I'm really pleased with this last weekend's race at Ironman 70.3 Racine where I took 3rd place overall. This was a solid fitness checkpoint half way through my Boulder summer training and was positive looking towards Ironman Louisville next month. True, I always want to go faster, but I was satisfied with my biking and running in this race. I feel that my body responded well to the first part of my training block in Boulder.
The swim was a point to point course in Lake Michigan at sunrise. We had to walk a mile down the beach to the swim start, but the walk really wasn't that bad. The lake was cool and calm, so it made for a really nice swim. I wasn't happy with how I swam, losing 4 minutes to the lead group. With my training and paces, I really expected exit the water and hear that the gap to the front would be closer to 2-2.5 minutes, but with my history of swimming in races, I've learned to not let any swim times get in my head. I've had plenty of good races after sub-par swims.
The mens swim start at sunrise on Lake Michigan
The 2200 athletes make the 1 mile walk down the beach to the swim start
I had a pretty good swim start and thought I would be able to get a good draft, but I got dropped pretty fast from the main group. There was no one in front to try to bridge up to, so I just held the best pace I could. I didn't realize that I was pulling a group of about 6 guys behind me. When I realized I was doing the work for the group (about 1/2 way through the swim), I slowed and dropped back to 2nd position, letting someone else set the pace. I sat there without a problem for a while. When we were about 500 yards from the finish, the group started cutting in towards the shore, which would have cut off about 2 minutes of the course. I had to decide to follow the group and possibly cut the course (but have a faster time), or swim the right course but lose the group and have a slower time. I started to swim the right way, but then decided to go with the flow and follow the group. I sprinted to catch back up to the back of the group. Just then, they corrected and swam back out to the correct bouy line. I had gone from 2nd swimmer to now hanging on the back of the pack. As we came into the shore, the lake got shallow far out. About 100 yards from shore it was only thigh deep, so we had to dolphin and run the last bit through the shallow water. That was the worst point of the race for me. I totally got dropped from the group on the easiest part of the swim! I was breathing so hard trying to stay with the group, then we had to run up a loose sand hill to transition. I kid you not, in that last 100 yards into shore and the run into transition, I lost 20 seconds to my swim group. When I saw my parents as I started the bike, they told me I was in 12th place with the lead group 4 mintues up.
It took about 4-5 miles to catch my swim group once I got on the bike. My legs felt like lead and I really thought I was in for a bad day. I remember thinking that maybe I had botched up my rest week going into the race. After I caught the group, I went to the front and set the pace. They were hanging on pretty well, but I knew that given the right section of road I could split the group. One guy came up and did some work on the front with me, so I knew he was feeling pretty good. After about 5-6 miles on the front of the group, I was in second position and noticed that a small gap opened behind me to the other 4 guys. I pushed up to the front and told the other guy if we hooked it for about 10 mintues, we could pull away from the group. He and I kept the pedal down and slowly pulled away from the group. I was happy to have someone to work with on the bike, but after another 7-8 miles, he slowly dropped back, eventually falling out of site.
I saw my parents again at mile 17 of the bike and now I was in 7th place, 8 minutes down on the front. That blew my mind. I had no idea how I could lose 4 minutes to the front in 17 miles. What I didn't know was that Paul Ambrose had solo'd off the front and the main group was actually much closer. I was sitting there thinking that I was biking horribly losing all of this time to the main group when in fact it wasn't the truth.
I rode the rest of the bike course totally alone. On the long stretches, I could see Tim Berkel up the road (about 2 mintues) ahead, but I couldn't reel him in. That also frustrated me. Looking at the time splits after the race, Tim and I had a 1 second difference in our bike times, each riding solo, 2 minutes apart on the course. My legs really never felt great, and hearing the time splits to Paul, I thought I was having a terrible bike.
As I came into transition, I was discouraged, but far from giving up. I rolled into transition in 7th place, knowing I needed to catch two guys to get in the top-5 and make a pay check. As I started running, I heard the announcer say that the gap to 2nd place was 3.5 minutes. That was a huge mental lift. Here I was thinking the whole group was 10 mintues up the road, when in reality they were closer than they were out of the swim. I felt pretty good starting the run. My legs were far from spry, but I did notice coming down from altitude that my breathing was much more comfortable for the effort level my legs were putting out.
I settled into my tempo and started looking up the road for the guys. As I came to the first out-n-back I could see the line of guys. Most of them seemed to be really suffering. Then it just became a matter of focusing on the next guy, then the next guy, then the next. I held my tempo and they started coming back to me. By mile 10 of the run, I had caught four guys and was sitting in 3rd. Berkel and Ambrose were running too well and way too far up the road to catch, so I just focused on not slowing in the last 3 miles.
I was really happy to cross the finish line in the top-3. Between my this race and my race in St. Croix earlier this year, I really feel that I'm racing the 70.3s much better than the past couple years. I had a really fun time at this race. Most of the guys in the race, I've gotten to know over the years and here in Boulder. It was a fun race, with a great group of guys, and a great way to spend time with my parents and Aunt and Uncle. Now I'm back in Boulder, recovering, and getting ready to put in a big month of training for Louisville. Tomorrow, it's back up into the mountains on the bike!
I really want to thank Little Caesars Pizza for their support of me and my racing. Their belief in me is so important for me be able to do what I'm doing in this sport. I'd also like to thank RecoveryPump for their support. RecoveryPump has been a critical aspect of my training and recovery this year and I truely believe the product has helped to take my training to the next level. Jack and Adam's Bicycles in Austin are always there to help support me and my racing. I want to thank Felt Bicycles for putting me on such an amazing bike, the 2011 Felt DA. Champion System Clothing has provided me with the best race and training clothing that you see in my pictures. Xterra Wetsuits is providing me with the best wetsuits and speedsuits in the sport and Advanced Rehabilitation in Ausin helps to keep me healthy for training and racing. Hill Country Running Company is a great help with my running equipment. PowerBar and SBR Sports Inc's products are also a great help for racing and training. Also I want to thank my family and friends for their unending support for me. Without these people and sponsors, I would not be able to pursue this dream.