This past weekend was my first race of the season, an ITU race in Clermont, FL. I did this race last season and had great success at it, it was my first podium finish as a professional. I had high expectations this year and I was feeling great pre-race. The weather forecasts leading up to the race were telling me it was going to be sunny and hot. Although the winter has been mild in South Bend this year, I knew it was going to be a tough challenge racing in 90 degree heat. I did my usual sauna "workouts" leading up to the race to try and get ready for the heat. Despite the heat, I was ready to get the season under way!!
Swim - The swim at Clermont is one of the reasons I like this race. The water is shallow and requires a lot of dolphin diving and running in the water. Last year had about 300m of actual swimming, but this year the course was changed slightly. This year we started in the water, about knee deep on me, and had about 550m of actual swimming. My swim has been getting better but I was a little nervous about the longer swim this year, I really wanted to make the front bike pack. When the horn sounded we were off and dolphin diving. As we were dolphin diving I noticed someone about 10 ft ahead of everyone at the front. I am not sure how this guy got such a fast start, but I figured it was now going to be a fast swim. I felt great in the water and got in a good rhythm to hang with the swimmers around me. The buoys were a normal battle, but I expect it now so I just stay calm and get around them as fast as possible. Once we got to shallow water again everyone started dolphin diving and eventually running in the water. Once I hit the beach Greg let me know I was in good position, but a break away was forming at the front. I raced up the beach and in to and out of transition.
Bike - The chase was on. I was in a group of 10-15 trying to catch a group of 8. We were riding stronger, so it was just a matter of time before we caught them. We caught them before the first turn around and the attacks started shortly after that. I am a lot stronger on the bike this year, but I need to learn to stay calm now. When 1 or 2 people would attack and no one from the group would respond, I would. I really wanted to win the race, so I was not going to let any good runners get away. Looking back on this, it was not my best idea. Closing a gap is one thing, but closing it quickly at the cost of high watts, is not the best route. I may be one of the middle aged athletes but this is still a relatively new sport for me. I never stop learning, I just wish the lessons were a little more forgiving. I felt great on the bike the entire time though and I thought the run was going to go well. I was excited to get off the bike.
Run - I got in my running shoes and tried to start running fast; Jarrod took off and set a fast pace early. My legs were not responding! The last time I can remember my legs feeling this flat in a race, I got lapped in a 10k on Oregon's track. I took water at the first water stop but I realized nothing was going to help this. I was going to have to get tough and just keep pushing. Jarrod was out in front, but I was still in the hunt for 2nd. On the second lap I tried to get my legs going, but they were having none of it. With 1k to go 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th moved and I had no response. It was a lonely, hot last 1000m. It was the first time in a triathlon that my run had let me down.
It is weird how disappointing a 6th place finish feels this year, but I learned a lot and there were some bright spots from the race...I had a great swim and bike! And if I can feel that bad on the run and still get 6th place, I cannot wait until I have a good run-off. I had a great cheering section at the race and I think that helped me get through the run. Also it is great having teammates in the race. It is nice to have Will and Kyle in the bike pack with me, knowing I am not alone on the road.
I would like to thank my mom and sister, Greg and Lisa, my grandparents, and my girlfriend and her two friends for coming down to the race. Also it was great to have Will's family and Robbie and his dad out on the course as well. Thank you everyone for your good words!! Sorry, I may have been a little grouchy post race! :)
Always desire to learn something useful. ~Sophacles
PS - Happy Birthday Dad!!