No Wings at Eagleman

No Wings at Eagleman

Ha! Such a cheesy title..

So I’m doing this thing now that I’m calling The Boondock Pro. After many years of gently nagging my wife, we finally pulled the trigger on a Class-C RV. I haven’t convinced her to leave her job yet and live in this thing full-time, but it’ll happen.. Team Wurtele probably have the market cornered on the whole pro-triathlete-in-an-RV thing but whatever, this is my life now and I want to have fun with it. There’s a Youtube Channel (no experience on that platform so that’ll be fun) and podcast (lots of experience there!) coming so this should be fun! On that note, let’s talk about my favourite part of Eagleman: the drive down.

You don’t really go too fast in an RV. Gas is just too expensive. Because of that it makes sense to avoid highways and just take the most direct route along backroads and minor highways. If you’re in a rush in an RV, you’re doing it wrong. My journey took me on some of the most beautiful country roads I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving. I had no idea Pennsylvania was such a beautiful place. Once I made it past Syracuse (let’s not talk about Syracuse), the scenery started looking very promising. But it wasn’t until I was somewhere in and around Reading, PA that I really started to enjoy my drive. I had planned to go all the way in one shot but since I was stopping like clockwork every hour to stretch my legs, it took much longer.

One of my favourite pastimes is sniffing out the local craft brewery. I didn’t land in Reading early enough to stop at the Chatty Monks Brewing Company but I did find a little pub serving local craft beer. I don’t actually remember what it was, but it was definitely an IPA of some kind. It was a bit of a pain finding a spot for the RV to park. I’ve only ever done the Wal-Mart and rest stop thing with my fellow boondocking triathlete pal, Pascal (Pascal had his RV at Eagleman too!), and I didn’t want to drive after my beer adventure –one beer probably wouldn’t have been an issue but why risk it? I found a spot on a residential street less than a 100m from this little pub. And that’s where I slept. It was nice.

The next morning I carried on through more spectacular scenery finally arriving in Cambridge, MD. Because Eagleman has such a long history in Cambridge, the people in the town were incredibly welcoming. The local businesses clearly love having an influx of 2000 people or so spending money in their town –that sounds really sarcastic, but it’s not. My first item on my to do list was check-in. I found a nice parking spot across from the YMCA near the race site. I was a little miffed that they wanted to charge $150/night to park my RV on their grass lawn. It’s less than half that for a site with full air/power/sewar hookups at an RV park. So to spite them I made sure to park on the street close enough to grab their wifi, because that’s how I roll. I watched Star Trek or something on Netflix until the network disappeared –I’d been made! Next up was run course recon on my bike. I got lost. Well not lost per se. I deviated from the run course and ended up somewhere I shouldn’t have been. That was fun.

If I may give everyone one piece of Ironman advice: always join the event’s facebook group. Sometimes they’re official, sometimes they’re just run by someone who does the event a lot. Pick the one with the most people in it, and join it. I don’t really care so much about the water temp updates (there’s a guy at Eagleman who keeps a spreadsheet of daily water temps. Seems excessive. But everyone needs a hobby, I guess). But I do like when local people are there to provide info about what’s in the area. I have three important things I need to know where to find when I arrive at the race: Beer. Coffee. Burger. (maybe that should be my ‘thing’?) I like to have a beer on the penultimate evening of the race (that’s the night before the night before the race). I like to have an early morning coffee at a quiet little café on the morning before the race. I like to have a delicious burger and fries as my first post-race meal. I was able to get local recommendations for all three in the Eagleman Facebook Group.

Beer: I had my beer at RaR Brewing. They had a Simpson’s mural on the wall. A+

Coffee: I had my coffee at Black Water Bakery. It was more of a breakfast place than a café and they looked confused when I sat down and ordered nothing but coffee.. Whatever. The guy who served me was super friendly. And the coffee was great.

Burger: I had my burger at Portside Seafood Restaurant. I don’t think this was place that was recommended to me. Not gonna lie.. it was pretty meh. Never steer away from the recommendations.

Now that you’ve read my 10 page report on everything that has nothing to do with the race, here’s the actual race report.

The Swim

It’s such a cliché and I hate when I meet with the athletes I coach and they say, “the swim is the swim..” but really though: the swim is the swim. It was non-wetsuit, which is good. I don’t like wetsuits. I’m not the greatest freestyle swimmer but I grew up in a beach town (Yes. Those exist in Canada.). As such, the water is my second home. I don’t like not being able to feel the water when I’m trapped inside a neoprene tube.

