I don't know where to start. In general, it was a great experience. I didn't have the best race of my life, or season for that matter, but it was something that I do not regret doing. Sure, there were times over the summer where I thought "What am I doing? I'm going to go halfway across the world to race...for an age-group event?" There were even times on the trip where I thought "What am I doing?" Like when we were at the train station in Bologna gambling on whether or not the Italian speaking ticket-seller-person knew what the heck we were saying... Or when we made it to Rimini and were walking a half mile pushing the bike (in the case) and carrying luggage to the hotel; or when the hotel room was smaller than a typical dorm room; or when I felt slight ITB pains just walking around town and wondered if I'll even finish the race. However, it turned out pretty good--I'm back home, race completed, and not injured. I could have been one of the several that DNF'd, or finished, only to realize they were DQ'd (drafting, unsportsmen like conduct, etc), or how about the elites who got pulled from the course because they fell too far behind. All that work, time, travel, money, only to get yanked. At least for age-groupers, you get to finish. Here's how it went down:
RUN 1 (11k)- The weather was not what we expected when we initially arrived. It was windy at times, cloudy much of the time, and in the 50's and 60's most of the time. However, about 1 hour before my wave went off, the skies cleared, temp was mid-60's and was beautiful out...no lie. We had great race conditions. My age-group (AG) was the largest with 115 guys age 35-39. Our wave was made up of 3 AG's (35-39, 40-44, and 45-49) and had around 300 guys all starting on the road about the width of a small side street. I got right to the front when they said we could line up, but then the crowding started so I ended up about 4-5 rows back. When the horn sounded we trampled out running-of-the-bulls-style and yes, some guys went down and were trampled upon. I felt lucky only having to take a few elbows thru the first block or so. Once we hit the first long stretch (see interactive map) the guys at the front were GONE! It took about a mile to string out the main field and it really thinned out by the end of the first loop. The loops were 1.64 miles each. We did 4 of them, plus the distance from where the loop started to T1. So it was 4 loops plus .1 or .15 miles to T1. Amazingly, I was able to complete run 1 with no ITB/hammy pain and not feel like I was going too fast. I didn't know at the time, but was running a 6:08. First we were told the route was going to be a bit short of 10k's, then people that raced in Rimini two years ago said they added to the route so it was long. It ended up 11k or so. The run also had several corners--over 25 per loop!
T1- LONG. This was the longest transition area ever. Only two rows of racks that went on for about what seemed like 100 yards. It was crazy. Cory (Ekho HRM's) counted me at about 120-125 entering T1. However, I was right next to the exit for the bike and the exit to start run 2. On the flip side of that, the entrance to the trans area was at the opposite end, so once I exited the racked area I still had to run with my bike the same distance back along side the trans area back to where I entered before we could mount and ride. Plus, it rained earlier so all the carpet they rolled out for running on was wet--leaving the shoes clipped to the pedals was not a good option. I stuck with putting the cycling shoes on at my bike then running in them until we could mount up and ride off.
BIKE Section (26.1 miles)- This was 6 laps of 4.35 miles making for a longer ride than expected--26.1 miles instead of 24.8. It was an out-n-back with one in-n-out on the way out. Just short of a mile out you had to turn off the main stretch by taking a right, then a quick rounding left around a median, then a right to get back on to the main course. It was in the Elite route and not supposed to be in ours, but I think they left it in to break up crowding/drafting groups. Once I my bike I started fairly fast, settled in to pace and began picking guys off one by one. On the way out it was no problem to keep 27-28 mph, then with a cross/headwind on the way back it was more like 22-23. When you got a quarter mile from finishing the lap, people and more structures lined the road so you could gain speed from their protection from the wind. Eventually I was pacing with a few other guys on Team USA in my AG: Dylan Johns, Joey Gambeschia, and Kevin Weed. We all knew we couldn't draft (and didn't), but were jocking around the road for positions as we passed a lot of other riders--even lapped some. I was faster out of the turns, but then Johns and Weed would cruise by and remain about 5-10 yards ahead. After 2 laps Gambeschia dropped (but passed me later). After 3 laps my average speed was slightly over 26 mph. Going into lap 4, we were about 200 yards off the tail of a huge group (25 riders?) that were definitely drafting, peloton style. We were gaining on them, but then I started to slow down a bit and I saw Weeds' name and Johns' name get smaller and smaller in the distance ahead. The large group was now a little further up. Going into lap 5 I ran out of water, but did have a bottle with Gatorade so I emptied that into the aero-drink. The Gatorade was too rich and burned in the stomach, but I needed it. Laps 5 and 6 were not good. I was doing all I could to maintain 21-22 on the way out and 18-19 on the way back. Remember the peloton I was gaining on...? I think they caught and passed me about 200 yards short of finishing the ride. Well, maybe not them, but some huge group passed me. One of the motorcycle officials shot passed me, got along side them and blew the marbles out of his whistle. I think he was warning them. A lot of good that does at the end of the ride. They already conserved energy and gained from the group. Not sure if anyone was penalized. Back to my demise... I didn't know what was going on. Was I low on cals? I had one gel of 150 cals, a whole pack of Clif Blocks, Gatorade, and all that water, but felt empty. Was I 'bonking' ? I finished the 6 loop bike section and hit T2 feeling spent, but knew that there was just one thing left to do: run a 5k and cross the line. Ok, that's two things, but crossing the line is what is needed to finish the 5k. Cory counted me at 113th to enter T2. He said that during laps 5 and 6 I lost about 25 spots then that big group passed me so I lost about 50 altogether in just 2 laps. He said had I not slowed down for laps 5 and 6 I would've entered T2 in the top 75 or 80.
