I did one of my favorite races today. The Niantic Bay Triathlon was the second triathlon I ever did back in 2002. I’ve done it each of the last four years for a total of five times, and it will likely remain a fixture on my summer calendar as long as I can motivate myself to keep competing.
The course makes the race because it has a ton of character. I love ocean swims and they are rare, so given the opportunity to do one, I jump on it. The bike course winds its way on undulating roads through East Lyme, not far from our family’s beach house in Old Lyme. The run is through the Niantic beach community near McCook Beach & Park and the sand finish is unique.
The Hartford Marathon Foundation has done very well with this race; 466+ solo athletes and 90+ relay athletes finished today. I had my second fastest time on the course, but I never felt great. I felt OK, but couldn’t get on top of my pedals and I felt like I had no oomph in the run. Sometimes you don’t feel good and you still go fast. Today was one of those days. I had my fastest bike leg and second fastest run and my second fastest overall time. The swim was…well, it was the swim. You can’t really do well in a sprint triathlon when you cede nearly three minutes in a 1/2 mile to the eventual winner. No matter how hard you ride and run, it’s an uphill battle that you won’t win.
Like 2012, I did battle in the 40-44 age group with Ed Jensen. Ed is a super strong runner, but I still out-kicked him last year on the beach. This year it was a different story. I know he was gunning for me. He always stakes a lead on the swim, and his bike leg is getting better. This morning it took me longer to catch him, and I didn’t see him until T2. When he ran passed me coming out of transition, I have to admit that the wind came out of my sails. I was ready to rock the run, but when he surged by, I realized three things: I was going to have to try to stick with him, it wouldn’t be easy, and it would hurt.
Running is his forte, and over 3.4 miles, I figured he was probably 20 seconds faster. My prediction came true. I hung with him for a mile, but then he put 10 seconds on me before the turnaround and then he put 10 more on me. I never closed the gap though I could see him the whole way. Ed wasn’t going to crack in a short race like this, especially with all of his family watching. The 21 seconds he picked up on the run got him the age group win and he had the fastest run of the day. Chasing him got me the second fastest, so that was a bright spot.
Ed did look back at least three times and I jokingly chided him for doing so after crossing the line. There were some fast guys out there today so despite the decent time, I was back in 8th place overall, which keeps my top 10 streak alive. We had a bit longer beach run this year because Superstorm Sandy severely damaged the bluff that was always a fixture in the final 1/4 mile of this race. We stuck to the roads before turning on to Crescent Beach for the last bit along the shore.
It was great to see Team Horst Sports teammate Thom Reid and his wife Naomi both out on course. I was able to give Thom a low five on my way to the finish. He got stung by a jelly fish on the swim, but still pulled off a strong bike leg and finished well on the run. There were a lot of HEATsters out there too and we got the win with club-mate and super-strong masters triathlete, William Schumann, posting a 58:57. He was followed by Alexander Kowalsky and Brendan Mims. The first woman finisher was Elise Vonhousen in 1:07:08. She was followed by Susan Wines and Anna Kudej.
I used today’s race as a tune up for my big one in two weeks. I’ve got one more hard effort on Tuesday at the Winding Trails Summer Tri Series and then I’m tapering. I used my new shoes and cleats on their first ride today and thankfully everything worked. I also spent some time dialing in my gears and have just a little more work on my Seven Kameha to get it into top race shape. The HMF staff and volunteers (and there were a lot of them) were awesome and it was great to hear cheers from many of the spectators and fellow racers. The weather was the best I’ve experienced at this race with a mild temperature for the 7:30 A.M. start and bright sunshine. It was a good day.