This last weekend, Toughman put on their national championship race located about an hour north of New York City. It is located at Croton Point Park (Croton-on-Hudson), and it made for a beautiful race location. The weather didn’t look promising leading up to race day with rain in the forecast and possible thunderstorms, but it ended up being nearly perfect race conditions. For quick recap, scroll to the bottom for the video update. For a more in-depth race report, just keeping reading…
The swim was in the Hudson river. It had rained the night before, so it made the water have a little more dirt turned up in it. I under estimated how much time it would take to get to the venue and get set up, so I scrambled a bit to get to the swim start on time and found myself about the 3rd row back in the starting shoot for the swim. The gun went off and we all made a mad dash for the river. My goal for the swim was not so much time oriented as it was technique oriented. I gave myself a swim stroke analysis about a week before this race and found a few things to work on to swim more efficiently. I decided that if I focused on those things, the rest of the swim would come together. For the most part that was true. I was maybe a little too focused on form at the beginning when I should have been focusing on finding a faster swimmer’s feet to get behind. Once the craziness of the first few hundred meters calmed down, I found myself just behind the lead pack of 4 swimmers. About 2/3 of the way through the swim, one of them fell off the pack and I passed him before exiting the water. I would guess I was somewhere between 50 and 75 meters behind the lead pack. I knew I had my work cut out for me on the bike to catch that group. I exited the water and T1 in 5th place.
This bike course was no joke! 3900 feet of climbing in 56 miles! There was literally not a flat spot on this bike course other than the first and last mile getting and out of Croton Point Park. Once out of the park, I was greeted by the first big climb. I would guess about 1.5 miles long, most of which was in my smallest gear. The pavement was still wet from the rain the night before, so I was a little nervous about going down this hill since there was a swooping right hand turn at the bottom of it. I figured I was better off taking it cautiously then spending some time at a hospital. The first 180-degree turn was about 5 miles into the bike. At this point, the leader was 2 minutes ahead of me and a group of two behind him was about 90 seconds ahead of me (I passed one guy going up the big hill). I made it safely down the hill and got back into my aerobars and put my head down and pedaled hard. I made one small adjustment to my bike prior to the race. I cut the straw from the my profile-design aero bottle about in half so that it would allow me to get my head to a lower position. See picture below of me trying to achieve a better position prior to the race:
The slightly lower head position seemed to make a big difference at the race. By the time I made it to the next 180-degree turn, the guys ahead of me formed a group of three and I was now only about 20 seconds down. I caught them about 2-3 miles later. It took me an hour to catch them after starting the bike… but I finally made it. I averaged 330 watts to do so! I rolled up them fast and tried to put on a little surge as I went by them hoping that they wouldn’t be able to match my pace and I could have about a 4-5 minute lead by the time I got off the bike. No luck though. The 3 of them kept the legal distance behind and stayed behind me for the majority of the final 30 miles. Two of them probably did a total of 5 miles worth of work at the front. Just before we got back to big hill, a little rain came and wet the roads again… making the decent of the hill a little frightening for me. I made it safely to the bottom again and continued on. With about 8 miles to go on the bike, one of the riders in the group got a flat. I saw this as an opportunity to try to splinter the group and get a little lead before the run. One rider hung with me (Mario de Elias, a pro from Argentina). We basically entered T2 at the same time. I had my first ever race best bike split in a big race! Happy to do this on a tough course. Lots of hard work and a little bit of playing my aero-position made a big difference from last year to this year. I also had my race best power for a 70.3 triathlon. 323 watts from normalized power. 1.01 VI. I felt this was a very well executed bike ride for me.
The run tends to be the best part of my race. I felt really good coming off the bike. I was pretty confident I could run away from Mario on this run course. But Mario had other plans. I left T2 probably about 10 seconds ahead of him. The first mile was flat and fast. 5:39 was my first mile split… then the climbing started. The pace slowed down a little… but only a little. Over the next 5 miles we traded spots in the lead with the following mile splits: 5:46, 6:03, 5:47, 5:48, 7:03 (lots of climbing in the 6th mile while on trails). Over those 5 miles we climbed just under 600 feet according to my Garmin. At one point while on the trails, I took a miss-step where my foot didn’t land right. A small cramp started on the inside of my right leg. Over the next half mile or so, I felt it getting just a little bit tighter. I contemplated stopping to stretch it out, but knew that every second was valuable in this situation. I did my best to keep my stride long to prevent the muscle from cramping more. I took a salt tab and the next aid station and the cramp went away shortly after that. By the time we reached the highest elevation of the run, I surprisingly felt like I still had a fair amount left in my legs for the return to the finish line. I feel that I’m good at working the down hills and getting some free speed, and was hoping for a surge for the finish line. Mario stayed about 10-20 meters ahead of me during the next 4 miles. At mile 11, we got to the final trail portion of the race and it was mostly slightly down hill. I closed the gap with just over a mile to go. Mario saw me pull up next to him and put on a surge. I tried to go with him, but I just couldn’t find the energy to match him that morning. My legs just ran out of juice. I watched him pull further and further away and crossed the finish line in 2nd.
I finished as the runner-up at the Toughman National Championship after one my best races (as far as numbers are concerned on the bike and the difficulty of the run course). Just under a minute away from snagging the title and a lot of extra cash. But Mario was a better athlete that day. Toughman put on an excellent race. The bike course was closed to traffic and the run course was incredible as well. Lots of scenic views to distract you from the discomfort. I’m looking forward to coming back next year to get one spot higher on that podium!
Thanks to all my sponsors this year for making it a great season, faster than last year, and lots of fun! Couldn’t do it without them – Maverick Multisport, Duro-Last Roofing, Vibra Healthcare, Argon, Enve Composites, Jay Bird, BlueSeventy, Infinit Nutrition, Cobb Cycling, Rotor Bike Components, Sugoi Apparel, BSX Athletics, VO2 Multisport, Swiftwick, Primal Sport Mud, Occupational Kinetics, Lakeside Seahawks