For the first time in 799 days, I got to race this past weekend in what has become a long anticipated and frustrating return to racing. Words cannot even begin to describe my emotions leading into the race. I’ve been through the ringer. I’ve had 4 surgeries in a span of 13 months. I’ve shed more blood and tears than I care to remember. I’ve been to too many doctors visits and have been stuck with more needles than I can count for a young, healthy, and not yet 30 year old. But in the end, I’ve stayed strong and fought through it all to get me back to what I love to do…. racing.
I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen on Sunday and I only had one goal: “compete”. I didn’t care if I won, got second, or came in last. I just wanted to compete. Competition and sport has been a part of my life for so long, I get lost in life without it. Competition is what motivates and drives me to drag myself out of bed before 4 AM to drive an hour to the pool to swim before work. It’s what drives me to push myself to new limits and strive continuous improvement. It’s what drove me not to throw in the towel and give up on sport after the last 2 years. Now don’t get me wrong, I still wanted to win and I knew I had a chance…. I just didn’t have the Ricky Bobby attitude: “If you’re not first, you’re last”.
I barely slept Saturday night… maybe only 3 or 4 hours of total sleep. I rode over to the race, got my chip and setup transition. I then rode another 10 minutes and got some 1 min efforts at race effort to get the legs moving. With the race being so short (300 yd swim, 5 mile bike, 1.2 mile run), Eric and I knew warmup was critical, not only to the race itself, but to getting through the race without getting injured. I then racked my bike and went out for a quick run and did some pickups. I did a run through of transition and headed up to the beach to get a quick swim in where I was pleasantly presented with rough waters.
The swim started and I got a pretty good jump and made it to the first buoy first without getting pummeled by a wave. I was hoping for a 30 second gap to Johnny and Bill from the swim. That would get me a little out of sight and I could hammer and ride away on the bike. I was fortunate to catch a wave back to the beach on the swim exit. I made a quick T1… or so I thought. Results show I lost 12 seconds to Bill on T1. I have video of T1 and I could maybe find 2-3 seconds where I could have been faster but not 12. Not sure what to think of that right now but I’ll chalk it up to being rusty.
I hopped on the bike, got up to speed and got in my shoes. The plan was to ride around 315 watts and not ride 400+ that first minute or two. The roads were wet and there was a slight drizzle so I was careful to stay clear of the white painted lines (they are extremely slippery). Beach road can be very bumpy, especially in the bike lane, so I was always trying to find the smoothest part of the road. After passing a few guys in the first heat, I got the turnaround and took note where Bill was. I was a little concerned when I saw he wasn’t that far behind me. Some negative thoughts started to roll through my head but I knew I just had to put my head down, ride hard back to T2, and take what I could get. I started to feel my legs burning on the way back and wasn’t sure how they were going to respond on the run.
I got through T2 without any major incident, and headed out on the run. To my surprise, my legs felt great and I focused on my form. I’ve only ran on the mulch trail 1 other time and it was 3 or 4 years ago and I remembered the footing being very shaky at best. After the first couple of steps on the trail, I remember it being much worse than it actually was. It only slowed me down a bit but I had decent footing and was really only concerned about breaking an ankle or injuring myself. Before even half way, I knew this could turn into a sprint finish. Mandy had asked me earlier in the week what I would do if it did. I’ve never had another gear at the finish of the race. I’m usually redlined the entire run and I’m happy to be running the same the pace at the finish than when I started. So my response to her was: “I don’t know”. I started to conserve a bit of energy knowing I would need a kick at the end. I looked for Bill at the 180 degree turns. He was closing the gap but not as much as I had expected and by the last 180, I realized he was running out of real estate. I forgot to look where the actual finish line was before the race so I could time my kick. I got back on the asphalt and knew it was time to go. I kicked hard and then kicked hard again once I got into the parking lot. Everybody was screaming and I knew he was coming and coming fast. There was a dicy 90 degree left hand turn into the finish where there was a big puddle of water right in my line. Not wanting to slip or trip, I took a wide turn avoiding the puddle and the white painted lines and crossed the line just 2 seconds ahead of Bill.
I want to say hats off to Bill and Johnny for a fun competitive race. Both are always tough competitors and they lay it on the line every time they toe the line. They both make me a better athlete.
A special thank you as I couldn’t have done it without my fiance Mandy. She’s been by my side this whole time and stayed strong when I wasn’t. I would never have gotten through the past 2 years without her. A big thank you to everyone that came up to me before and after the race. All of your words of encouragement were very much appreciated.
Here’s a great video Tommy Allore made of the race and showed the sprint finish…