Eagleman is based in Cambridge, Maryland which was about 9.5 hours away from my house. We took two days to get to the event and had a lot of fun along the way. After all, you don’t want to lock the hooligans in one place for too long.
Race morning was Sunday and we had to stay about 45 min away. Races are always a little more stressful when everyone is there, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. In any case, the hooligans keep me distracted before the gun (or cannon) goes off.
The swim was pretty much a big rectangle. It was a beach start and we pretty much could (and did) run to the first buoy because the start of the swim was shallow. This was a big advantage for me, I was able to stay with the pack
longer and man did I feel the draft that everyone was talking about. Now it didn’t last long (I got to buoy 2) but what an encouraging and reassuring feeling. I stayed on some feet up until about turn 1, some people through turn 2, had a mini panic attack when I swam through some sea weed, but I did not get caught by the ladies (who started 5 min back). Out of the water, with a PR swim and, most importantly, I wasn’t the last one out.
The game plan coming into the bike was to close the gap, so I was prepared to work, and to work early. The bike was pretty much and out and back with a little lollipop. The wifey was waiting for me up the road, we exchanged some "pleasantries" as I sped by, but now it was time to start executing the game plan Brownie and I set forth.
Around ten miles I spotted two competitors up a head of me. I put my head down and started working to close the gap faster. I swung around them hard to break any chance of them hopping on my wheel but to also play a card in the psychological game. Aid station one came, I grabbed a bottle sprayed half in my mouth and the other half on my body.
I caught two more people around 20 and 26 and played the same game as before. I hit the half way mark in just under 65 mins and then rolled into aid station 2. This aid station was critical to my race, I had tossed a water bottle and absolutely had to take on water here. The first attempt didn’t connect, the second attempt slipped out of my hand (who would think moving fast and sweat doesn’t result in increased grip). Knowing I had to have water here I slowed way down, boom, connection and water in my hand. I yelled thank you and hit the ground rolling to get my speed back up.
Mile 40 I hit a really dark place. We were headed back into town and we caught a really good cross head to head wind (I have no idea what the MPH was but it was strong). Also about this time we moved from smooth road to some chip seal, which meant it was stupid bumpy. My cadence started dropping and I don’t know if it was the wind but I started to feel my power slipping. Luckily, I saw someone up the road that kept my mind occupied. I chased for about ten miles before I finally caught them. This time I couldn’t fly around them, so I had to keep on the gas for a bit longer to try and ride them off my wheel. Six miles, a bunch of turns and the site of a new person to pick off, I was back in transition to start the run.
The run was pretty much a similar set up to the bike, an out and back with a lollipop. Rolling out of T2 something was off with my hip, but everything else felt pretty good, so I kept moving forward. The fam bam was about a quarter from mile one. As always I stopped to give my hugs and kisses. They wifey, based on our passionate exchange on the bike, had splits for me. I tighten my shoes (something I was getting yelled at for at the time) informed I was in 12th and like a rocket I was off again. I rolled into 11th right after mile 1 and then into 10th by mile two. I was beyond excited, my first real race and I was going to crack the top ten. By mile four I was able to see 9th, 8th and 7th (we were on about a mile and half section on the course so there was literally nothing but us out there).
Side note, somewhere along the course someone dropped out, thus I moved me up another slot, so I was really seeing 8th through 6th, but with the course set up I had no idea and no one to relay that information to me.
I passed another competitor around mile 5 and was cruising into mile 6 still pretty fresh. I had two people in front of me that were pulling me along. Mile 7 came and my expectations were not being met. Instead of throwing in the towel, I had to come up with a new plan on the course and quickly. I switched my watch to overall time (so the pace wasn’t screaming at me), and started to run by feel. A couple of miles later I was finally closing in on the person in front of me. Then they surged.
WHAT…. I had to quickly rethink what I was doing, someone surged and I couldn’t respond. Mile ten came and my wheels started to come off. At that moment I asked my body for 20 more mins. That’s all I need, 20 mins and we would be close enough to home to drag us in.
Mile 11 I realized the guy in front of me was on his last leg. I don’t know if he broke himself or what but he was going backwards. Coming shoulder to shoulder with him was fun, we chatted for a bit, which was super refreshing, then I need to play another mental game. Mile 12 finally came and it took what was left of me to get home.
The finishing line is truly something special. I kissed the family, walked across the line and had chats with the rest of the pros and some of the IM staff members. Overall, I was 30 seconds off a PR but Eagleman was a much tougher course. I had my first top ten finish at 7th, and was one spot of the podium and the piggy bank.
Eagleman was such an epic day, I executed the plan better than I ever have; I showed my fitness off for the first time in a while. I kept my head game in check and didn't fall too far or get to high, but most importantly I came away with more hunger to keep fighting the good fight.