Once race season kicks off, it seems like travel never stops. The past few weeks seem to have blown by, and I have been everywhere from New Zealand/Australia to Texas. I raced a World Cup, a WTS, and a new series to the US: Major League Tri. There were a mix of highs and lows during these weeks, but I end this bit of racing confident and ready for the lead up to Yokohama, which is the final qualifying race for the USA’s Rio Qualification Criteria.
My first stop on this three week trip was New Plymouth, New Zealand for the World Cup that this town has been hosting for a number of years. I have traveled here the past couple years, and I love visiting! Between the great coffee, roads, and ocean, the town does not leave you wanting for very much. The race itself for me was more of a test than anything. I was coming off a solid couple of races in Florida, but a World Cup is much different than a Continental Cup in its level of competition. This one in particular seemed to have a very solid list of guys racing.
My plan was to stay near the front on the swim/bike, but to wait for the run to see how my legs pulled up after travel and training. The swim was a beach start, and the harbor was basically like glass the day of the race. I was able to get a fairly good start, but was a bit complacent, and this had me in the middle of a group of guys. I was a bit tentative because my wounds from crashing the week before were still a bit fresh, and I tried to avoid any real contact. This cost me a bit, and I found myself exiting near the rear of the fairly large front pack.
T1 went smoothly, and I was able to hop on my bike and latch myself onto the front group. It took a bit of effort, but I quickly moved my way to the front of the race by the end of the first lap. I wanted to stay safe and be near the front without doing any work. This changed a bit with the constant attacks going off the front. I ignored most of them, but when Springer (AUT) went off the front, the group seemed to sit up a bit. I let him dangle off the front to see if anyone would go after him, but nobody was interested. I took the opportunity near the end of the second lap (through the technical section) to catch Springer, and see if we could sustain the gap. I figured if the group wanted to catch us it would happen quickly and then I would just sit in, but if we got a gap, that could make things interesting. The two of us put in a pretty solid effort and were able to get about 30 sec into T2.
I was out onto the run first and fell into a decent pace. The whole race up to this point had felt pretty blah, and the run was no exception. I was able to get going pretty well, but seemed to lack the top gear that I really wanted to shift into. This caused me to fall back a bit farther than I wanted to on the run, and I crossed the line in 11th. It was a solid day overall, and I was happy with the result. I was glad to add another good race to my list this year, and I have been happy with the consistency I have been showing.
The next week was a bit different than New Plymouth. The Gold Coast WTS was Olympic Distance, hot, and full of big names. My goal was about the same as New Plymouth though, be at the front of the race the whole time and then run smart. I started off well with a great first few hundred meters of the swim. I was able to get out with Pujades, and then work my way up to the top ten out of the water by the end of the swim. I was one of the last guys onto that front pack, but was able to settle in fairly quickly.
The bike was extremely technical, and there were quite a lot of accelerations out of the many corners. I believe a USAT staff mentioned there were about 160 or so points of acceleration throughout the entire bike segment. I noticed right away that it was hot, and made sure to take in plenty of drink and water throughout the bike. Not much was going on around me at this point. My group was riding strong, but not super aggressive, and I could see the groups behind us were catching up. I rode very smart throughout the bike, and I let a lot of attacks go up the road. I took only a handful of pulls, but I could already tell that the heat was starting to get to me. I was running out of water fast, and my sports drink only seemed to make me thirstier. Too add to that, even after freezing them, they were hot. With 10km to go on the bike my bottles were empty. Wheels in front of me were starting to get hard to hold. This was my first warning sign…My riding has been just about the best it has ever been, and I knew that this was not a great sign. I just told myself that a third of this group was going to fry in this heat, and I just had to keep going. I thought if I could make it to the first aid station for some cold water I could shock my body into feeling better. I made it to the end of the bike, although I was nowhere near where I wanted to be positioned, and already in some trouble.
I exited T2 and was able to latch onto a couple of shoulders who would hopefully pull me up to the main group. My stride felt decent, and I just kept telling myself to relax. The first aid station was a huge disappointment to me though because the water was warm. By the time we were halfway through the first lap and going up a small hill, I was cooked. The heat had beaten me that day, and I only made it around twice on the run.
I was pretty gutted to have to drop out. I have had some of the best training ever the past month or so, and I do not feel like it was completely reflected in my race in the Gold Coast or even New Plymouth. However, there were some good parts to every race that I did. These were not my peak races, and I am looking forward to having about a month to put together a great race in Yokohama.
After Gold Coast, it was back to Tucson for just a few days, and then off to the inaugural Major League Tri (MLT) race. This is a brand new series that is showcasing triathlon in one of my favorite formats: the mixed team relay. It alternates girl/guy, and each completes a super sprint tri. The first one of the year for this series was in Temple, Texas. The organizers had done a great job creating a really cool environment surrounding this race with different activities for age groupers, kids, and locals. Unfortunately, they had some pretty bad luck. Their permit was revoked for a swim at the original venue, so they were going to have a pool swim, but the people surveying the land messed up. When the pool got to the new venue, it was way too slanted for a pool. They eventually changed it to a duathlon (1 mile run, 3mile bike, .5 mile run), and had to cancel the age group race. Even though they did not have the best luck, and it did not start off how they wanted, I want to applaud them for being so open with us, and still having a race for the pros to show up to. They also did a great job at putting together a great course with not a whole lot of time. It was put together in a way that made any run or bike cross over (on the course) safe, and the bike was a very technical and interesting course! Once I actually saw what they had put together, I was super excited to race, which is saying a lot because I am pretty sure the last time I did a duathlon Kevin McDowell and I crashed out and we vowed never to do one again.
My team consisted of Calah Schlabach, Robbie Deckard, Heather Lendway, and Myself (this was also our relay order). We were representing the home town team (Temple Toros), and were there to do our host town proud. The first three legs of the race for our team went great. My teammates did a fantastic job at staying as near the front of the race as possible. By the time Heather tagged off to me, I was in fourth about 10 seconds outside of the money (3rd). Second and first were a bit more up the road, and I knew I would have to have a very good leg if I were to catch John O’Neil (2nd) and Jason Pedersen (1st).
I wanted to run the first mile fast, but knew that I needed to have some form of pacing. Most of the time would be brought back on the back half of the mile (a lot of people went out a bit too fast and faded), and on the technical bike. I was able to reel in third place on the first run, but John and Jason still held their gap. I had a quick transition, and I was out hammering to catch these guys.
The course was wide open, and I was using landmarks to track my progress on the closing gap, and my team mates were telling me splits as I went on. I was grabbing a handful of seconds on each lap, and the gap to John was coming down steadily. I could tell I was slowly bringing back Jason also, but he had a sizable lead, and I just tried to focus on John. With two laps to go, I was close enough to think I might catch him, but he held strong. I came into the final transition about 8 seconds down on him, and hit the last half mile run ready to try to finish strong. As hard as I tried, I could not close the gap. My legs were definitely a bit heavy after my all-out effort on the bike, and I ended up crossing the line 3rd. I did have the fastest split of the day, but was more pumped that my team was able to put together a very competitive race.
Afterwards, there was a concert and the main event was Russel Dickerson, who will be playing at all of our races. This was a great event put on under difficult circumstances. I can see the type of event and atmosphere that they want to achieve, and our next race in Sarasota will reflect that. This is a very cool weekend of racing, with a great group of people. The racing and festival could be legendary by the end of this year. It is basically a weekend of fast, exciting racing with a lot of buzz surrounding the pro race between the pre-race hype and the after race concert (which is now known as getting Russelled, if it was not already a thing…) makes for a great weekend of triathlon.