Today was the day. The Franklin Lakes Triathlon Relay. At 4:40 am this morning, My friend Harry Bajakian picked me up in the dark with his 2 bikes on his roof rack. We drove to the parking area and headed over to our spot to meet up with Jeff Ziegler, our fish for the race. We then all headed over to race registration and the staging area. After we got our numbers, got Harry's bike setup, talked logistics, and unloaded our bags, Harry headed back to his car to warmup on his trainer. Jeff and I talked some more and hung out, running into a lot of people he knows and a sprinkling of people I know. The waiting around sucked, but it was worth it in order to get Harry a prime spot for his bike and to feel good about all the logistical stuff, ie. parking, bags, bathrooms.
Jeff and I headed down to the water at about 6:15am and we talked about how things would go once he was out of the water, and I left him to warmup for his half mile swim and splash in the surf at 6:30 am. My plan was now to hang out and wait for Harry to get back from his warm up and we would chill in the bikers corral, as Jeff would only be swimming for about 11-12 minutes. A nice surprise was Harry's wife and kids showing up to cheer us on, and let me know Maura and the kids were on the way, plus offering some more people to talk to, and keep me from going nuts. I should mention that all this week I have barely been holding my nerves together, let alone this morning as the race day took life.
As we waited, we watched the time and I kind of figured when I would see Jeff. I was pretty on the mark and ran up to meet Jeff as he finished the jog from the water to the biker's corral. He did an awesome job, swam great and put us in a strong position. In a flash, Harry was off on the bike for his 17 mile ride. Jeff left it all in the water and was spent. I felt a little bad leaving him to recover, but I had a to do list. As I left that area, my checklist was to change into my racing flats, look for Maura and the kids, warm up, and try to get mentally ready with my game plan.
I immediately saw Maura and the kids so that made me feel good. She helps a lot on race day, probably more than she knows. We moved over to the open area by the bikes, I changed into my flats, and I used the restroom. Jeff came over and we chatted a bit and he recovered quickly. I casually began to warm up and kept it light, easing into it. I headed over to the corral and Jeff joined me not to long after.
It wasn't long after, that Harry came blazing in on his bike. Leg 2 was finishing and that went great as well. We were in great shape so far. My turn. Jeff grabbed the chip from Harry's ankle after he ran to us, strapped in on my ankle, and I was off.
A 5 mile race is a distance I have never raced. Longer than a 5K, shorter than a half marathon, I was attempting a new distance. Another serious variable, there are a long of hills, mostly up somehow. I made a conscious effort to not start to fast. All week, in my head, I imagined there being other runners active in the area, but as I took off, my start ended up being solitary. I was in a small pocket of openness. Consequently, I used my watch time to control my start. As the race progressed, I felt ok through the first 3 mile markers. Just after the 3rd mile marker though, there is the worst hill of the course. It sucked and was about 300 meters long. Once, I got through that, I had a good downhill sprint to basically finish up mile 4, give or take.
I started mile 5 knowing from my car ride through the course the other day, that it had some rolling hills, but that I could finish well. I tried to suck it up as I hit about 4.5 miles in, because the mild cramp I had for a bit really hit me hard. I tried to stretch it out, push on it, breath deep, and run faster so I could just get done.
I saw Maura on the final turn, as I passed by and had about a tenth of a mile left. It really helped to see her and the kids. I took off and finished strong.
As I expected from what I saw develop on the legs ahead of me and on my run, Jeff and Harry confirmed that we took 2nd place relay team for the event. There were 52 teams that finished the relay, I cannot complain about a 2nd place overall in my first time in the event. Next year, we will see. I have big plans for my personal leg. I will post later with details on my numbers, etc.
For now, a big thanks to Harry and Jeff for a great team effort. Harry, thanks for the invite to the team, Jeff thanks for all the event knowledge and logistical advice. Both of these guys made it a lot easier for me to handle. I look forward to racing with both of you next year!