Ok, so this post is rather late, but it was a trying season, I needed a break and I was on vacation for a week. Mostly I just kept putting it off.
Last race of the season was the Myrtle Beach Triathlon. It was an ITU draft legal race. I flew into Charleston SC on Friday before the race and had to drive 2 hours up the road to Myrtle Beach. Charleston has a special place for me as my Dad was stationed there when he was in the Navy and it is the City of my Birth. But no time to site see. Straight up the coast.
I arrived without incident and checked into my place of logging. My parents have a time share and one of the places they can go to is Myrtle Beach. So they booked a room for me and drove the long drive from Atlanta to see me race. It was a 2 bed room Villa (sounds fancy, but think of a it was a small two bedroom condo). It had a king size bed, two twin beds, and a pull out couch. This worked well as I invited to other Pro's to stay with us. They were James Bales and Derek Oskutis. Both guys I had met before and we were all at the same home stay in Buffalo. They would arrive on Saturday. I put my bike together took a nap. It was an early morning as my flight was at 6 am. My parents soon arrived and we just relaxed, got dinner and watched a movie. Exciting times, I know.
The next day Derek arrived early. He actually stayed in Charleston the previous night as he had some friends from the Naval Academy who were stationed there. He brought with him his friend Peggy. Peggy is a really interesting girl. She is going to the Nuke school for the Navy in Charleston. After she is done she will be one of the first females in the Navy to serve on a submarine. She also happens to be a really strong cyclist. She actually beat Kristin Armstrong (no relation to Lance Armstrong) in a race. If you do not know who Kristen Armstrong is, she is a gold Medalist in cycling from the Olympics. So Peggy has some power in her legs.
We all headed to the race sight. Derek and I got in and swam. While swimming we said hi to some friends, then jumped on our bikes and got a short ride in. Peggy joined us and I can say first hand that the girls is a strong rider. We did a short ride. Then it was off to eat and relaxing before the pro meeting. Derek and I headed to the pro meeting and I send my parents to pick up James from the airport. He was getting in at 5 in Myrtle Beach. James had a nervous moment as they could not find his bike, but after a little bit of time they came out with it. We hit the pro meeting and then went to dinner. Several other pro's joined us and it was a great time. Lots of relaxing and laughing.
The next morning was race time. The women went off around 8, we would got off around 10. The morning was windy, 20+ winds that would surly have an effect on the race. I did my normal warm up and tried to relax. I was still feeling very fatigued, but hoped I would be feeling better for my last race as all I did leading up to the race was rest. Soon it was time to line up. We were lined up by rank and they called our names and we went to choose our spots. In ITU races you are not assigned a spot, you get to choose your spot and the highest ranked athlete chooses first. I figured the worst spot would be to the far left as the race went straight then had a left turn and it would be bunched up. So of course, being a low ranked athlete I was about 6 spots from the left. I was surprised to see Jarrod Shoemaker in the first spot to the left. Shoemaker was in the 2008 Olympics and the #1 ranked athlete in the field (he would win the race). Soon the gun went off and we dove into the dark water (it had to be the blackest water I ever swam in. You could not see anything). I got a good start and in a good position. But sure enough we came up to the first buoy and it was bodies on top of bodies with arm and legs kicking everyone. You were so close to other athletes that you usually would expect a dinner and a movie first, but oh well. This is the nature of the race. I soon found some room to swim and was in decent position, drafting at the back of the front group. I had a small mental laps and lost the feet of the swimmers in front of me. I worked hard to catch back up as they are nice guys, but they don't wait around for anyone. I knew I had to catch the feet for a better position. It was a two lap swim and as I came out of the water on the first lap I was abut 5 seconds down on 1 guy in front of me and 10 seconds down on the main pack. I dove back in and worked hard to catch back up, but I still lost time. The main group came out about 1 min up on me and the guy that was 5 sec up was about 30 sec up. Lesson learned, I need to be more aggressive on the swim. As I came out of the water I was in no man's land as the next group behind me was 20-30 seconds down. I actually felt good sprinting to transition. As I came out of the water the announcer called my name and said "Here comes Nickolaus Early. Wow, they guy is a chiseled bull!" Never heard that one before, but I will take it. Maybe I can make it stick? Or maybe I will come up with a wine and call it that, much like dancing bull? yes, no?
I had a good transition and was on the bike. I tried to ride smooth and fast and the group of about 12 in front of me were not waiting up. The pack behind me in the water was about 4 guys and they soon caught me and we worked together. Soon we caught one guy and we were now 6 strong and hammering it. I was in a good position, but I could not handle the accelerations in and out of the turns as I have been really fatigued and could not do the work necessary to handle the intensity of the race. The 20+ mph winds were also reeking havoc on my legs. We went up a small hill, I lost the wheel and they were gone, I just did not have it in my legs to close the gap. I rode by myself smooth for sometime before a very large pack caught me and I rode with them, mostly sitting in. Soon we were on the run and I was shot. The season took its toll. I made a good show of it running out of transition, the rest of the run, well, not so much. I was pretty much shuffling my feet the entire way and running about 1 min slower per mile of what I am capable of running. As I came through on the last lap the announcer saw that I was hurting and got the crowd to cheer me through. I gave a smile, a little wave and a raise the roof. I knew it was a bad day, but I might as well try to stay in good spirits, which at this point it was hard to do as if it was not my last race of the season I would have stopped. Soon (well, not to soon) I crossed the finish line and completed my first pro season. I got a hug from my mom and started to pack up my bike as I had a 2 hour drive back to Charleston to catch my flight that night. I dropped James off at the Myrtle Beach airport and drove to Charleston for my flight home.
It was not the season I hoped for and definitively not the finish that I would have liked, but its in the books and I learned a lot. I will update my blogs about the season as a whole and keep posting during the off season about training. If I do take anything from the season I may have a new nickname.. the Chiseled Bull! Will it stick, I will let you know.