I’ve had a difficult time pulling myself together to write a Goosepond Race Report. Frankly, I wasn’t ready for this race, and it showed. It was a painful day and I’d rather forget most of it, but I’ve learned that these are exactly the kind of races you need to remember.
Goosepond was my first race after Ironman Wisconsin and I have concluded it’s similar to a band playing Red Rocks, then sitting down for an open mic the next night. It can be fun, but it’s a completely different motivational challenge. That said, the best bands (and athletes) put out the same energy whether they’re playing in front of one person or a packed house.
Wasky, Corey, and me looking marginally hungover before Goosepond. My only other 1/2 was Muncie and the night before, I could barely sleep. Before Goosepond, I was out like a light. I just did a damn Ironman, 70.3 would be a breeze!
As we checked into transition it really made me think about how much goes into putting on a triathlon. The logistics of an Ironman are staggering and here were a bunch of people who likely didn’t know much about triathlon doing their best to make Goosepond work. It was more of a small town feel, while Ironman was New York City.
I was in auto pilot and kept forgetting stuff back at the truck. My socks, my timing chip, my helmet. It was a weird, zombie-like feeling and eventually, coach Robbie jumped my ass about getting my shit together. It was 10 minutes before the race and I wasn’t in my wetsuit.
The Goosepond swim is actually in Lake Guntersville, which is gorgeous and full of seaweed. My swim wave was old men and young women (which could have had something to do with my elevated heart rate) and I flopped around the water for a few minutes before they shot the gun (or quite possibly just said, “go”). The first 15 or so meters were great, but I was quickly transported back to my bygone panic-mode-days. It really wasn’t as much panic as I couldn’t find my breath and literally thought I had forgot how to swim a mere six weeks after swimming 2.4 miles. What the f8ck was going on?
As I rounded the first buoy (maybe 500 meters in) I slowed to a stop and tried to catch my breath. Why didn’t I warm up? I will never learn.
I watched as the rest of my wave slowly pulled away and there was nothing I could do. It was a jail break and I was the lone prisoner wedged in the escape tunnel. Stay calm, you’ll catch them.
Wasky coming out of the water top 20 and oblivious to the trouble ahead. * All good photos courtesy of We Run Huntsville
A couple minutes later, I eased back into my stroke but I was someone else. The wetsuit felt tight, my sighting was blurred, and my energy low. I took at least three breaks on that first loop and was a little stunned by the fatigue in my arms.
Corey, daydreaming about Tahoe in the morning glow of Lake GuntersvilleBy the time I got to the end of my first loop I officially hated two loop courses. Even though it was just water, and all looked the same, I didn’t want to see lap two. Later, Robbie would tell me I took a really wide turn around that buoy and I’m pretty sure it’s because I was thinking about swimming to that pier, getting out of the water, and cheering for Wasky and Corey from the comfort of a portable hammock.
But I put my head down and cranked out lap two, which turned out to be much easier once I loosened up. I really need to get serious about my pre-race regiment.
Swim Time: 42 Minutes (Muncie was 37, Wisconsin was 1:20).
T1 – I was actually a little disoriented going into transition, but pulled it together, grabbed my bike and ran across the mount line. That’s when I noticed I was still holding onto my gloves. I stopped and patiently put them on while Robbie watched shaking his head. “Good thing you got those gloves on,” he said as I wheeled past him with a smile.
Redemption on the Bicycle
I didn’t know my time, but when there’s a group of you racing and all your spectator friends are waiting for you at the Bike Exit , it’s a pretty good indication your swim sucked. But, as soon as I clipped in, my remorse was gone and I had one focus . . . crushing the bike.
The initial plan for Goosepond was a relay. Robbie would swim, I would bike, and Season would run. But, a twist of fate landed Robbie in a swim race that would change his life and I told him I might as well do the whole damn Goosepond by myself. So, bad swim aside, one of my sub-plots was to ride like I would have ridden in a relay. I was also curious to see just how hard I could push the bike. It was on.
