Let me start by saying that no race report could possibly capture my experience last weekend. I have had an incredibly fortunate year of triathlon-ing and this past weekend only made it better. Thursday afternoon myself, Bri, and good friend and Every Man Jack teammate Corey Robinson convened at the Boston airport for our flight to Atlanta. My weekends luck began when Corey informed me he was a Jet Blue Mosaic member, which meant free mile-high drinks. Two and a half hours later, a fairly tipsy Greg arrived in Atlanta. After voyaging across the airport and getting our bags we made our way out to our rental car, a Jeep Renegade, a member of the “mini-SUV class.” Let me impart some wisdom upon you and just say that fitting 3 people, their bags, and 2 bikes in Scicon bike cases in a mini-SUV is a real challenge. Fortunately, I’m better at Tetris when buzzed and after 20 minutes we were loaded up and on our way to Chattanooga (rear derailleurs still fully intact).
One of the best parts of the whole trip was staying in EMJ housing. We were super fortunate to be in a house less than 2 miles from the racecourse with teammates Jason Sandquist, Peter Mendes, Kevin Denny, and Brendan Loehr. Not having had the chance to attend EMJ camp the past three years due to school, it as AWESOME getting to meet the guys on the team. I was particularly pleased to meet Kevin Denny (also in my age group), with whom I’ve exchanged countless Strava kudos and Facebook messages but have yet to meet in person. Kevin is also a stellar triathlete and wicked fast runner and his blog can be found here. Although I didn’t tell him, for weeks leading up to the race I had hoped to avoid letting Kevin get away from me for as long as possible.
Saturday morning Corey, Ryan Linden, James Defillippi, and I went for an easy spin to loosen the legs before the race and ended at a GREAT breakfast place called the Daily Ration (blueberry pancakes were #LITAF). The Ration also happened to be just off the course, which made for great post-breakfast spectating of the women’s race! That afternoon I tried to take a nap but the image of the women trying to run up the very large and steep hill kept me awake. That evening we had a pasta dinner with the GU crew before going to bed early.
Filling the engines while our bikes rest.
Canine of the Daily Ration.
The EMJ Boston 3 + #realhousewivesofEMJ
In all honesty, I am over-the-moon to have met Corey and Mike. Great training buddies, great dudes.
Race morning came unfortunately early considering the 25-29y age group would be one of the last to go. The pros were seeded to start at 730am, so they would be out of the water and half-way through the bike before our wave even began at 905. Making my way out to the dock I found Kevin and we decided to stick together for the swim. The swim was a long square, the first portion of which we would swim across current before turning right and swimming the majority of the swim up-stream. As we made our way to the dock Kevin and I noted how many athletes were being carried downstream. Quickly we decided rather than swim with the masses, we would focus on the sighting buoy to avoid the extra distance. Diving in I gave a huge sigh of relief when my goggles didn’t fill with water and quickly I began swimming hard for position. Looking around I realized Kevin and I had escaped from the 8 other athletes we had entered the water with. Swimming alongside Kevin we made our way to the first buoy and turned upstream. Thinking back to all of the 5x1ks I have done in the pool this year (an infamous Zach Ruble special – my coach last year) I focused and swam HARD. It felt like it was taking forever to reach the turn-around, and to make matters worse the sun was high in the sky and quite blinding. Getting out of the water I was happy to be under 30 and ready to ride. Bonus yards on watch because I didnt hit lap until I was well into transition.
GET IT OFF ME!!!!!!!!
Transition was long and awkward. Like an idiot I spent nearly a minute trying to get my darn wetsuit off. Grabbing my bike I ran out of transition and for maybe the first time in my life nailed my flying mount and quickly got into my shoes. The first 4 miles of the course were HIGHLY congested and very frustrating. Fortunately it was not long until we reached the beginning of a steep (10%) climb (3-4 miles in length). Although it had been forever since I had done a climb like this, when the road goes up, Greg tends to go faster than most. Settling into a cadence I began picking people off and focused on keeping my power steady at around 300 watts. Its really too bad the whole course couldn’t have been a climb, because after passing hundreds it was time to descend, which I tend to do very poorly. My lack of desire to go downhill fast was compounded by the large number of older age-group men with a fist-full of break that had positioned themselves in the dead center of the road. Not to mention the very confused motorists on the road. Needless to say the descent was not my finest moment. After the race Corey and I compared numbers and I lost almost a minute to him in what was a 6-7 minute segment (depending on who are you). The rest of the course was rolling and I focused on riding hard but within myself. My power staying where I wanted it to I thought about my conversation with teammate Brendan Loehr (rated by slowtwitch as having the best amateur bike position) and tried my best to keep my head low and aero (“turtle tuck”). The day before I had foolishly told someone how I was going to ride the course faster than womens champion Daniela Ryf (2:20). Turns out that not only is she better looking, shes faster on the bike....
Doing my best to make Brendan proud #AeroIsEverything
Awesome pic by Mrs. Navarro! Felt looking FAST.
Heading into transition I spotted teammate Daniel Isaacson headed out on the course. Having swum at NYU I expected for Daniel to beat me in the swim but I had hoped to catch him on the bike. Turns out not only can he swim, he’s a very strong cyclist. The first mile I focused on staying within myself and getting into a rhythm. Although it felt pretty easy, it turned out 615-630 min/mile would be the goal. The first couple of miles there were a few athletes that went by me and although I wanted to go with, I kept my cool and focused on running a pace I could sustain. The two loop course took you across the Tennessee river and up a large ½ mile before going down the hill and coming back over. Essentially, 4 hills of joy. The first loop I felt pretty decent, but I knew the race wouldn’t start till the second. Before getting to the hills the second time I caught Daniel and we exchanged words of encouragement with one another. As I began to make my way up the first hill a Canadian athlete in my age group, came flying by me. Quickening my pace I decided to stay with him as long as I can. Fighting off cramps in my calves I did my best to keep him in my sights. With a mile to go I saw my good friend Gilberto Navarro and his family who had made the drive from Atlanta to watch me. With half a mile to go and Canadia still in sights, I let it rip. Running what felt like 800m race pace I passed Mr. Maple Leaf and crossed the finish line. Much to my chagrin, Canada started behind me and actually still beat me....this is why I cant have nice things. It is also why ironman needs to get rid of this dumb crap like rolling starts. If you are strong enough to make it to the world championships, you should be able to fend for yourself in a mass start).
Lap 1, smiling.....kinda
Lap 2, not smiling as much.
Finishing- not smiling at all #HurtLocker
Photo by Talbot Cox.
Crossing the finish line I immediately started to wonder where Kevin was. Looking up my question was answered as I saw him cross seconds behind me. Thanks for pushing me Kevin, Im not sure I have ever dug that deep, and I think the picture is a testament to that. It was not long before I saw Bri who informed me we had both finished top-10 in our age group. Happy, tired, and wanting to sit down I found a place in the shade where I was able to subject Gilberto and his family to race tales. That evening the whole team met up at a great local bar/pub for food, drink, and merriment. It was great to get to hang out with more of the guys, especially when we could slay beers without a race hanging over our heads.
Best Fan. Im sorry for telling you to hush up when you told me I could catch the guy ahead of me out on the course ;)
Navarro family. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR COMING!!!!
Photo by Talbot Cox.
Its been a heck of a triathlon season. Going into the race I had this crazy idea that maybe, just maybe, if the body was feeling good, I would sign-up for one more race. For years I have dreamed of racing a full ironman. I have spent countless hours on the trainer watching youtube videos of athletes coming down the finishing chute on 4th street in Louisville, KY. 27 days from now, I hope to join them.
Thanks for reading.