Its all about the silver lining...
For the third year in a row I went down to Dallas for the US Open, and for the second year in a row I left disappointed with my effort, a 19th place finish. Usually I can lean on my run, or find parts of my race that I can be proud of...and now 4 days removed I have finally found a small but significant success that otherwise went unnoticed. I had the fastest T1 out of all amateurs by 9 seconds (4th in T2). Thats right, no one runs between the water and their bike and gets out of their wetsuit faster...have some of that. I guess the irony in the end is that the 2 things I went into this season knowing I needed to show the most improvement on, swim and transitions, did...and my strong bike/run was not there when I needed it. Unfortunately swim and transitioning only makes up 25% of the race.
The day was in the 40's, cloudy, drizzly with a light North breeze which meant the point to point ride would be against the wind all 25 miles. To add to that the waters were quite choppy and it was hazy enough that it was tough to pick out the sighting bouys while bobbing like a cork. None of these things appeared to dash my race hopes. I felt strong in the waters despite the conditions and though the front of the field was about 1.5 min slower than last year I swam the same time. I was still 3.5 min down however which shows the work in the pool I have still have ahead.
On the bike I felt strong and started moving through the field. About mile 15 - 20 a few racers went by me and I wasn't able to keep up and started to feel it a bit hitting T2 about 7 minutes down overall. Onto the run my turnover was good and although the legs were feeling a little tired I felt they would come around. And with a fast flat course I would make up time with hopefully something in the 34 range since my run had been going well this year. Unfortunately they didn't loosen up and the first couple miles in the 5.45 range were much too difficult and I was unable to hold it. The last few miles were survival and I somehow stumbled into the finishing shoot.
I'm still not completely sure why this race haunts me. However, I will begin my offseason in a couple of weeks and look forward to the long peaceful miles I will put in before the next season of racing. Look for me to do the usual list of local races along with possibly adding Half Ironman Branson and Memphis in May.
Thanks to my very supportive family, extended family, church family, friends, and sponsors who continue to come to my races and support me in triathlon and in life.
See you on the roads.
-Kevin Nickel, US Open T1 Champion