Here’s me drafting and looking like a jack-ass with my chrono watchI had logged a mere four hours on the bike since I raced IMWI and had no idea how riding a hard 56 miles would feel. I came out and tried to stay around 19 mph for the first 5 miles and it was pretty easy. I tried to lose myself in the scenery, but kept taking peeks at my bike computer, where the miles seemed to be turning over more like a calendar. Seven miles, eight, nine . . . ugh. This was going to be hard.
Since I was so late out of the swim I was picking off people like flies. About 20 miles in I had yet to be passed and that became my new goal. Don’t get passed on this bike.
I was busting down a country road and noticed a guy on the side changing his tire. “Shit, that’s Wasky!” I slowed a bit and asked if he was okay, but immediately wished I would have slowed more. I “thought” I heard him say, “Yes,” but I wasn’t positive. I hoped he didn’t need a tool or a tube. I briefly entertained turning around, but eased my fears by reminding myself that Wasky is the most prepared man I know.
I settled into aero and dreamed about the finish. I felt bad for Wasky because I was pretty sure he had a good swim and now I was going to beat him off the bike. It had been five minutes since I’d flown past him at 21 mph; I figured I was at least two miles in front of him now. My thoughts drifted back to not getting passed on the bike and I thought that was a real possibility. Not more than 30 seconds later, I heard someone breathing hard to my left. Damn! I was getting passed!
Who did this person think they were passing me?!? I was NOT getting passed on this ride. But, his tire broke the line and I started falling back out of the draft zone. I wasn’t even going to look up, but they said something like, “Keep pushing.” I glanced over to say thanks, and it was Wasky! Before I could even ask how the fuck he caught me, he said, “Two flats, brotha.”
Damn, that was his second flat and somehow he got from corpse position to downward dog in a mili-second. He shouted, “Stick with me and we can pace each other on the run.”
“Stick with me???” What the hell was going on? I was crushing this bike and Wasky is telling me to stick with HIM! He was in beast-mode-squared and all I could do was shake my head.
It took about 2 minutes for him to lose me, then around mile 30 (which also doubled as the ONLY bike aid station) I caught him. His mood was a combination calmly livid, mixed with a case of the beat downs, and topped with a dose of, “I’m gonna kill this course.”
I passed him about a mile later and he slowly fell into the distance. I honestly thought he might be toast. Then at mile 45 or so, he flew by me again. “Come on man, let’s bring it in. Ten more.” I just shook my head.
He rode a good hundred yards ahead of me for a while, then I passed him, which he immediately countered with pass of his own before pulling away for good at mile 54. Two miles to go and I was feeling my legs. It was a flat course, but I didn’t stop peddling for more than 10 seconds the whole ride.
I cruised into transition and Robbie kinda gave me one of those, “Damn, dude, you crushed that bike looks,” before actually saying, “Nice bike.” All I had to do now was run a solid half marathon and I would surely be on the age-group podium. Easier said than done.
Bike Split: 2:40:26 (and tack on a very questionable 4:00 drafting penalty). One of two penalties handed out to my training club. I have decided not to go into it, but let’s just say this is a very suspicious chain of events.
T2 – Yep . . . it happened.
“Trust Me, This Run is Pancake Flat”
I’m not a great runner, but thought I could easily put down a 1:50. I felt surprisingly good as I left transition and patiently waited for my running legs to show up. Spectator support was a non-issue, so I picked out a woman with good pace and ran behind her for the first 1/2 mile. Then, I made a very unusual decision for me, I ran up next to her with the intention to actually talk for a few minutes. Talking on a jog is one thing, but I am just not a fan of it in a race. I kinda like to focus on pain.
I was just about to say something when she says, “Hi Mike.” I was like, huh? It was Ann, who also races for RxE, the Knoxville crew. And that’s when they snapped this picture of me about to blow out my ankle. I have to admit, I was a little stunned. We actually started in the same swim wave and she was saying how slow of a swimmer she is, etc. Clearly she’s not that bad of a swimmer because I knew I hammered the bike and here she was still in front of me. Ann is a really strong cyclist.
