In what was truly a banner year for me as a triathlete, it was perhaps the final race of my season that was the most special. On Saturday, Sept 24th I raced the VTSMTS Giant Acorn international triathlon. It was satisfying to be able to close my season out in the same way I started it, by racing another VTSMTS Olympic distance race (Rumpus in Bumpass was the other). But what made truly special was who I got to race with.
There were two people in particular that made the day. It was an honor to get to race alongside one of my west coast teammates, John Savage. He was in Metro DC for a wedding, and naturally when traveling coast to coast for a wedding, you should throw in a triathlon. Go John! The other was my big sister, Gwen. It goes without saying that my family is incredibly important to me. And racing triathlons is incredibly important to me.
So when the two of those things come together, it is really, really special. I've done many races with my older brother Geoff, a few with my brother and sister, and even one with my brother, sister, and father, George! Ideally, I'll get to race with a family member once per season, depending on the timing. Gwen had asked me to do the Rev3 Williamsburg race, but it was the same weekend as 70.3 Muncie, so I couldn't make it. So when I found out our calendars would align for the last race of the season, I was stoked.
On to race day. Given that the race is only about 90 minutes away from home, and 9am start, I was able to make it a day trip. I got up early, threw the bike on the car, and went to get Gwen. It's rare that she and I get time like that, to just be together and catch up, so I was really excited for the drive down to Lake Anna. We had a smooth drive, avoiding the inevitable DC traffic jams, and enjoyed catching up and our coffee. We got down to the race site in what seemed like record time, and got checked in and transitions set up early, and way faster than expected. I was able to catch up with John before the race, and introduce him to my sister, and the three of us even got to hang out and chat leading into the start.
One of my favorite things about the VTSMTS races is how completely chill they are. No stress, just fun. This race was no different. Given that it was my last tri of the year, and that I had already achieved the goals I set for myself in the season, I was completely relaxed and excited for the race. No boxes to check, just racing for the love of racing, which is how it should be. I knew from the beginning it was going to be a good race, and it was a perfect day for it, not too hot, not too cold.
Quickly the start time came, and John and I, in the 2nd wave to go, said good luck to Gwen, and waded into the lake. Knowing how fast of a swimmer John is, I wanted to try to keep pace and see what happened. We lined up close to each other and at the start it was on. I tried to keep my eyes on John, but he was gone quickly, even more so than I had expected, so I settled into my rhythm and focused on keeping my line and keeping up a smooth, quick turnover of my arms. I felt good throughout the swim, and came out with the 26th fastest swim time of the day. Nothing to brag about, but not too shabby either, given that the swim this year has been my weakest leg. I was in and out of transition easily, and onto the bike.
I come to the Lake Anna area several times a year, and always bring my bike so that I can ride. So I know the roads well, and love them. I knew the course, and was excited to race it. So despite some issues getting my power meter to work right at the start of the bike, I was able to get into a good, fast rhythm early on, and really attack the rollers throughout the course. Rollers are my favorite type of riding. I enjoy the climbs, and how the break the field up, and love the fast descents. Giant Acorn has that in spades. I kept my power consistent, and ended up passing a lot of people, even many of the collegiate racers that had started in the first wave. I saw John about 25-30 miles in, and we cheered each other on. I ended up doing the 40k course in 1:01:38, and clocking the 2nd fastest bike split of the day.
Coming into T2 I felt good, fast, and knew I hadn't overdone the bike, but ridden it just right for the day. I was onto the run course, and settled into a solid run pace right behind another strong amateur racer from the area, Dan Szajta. He helped me find that early pace, and we stayed together for most of the first of the two laps. The course was well shaded, though hilly, and even had a fun section through the woods. The entire run course was within Lake Anna state park. Towards the end of the first lap Dan told me that he thought the race leader was just a minute or two ahead, and he wasn't going to give chase (as he was scheduled for IM Louisville soon after), but I should go ahead if I had legs. Given the encouragement, I said to myself, "why not?" and went. I felt good, so was able to keep my form and keep my cadence and had a really good 2nd lap. I passed a few guys, and tried to catch up, but ultimately crossed the finish line 5th.
When all the results were in, I wound up 5th overall, and first among the non-collegiates. Of the top four, two had earned pro cards, and the winner even broke 2 hrs, which is impressive on the course, with 2nd place being barely over 2. I was definitely proud of my effort, and my finish, even though the young kids took me to school (Now, get off my lawn!!). John crossed quickly after me, in a race to the line with Dan Szajta. Gwen came in not too much later, and as turned out, she won her age group as well! It was a neat experience to have Gwen, John, and I all take home category wins. We spent some good time catching up waiting for the awards, then got packed up and headed home. Gwen and I got the chance to catch up even more on the drive home.
Ultimately, it was the day with my sister, the ability to race alongside my teammate, the camaraderie on the race course from other athletes, and the fun, relaxed atmosphere that made Giant Acorn such a wonderful way to finish my 2016 triathlon season. It really echoed for me a season that has been made so special by being a part of a great triathlon family in the Every Man Jack team. And a season where I have finally found balance across all three disciplines of the race, and the ability to pace and fuel properly. It makes me even that much more excited for 2017 and the races and challenges that will bring. And you can be sure that I will make sure to do as many as I can with my teammates, and at least one with my big sister (and hopefully my big brother, too)!