Sometimes priorities change and things that used to be super important become another thing making your life busy. That is how I've felt about racing this year. I was unemployed for a few months last year, then I got a sometimes 60+ hour per week job, and I decided to prioritize the career over almost everything.
Francine has pushed me this year to keep racing and to not worry about the results, however bad they may be... as my training has been limited by my new work schedule. So, I decided I'd sign up as an Expert and just lose.....and lose I did. The first expert race I competed in was a bit of a disaster as I was dropped by several sport class riders in the beginning...
Then came the Rappahannock Adventure Triathalon. Francine had preregistered for this race long ago. I figured I'd give it a shot since I rode a few times and ran a few times over the past couple of weeks. So we showed up at 7:30am in Fredericksburg with kayaks, bikes, running shoes, and camel baks. I borrowed a 17 foot long boat from Lee Wilson, which he described as "a very fast boat", which I needed since my sholder has been acting up. THANKS again, Lee.
The race format is this: 4 mile white water paddle, 11 mile mountain bike ride, 5 mile trail run. However, due to high water in the Rappahannock River, we were set to paddle the flat water option. This changed the race format: 2 mile flat water paddle (down stream and then back up stream), 2 mile run, 11 mile mountainbike ride, and a 3 mile trail run to finish.
Prior to the start of the race, I noticed my bud, Dave Kelnberger was not in attendance. He usually destroys me in this race. Additionally, the "fastest man in VA", Justin Riddle, was not racing. So, looking around, I figured that if my shoulder could handle it, I might place well.
The race started with a high paced paddle down the Rapp. I jumped in behind the leader after figuring out how to steer my boat. It tracks well, but turning takes some experience. I followed the leader to the turn around spot where I was dropped. It took me a LONG time to turn the boat around... good thing the boat is fast! I dropped several places, but quickly jumped back in at third place. At the end of the paddle, I was back in second and only a second or two behind first!
Out of the water, I transitioned quickly, changing into my running shoes and hitting the 2 mile trail to the main transition area. I was leading the race, but I was caught by two people during the run. I began the bike in second place again, with third right behind me. At this point we discussed the possibility of catching the guy in first place. Not a mile further, we caught him and passed. At this point, I was in first place and holding it - for the first time ever. I cranked hard on the climbs and carried my momentum through the flats to try and keep my position. I expected that I put a minute or so on the second place guy, but I knew other riders would be screaming through the trails soon. So I pushed real hard to try and create some space. After the ride, I'd have to run another three miles- and running is not my strong suit. So I thought, "Kill it on the bike, and hopefully, I'll still be able to hold off most of the solo racers during the run."
By the time I reached the transition area to jump off the bike and start the trail run, I was feeling pretty spent. But somehow, I was still leading the race! I swapped shoes, dropped the helmet and gloves, and started the final leg of the race- the 3 mile trail run.
The trail run doubles back on the end of the mountain bike section, so I was watching to see what kind of lead I had on second place. I saw nobody as the trail run section veered away. This meant I had at least a 6 minute lead on second place!! How could THAT be??!! I'm thinking, "I might actually be able to win this race!"
I tried hard to keep running even though my legs were screaming at me to stop. I ran hard for the most part. Breathing hard and on the verge of passing out, a monsoon began. The wind picked up and the sky opened, which caused me to run faster and cool off! There is NOTHING better than a cold rain shower when your overheated in a race.
When I dropped out of the woods, I saw Francine at the crossroads and she looked strong! We exchanged some cheers for each other, and I searched behind me for up coming runners coming to take the lead- nobody in sight. WOW. I kept the pace through the end and finished at 2 hours and 22 minutes (or so), and 1st Place overall.
As I recovered in the transition area, I thought to myself, "I'd like to thank Dave Kelnberger for allowing me to finally win a race (due to his absence), along with Justin Riddle and everyone else out there who put me to shame on a regular. I'd also like to thank Francine for the strong encouragement."
Final results: Paul Leeger- 1st Place male overall, Francine Rapp- 1st Place Female overall
Winning a race is definitely a great feeling, but the best part was the comradery, beer, and bbq after the race!! Thanks Conrad!