Here's how the day unfolded last Sunday. It started off perfectly. I pulled up to the bus pick-up spot in Sea Isle City about 10 minutes early. I got my stuff together and walked down to where the buses were supposed to pick us up. As I got there 3 buses pulled up, I got on the first one, sat down and we left. That meant plenty of time at the starting line. Wind was going to be a major concern. ODM is a point-to-point race. South to North so a wind out of the North would be disastrous!
We were the first to get to the starting line. That means one thing...no line for the port-o-potties! That's gold! Took care of business and went into the lobby of the host hotel to relax. Wind seemed to be more than 5 mph out of the NE that weather.com had predicted.
With 45 minutes to go before the start, I got up to go warm-up. What's the first thing I notice as I get outside? The FLIPPING WIND! It's 15-20 mph out of the NE. You have got to be kidding me! It's going to be the same for everyone so no sense in complaining. I got a good warm-up in and went inside to stretch and finish eating. I head to the starting line about 20 minutes before the start. Stop at the port-o-potty one more time, drop my bag off and get on the line.
I want to get out quickly so I don't get jammed up. They start us and I'm able to get clear of the main pack and settle in with the lead group pretty quickly. Someone made a move very early in the race and breaks clear of the main pack. By mile 3, there is the one runner way out in front and then there are 4 of us about 90 seconds behind. They started the 10 mile race with the marathoners so we're not sure if he's in our race. As the wind continues to beat us up, three of us decide to work together. (A fourth joined our group but didn't do any work. Really pissed me off.) We ran in single-file each person taking turns out in front. We each pulled for a mile and then peeled off. There was a noticeable difference when you weren't out in front. When we got to the 10-mile finish, the leader runner turned off and was done. Our question was answered and now we were the lead pack in the race.
We ran like this until about mile 14. The group started to fall apart at this point and now it was just me and one other guy from the original four. I started to fall off his pace as we went over a bridge. I figured I would let him go and try to reel him in over the last 10 miles. Out of nowhere, someone I hadn't seen before runs by me like I'm standing still, runs by the race leader and settles in right in front of him. Within another mile, one more person from the original four passed me and settled in about 200 yards in front of me. As we passed mile 17, I could still see the first 3 runners in the race. They weren't getting any further away but they certainly weren't getting any closer.
Every time I thought about trying to make a move the wind saw to it that I didn't. The wind became very demoralizing and the race turned into "just get this over with." My goal was to be under 2:50, and I knew this was going to be tough on a day like Sunday.
Over the last 9 miles, I was unable to make up any time on the first 3. As I ran up to the boardwalk in Sea Isle City, I could see the finish line about 3/4 of a mile ahead. It seemed like someone kept moving it back. The last half-mile (as it always is) was sheer torture. I crossed the finish line in 2:52:29. Slower than I wanted to be. Not my best performance but by far my best effort. Only 3 minutes separated the top 4 runners. I spoke with the guy that finished 2nd and he said he's never over 2:50. He figured the course was 5-6 minutes slower than normal.
I know I'm heading into the triathlon season, fitter than I've ever been. I want to go to Kona this year to race and not just participate. I stayed healthy for this race and the competitive fire has been lit under my ass again. I can't wait for triathlon season to start!