Ed. Note—Eric Limkemann is one of the great swim/bike men of the triathlon world. Your editor remembers attempting to chase him—in vain—at races up and down the East Coast back in the mid aughts, and he's gone on to a successful career at the longer distances. He now balances training and racing with raising his daughter. This post appeared originally at Eric Limkemann, Pro Triathlete.
When I was a swimmer, I always wanted to be put on the 400 free relay. Being a distance guy, it was my chance to show my speed and I was always excited when I was thrown in for a dual meet. Regardless of how well I performed, I would always come away from the relays with a painful reminder of just how bad a short race can hurt and usually a bit of complex about not being able to summon my secret/non-existent sprinter identity. The intense pain and suffering packaged in 4 short laps of the pool was worse than my familiar slow burn of the 500 or 1650. This weekend at St. Anthony’s I had a similar experience, trying to put myself through less than two hours of intense pain when 4-8 hours of pain management is more my forte. The result was similar to the relay performances from my swimming days…back to the distance group for me!
After a great week in Florida training and catching up with old friends, I was in a good state of mind going into race day. I cheered on the young kids at the Meek and Mighty race and attended the pro meeting with a bunch of familiar faces. I saw the race as a great opportunity for a tune up heading into the meat of my season and a way to mark the anniversary of my first pro race here way back in 2007. Coming in with no real expectations is a nice way to race and it served me well when they announced the swim would be shortened to 900m (which included close to 200m of shallow water running and a 600+ meter run to transition!). Knowing my odds weren’t great against the speedier guys on the start list given the course adjustments, I had nothing to lose.
The short swim was uneventful and quite easy when we were actually swimming. Knowing how to swim in rough water and how to use the group dynamic to conserve energy came into play nicely (shout out to Peluso Open Water). The entry/exit/transition was a different story as explosive coordination simply doesn’t exist for me. By the time I hit the first transition I had lost contact with the lead group despite swimming easily near the front. I hopped on the bike and got to work revving up to threshold for the next hour. Sadly, I could not get my legs into gear and struggled to find a rhythm while the lead group got together and went up the road. I eventually got up to speed but the last 10 minutes of the ride were where I finally got comfortable. By that time the race had already been decided. I hit T2 within striking distance of a top 10 finish if only I could get my running legs to kick in quicker than my cycling legs.
On the best of days my running isn’t exactly stellar, but my limited speed work and early season form made for a predictable result. My pace was stuck in tempo gear and I clicked off mile times that normally belong in a 70.3. No matter what I tried, each split was within 2-3 seconds of 6 minute pace. That’s not going to get the job done for a 10k and I knew it. I was getting the shock to the system I was looking for in this race but it was tough to accept that my performance on the day wasn’t going to be stellar. I crossed the line knowing I’d put my best effort in but also knowing I could have done double the distance with the same speed. I have written that sentence in many, many race reports!
There are a few positive takeaways from the race. First, it was great to shake the cobwebs off and get the first race of the season out of the way regardless of the result. Second, my power and pacing were consistent all day and were maintainable for at least a 70.3. Third, I had a great time with friends and family before, during, and after race day. Finally, my equipment/sponsors played their part perfectly: First Endurance EFS Pro was a custom made system for the Florida humidity. BlueSeventy took care of my swim as always and the Dimond/Alto/ISM combo kept me comfortable on the bike. When I finally got my legs to produce power, the ICE Chain/SLF Pulleys/Pioneer powermeter purred like clockwork. And of course, I looked amazing in my Wattie Ink kit. Well, the kit looked good at least.
Some of the negatives aspects of the race will help me to fine tune my training going forward. Even though I’m focused on going long, I simply cannot ignore my speed component on the bike and run. I also had the sad realization that my technical riding ability has taken a hit over the winter and spring of steady, mostly turn-less riding. I lost quite a bit of time navigating turns and used the brakes way too much. Attention to a few of these details will help me to be a better long course athlete In June and July. After a long drive back to RVA, I'm back with my girls and looking forward to the coming months. I’m ratcheting up my long course preparation and looking forward to that familiar slow burn. I think I’ll leave the short stuff to the speedsters.