The swim was awful for me. I have allergies to various things, mostly the world in general, and I’m asthmatic. So I get this allergy-induced asthma bronchial thing. Basically I develop this horrid cough and I drown in phlegm for a weeks or so every spring. This year it coincided perfectly with Eagleman. It didn’t help that the beach start was super shallow and I had to run quite a distance, which gave me some nasty burn on the muscles. And from there on I had to stop every 100m or so to launch some goop from my lungs. All that hacking and stopping drew the attention of various rescue boats who probably thought I was dying slowly. In some ways I was.

There was time where you had to hit a qualifying time in a race in order to get your pro card. Under the new system, it’s just apply and go. And I’m bursting with self-awareness at my unearned pro status. A fellow coach and friend of mine makes fun of me for having got my pro-card “from the Cracker Jack box.” So any aspiring pro prior to this change had plenty of time hidden among the age groupers to make mistakes, have bad races, and sort themselves out. I could have NOT got my pro card but..

  1. That doesn’t seem fun.
  2. Serious answer: The reason why Triathlon Canada changed the qualifications was so aspiring pros could gain valuable experience in the pro field and develop their race craft and learn how to manage the expectations of racing as a pro. And that’s why I did it. I have the fitness. That’s not the question. But putting it together in a race still eludes me. And I’d rather learn how to do that on the job, so-to-speak.

So with that said, it is a bit embarrassing when you’re the pro out there in the water 10minutes behind everyone else. I get to make all my mistakes and have my learning moments in front of everyone. Spit. Spit. Hack. Hack.

The Bike

Bike Racer Ego is something I’ve yet to find a way to kill. I don’t think it can be killed by mortal weapons, frankly. I’m going to need an Infinity Gauntlet to make it go away (if you’re reading this via archives in 2024, it’s a reference to a superhero movie that came out in 2018). I overcooked the first part of the bike riding harder than I really should have. I blew up a little midway and then found a more realistic rhythm to settle into. And then died completely.

Drafting is a serious problem. I’m just going to throw that out there. I was drafted by a number of age groupers.. cough… 208…. cough… then with 5km to go on the bike I was passed by a group of guys who apparently thought they were part of a Team Time Trial. Nice work guys.. I also noticed that no one was in the penalty tent. This was true of both IMTexas and 70.3 Chattanooga. If I were the conspiracy theory type, I would guess that the WTC is getting ready to dump drafting rules or significantly change them.

I was ready to quit the race at around the 70km mark, I was feeling like garbage. But then this weird feeling came over me. Something I HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED. I was…. looking forward to running….. I think I’m becoming an actual triathlete. So when I got to T2, I was pumped to run. That’s never happened before.

The Run

I was surprised how good I felt once out on the run. I was jamming along at 4:10/km. Not as fast I think I’m capable, but decent. It didn’t feel too bad either. Because of my abysmal swim I was already well behind the nearest pro so I was having a bit of fun with it. I took extra time at aid stations where I would normally rush through just for the hell of it. Around 9km, even though I was feeling good, I had that little voice in my head that kept telling me just to stop for a minute. Take a break. I didn’t need to. But I did. It was frustrating. If I can get into a groove and get lost in my thoughts, I can go really well on the run. But the minute I listen to that voice, it’s over. I was really pleased with my physical game at Eagleman. But I was really disappointed with my mental game.

I’m sure being in the same field as Lionel at 70.3 Tremblant will really help with that… uh.. yea..

Final Thoughts

Ultimately I still had a lot of fun. I’m not seeing the results or times I want to see yet. And that’s not because I’m not capable. I just need a little more practice executing a race. Humans are really good at developing mental techniques to deal with difficult situations. As a bike racer, where the hard bits are relatively short and soul-crushingly hard, you learn to tell yourself that if you just hang in a few more seconds, it’ll ease up and you’ll get a break. You use those little micro-breaks where you can soft pedal at 150w to collect yourself, take some deep breaths and get your shit in order. That doesn’t work in a triathlon. It’s requires a solid and consistent output and I haven’t adapted to this type of racing yet.

I’m not even going to worry about my fitness at races for the rest of this season. My legs will do what they do. I need to focus on execution and developing the mental discipline to tackle these types of races.

I am still having fun.

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