After winter training I got back in to racing in a hurry, with 3 races in 4 weeks. It was a little crazy, only magnified by traveling halfway across the world. I started off my season in Clermont again this year and then went back to the Mooloolaba (Australia) World Cup and finished off my trip with a World Cup in New Plymouth, New Zealand.
I really do enjoy racing in Clermont. It is in Lake Louisa State Park, which makes the course safe from cars, but requires spectators to travel in to watch. For triathlons to really take of in America it is going to require more spectators watching. In foreign countries, they put the races right in front of people, often closing main streets. Although people love this in most foreign countries, in America this would most likely drive people crazy. Americans don't like to be inconvenienced with road closures. All this aside, it does seem like there is always a good crowd for the draft legal racing in Clermont. This year I missed the front pack coming out of the water by about 17 seconds. That is better than last year, but at a small continental cup, this meant coming off the bike with a large deficit. After chasing the front pack of about 10 with one other guy, Michael Poole, for 2 laps we went back to the second pack. Coming off the bike I was down a little over a minute to the front pack and mad at the world. I ended up having the fastest run on the day and finished in 5th place. Overall I was happy with how I felt and raced, but the 5th place left a bad taste in my mouth. On a positive note, Will earned a podium spot by finishing 3rd. Nice work Will!
A few days after getting home from Clermont I boarded a plane and headed for Oceania. My first stop was Mooloolaba, Australia. Two years ago I went to the same race only to get sick 2 days before and was unable to race. This year things went a lot better. I was 15 seconds off the front pack coming out of the water and luckily the majority of the race came together on the bike. The first lap and a half on the bike was hard chasing but once I got in to the front pack I was able to catch my breath and get ready for the run. Knowing how loaded with talent the race was I knew I was going to have to run well to place in the top 10. Coming off the bike I found my run legs faster than I normally do but still found myself just outside the top 15. After 2 of 4 laps I was moving through the field and could see 3rd-5th. I was not sure if I could catch them but made every attempt to get there. I finally caught them with a little less than a lap to go and surged up the hill to get in to 3rd place at the final turnaround. With not much left in the tank Sven Riederer pulled away down the hill and David Hauss outkicked me at the finish line. Normally this would upset me a little bit but considering the field as a whole and that Hauss was 4th at the Olympics in 2012 and Riederer was the Bronze medalist in 2004, I was in good company. I was very happy with 5th!!
After a couple recovery days it was back on an airplane, this time heading to New Zealand. Atleast New Zealand is a pretty country, because back to back weekend races do not top my favorites list. New Plymouth was a cool beach town but turned out to be a hard bike course. Before the race I had to have everything I could packed and ready to go because I was flying out 4.5 hours after the race started. It was a little stressful but I was happy to know I was heading home soon. As for the race I had a pretty good swim, only about 15 seconds off the front pack again and again the majority of the race came together. Only this race was a little different; with about a 1/4 lap to go on the bike I was involved in a crash. I landed softly but by the time I got up and got my chain back on the pack was gone and I was riding to T2 all by myself. I caught a couple guys from the pack and finished in 42nd. Not at all what I was expecting but you can't have things go your way every time you toe the starting line. Although I encountered some bad luck during the race I had some good luck as far as ITU points go. I was able to get 25 points for 42nd place and that propelled me in to the top 50 in the world. So as a whole the trip was a success. I still have to cross my fingers and hope I get to race Chicago WTS at the end of June. Not only is an ITU race 2 hours from my house, it is one of the biggest races of the year!!
I discovered a few things on the trip. Racing back to back ITU races at a high level is a tough task for me. And being away form my wife for almost 3 weeks stinks! One week is too much!
Time for a break from the draft legal racing, I am heading to St Anthony's this year. I am excited to race a non draft race again. We will see what happens.
The hardships that I encountered in the past will help me succeed in the future. ~Philip Emeagwali