On Sept 5th 2020 I was lucky enough to be able to compete in the very 1st Cassadagaman 70.3 half ironman held in Cassadaga NY. As we all know this has been a very tough year for holding or competing in any events this year.
This was not an "A" race at the beginning of the year but given the Covid pandemic has shut most races down it became an "A" race. The challenge for me was I had already had races that were happening this year around it ( Wed. prior and the next day)
The morning of this race was very cool but the fog on the lake was very amazing. I found my spot in transition and started unpacking my tri bag and setting up my area. I ended up setting up near 4 others that were part of the same tri club I belong to (STTC). As folks filtered in the quiet lakefront became a buzz of chatter and excitement. My club mates and I were busy talking strategy and didn't mingle at first, however once we had our gear laid out I made my way around to talk to many of the athletes. It was an amazing mix of excitement, fear, nerves and joy depending on the experience level of who I talked to. .
As 8 am neared we were all called to the pre race meeting where the race director, Mark Wilson addressed the course and rules along with reminding us about social distancing and Covid. As he wrapped up speaking we went down to the waters edge where we were counted in 1 by 1 until the first wave was all in the water. This race had 3 waves, male/female/teams. The swim as a 1.2 mile square around the lake. When they said go I made sure to pop to the outside as to not get caught up in the madness and push too hard too early. The start was actually pretty relaxed, I had a few people that swam close time and got kicked and a few elbows early but it thinned out quickly. I kept a comfortable pace and kept an eye on the visible cues, which was tough due to the fog over the water, but it did burn off fairly quickly. Before I knew it I was on the last 450 yard straight away to the swim finish, only problem was the rising sun was right in our eyes. Mark did have a line in the water with orange makings on it to help guide us in.
I got out of the water and a friend of mine yelled out, great swim Rob, I had no idea I just killed my goal in the swim. I moved through transition without any issues and got out on the bike. I had 10 gels with me for the ride along with water and Sustained Energy. I started to take a gel as soon as I got settled on the bike. The 56 mile bike ride was not joke, its 2 loops of a hilly course. The first few miles legs felt heavy for some reason. I just didnt seem to have the power I would normally have. I was a bit concerned actually. However at around 10 miles they started feeling better. It started to get real cloudy and looked like rain though we only had a slight chance of it. About mile 15 it did start to rain but by mile 21 or so it stopped.
I had a goal in mind of doing this race in about 6.5 hours. However by about mile 30 I started doing the math and realized that if I could get the 2nd loop of this bike course done faster than the 1st I could have a serious chance at 6 hrs. I started pushing harder on the hills and took every advantage of speed on the down hills. At mile 54 I topped the last climb (3 mile climb) and during the 2 mile fairly flat end of the bike event I did a time check and realized that I had to average just under a 8:30 pace on the half marathon to make 6 hrs. As I approached the bike dismount I knew I needed a good transition and then just run a good race.
Transition went well and I was out on the run course. I had passed a few folks I knew and small talked as I ran by, I was pretty focused on the time at this point. At about 5 miles in a knew a few of the runners that had already hit one of the turn-a-rounds and heading back. I made it my goal to catch them. about a half mile from the turn around a female was coming the opposite direction and she says to me enjoy the next few minutes because it will suck when you turn around... see I had been going down hill for a couple miles and about to go hill for a couple miles. I laughed and kept running to the cone, changed direction then within a mile I had caught her, she was walking by this point, as I passed she yells show off, we both had a good laugh. I was still on pace but my legs were really going away fast.
At about mile 9 we hit the end of another out and back. I could see from those that hit the turn-a-round before me that I was not the only one hurting but I was closing on some of the people I had been trying to catch. With about 2 mile to go I checked the time and had over 22 minutes left to hit my goal of 6 hrs but what seemed more important at this point was catching more people, which I did! I had one person left to catch with one mile to go but then the legs became the biggest issue. I was slowing by this point and really just started to concentrate on that finish line rather than catching my friend Luke. As I turned the last corner I could see the finish, I ran with all I had left and as I hit the line I look at my watch 5:57:47! I did it went sub 6 hrs. I ended up 44 seconds behind Luke, who set a PR for this distance as well. I ended up 25th over all out of 130 and 3rd in my age group.
I really need to give a huge shout out to Hammer Nutrition! The Wednesday prior to this I had race in the STTC race 4 of the series where I placed 11th over all 2nd in age group and the day after this event I had raced in a bike road race called Tour De Tamarack where I had also placed 11th over all 3rd in age group. I could not have done well at all 3 events without proper fueling and recovery where the use of Hammer products paid off!