Eagleman 70.3 was the last in a series of 3 Half Ironman distance races in 4 weeks coming exactly 1 week after Raleigh 70.3. While my recovery after Raleigh went very well, I knew that having only a week between could be rough regardless of how good I felt. Rebekah and I decided to break the drive up into 2 parts by staying in Wilson, NC, Friday and doing the remaining drive Saturday morning. We made it to the pro meeting just in time and headed to our AirBnB just a few miles away. The place was very nice and I was able to get in a short brick to loosen up after the long drive. It was amazing how fast I could go with all of the flat roads around and having a full aero setup. Unfortunately, my power meter battery had died the other day and in my negligence, I didn’t replace them appropriately before the race. This meant no power numbers to go by in my race. Typically, this would be the ideal race to use a power meter on since the ride is so flat. After all of the races lately, though, it was nice to not have to worry about the numbers I would be putting out.
The morning went smoothly with setting everything up and soon enough, the Pro men were waiting to get in the water for their warm up. They let us in the water about 5 minutes before the start to swim around a bit. Very shortly after, they started singing the National Anthem and then announced there was only 1 minute left! This meant that we got virtually no time to swim other than a few strokes. I didn’t have time to pick out exactly where I wanted to be on the start line but ended up right next to Matt Russell, Adam Otstot, and Cody Beals. I had swum with Matt and Adam the previous week in Raleigh and knew they would be good people to try to stay with. The start was very chaotic and I ended up getting shunted behind a few more people than I would have liked. I swam to the left of Matt for a couple hundred decently physical meters. After a swift hand to the face, I dropped back to draft off Matt’s feet and noticed Adam on my left hip. We stayed in a formation similar to this until about halfway through the swim. At one point I ended up getting a bit caught on one of the buoys that we passed very close to. This caused me to fall out of their draft and I was unable to reconnect without surging way too hard this early in the race. I spent the remaining part of the swim a short distance behind that group of about 4 guys trying to keep the damage to a minimum. I came out of the water as the 14th Pro male in 29:22 and worked to have a quick transition to start bridging up to other athletes.
Once on the bike, I tried to navigate the beginning turns of the course well and settled into a decent effort since I would be going by feel on this ride. Somewhere shortly after mile 5 of the ride, I noticed some cyclists coming from behind me. This is something that hasn’t really happened yet this year so I was interested to see who was gaining ground on me. It turned out to be Matt, Adam, and the 2 other guys they had been swimming with! Apparently, they made a wrong turn somewhere around mile 3, and although they didn’t lose a lot of time, it was enough to put me just ahead of them. Matt was leading the charge and came around first. I stayed with him for a few miles but I knew the effort would eventually be unsustainable so I backed it down a bit. Adam then came around in pursuit of Matt which left me and the 2 other guys. I stayed behind the 2 of them keeping the effort low until about mile 30. At this point, I saw that we were slowly approaching a line of 5-6 athletes. I was feeling great at this point, so I decided to speed up and take the lead to catch them quicker. As soon as I did, we approached an aid station and I could tell my speed was much quicker than this groups’. I took advantage of this since I had no need to use this aid station, and kept the pace high to pass the entire group. This was much easier than otherwise waiting and having to make a long pass. I kept the pace high for a couple more miles and by the time I looked back, the entire group was out of site! With about 20 miles of riding left, I kept the pace at a solid effort and ended up passing one more athlete on my way in.
Upon entering transition the first thing I noticed was the lack of bicycles! I didn’t get an exact count, but I knew that I was pretty close to the front of the race. My legs felt great after one of my best rides ever, and I headed out trying to stay conservative in the beginning miles. It’s amazing how in the first mile I was told by different people that I was anywhere from 4th to 8th place. The prize purse for this race pays to the top 6, and I was ecstatic to be anywhere near that! As I continued running I ended up passing a couple guys in the first 4-5 miles and getting passed by 1. I figured out eventually that I was probably in 6th place, and I didn’t see anyone coming from behind. All I simply needed to do was continue to hold a solid pace for the remainder of the run and I would be golden. Unfortunately, around miles 7-8, the effort start to rise dramatically and my pace began to get slower. This was very frustrating as the feeling was very similar to what has happened in the past 2 races. I didn’t feel dehydrated, and I wasn’t overheated, despite the temperatures reaching 90 with little shade. It simply felt like an overwhelming sense of fatigue and I was unable to get my heart rate to go down, even when stopping. Before too long, multiple athletes began to catch up and pass me. The hardest thing that day was watching the chance at getting into the top-6 run away from me. I continued to try to push to get to the finish with many more athletes passing me. I ended up crossing the finish as the 18th Pro in 4:19:03.
Rebekah and I left town within an hour or two of finishing the race and ended up arriving back home a bit after midnight. Not the most pleasant drive, but necessary since we both had work the following morning! Congrats to my friends that competed in the race with many of them earning 70.3 Worlds slots in their age-groups! This includes Sandy O’Keefe, Bradley Odom, Connor Roudabush, and more.
My recovery after Eagleman went even quicker than Raleigh and I have started to feel fresh within a matter of days. I am just starting to ramp up my training again now that my first Full Ironman distance race is coming up in Alaska. The Alaskaman race is on July 15th and I’m very excited for the adventure! It will have a bit less pressure than the past few races and should be beautiful this time of year!