This morning, I raced the Falmouth Triathlon for the first time, and had an absolute blast. This event has been on my wish list for years.
My uncle and aunt have been part-time Falmouth residents for 37 years, and we enjoy visiting them at their place. They have hosted us many times, and for various Cape Cod events including the Martha’s Vineyard Half Marathon, the Martha’s Vineyard 20 Miler, and the Cape Cod Marathon. Their house in Falmouth Heights is 1.5 miles from the start/finish of the triathlon, which is located on Surf Drive. We built a family gathering around the event, so it was fun to have some spectators.
Debbie stopped by during her morning run and captured some fun images during all three stages of the race. The swim was 1/3rd of a mile, the bike was 9.6 miles, and the run was 3.1 miles. My partner for part of the weekend was my Hartford Extended Area Triathletes teammate, Ken Schulz. We met up last night at packet pickup, and then again this morning at 5:15 A.M. We rode over to the race and warmed up together.
Yesterday, I scouted the venue and did a couple of laps of the bike course, which is very scenic. The bike leg is now one of my all time favorites. I wish it was longer! The loop starts on Surf Drive, heads west towards Woods Hole, and goes past the iconic Nobska Point Lighthouse. Then, it takes a right and heads east on Woods Hole Road past the golf course. It takes a right on Elm Street and heads south towards the beach. It takes a left back on to Surf Drive and finishes at Surf Drive Beach. The roads are narrow, windy, and undulating. The pavement was in good shape. It’s a fast course, and a real joy to ride with all of the twists, turns, and corners.
Falmouth is promoted by Streamline Events, a professional race management organization. This was a big race, with more than 800 registrants and nearly 700 finishers. In addition to their staff, they had good volunteer support. I would describe the race as no frills, and high quality. Triathlon has gotten quite expensive, and this race was no exception, but the value I place on the racing is highlighted by the quality and unique characteristics of the courses.
In the case of this long running race (nearly 20 years), an ocean swim with Martha’s Vineyard in the background, the previously described bike course, and a run along the coast and on the Shining Sea Sea Bikeway, they have the course to draw strong participation. The race is friendly to first timers, so there were a lot of beginners, which is great to see.
Ken and I weren’t the first to set-up our spots in the transition area. Some early risers beat us there, but it was still super-easy to roll out of bed and ride over in less than 10 minutes. There was a little chop during the swim with a strong wind coming from the west. The wind and current pushed us back towards shore on the counter-clockwise rectangular swim course.
That wind proved to be an added challenge on the bike leg when we rode straight into it. We got some shelter after the lighthouse and then the wind was with us after we turned and headed east again on the back side of the course. I was scheduled to start in wave nine with the 40-44 me and Ken was scheduled for wave seven with the 35-39 men. Wave starts were three minutes apart. When we got to packet pickup last night, we talked about the situation, figured their would be hundreds of people to navigate around on the tight course, and petitioned to join the Elite Wave.
That was a wise decision because we got to start at 7:30 A.M. and had much less traffic to deal with. Ken was fourth out of the water. He is a very strong swimmer. I ceded two minutes to the leaders for a 79th place swim, which is ugly, especially for a short race. I always leave myself a big hole to dig out of and a lot of folks to pass.
I had a strong bike and was 6th fastest on that leg averaging 26.1 mph. I let it all hang out and that probably cost me on the run, which was slower than I wanted. I didn’t catch Ken until the last mile of the bike, so he had an excellent ride. He was third on the road, so when I went by, there were only two guys in front. He is very fast in transition, so we were battling as we exited for the run. Ken was actually gunning for the Jet Blue Transition award, which would have scored him a flight anywhere in the USA, but his combined T1 and T2 times were a mere five seconds behind the winner, who happened to also get 2nd overall.
When I started the run, there were a lot of bikes to navigate on Surf Drive, but I was able to get in a rhythm. It was a warm morning with a blazing sun. I didn’t see first and second until the bike path when they were headed back at me after the 1.6 mile turnaround. They had a big gap, so I had to bear down and push in an effort to hold off those chasing me and anyone who started in a later wave that might be faster. I ended up with the 4th fastest run. Clearly, biking and running are my strengths, and swimming is not.
The finish was on the beach after a short 100 meter sprint over a dune and on to the sand. My Mom was there at the finish, which was pretty cool. I know she was happy that the race, and associated suffering, were over in less than an hour, rather than in 10 hours like at an Ironman. At the long races, she worries a lot more.
This finish was exciting and I crossed the line in third. Ken wasn’t far behind. I ended up fourth overall because a 26 year-old “young gun” who started in a later wave, bumped me back a spot Ken was 16th. We were both very happy with our results. The win went to Raymond Botelho, and he was followed by Abraham Rogers. Both are 42, so I finished third in the Elite Masters age group. The result wouldn’t have changed if we were in the regular age groups. Triathlon is a sport dominated by top-tier masters racers. The fist woman was Claire Twark. She was followed by Kathryn Sweeney and Deborah Stevens.
Ken and I packed up and rode back to the house, and then went for another short cool down ride along the coast. We washed up and returned to the start/finish for the awards ceremony. Both of us met our objectives for this race and we look forward to competing again in the future. I finished in 51:02, and breaking 50 minutes is future goal. I’ve now tested the legs twice this week. I did the Pat Griskus Triathlon on Wednesday. Next up is a return to the Winding Trails Summer Off-Road Tri Series on Tuesday. After that I’m taking a week of “rest.”