I always like to have a little storyline to a race. The Lobsterman story started a few weeks out when my friend Jared told me to make sure I signed up so we could square off at least once more before the end of the season. We exchanged a little trash talk and I figured it would be a pretty close contest so I threw my hat in the ring. I was pretty sure he'd get me but I also thought that if I raced a smart race I would be able to make it tough on him. You might say I was the underdog in this one. Jared essentially beat me at the Mooseman earlier this season but the results show differently. He had passed me on the bike and was putting time on me when he flatted. Tough break, and in my book not a legitimate "win" for me so I was kind of excited to lock horns with him again, particularly on a shorter course. He and Dave B had done Ironman Lake Placid this past July so my opponent here today was no slouch. In fact, when we train (bike) together he pounds me on the bike and I hang on for dear life hoping he'll tire out at some point. He never does.
I typically swim a little faster than Jared does and I might have a slight edge on the run so my race plan was to hit the swim hard, create a gap, give most of it back on the bike and then win a dog fight on the run. Good plan? Certainly a recipe for pain but I wasn't sure the math was going to work in my favor. My concern was that he was going to put too much time on me on the bike and I'd run out of real estate trying to reel him in on the run. All these things considered, I liked my chances. :).
I got to the race venue early and had Josh Freeman change my rear cassette to something better suited for this course. Then I grabbed my trainer, set it up and spun for about 30 minutes while chatting with Southern Maine's Self Proclaimed Fastest Non-Triathlete - Roger. I noticed people staring at me and wondering who the TOOL was that brought his trainer but I didn't care. I did this last year and ended up on the podium and that's where I decided I wanted to be today. Then Roger told me that Andy, the announcer, had just called my number and that my bike was racked in the wrong spot. I ran over to transition and sure enough I had put my stuff in the wrong spot. I wish I knew the guy's name that I cursed for being in my spot (whoops) so I could apologize. Must be the year of the rookie mistake or something. I got squared away and went back to wrap up my warm-up that so many were intrigued by.
It was time to get in the water. I met Dave at the start and we decided to try to work together and get to the front early. For the second week in a row I got a GREAT start and was out ahead of most of the pack. Jared started in the wave (3 minutes) ahead of us and I was hoping to come out of the water with him. I'm not sure how long Dave stayed on my feet but I had a great swim (for me) and was out of the water in just over 26 minutes. When I hit the beach to stand up my legs cramped and I had to gimp it up the hill to T1 hoping it would work itself out. I had a fairly quick transition and tore out of the transition area down the dirt drive. I heard Roger yell that I had a two minute lead, SWEET! That meant Jared was only a minute in front of me on the course. In my haste to get up to speed I neglected to get my left foot clicked in properly. When I drove my foot down on the pedal it slipped out and the rear wheel slid out from under me. I was going down in a hurry. I'm not sure what happened to change that but as I was planning my recovery from my first fall off the bike I miraculously straightened out and found myself still upright. Phew, close one. Settle down Francis. I gave my legs a few minutes to try to get stretched out and hoped the cramps would go away. They did, and by the time I climbed out of Winslow Park I had determined that I was going to be able to hit the course pretty hard. I wanted to make Jared work to beat me today and if he faltered I was going to catch him. I didn't really need to catch him, just close the gap to less than 3 minutes and I had him beat. And right now I had him beat. Still wanted to catch him though. The bike went well and I ended up going tit for tat with a 52 year old guy from Mass that started 3 minutes behind me and was smashing the bike course. We went back and forth a few times and I realized he was no joke. It helped me though, to have somebody to chase. I got off the bike in 1:05 or so, good for the 11th fastest bike split on the day at 22.9 mph average. I had another solid transition and tore out of there at about a 5:30 clip that I knew I would pay for just after the gatehouse. I did too. I had to slow up and settle down. I looked ahead as I left the park and saw three Midcoast shirts. One HAD to be him. Turns out one was Chris Callan, then Mike Kramer, and the one way up ahead was Jared. Good, I had him in sight. It also meant I had held the gap on the bike. All I had to do was keep him there and I'd win. Easier said than done. I was starting to cramp pretty bad in the quads and hamstrings. Not enough salt. I didn't have any more either. I was in trouble. I made it out of the park and to the first aid station. I guzzled two cups of Gatorade or Cytomax or whatever it was and kept trucking. At one point I was whipping my left leg out in front of me with my hip because when I pulled it through it would seize up. The drink helped and I ran the next mile pretty well, closing the gap a bit. I fell off Callan and Kramer's pace. They caught Jared and told him I was back there. I noticed the pace quickening and did my best to hold on. I was a couple of hundred yards back - maybe a minute or so. Just needed to hang on. I tried to conserve a bit for the return trip and then the last mile in the event he tried to drop me, but at this point I was just hoping not to seize up. I hit every aid station and guzzled two drinks and it was staving off the cramps somewhat. We turned into Winslow Park and I caught Kramer and tried to get him going again to catch Callan - no dice. He was hurting too. I hung on all the way to the dirt driveway where there was about 1/3 mile to go. Legs weren't feeling too bad so I stepped it up a bit and started to sense we might have an epic finish line sprint if I could just close the gap. As we made the final turn I heard the announcer Andy say "Now entering the finish area Jared Buzzell, Scarborough Maine, followed by Robert Turner, Windham Maine. Crap. Now he knew I was close! I was trying to sneak up there. I put everything I had into the last couple hundred yards but it wasn't enough to catch him at the line. He wasn't having any of it anyway. He's familiar with my work and was NOT going to let me get him at the line. I came across a few seconds after he did and that was just fine. I had won, and it felt great. I was 26th overall and had taken 3rd in my age group. We high fived and recovered and talked non-stop about the race and it occurred to me that I had beaten not only a tough competitor on this day but also classy individual. We both went hard at each other and laid it out there and I think he was as happy for me that I beat him as I was to have been able to do it. I try to be the same way. It is a treat to be able to compete with a friend and still be friends afterward. I think too many people get caught up in it and lose sight of what is really going on here. To me it's always been more about all the other stuff around the race than the race itself. Sure, I go right at it. Heck, it has even been said that I race "angry". But after the race what do you have? You have your friends, and the memories created by your efforts that day. That's the stuff I remember, those are the things I'll take away from the sport when somebody tells me I'm at the end of the line. And when they are dragging me away, kicking and screaming, you can bet I'll be trying to figure out a way to race somebody somewhere again next weekend!
Speaking of next weekend, I'm headed to Orono to defend my title from last year at the Black Bear Trithlon. It's a small race. Bringing a couple of friend's. One of 'em is Jared. So in the words of my favorite entertainer Waylon Jennings....Don't nobody go nowhere!