The first race of a new triathlon season is kind of like opening a present as a little kid on Christmas day. You spend all year trying to be good, with the hope that Father Christmas will deliver. 2015 was a big year for me, as it was my first year getting to race for Team Every Man Jack, and although I set a new PR at the 70.3 distance, between overcoming an injury, taking comprehensive exams, and getting married, I wasn’t able to train as much as I’d have liked. 2016, however, has been a different story. This winter I hired a coach, Zach Ruble, and have been consistently nailing 12-15h training weeks, featuring workouts I could have never dreamed of completing. This year, I have been extra good, and I couldn’t wait to see what my season opener, Thunder in the Valley Olympic in Terre Haute had in store for me.
Friday afternoon myself, two of my fellow graduate students (Adam and Kevin), and my advisor, Scott, loaded up the car and drove down south to Terre Haute. The sun was shining and the weather was a warm 70 degrees, perfect for a race. Unfortunately, Saturday the weather had different plans, with a high of 54, 25mph winds, and to put the icing on the cake, a chance of rain. Race morning it was 44 degrees. With the recent memories of my teamates freezing the week before at St George, I immediately began strategizing how to stay warm. My strategy was 2 fold: to wear as many clothes as possible, for as long as possible before the start, and to slip on a long sleeve tight-fitting shirt on the bike. While this may compromise my goal of going sub-2 (PR 2:01), better to finish on foot than in an ambulance.
After slipping on my Roka wetsuit and new never before worn R1 goggles (yes, it may be stupid to race in goggles you have never worn before, unless they happen to be Roka R1’s, then you are stupid not to race in them) I headed down to the water. I saw people warming-up, but decided against putting my head in the cool 60 degree water to avoid getting cold before the race. At the sound of the gun we began our two-loop 750m swim. Starting at the front, I could see swimmers on either side of me pulling away when something Adam said went through my head “you have to swim hard the first 200m to avoid the congestion.” With a few hard strokes I found myself on the feet of the swimmer that had been to the right of me, and had mentioned something before the race about just having finished collegiate swimming. “Perfect,” I thought to myself “he has been partying his b***s off the past couple of weeks, and I have been swimming more than I ever have in my life, maybe I can hold his feet.” Surprisingly towards the end of the first lap he began to fade and I made the pass into second. The next lap proceeded uneventfully, and I focused on keeping my stroke “long and strong,” pretending to be John Savage, swim god. Exiting the water, I could not believe what I heard, 18 minutes? Are you kidding me?!? Maybe all those damn 5000y swims I have spent cursing Zach really are paying off!
Making my way into transition I decided that with a swim like that, this was as good a chance as any to break 2. Throwing caution to the wind (no pun intended) I grabbed my new Rudy Project helmet and my Felt bicycles IA4 with new ENVEwheels and headed for the bike course. The lead vehicle in sight reminded me that this was my race to lose. The way out, tailwinds were STRONG but a gusty crosswind (up to 35mph) made the aero bars dangerous. I did my best to stay aero while focusing on keeping my power as steady as possible. At the 180-turnaround I got my first chance to assess the competition. With no one in sight I tried to accelerate back up to speed, when I saw 15mph and 300 W I knew the ride back would be challenging. By now the winds had increased even more. Abandoning the aero bars, I focused on my power and holding steady. Soon two riders came into view, and I estimated them to be 2-3 minutes back. Fortunately, on the way back my legs seemed to come alive as I battled the fierce headwind to T2.
Dismounting my bike, I paid the price for no socks in such cold weather. My feet were totally numb. I did my best to jam them in my shoes, snagged my BocoGear race belt and was off on the run. Doing the math, I estimated myself to be about 1:20 into my race, all I had to do now was run a 40min 10k, and after 8 years of triathlon, I would cross the finish line for my first time under 2h! Half a mile in I glanced down at my watch to see 6:45. “Was this some kind of cruel joke?!? I run 620 for a marathon and cant even run a single mile at 620 in this dire time of need?!?!” The first mile passed and my watch beeps, I glance down in fear to read 628. Ok, time to pick up the pace. As I warmed up I saw my pace slowly descend, THANK GOD, my effort remaining constant, 610, 605, 600, 555. With 2 miles to go I saw second place, nearly a mile behind me. Settling in I focused on keeping the effort hard but manageable. Don’t blow up now I thought to myself. Approaching the finish line I saw the clock “1:56:XX”. I had done it. This offseason I have been extra good, and it’s now time to reap the rewards of my labor.
Run: 37:09, 5:58 min/mile
Overall: 1:57:01, 1st OA (PR by 4+ min)
I couldn't have asked for a better start to the season. This week I look to rest up and recover before joining a few EMJ team members in Michigan for a training weekend in preparation for Grand Rapids 70.3, followed by a trip to California to do battle with the swim god himself! Can't wait for the rest of the season. Big shout out to Team EMJ for their support and all of our sponsors. Most importantly, thanks to my beautiful wife for putting up with my ridiculous hobby, and not being too grouchy when I wake her up at 4am to ride the trainer!
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for reading!