JerseyMan in Jersey, Man
Three weeks ago (my delay in completing this post hurts to write, trust me), I competed in the “Half Lite” distance JerseyMan Triathlon in Lebanon, NJ. After a last minute cancellation of the American Zöfingen due to insurmountable road closures, I scrambled for a replacement race. I had heard of a Half Lite triathlon in central NJ that was race morning-drivable that some friends were doing, and the hilly bike and run course sounded like it would suit my strengths. I signed up, thanks to help from a fellow Bucknell alum who connected me to Emily Sherrard.
I’m no stranger to 4am wakeups anymore. If anything, race morning feels like Christmas morning, but it was too cold (45 degrees!) to walk to the car in pajamas.
I had my usual bagel with peanut butter and banana on the drive to the race at Round Valley Park. There were not assigned racks, so arriving early, at 5:30am, was well worth it for a good position. Though I had entered in the elite wave, I registered after numbers were assigned, so I did not have a spot on the elite rack, but I was just grateful to be there! Though I arrived almost two hours before my wave started, I used every last second before my wave went off at 7:30am. A warm week had warmed up the water to nearly 70 degrees, considerably warmer than the 55-60 degree air. I put on my wetsuit, got in a few strokes in the water and pushups in the corral to warmup (a secret warmup weapon, not an intimidation technique!), and the gun was off.
An elite start meant that I started with the elite men, elite women, and those doing the triathlon relay. It also meant a lot less company, so I knew I had to be aggressive and proactive about finding feet on the swim.
Perhaps my warmup pushups made me look ready for a boxing match, because I got (unintentionally) punched in the goggle five minutes into the swim. My left goggle filled up halfway with water, and I considered emptying it out, but I had found feet to draft off of and didn’t want to let them go. I held onto feet (figuratively, not literally, I’m no savage!) until the final 50 yards of the swim.
The bike leg, a 32 mile, ~1,900 foot elevation gain two-loop course, was as hilly as I expected, with a Lake Placid-inspired sequence of three hills titled - and even labeled in chalk on the pavement - “Baby Bear,” “Mama Bear,” and “Papa Bear.” The bears came late in the loop and were momentum-suckers, (Goldilocks would be pissed!) but they were fun because it made me aware of how much harder I could work. The course in general was very lonely, however. Again, the elite start caused us to be pretty spread out on the bike course. Every time I did encounter a man passing me, it was a small wakeup call.
I yoyo’ed with a strong woman cyclist for the last two-thirds of the second loop, but upon re-entering the park for the final mile, there was an unmarked turn during which I sat completely upright, turned around, and wondered if I was going the right way. (Note to self: Bearing right is the right way!)
The run course was one of my favorite run courses of any triathlon. Most people do not feel this way, since it includes 0.7 miles on a rocky dirt road with a punchy hill that has to be run twice! The way that the course is situated is that you run two full loops, start a third loop, then veer off to the right before you encounter the punchy hill. Unlike the man in the swim, this punchy hill did not knock my goggles off. The whole time, I was being told that I was “catching up to the next one,” and that “she’s right around the corner,” but then I would pass a woman on her first or second loop. Upon starting the run, I felt pretty sure I was in third place, since that’s what someone confidently told me during the bike leg, They could have told me I was in 10th, that my saddlebag was still on, or that Britney Spears still has talent, and I would have believed them.
With not much reliable knowledge, I kept chipping away at the dirt road and rolling, paved hills. With about a mile to go, after two complete loops, I saw the number “10” on the back of a female competitor in front of me. Low race numbers indicates elite status, so I ran past this woman and hunted down the next one, who I couldn’t see up ahead. That first place woman ended up being Emily, who finished 25 seconds ahead of me (and definitely was comfortably running what she had to in order to win!). She was a most gracious competitor, and it was her last triathlon near her hometown for a while. She is fitter so it was fitting that she won :D
About 3 minutes after the race, I had a plate full of scrambled eggs, bacon, and french toast in my hands. Covered in sweat, ears ringing from music, stumbling over to get breakfast food, it was like the end of a long night out, except it was only 9-something in the morning. Trucker hats off to TMB Racing for providing the exact food I want after a long morning!
It was about 70 degrees at the finish, so I never got dehydrated, and holy moly, did that make a difference in my recovery. I’m looking forward to the next triathlon, the Escape from Philadelphia Olympic distance race on June 25th.