Anyone who has ever been out to the Eastern shore for Eagleman, knows the definition of heat. They know what it is like to feel wind. I hate to break it to everyone who says you don’t know heat until you’ve been to Kona, but you can if you do Eagleman on a hot year. Which is precisely why I am not a regular at that race (and now with Quassy and Williamsburg as options who needs to suffer at EM anyway?). But, I have done it three times. Once as a relatively new triathlete who never dreamed she’s be a Kona qualifier. Once early in my HPB apprenticeship where Hillary told me I had to race in a bathing suit since I didn’t have a speed suit; therein lies the day all of my modesty went out the window, forever. And finally I agreed to do the race, sort of, a couple years ago as the swim-bike portion of a relay with Carly. Not once in any of those 3 attempts did I say “man, I’m having so much fun on this course I would really love to ride the bike twice.”
Which is precisely why, for the past 6 weeks since I signed up, I was secretly dreading this day. The Chesapeakeman Endurance festival, held more or less on exactly the same course, has a race for everyone from a sprint to the iron distance. The aquabike version of the iron distance is challenging enough that they give a prize purse. That, plus the offering of some good heat + wind training, was enough for me to pull the trigger and add this to the schedule as I wanted a final tune up before Kona. Needless to say, I got what I asked for!
The Eastern Shore is absolutely gorgeous this time of year. I stayed at a bed and breakfast about 10 minutes from the race site and had a very easy pre-race setup and morning of. This really feels like a “mini-eagleman” because the sights are the same, but the crowd is much, much smaller. There were plenty of familiar faces here since it was somewhat of a local race, and it was nice to have friends around. The morning of the race was calm but I did check the forecast enough to know that the winds were going to pickup throughout the day as weather moved into the area, and that it was going to be warm. With the water temp above 70 I opted to go sleeveless, and somehow managed to be deaf enough to not hear warnings of jellyfish in the water that morning. After about 500 m of swimming once the race started though, I felt grass with my hand. Wait, that grass actually is stinging me. How odd. Oh wait….that’s not grass at all. Of course, there was nothing I could do but keep swimming. This was actually my first experience being stung by jellyfish and I have to say — it’s not really that bad. Yeah, it stings….but in the grand scheme of things if you are an athlete attempting this race, this jellyfish sting should not be of any concern to you!! I continued to feel a few of them here or there as I swam; again – there was nothing to do but keep swimming. As I came through the first loop I did glance at my watch and see a 33. Normally I’d be quite worried, but in the Choptank River which fully lives up to its name, I knew that was about right. I ended up coming out of the water in 1:07. Again, definitely slower than I’d like, but when they said I was 2nd female out, I’ll take that any day of the week!
Before you hit the big loop on the bike you do get an out-and-back to assess the competition. I knew then that I stood in second place, but with over 100 miles to ride still I was in no place to get too excited. Hitting the first loop I noted that the way the winds were that day wasn’t going to be in our best interest as it amounted for a head or cross wind 2/3 of the time, and a tailwind for just about a third. And as things do, the winds greatly picked up throughout the day, making the second loop quite challenging with sustained winds over 15 mph, and gusts over 30.
It’s no secret that I love climbing on the bike, and that has most definitely become one of my greatest strengths. Coming out to this course was stepping outside of my comfort zone, and I definitely had to change the way I rode to make sure I was competitive here. I had to keep my mental game on point, and also stay focused for a solid 5 hours of riding. This course offers no time to zone out, soft pedal, free wheel, etc. You’re in aero, pedaling, the entire 112 miles. That’s what the Eastern Shore is.
As I hit the final stretch with a tailwind, flying at nearly 30 mph I was so happy. Happy to almost be done. Happy to not be running a marathon after this. Happy to be on my way to a huge 112 mile bike PR. I finished up in just under 5:13, which I think I would have been content with on a day with no wind, so given the conditions I am very proud. Taking second to local pro Suzy Serpico, who I believe I have been racing against now since the ultrarunning days, is also always a fun time and she makes me work for it! And as always a huge thank you to my Rev3 team sponsors who have gotten me to the start and finish of each race this year happy and healthy!
I was also able to meet the one and only Stephanie Granlund who is a fellow Team HPBer and Oiselle athlete! I am so excited to finally have met in person and can’t wait to watch her prepare for her first 70.3 next summer 🙂
Elsewhere in the racing world this weekend, Rev3 was introducing Missouri to the Revolution! You can check out the pro recap of the race here — the pics of the lake alone make me want to put this one on the list for next year!