Thursday, September 8, 2011

Racing with the Big Boys

The Hy-Vee triathlon can be summed up in one word – Awesome!  The race may not have went well for all athletes involved, but the race was brilliantly planned out.  There were hundreds of people spread out over the course cheering for everyone racing, and there were grandstands full of screaming fans set up at the finish area.  It was the most fun I have ever had while suffering.

Pre-Race – I went down to the river, right next to my hotel, to watch the women swim.  The current in the river was pretty intense so I wanted to watch the women to know where the best place to swim was.  There was a bridge support in the river coming back to the start/swim out that seemed to slow down the current a little bit, but there was no easy way up stream.  This was going to be a hard swim!

Swim – The start to this race was brutal.  In most races the first buoy is at least 300m away.  Here it was about 25m away into the strong current, therefore 30 guys got to the hard left at roughly the same time.  The action at the first buoy was total chaos.  People were getting punched and kicked, and well as grabbed and pulled backwards.  I took what felt like a punch straight to the eye.  I thought my goggle was broke for a while, but I continued to swim and try to stay on feet.  The current played a huge role in the swim, as no one wanted to break the current on their own so almost everyone tried to find feet.  Josh Amberger led out the swim and put about a min on Andy Potts and the rest of the field.  Impressive!!  I came out of the water about a min off the back of the front pack.  I will take it for the conditions.  I was happy to be out of the water as I ran up the steps to T1.

Bike – As I headed out on the bike, I heard that I was ahead of David Thompson.  We go back and forth on the swim so it was nice to hear that I beat him out on such a hard swim.  As I started the bike I noticed my legs did not want to go.  Not a good feeling in a race as large as this one!  I let them relax for about 5 min and then I tried to push.  They were having none of it.  The course was technical and rolling so I thought I could make up some time on the down hills and turns.  On the first downhill section there was a 90 degree turn at the bottom.  I knew it was coming but I was not ready for it.  I hit my brakes, but I was not slowing down fast enough.  I squeezed down on the brake levers and my back tire locked up and started to skid out!  I was out of control and heading for the crowd!!  I crossed to the other side of the road, luckily there was no one coming in the opposite direction, and hopped on the curb as spectators jumped out of the way.  I finally got turned and rejoined the race.  After that I started to take turns a lot less aggressive!!  It was a fun bike course but my legs were not cooperating with my head.  I wanted to go harder but my legs were winning my internal argument.  On the last lap I could see Jarrod Shoemaker.  Once I caught him I knew I had to put some time on him if I hoped to beat him, I was not sure if my legs were going to be there for the run.  Finally off the bike I had a respectable T2 and was off on the run.

Run – The run started on a slight uphill and then came a large downhill. It took me a little bit to get my run legs going, but I set a goal for top 15 before the race so I had to get moving.  I was in 26th coming off the bike so I had a lot of work to do.  The first lap went well and I was moving through the field.  On the second lap I was starting to come unglued.  I went in to what I like to call energy conservation mode - I try not to use any more energy than I have to.  That means running with my eyes closed for long stretches and only controlling my legs and arms.  By the start of lap three I was still moving well but I could not catch my breath.  I tried pulling my jersey up and down to find a comfortable position, but I could not find one that allowed me to breathe.  Lap three was my slowest lap by 15 seconds.  Oops!  Finally in a last ditch effort, toward the end up the lap, I pulled my jersey up as high as it would go.  It was really digging in to me arms and what pec muscle I have, but I could breathe!!  Finally I could concentrate on running again!!  I ended up with the fastest run split of the day which always makes me happy.  If I cannot win the race, I at least like to come away with something.

What an amazing race.  It was the hardest race I have done this year, but I will not remember any of that.  I will remember the crowd and the overall competitiveness of the field.  Since I don’t know any better, that is what I imagine the Olympics feeling like.  Everyone in the race has a great resume and being able to compete with them was very exciting.  And the crowd was unbelievable, there was constant noise and words of encouragement.  The city of Des Moines was a great place for a race, if only triathlons were this big in other cities.  I feel that if people could experience something like this in their city triathlons would be more mainstream in the US.  There was no entrance fee and the action never stopped in any of the races, from the Age Groupers to the Pros.  The roads were full of great racing all day!  I truly love this sport and I hope you do as well!

A big thanks goes out to all my family and friends that made the trip.  Usually I name everyone out there, but my support team was too large this time!  Not a bad problem!!  Thank you everyone for your words of encouragement.  That run would have turned out differently had you guys not been there!  And thanks to all my sponsors, I would not be as competitive without you!!

I hope Nicole gets better soon!  She raced tough and hung in there all day.  She will rebound!  The Toyota Lifetime Series better watch out, because great things are going to happen for her!!

I only have a few races left until my first season as a pro comes to an end.  It has been a learning experience, but it has been a fun ride!  A little training motivation for everyone still chasing goals this season!


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