2012 Niantic Bay Triathlon

Yesterday was the 14th annual Niantic Bay Triathlon. I’ve only done four of them, but I’ve done three in a row, and this course has become one of my favorites. The 1/2 mile ocean swim was back to full length after last year’s wicked rainstorm and rough surf. The 11.3 mile bike was identical to previous years and the roads were in good shape. The 3.4 mile run was on the roads near McCook Point Park and included the infamous bluff and beach finish.

There is always debate about the length of the race. It seems shorter. In the end, it doesn’t matter because we all have to do the same distance. Clearly, the race is in the sprint category and the 1/2 mile swim is longer than most sprints while the bike is a bit shorter than advertised.It was an exciting race for me. Including the relay athletes, there were 600 people at the sold out event. Unlike last year’s cool rain, this year’s event was held in sultry conditions. Even at 7:30 A.M., the sweat was dripping off of you as the August sun beat down.

The tide was dead low, so the first 10 strokes of the swim were more of a butterfly/hop combo through the thick eel grass near the shoreline. I got clobbered a few times headed for the first buoy and had a lousy swim (by my standards, which aren’t that high). I was still feeling the effects of last weekend’s Wilderness 101 and my shoulders and legs were heavy.

I had an OK run to transition and was out of my wetsuit fairly quickly. This year, I opted to put my cycling shoes on in transition after experimenting with leaving them clipped to my pedals in the past. The uphill start to the bike is hard to get momentum on, but I had not problem with my 2012 strategy. It took me a long time to get comfortable on the bike. Truthfully, I never did. I didn’t feel fast at all, though I rode my fastest time, one second quicker than 2010. Still, I wish I had gone even quicker. I picked off several riders, including Ed Jensen, with a mile to go. That last pass made a difference in the outcome.

My bike to run transition was good. I’ve been having problems getting into my Zoot’s, so this time, I coated the heel and tongue (top-secret!) with Body Glide so that my sandy feet would slide in. It worked like a charm. I was off and running in hot pursuit of the remaining guys out front. I started in the second wave, and heard that there were at least five in front of me. I chased down a couple quickly and hoped that the others were from the prior wave because I never saw them. They had a four -minute head start.

I nearly blew it at the turnaround near the beach. I came up to the two-mile marker, ran around it and started the return leg before Ed yelled at me. The turnaround was still 50 feet beyond. I did a 180 degree turn and went back for it and thanked him for saving me. The bad news was that he was on me, and he is in the 40-44 age group with me. We ran together for a while, and he put some good pressure on me. He has finished close behind me in all of the Hartford Marathon Foundation races in 2012 and is improving quickly. Once again, he proved that he had fast finishing speed.

I hung on as he pulled up the hill on the road. He got a small gap crossing the dirt parking lot before the bluff. I knew that I could close on the uphill off-road section, but was worried about the descent. He has at least 12″ on me and practically gallops. Throughout the run, we could see another runner 20 seconds up the road, but we weren’t closing the gap and I had my hands full with Ed. As predicted, he got a small lead on the descent before the sidewalk section leading to the beach.

He cut the right hand corner onto the beach sharply and I followed suit. The sand was deep. The finish was along a 200 meter stretch of churned up sand next to the bay. I started to close the gap. He admitted later that he didn’t give it everything he had, which is fine, because I did. I caught and passed him in the last 50 meters and held him off. It was a fun finish and turned out to be an OK race despite feeling crummy. Ed really pushed me in the last 1.2 miles.

I ended up 2nd overall. The runner we were chasing was William Lunn and he beat me by 14 seconds with Ed another 4 seconds behind me. That sprint paid off. If I had run last year’s time, I would have been up there with William. He had a faster bike leg, which made the difference. Some of the fast boys, including course record holder, John Babcock, were absent, which left the door open for some of the pokey swimmers (like me) to get on the podium.

It was great to see so many athletes from the Hartford Extended Area Triathletes.  My club-mates cleaned up at the age group awards with Vin Darcy, Mike Tirrell, Cathi Koehler, Dean Bolt all “in the money.” The post race festivities are always fun. I ate half a tray of watermelon on my own!

My consolation prize was an Adams Trail-A-Bike. Debbie and I have sought one of these for a long time. Last week, we found one on craigslist and it turned out the owner was volunteering at the race. The used bike was in good condition and I did the deal in sight of the finish line. My kids were thrilled. I can’t wait to hook this thing up and head out with our six-year old in tow.

Race Results

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