After last year’s disaster race at Syracuse, I felt like I had some unfinished business on the course. And to briefly summarize what happened in 2013, I failed to adequately fuel and hydrate while on the bike, started the run feeling terrible, and succumbed to the 95 degree heat and 100% humidity. The tough run course slowed me to a walk and quite literally brought me to my knees, as I ended up in the medical tent getting two bags of IV fluids. I still earned a roll down spot to the World Championships, which I debated accepting and in hindsight am glad that I did. I also learned the hard way the importance of nutrition and hydration in long course triathlon. Flash forward one year, I was coming fresh off my win at Eagleman 70.3 two weeks earlier which had earned me the coveted Kona slot, my main goal for the season. Did I need to do this race? Certainly not. I could have stayed home and trained, but I felt like I needed redemption. While many argued that I already got my redemption by winning the World Championships 10 weeks after Syracuse last year, I wanted to prove to myself that I could conquer this course.
It had been a stressful week at school, as I was finishing up third year, so the race was in the back of my mind until I finished my exam. Just like last year, I borrowed the family minivan to make the drive up, only this time instead of a support crew I was alone. Fortunately instead of staying alone in a hotel, I was able to stay at my friend Max’s parent’s house just a few minutes from the course. It was great being able to relax and spend time with Max and his family and his dog, my favorite pup in the world, Leila.
It was an especially early race morning as I was in the first age group wave, just two minutes behind the pro women. When the swim waves were posted, I immediately told Brian where I was starting. His response was “Good, now see how many you can catch.” So that was the race plan.
The swim was uneventful. I was happy that there was far less seaweed to swim through than last year. I tried to find some feet in the start, but inevidably ended up by myself. I still have not mastered an intense focus on swimming hard when I am swimming alone, and tend to zone out and think about how much I want to be on my bike, without taking the appropriate steps to make progress toward that wish. I finally made it out of the water, passing at least one female pro, distinguishable by the bright pink caps, in the last 200m.
The first 10 miles of the bike course was very hilly terrain, with several climbs longer than 3 minutes. My natural keen sense of direction and ability to get anywhere if I had been there before also translates into bike course recall, so I was able to anticipiate all the climbs and turns having raced the same course one year prior. I was passed by a female pro on the first big climb. I was holding steady watts and she was hammering to make up lost time on the swim. I started to catch another pro a mile or so later, and was never more than 40m behind her for several more miles before she pulled away on a series of downhills and flats. And then I was alone. I could see no one in front of me and there was no one behind me. This was the first time I had ever been so alone on the bike, it was a very strange experience and when my power numbers began to slip I started getting into my own head. I was tired, and not just racing tired, but a deeper tired from heavy training and having raced my hardest ever 70.3 two weeks before. I started thinking about calling it a day in T2. I had my Kona slot. I had the rest of the season with two World Championships ahead of me.
Then all of a sudden around mile 40 a train of three or four M25-29, blatantly drafting, rolled up along side. The leader started to overtake me and slowed down, the guy behind him veered towards me almost knocking me off the road. I was already getting charged up watching such outright cheating, and being nearly thrown off my bike made me even angrier so I gave them a piece of my mind using choice words to tell them to stop drafting. While enraging, it was just what I needed to get fired up and get my head back in the right racing mentality. The last section of the course was more rolling and with my watts/kg advantage I was able to stay close to the men who had passed me and I started catching some of the girls in my wave who had beaten me out of the water. Better late than never. I was rolling the last 10 or so miles of the bike, getting surges of adrenaline every time I flew by another competitor.
I was feeling ready to run when I got off the bike, but knowing what lay ahead I tried to stay under control. Max and his Dad were standing on the side of the road right before the first mile and told me I only had one in front of me to catch and she was right there. I passed her within 400m; it was only later I realized that she was not in my age group. The turn towards the big hill on the run course was just after mile 2, I took a deep breath and did my best to relax and prepare for the climb. And then it was upon me, forcing my to shorten my stride and slow my cadence. At the steepest part before the road hooks right and flattens out some before the final climb to the turnaround, I passed one of the pros; the pro who I had been close with in the early part of the bike, but who had pulled away. As I was coming down the hill from the turn around I overcame a second pro, who was the one who hammered passed me up the first climb very early on the bike.
It was amazing to be feeling great and racing hard, a feeling that I never had during the death march that was Syracuse in 2013. I was estatic when I crossed the finish line, I even pumped my fists. And instead of being carried to the medical tent I walked over and got a massage. On the table next to mine was the third place pro male, Ben Collins. We chatted a bit and I learned that his girlfriend is a third year medical student in Chicago, so I offered my advice on how he can supportive and help her get through the toughest year of medical school. Hopefully my advice was sound.
Veni, vedi, veci. Fait accomplis. I now can enjoy a two week break from school before starting fourth year. The time will be used to study for boards and take a vacation to my favorite place in the world, Loon Lake in the Adirondacks.