Last year I did this race and finished a disappointing 9th. It wasn’t the place that bugged me, it was my bike and run performances weren’t up to my expectations or capabilities. I lead out of the water and was passed by the first turnaround (~3 miles in) and rode in 2nd all the way to T2. As soon as I got off the bike, I knew my legs weren’t there. My calves and hamstrings were cramping and the worst part, my stomach wasn’t cooperating with me. I got passed by 7 people in the 5k and ran a 5k time I don’t want to repeat. Nonetheless, this race from 2012 really lit a fire under me and has been one of my biggest motivators. Coming into the race this year, all that really mattered was that I wanted race well and hit my numbers. Sure I wanted to win but I learned long time ago from my competitive swimming days, you cannot control what everyone else does…. you can only control what you do. I’ve lost some swim races years ago when I was so concerned about winning instead of just focusing on my race and what I can control. I knew if I raced well, I would have shot at winning but if someone beat me, so be it….. they would be the faster guy that day.
The week leading up to the race, my coach Eric Limkemann started to dial my training back after a hard interval workout on the bike on Tuesday in preparation for this weekends race and more importantly, next weekend when I head to Milwaukee for USAT Age Group Nationals. Friday morning came quick and I got in an easy 2 mile run before heading to work. After work I headed over to the expo to get my race packet and help out Tri Running Sports who were offering some tremendous bike deals. Shame on you if you didn’t take advantage of it. I was planning to get a quick 30 min ride in after the expo but it was raining, getting dark, and I was starving. I had put on my race wheels (and cork pads) on Thursday but I only rode the bike for 2 min just down the street from my house. My 30 min ride was going to be my final check on my bike to make sure everything was good to go. Needless to say, I didn’t get the ride in and my mind was racing all night worrying if everything would be ok on the bike.
On Saturday, I decided to wake up a little earlier and ride to the race to make sure everything was set and luckily nothing out of the ordinary popped up. I got set up in transition, did a quick jog, and headed to the beach to get in a swim warmup. As I got on the beach and looked at the buoys, I quickly realized the swim was going to be long which plays in my favor. I swam from swim exit to start as a warmup as I’ve found I need a good warmup to swim to my capability. My arms feel like jello if I don’t get a warmup in. At the swim start, I noticed another competitor who looked like a swimmer. Swimmers can spot other swimmers from a mile away…… sweedish googles, muscular upper body (which almost all triathletes don’t have) and they have the “swimmer” look. I also had overheard a few comments that backed up my theory. I was hoping we could work together to get a big gap on the rest of the field.
The gun went off rather quickly as I barely overheard the countdown, threw on my goggles and started my watch. Luckily I was still able to get a good jump off the start and got to the first buoy in the lead. Unfortunately, the middle yellow buoys were not lined up with the orange buoys (the yellow buoys were shallower than the orange buoys) so I ignored the yellow buoys and swim straight for the final orange buoy where we turned in to shore. I swam the entire time essentially by myself. As I turned at the last buoy, I looked over my left shoulder and I noticed someone behind me by about 3-5 body lengths. I was a little surprised at first but this confirmed my earlier theory. I later found out he swam at Kentucky and after some google searching, we had some pretty similar swim times in college. I had a good swim exit and not knowing his biking abilities, I wanted to make sure he didn’t catch me on the way to T1.
Bike (28:35) Power Data
On Friday, Eric had told me attack the second half of the bike. Heading out on the bike, I got a little too caught up worrying about the guy behind me (and everyone else) and add a lot of adrenaline, I started out way too hard (320+ Watts). I knew I couldn’t withstand that kind of power throughout the bike and be able to run well, but it felt effortless. At the first of three turnarounds, I determined I had just under a 2 min lead on a guy riding another Trek Speed Concept and John Reback right behind him. We had a nice tailwind heading North which got me up to 30+ mph. Starting the second lap, my gap had grown to a little over 2 min. John was nowhere in site and at first I thought I must of missed him coming by but I later saw him riding slowly and yelled some words of encouragement. Sucks he got a flat but it is what it is. On the 2nd loop, I had a few close calls trying to dodge the rest of the field on their 1st loop. One gentleman pulled out right in front of me as he was trying to pass someone in front of him. What he didn’t know, was that I was coming up behind both of them about to pass. Luckily I saw what was about to happen before it was too late and was able to avoid him. For the final few miles I focused on a smooth and controlled effort, and rode into T2 with a 2+ min lead.
As I headed out on the run, my calves and hamstrings were cramping and legs didn’t feel like they were there. I remained calm, tried to relax and told myself they would come around. Fortunately, the legs came around and the cramping went away within the first quarter mile. I had no idea who the guy in 2nd was and for all I knew, he could have be capable of running a 16 min 5k. Luckily, the volunteers helped me out and told me no one was insight and the race was now mine to lose. At the turnaround, my lead was still at 2+ min and I kept that same pace and ran home to the win.
Thanks to the Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce and all of the volunteers for a great race once again! Special thanks to my gf Mandy and mom (who came down from Pittsburgh for the weekend). Lastly thanks to my sponsors Tri Running Sports (best cycling, running, and triathlon store in South Florida) and Blue Seventy for their support.
Next up is AG Nats next Saturday. I leave early Thursday morning and I’m hoping to break that elusive 2 hr barrier in the Olympic distance.