Fall Creek Falls was my first Olympic distance race last year. Coming into the race this year I was very excited to see how far I'd come in a year's time. The course was exactly the same as last year so I would be able to get great comparison data. I was also excited to try out my new ORR Cycling carbon race wheels.
A little different from last year were the accommodations. Last year I stayed in the Inn at Fall Creek Falls. It was nothing special (kind of a cinder block dorm room) but it was a room with a real bed (and possibly bed bugs... but they didn't eat much). This year, a group of my RTMC Club mates and I decided we would get a bunch of camp sites together and just have a big camping party. Wife had some things to do Saturday morning so I hitched a ride with a club mate and Wife came later in the day. I wanted to get there early enough to do a short bike ride and shake down run before dinner. We arrived just after lunch time and got our bikes off loaded. The rest of the group was already there waiting on us. After quickly setting up camp, we set off on the bikes. Quick 30 minute ride out of the way, I put my shoes on a trotted off for a quick run. Run done, it was back to camp to relax and chill out until time for packet pickup and dinner. Packet pickup was a breeze and soon after we got back to the site, Wife arrived. It was now food time. Everyone had brought their own meats for grilling and sides to share. I manned the grill while Wife and Mel tended the sweet taters and corn over the camp fire. After the whole crew was on hand we had a huge table filled with delicious noms and a whole gaggle of food happy triathletes. We ate, talked and laughed until the sun went down. Then off to bed. Slept pretty well. Humidity was high so fell asleep on top of sheet. Woke up around 1am cold. Fumbled around in tent for sleeping bags, unzipped and spread that over. No more cold. Alarm buzzed at 5am. I stumbled out of the tent and over to the cooler to retrieve standard pre-race breakfast of Greek yogurt and OJ. By now everyone else was awake. I drug my breakfast over to Blaik's and Barto's ( our neighbors ). I forgot to bring coffee, Blaik brought coffee. He is my hero. Food and coffee consumed I headed back to my tent to kit up and get ready to head to transition. My stuff was already laid out so the change went quickly. I slung my transition bag on my back, grabbed my helmet and my bike (which slept in the tent with Wife and me) and rode the 1/2 mile to transition. Wife rode to transition with Mel since they had their SUP boards to lug down there. (They both did water support for the swim course.) After getting my spot set up, headed to timing for body marking and chip/swim cap collection before heading down the eternally long hill (that I would have to run back up later.. barefoot.. after swimming) to the lake and swim start. I jumped in did a quick warmup swim, kissed Wife and made my way to the start line. 3... 2...1... GO!
I had a terrible swim. At least it felt like I did. From go, I never found a rhythm. I tried to jump out quickly and get ahead of a lot of the slower swimmers. Either everyone was fast, or I just didn't have the speed today. Either way, I was stuck in and around several guys for the first 400 or so yds. Then, they were all gone. I looked up and there were a few yellow caps ahead of me but I have no idea were everyone went. I felt slow, no rhythm, breathing was labored it was a chore. I have really enjoyed pretty much every swim I've done this year... except this one. I had laughed with another guy in transition how I just wasn't feeling it today. I was only halfway kidding with him. I was starting to realize maybe I wasn't kidding at all. After what seemed like an eternity I rounded the final buoy and headed for shore. The exit was awash with the morning sun. couldn't really see anything so I just swam toward a building and hoped for the best. My hands finally grazed the boat ramp and stood up and ran out of the water. Hit the button on my watch and started the loooooooooong run back up the hill to T1. I glanced at my watch 30 minutes. Ugh. Not a good way to start the day. Swim split: 30:16 (2:01/100m)
3 hours later (it was actually around 3 minutes but 3 hours sounds more impactful) I reached T1. Speedsuit off (yes I remember this time), shoes on (I opted for shoes on the ground since the run out was rocky), glasses on, helmet on, bike off the rack and GO. Hopped on and off I went. Bike course was rolling with some really fast sections and some devilishly deceptive climbs. Again, I never found a groove. I never felt like I got ahead of my pedal stroke. My cadence was good, heart rate was good and speed was good but just never found my happy place. I passed a couple guys on the way out to the main road and then followed (from afar, out of the draft zone) a guy from another age group who was riding about my pace. I passed him once early then he passed me back and I just stayed back at that point. Getting into shenanigans with that guy would not help me today. After the turnaround I found a bit more speed on a slight incline and passed him again. He would not pass me back. Back into the park I was watching for the golf course which was my visual cue to come out of my shoes. There it is. I came out of both shoes easier than I ever have, which was nice. I made the turn back toward the dismount line, smooth flying dismount and I was into T2. Bike split: 1:04:42 (23.1mph)
Nutrition note: Bike nutrition for the day was one bottle of Infinit bike mix spiked with BASE salts.
I wasn't really sure what to expect on the run after the way I felt on the swim and bike but after a quick T2 it was time to find out. I will say this about the run course at FCF. It is WAY more difficult than I remember. Very pretty course with lots of it on the greenway but there are a couple NASTY little climbs and one REALLY nasty big one back to the finish line. I held a pretty good clip for the first 3 miles around and 8 min mile or just over. Not bad. Then I just kind of shut down. It wasn't a physical thing, I just mentally wasn't in it anymore. There was no one around me, my age group or otherwise, and I, for some reason, couldn't find a way to put myself in the pain cave. I guess I just didn't feel like hurting today. My pace slowed into the 9's. Not good. It was then that a group of guys caught me up. One of them happened to be my buddy Horacio. Horacio and I are good running mates. He was with me for my open half marathon PR and he was there for me today. I picked it up and paced with him. My body responded well and we were chugging along back in the low 8's. We made the final turn and started the long slog back up the hill to the finish. We were working great together. Heading into the finish I looked over and told him if he had it, to go for it. He drug me along the last 1.5 miles and I sure wasn't going to try and sprint it out with him. He took off and I followed behind. I hit the finish chute and pushed across the line. Run split: 51:03 (8:14/mile)
Overal time: 2:30:33. A course PR by nearly 17 minutes and good enough for a 2nd place AG finish.