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There will be awards for age group OR novice categories. If you are slower in your age group but the top three among novices (there are less in the pool) then you have a good chance of getting on the podium (top three).
Start times can matter if there is a big difference between first/last wave. July in Maryland is going to be HOT. Running an hour earlier is better.
If you are more concerned with starting early due to heat; choose age group. If you want to try to win the novice group, choose novice.