With about 15 minutes till start time I entered the very chilly water and started the process of getting some blood flowing and acclimating to the water. I was pleasantly surprised after about five minutes of mainly head up swimming and sculling, I started to feel some warmth and was able to take my first real strokes, after about 5 minutes of moderate swimming I was ready to go. I felt controlled right from the start, I no longer was aware of the cold and just focused on breathing and keeping my stroke rate high. One other athlete swam with me for the entire split, it was nice to have company and a little push through the middle portion of the swim. I knew numbness was going to be an issue so I made sure to kick much harder than usual heading into T1. I finished the 1.15 mile swim in 23:04 feeling in control but eager to get some warm blood flowing.
After a quick transition I hopped on the bike and immediately started to struggle to get my shoes on. The combination of less than ideal pavement and numb feet from a chilly swim, meant I fiddled with my shoes for far longer than I would have wanted, but eventually I was under way. For the first 30 minutes of the bike, being cold consumed most of my thought process. The rough roads and hilly terrain required my full attention during the first half of the bike split. My plan was to build the bike and prioritize a really strong last hour. I felt controlled and my heart rate was lower than expected through the first hour. Through 30 miles I had normalized 280 watts and was feeling strong so I made the decision to pick up the power over the last hour. Over the last 26 miles I raised that average to 292 and had built up an 11 minute lead in the process. Other than some rough pavement during the first half of the split I really enjoyed the 3300 feet of elevation gain on this course. I finished the 56 mile bike ride in 2:20:51, feeling strong and ready to run.
I will start by saying this was one of the most enjoyable runs I have had in a race to date. The course consisted of two loops and a little over 1300 feet of elevation gain. My plan was to build the first 25%, try and run strong in the middle and then give it everything I had on the way home. It took about two miles off of the bike for my body to adjust and I started to feel the effort coming to me. My stomach complained a little, my back complained for a moment or two and my right foot was still numb from the chilly water but everything passed quickly and I could feel things starting to come together. Having struggled through my fair share of runs over the years, it is still a slightly surprising but thoroughly enjoyable feeling when a run actually comes together. I used the undulating nature of the course to my advantage, I focused on leg speed up the hills and then keeping that same pressure and tempo up over the top and eventually down the back side of the hills. I kept a bit of control until about mile 10 and then started giving it everything I had. It is hard to express how good it feels to finish a run strong. I ran the 13.5 mile course in 1:25:10 and finished with an overall time of 4:10:56, good enough for 1st place and a course record by five minutes.