count 8 guys on the entry list who are better runners than me), but I'm sneaky-confident that I'll be able to start picking them off in the overnight hours. ...and if I can somehow pull off a 3rd place finish w/ 135 miles, my reward will be the chance to run with a team again, only this time it will be Team USA!!