Yesterday I raced the inaugural Mooseman 70.3 in Newfound Lake New Hampshire. I went in with hopes for a top-5 finish and left with a DNF, the first time I've ever willingly dropped out of a race.
Saturday was a busy day. Rather than do the usual travel on Friday routine I opted to try out a shorter trip by flying out early Saturday morning. Between the rental car and hotel I saved around $200 flying out Saturday rather than Friday. Flew into Boston and made the two hour drive north, my first ever trip to New Hampshire. Arrived at the race site, put the bike together, did a short workout, attended the pro meeting, and then drove the bike course. I knew this was going to be a pretty challenging bike course in terms of terrain. When I drove the course I was taken a little off guard by how technical the bike course was. Typically driving the bike course calms my nerves a bit but on this occasion it made me more nervous. In fact after driving the course once I opted to drive a 20 mile portion a second time. The terrain of the course was nearly identical to the Muskoka 70.3, my favorite race course. However Mooseman gets my nod as the harder bike course as it is significantly more technical than Muskoka. Mooseman has a much easier run course with just a few moderate climbs and great scenery along the lake, Muskoka's run is just as difficult as its bike.
Swim: 25:58 10th fastest split
About 10 minutes before the start of the race the rain arrived, it was constant throughout the entire day and just got heavier as the day wore on. My swim was pretty mediocre, I've had better, I've had worse. Ended up in my usual position in the chase pack, had a good group to pull me along. After the final turn with around 800 to go I lost my pair of feet and was unable to get back despite my attempts. Gave up about 30 second to the group I was with but wasn't too worried; given the nature of the bike course we were about to undertake I knew it wouldn't be necessary to start the bike with a group.
Onto the two loop bike course with the rain falling and plenty of puddles to dodge. My plan was to hold back some the first loop and to be strong the second. The legs were a bit slow to get going initially and I tried not to force anything, just let the legs come around on their own. After a 6 mile "warmup" the fun began with a 3.5 mile, 1000 ft climb. I played it pretty conservative up this climb, keeping my breathing and heart rate in check knowing that I would have to make the climb a second time. The grade got quite steep towards the top and I did not bring a wide enough cassette to be ideal for this climb. Once to the top we went into 7 miles of fast, very technical descending on very wet roads. This is where my trouble began. I just didn't have the bravery of some of my fellow male pros on those descents. It takes formidable technique to descend S-curves at 30-40mph in dry conditions, but to do so in the wet is a whole different ballgame. Even riding conservative I was still way out of my comfort zone, did not feel safe on the course and scared myself a few times. Nothing like squeezing your brakes at with all your strength and feeling them not grab while traveling 40mph and trying to prepare for a sharp turn. After around 16 miles the road opened up onto highway and I felt like I had the legs to hammer but I had given up so much time descending, there was no way to get back into the race in just 8 miles of open road before starting the whole process over again. I debated dropping out for quite a while which is not the mentality to have during a big race. It didn't even feel like a race to me, I was focused entirely on staying upright as opposed to racing. In the end I knew that I would lose even more time going through the whole process again on the second loop, was probably looking at finishing 8th-10th place, and furthermore there were going to be 1100 age groupers spread out over 20 miles on the second loop. The course was dicey enough to do alone, I didn't want to think what it would be like going through age groupers of all different abilities. It just felt to me like an unnecessary risk for very little reward and for the first time in my life I chose to drop out of a race. I'm still debating with myself if it was the right decision, I think there is something to be said for sticking it out in tough conditions and on an off day, but I really was uncomfortable out on the course in those conditions. If I could do it over again I don't think I would do it any different or be able to ride any faster, I'm just not a great technical rider or a risk taker on the bike. I went back to T2, gathered up my gear, realized how cold I was, threw everything up in the car and sat for 20 minutes with the heat on full blast. Then decided to make the most of my training day and headed out for an 18 mile long run on the course, watching the pro races play out and cheering everyone on. It was definitely a contest of who could survive the best as opposed to a race.
In the end it wasn't what I wanted or what I traveled across the country for. If there's anything positive to take from the experience I got to see a beautiful part of the country that I never knew existed. Newfound Lake is a fantastic venue for a race, the water is as clear as Lake Michigan and the Appalachians make for a fantastic backdrop. I want to say congrats to everyone who finished, especially all the 6+ hour finishers who were out when the skies opened up and the rain really started to come down, that race is no small feat. Mooseman is a great race, just a bit too sketchy in the rain for my liking. I hope to return to make things right. Unfortunately I will probably have to wait until July 18 to show my stuff at the Racine 70.3, my next pro race. Three pro races down in 2010 and the three races have each been my coldest, hottest, and wettest races of my life. What's next, windiest? Stay tuned, thanks for reading.