This past weekend, everything seemed to fall into place for me on race day. Leading up to the race, I was pretty relaxed. I enjoyed training in the small town of New Plymouth, and it ended up being a great place to spend the two weeks after Mooloolaba. I was able to get in some key workouts, while also finding time to enjoy the coffee scene. One of the highlights of my stay there was watching team USA make a very strong showing in the New Plymouth World Cup, which only added to my excitement to race the following weekend in Auckland.
The travel to Auckland ended up being a bit more than originally planned. Some fog caused our flight to be cancelled, and we ended up arriving quite a few hours after we were supposed to. Not long after arriving I was already in the pre-race briefing, and it didn’t seem to take any time at all before I was waking up race morning to some rainy Auckland weather. However, the weather cleared up, and by 3pm I was on my way to the race site.
Having an afternoon/evening race is always interesting since it seems like a majority of triathlons around the world are held before most people even think about waking up. I actually didn’t mind the late start. I killed time with a shake out jog, watching the Arizona basketball game (still heartbroken about their loss) and watching the women’s race. The morning and afternoon seemed to go by a lot faster than usual, and come race time I was ready to go.
Surprisingly, the swim was non wetsuit. I had assumed from the day that I put this race on my schedule that it would be a cold swim, and a rainy, miserable day. While I do not mind racing in that kind of weather, and at times actually look forward to it, I was happy to see the sun out and the water at a reasonable temperature. My main goal for the swim was to get out fast to avoid any fighting at the first buoy, and then just relax on someone’s feet in good position. I got myself pretty amped to get out of the gate fast and it worked. Right away I saw that I was pulling away from the people around me. I just kept the pace high, and was able to slip onto Varga's feet right at the first buoy. It felt good to take out the swim like that, and it was encouraging since the swim has not been my main focus this year. Swimming with super swimmer Tommy Zaferes for the past couple weeks has surely helped!
Nothing else of note happened in the swim. I was able to exit the water 4th and get out of T2 in the top 3. This is when the real fun happens on the Auckland course. The bike is notorious for destroying legs and crushing dreams. There are three significant hills on the bike (per lap and it is an 8 lap course), and every single one hurts in a different way. They are different lengths and vary in steepness; some you can carry speed into, while others you just crawl up. At the first hill, I was in a group of about 15 or so, and we had a gap of about 30 seconds to the group behind us. I traded turns with Gomez and Jonathan Brownlee along with a couple other guys for the first couple laps, but our gap continued to stay about the same. I made the decision to drop back in the group to try to conserve as much energy as possible. I found that going into the hills I was able to float up the group a bit as the front slowed because of the incline, which helped me keep my own pace. I was also able to soft pedal on all of the straights. The place where it was not a good idea to be in the back was around some of the corners and the 180's, but that is the decision I chose to make. I felt like this was a fair trade as opposed to taking turns at the front when the higher ranked guys were motivated enough without my help. So at this point, I just tried to take it “easy,” which is a pretty loose term when applied to this course. I remember thinking on about the 5th lap or so that I couldn’t believe we have to run after this. I wasn’t exactly sure how it was supposed to work, but over the next couple laps I got myself in the right mindset to lay down the best run I could.
T2 went pretty smooth. I came into it right around the middle of our small pack, and exited right around the same spot. Starting the run was definitely not comfortable to say the least. Brownlee, Gomez, and Le Corre took off up the road, and I did my best to fall into my pace. There was a group of three that also got up the road from me, but they were a bit more of a tease. I watched them slowly run away from me throughout the race, but found plenty of competition around me. I ran in 7th place for most of the race, and was able to hold off a challenge from Tony Dodds of New Zealand. Richard Varga also challenged me, and was able to gap me going into the last lap. He also slowly pulled away, and just had a little bit more than I did. I kept trying to put in some efforts to catch up to him, but would come up short each time. I also had to keep an eye on that chase group behind us with some stellar runners. Grajales was making a move, and I knew that it would come down to the last few hundred meters before the finish. I kept trying to keep my turnover up to hold off the charging Grajales, but he caught me just before the blue carpet. I tried to take a better line than him going into the finishing straight, hoping that would slow him down a bit. We started the sprint and I was able to keep up for a bit, but once I couldn’t hold it, my form just fell apart. I crossed the line 9th, my best WTS finish yet.
Overall, I am extremely happy with the result. I came into this race looking for a good result, and I believe I found that. However, it is a tad bittersweet. I would have really liked to be top 8 since that will be the criteria to qualify in Rio later this season. This result does show that I have that capability, especially on a hard course, and I look forward to learning from this race so that when it counts I have the finish that I need.
As always, thank you to my support team and sponsors. This result would not have been possible without my coach Adam Zucco, and my mentor Ryan Bolton. Of course, I have to mention my parents who have always supported me. And all of my sponsors which can be found here! Thank you to all of them for supporting me and my journey. I am looking forward to more fast racing this year! Next race is Gold Coast WTS on April 11th. Also be sure to check out my Photo page and scroll down for some new pictures! I will try to keep updating it with more as I go, so keep checking back!