Then there was this guy rubbing it in my face As engaging as Ann can be, I had a race to win, so I plowed off into the rolling hills, followed by a charming campground, and then a tricky little cut-thru trail onto the first of many roads that would break my heart.
That’s when I started hearing Wasky’s voice again, but this time it was in my head.
“Trust me, this course is pancake flat. You will crush it.” And I really did trust him, but for some reason I was standing at the bottom of a 1/2 mile climb.
I told myself this must be “the hill.” Every course has “its hill,” and this was Goosepond’s. Ah, no problem, I love hills and this isn’t really that steep, but it was kinda long.
It was getting hot and I was dying for water. I didn’t hydrate well the week before and my mouth was burning for liquids. As I crested “the hill” I saw a right turn ahead that dropped me on the road to nowhere.
Another slight climb to an aid station before a very long descent that nearly made me cry when I saw people running back at me. I made a mental note of the climb-to-come and then, for the second time in one race, broke my no-talking rule with a woman who looked like she knew the course.
“I thought this was supposed to be a flat run,” I said with that awkward, yet undeniable bond runners have as they waltz through hell and think they own the place.
“Oh, you must not know the Race Director,” she replied with that “I’m an insider” attitude that outsiders like me, Wasky, Corey, and Robbie detest.
“Ummm… well… I… uhh…. sorta…. No, I don’t,” I said knowing full well that I had exchanged dicey emails with him earlier that week.
“Yeah, he’s notorious for putting together tough run courses,” she roared with a half-out-of-breath masochism.
“Awesome! Can’t wait to see what’s ahead,” said no one ever.
We hung together until the start of a sub-division, which also meant the beginning of another hill. Now, mind you, none of these hills were “tough” but when you think a course is going to be flat, it’s sort of like facing a pitcher who doesn’t throw that hard, but has a great change-up. His fastball always seems like it’s harder than it really is.
Adding to my unruly disdain was the fact that they had zero mile markers on the course. And yes, it’s my fault for not going to the athlete’s meeting, I suppose, but give me a bone. Even the aid station volunteers seemed unsure about their location, and since I wasn’t wearing a Garmin, I literally had no clue where I was on the course. At one point, I thought it was mile 9 and it turned out to be mile 7. When I hit the “real mile 9” I was toast. That’s when my running became simply something that would get me off that god-forsaken course sooner.
This was also about the only time I saw Corey during the race and neither of us seemed particularly talkative.
Soon thereafter, I re-engaged with the treacherous cut-thru and headed for home. Just as I cleared the scattered brush, I met with aid station volunteers who excitedly exclaimed, “Only one more mile!!!” I looked at my chrono watch and realized I had 10 minutes to run that mile and finish under 2 hours. Sweet!
So I pranced off at a decent clip knowing, if nothing else, I would secure a sub-2-hour half marathon after all that other crap we do in triathlons. And I ran . . . and ran . . . and ran . . . and watched the clock tick past 2 hours . . . then 2:02, 2:03, and finally end up on 2:05. I just ran a 15 minute mile? Awesome.
Turns out it was about 1.5 miles, but who’s counting?
Epilogue: The setting for Goosepond was beautiful, but I haven’t perfected checking out scenery during a race. I much prefer people yelling and challenging me to keep pushing on. I forgot to mention the gut cramp that seized me for most of the run and the sharp knee pain I felt around mile 10, but if I hadn’t been so un-prepared I would have totally enjoyed the swim. The bike was pretty sweet and most of the roads were nice, though I wish they would have had another aid station. The run was tough at the back half of a triathlon, but I think it was fair. My mind and body weren’t ready for the challenge but we all had a good time . . . I just wish we would have brought our tents and camped out for a while doing Twitter.