So we got to the race site with plenty of time, set our stuff up and yada yada yada… it was time for the gun to go off. It was a beach start I actually had a really good run into the water. I immediately spotted Craig A as we dove into the water and darted to his feet. This was great… I was right where I wanted to be. Problem was I think I let my guard down too soon because before I knew it I was getting pounded as it seemed like there were more than a few large bodies who wanted to be where I was. All of a sudden there was a gap opening up so I put in a surge and thankfully caught up to the group ahead. At this point I assumed things would settle down and it would just be a matter of maintaining pace for the rest of the swim. Unfotunately though about 5 minutes later I got a good look up ahead and I realized our pack had split. Balls. I was in the second pack. I thought about trying to get up to the group ahead but realized it would likely be a futile effort as I would first have to get through the group I was in and then close the gap to the group ahead.
Coming out of the water and into transition I confirmed what I had thought: there was a pack that I had missed. I was pretty bummed about that but realized I just had to put it behind me and have a good rest of the race. Out onto the bike course I was feeling pretty good but immediately took notice of the wind and knew it would be a factor. I was passed by a couple people (no surprise) and actually passed one guy (surprise!) before a group of three came up on me around the 15 mile mark. They weren't moving too fast so I decided to go with them. I soon realized that I could comfortably sit 10m behind the last person in the group so I decided to stay with them. This meant going really hard on the up hills and coasting on some of the downhills but the mental benefit of having someone to pace off was well worth it. Additionally I was always cognizant of staying at least 10m as I get kind of paranoid about being called for drafting. I guess thats what happens when you ride by yourself most of the time.
As we rolled along the temperature and wind picked up while the hills were relentless. Finally just past the 40 mile mark we hit the last turnaround and I decided to take off and punch it for the last 15 or so miles. At this point we had a nice tailwind and a couple of downhill sections so I just tried to get as small as possible and lose the other riders. It worked and I had a nice strong end to the ride and was stoked to get out on the run.
Starting the run I was feeling pretty great. My butt/piriformis/sciatic nerve issue had not acted up so I was really pumped to redeem myself from the crap run I had in Florida. It was nice to be able to move my legs and my fast pace was affirmed when I came through the mile in 5:35. Oops. Thats a little too fast. I tried to settle down but it was great to be running fast and have people ahead of me to catch. The run course had some shade which was nice but also had some hills, wide open sections, and lots of turns. There were also a lot of little loops so sometimes it felt like you were never really going anywhere.
I was still feeling good through about 6 miles but then I started hurting around the end of the first loop/beginning of the second loop. It happened a bit after I passed Timex teammate Alex MM and Will Ronco and I basically just had to suck it up and try not to slow down too much. While my second lap was certainly slower than my first, I managed to keep a decent enough pace and I was thrilled to finally see the chute. As I was crossing the line, the announcer said, "Almost rounding out the top 10, in 9th place, Andrew Hodges from Huntsville, Alabama!" I had to chuckle. My race number was '9' and after having no idea what place I was in as I crossed the line in 9th place in 4:11. This kept my streak alive of never finishing higher than my race number. And yes, I have been given '1' before. Of course now that I have mentioned it I've probably jinxed myself but sandbagging AG stud and Timex teammate Tim Hola thought it would be a nice addition.
I was a little lightheaded for a while post race but I got to chat with a bunch of people which was a lot of fun. However, I couldnt stay too long as I had a plane to catch so Will and I grabbed our stuff and took off.
Here is Will and I packing up after a day at the office:
After a quick pack of the bike and shower at Dale's place, we were headed to downtown Lawrence for a bite to eat. We had a friendly wager on lunch and because I was fortunate enough to finish ahead of him he had to buy the burgers. First though we had to drop my bike off at FedEx and while we were there got a recommendation for a burger place. We ended up at Jo Shmos and it did not disappoint. I rarely eat fries anymore but these were really delicious. Crispy on the outside, sweet and chewing on the inside... cooked to perfection. Of course the burger wasnt bad either.
After stuffing ourselfs with mushroom-swiss burgers and sweet potatoe fries, we headed to Ben & Jerry's for some high quality, butter fat laden premium ice cream. Yummy. Sadly I then had to dart to Kansas City as I had a 5:30 flight and a 50 minute drive to the airport. All in all though it was a pretty fun weekend and satisfying race.
Results can be found here: http://www.ironmankansas.com/results/08PrelimOverall.html