T2: It was painful running the whole way thru T2 in cycling shoes while knowing I was in midst of a major bonk. I racked my bike and was near the exit so it was a relief to know I would be on the course in a matter of seconds.
Run 2 (3.1 miles): I exited T2 feeling ok, actually passed a few guys in the first stretch. Then I could barely move. This was the hardest 5k of my life. And the slowest. I was passed by many and caught very few--I only passed guys that probably felt like I did or ones that were actually walking while holding some part of their body: ribs, quad, arm, etc. Finally, the last few corners and the line was in site. One of the USAT mgr's was handing out flags just short of the line. I grabbed a flag, felt yet another guy attempting to pass me on the left just 100 feet short of the finish so I pushed it over the line.
Once I crossed, I slumped over the barrier fence separating the route from the finish, caught my breath, and almost cried. I was so upset for what just happened. Cory caught that with a photo. He calls it "spent". What just happen? I totally bonked. Why? I haven't bonked since the 2005 Chequamegon. It could have been a combination of several things, but I think I narrowed it down. Most everyone had to deal with the time change, the weather, the turns on the route, etc so those things weren't the problem. What I think affected me was the fact that I have not run over 3.5 miles at a time for the last 5 weeks--due to injury. I was able to do so on race day, but it probably took a lot more out of me than usual, even though I didn't feel like I was working too hard. Race start time and calories: normally, races start around 8-9am. I eat breakfast between 5 and 6, have a snack an hour before the start. For this race it was a later start time. I didn't eat enough before hand. I had breakfast at about 8:30am (the usual stuff which I brought with from home), then a small snack an hour before. Instead, I think I should have had two smaller breakfasts--one at about 5 and another at about 9, then the snack. I should have had more water out there too. One more thing I may have overlooked. Although none of the food in the few days prior disagreed with me, it wasn't the usual. I am normally munching on fruit throughout the day, drink a lot of soy milk and eat legumes (protein sources) and whole grain breads. I had no soy milk and very little legumes--I had the typical pasta dishes and what ever salads the local restaurants had that included beans. Also, they have great bread and tortilla-type wraps that are severed with meals, but its not the same. I think I suffered from an accumulated loss of calories and energy sources for a few days prior to the race, coupled with the lack of running that led to my near shut-down. The good thing is that I recovered quite quickly after getting some food and a shower.
Oh, about where I finished... Remember how Cory estimated I would be in the top 75 or 80 coming off the bike had I kept pace? Well, Kevin Weed (mentioned earlier) was 79th overall in our wave (44th in our AG). I had a faster first run than Gambeschia, and Johns, but I suffered the bonk. In our AG, Gambeschia was 47th and Johns was 48th. I ended up 67th. The fastest run 2 of the three of them was 19:18. If I had felt good during the bike I should have been able to do run 2 in a time close to that, but my run was 24:22 (my slowest 5k ever). In the end, had I not bonked I am pretty certain I would have finished in the 40's. However, I was 67th with a time of 2:18:18. We had a pretty tight AG as 1st place went to Mexico's Mario Salazar in a time of 2:01:02. The top Team USA finisher in the 35-39 AG was 5th place in a time of 2:02:18.
You can view results by age groups, elites, junior, etc by clicking THIS.