Truth be told, I'd never done an Aquabike event before. So when the race director of an upcoming triathlon sent an email stating that the Aquabike division was being offered, It peaked my interest. This would be my first race this year since breaking my ankle back in February. I'd missed five races (that I'd already registered and paid for) so when this option came along - for a race I'd paid for 8 months ago - I really couldn't pass it up. A chance to race, in some fashion or another, was quite exciting.
So, a 1.5K swim and a 40K bike. I was psyched. I'd been swimming and cycling quite a bit, but I wasn't doing a whole lot of speed-work. I was mainly getting out to keep my fitness from going in the crapper while I dealt with physical therapy. But I felt that I could do pretty well - and I really thought that I'd be able to drop the hammer on the bike since I didn't have to run. I thought back to the relay I did last summer and while I was annoyed, at the time, watching everyone head out on the run while I stood there feeling out of place, I remembered how fun it was to just red-line the bike leg. So off I went.
I had a good swim. I was out of the water in just over 20 minutes and across the chip mat at the entrance to T1 in just over 21 minutes. A relatively quick transition and I was out on the bike. Side note: The tide was heading out, so the water was quite shallow at the start. When the officials state that it's an "in-water start", shouldn't people be penalized for running down the beach instead of running in the water? Have a look at the swim course and you'll see what I mean. Nice advantage in running down the beach towards the first buoy. But I digress....
Anyway, on to the bike. The bike course at this race is a little odd. Five laps of an 8K course. Very flat and very fast. But it gets congested - quickly. I won't go into all the gory details, but I don't think I want to race on this course again. Very tough to get around groups of people. Again, I digress.....
All was good and going to plan. I was averaging around 24 mph for the first few laps. A slight change in the wind provided a little extra resistance here and there on lap four. But as this was going to impact everyone, I didn't worry about it too much. With one lap to go, my plan was to drop the hammer and leave nothing in the tank when I was done. My ankle felt pretty good, so why not?!
Well, this is where things started to fall apart. My fitness - while fine for longer weekend rides and weekday morning rides with a few tempo bursts thrown in - failed me at this intensity. On top of that I'm a bit heavier than I would have been had I been racing all season, and.....well.....I watched my speed drop. Drop. Drop some more. I pedaled harder. Focused on my pedal stroke. Hell, I got out of the saddle once or twice. Nada. I watched my average speed fall like a boat anchor over the last 8K and came into T2 sounding like a sherpa climbing Mt. Everest.
Okay, I threw on my shoes and jogged over to the finish line to hand in my chip. 2nd place in the division - to a guy who admittedly ran on the beach at the start of the swim (grumble, grumble) But I'll take it. It was great to get out there and race. I did have a lot of angst while I hung around and watched everyone head out to the run course (a flat, two loop course along the Long Island Sound). I went for a little jog, but my ankle was stiffening up so I bagged it and went to the massage tent after snarfing down a bagel.
The comedic part of this day was during the awards ceremonies. When we were called up to accept the awards for our division, it's the first time I've stood on a podium where the athletes didn't congratulate one another, but instead asked: "...so, what's your ailment?" Needless to say I'm looking forward to being able to do a full-fledged triathlon again.
And speaking of that, what's up next? Well, I'm contemplating doing a sprint triathlon in early October. However, it's the same weekend as my wedding anniversary and I'm not sure it's the best thing to try to squeeze into the plans. My wife has said it's cool, but I may pass in lieu of getting out of town for a couple days.