Thursday, May 26, 2011

4th at Memphis

Yvette will tell you every race with me is an adventure. This is not news to me and as hard as I try not to make it one, it always is. This weekend was a three day adventure to Tunica, MS for the great spring classic Memphis in May Triathlon. This was the first year in its new location at Tunica, MS amongst the recent Casino development. If you have watched any news in the last couple of weeks you likely saw reporters live in Tunica boating amongst the Casinos, which were under water, and residents evacuating. Although still flooded on arrival we were fortunate that the race location was just over the levee and out of harms way. We still were made acutely aware of the damage and destruction from the flooding as we made our way through Memphis, across the now wider Mississippi River, and even in places along the course.

Race morning dawned with uncertainty in the weather and thunderstorms looming. As the first racers set off it began raining and a short while later thunder could be herd rumbling. After a conversation with the race staff the day before it was determined the elite amateurs would likely go off around 9-9:30 with the pros at 10. I was down warming up at 7:30 and keeping an eye on the single file start line (TT style) that was inching ahead. We were not given much leeway on our checkout and feared I would not be finished in time to clean up and get out without an over charge. At 7:45 it was looking that way so I went to help Yvette carry a few things out to the car. We walked back around the hotel around 8.10 to see the line was gone. Starting to get a bad feeling I walked up and asked when the elites would be going off. “They’re in the water” was the reply, “you need to get going.” I had gone through my pre race warm up so I didn’t panic, slipped on my wetsuit and took off.

About 500m in I had started catching people and it began to downpour. Swim split was 21.26, a new best I believe. A muddy run through transition and I was on the bike with the rain still coming hard as I set to work. The course was flat and fast minus the corners due to quite a bit of water sitting on the roads. I kept the pressure on rolling past the bare fields and slaloming the competitors which is typical when they start us last. At the halfway a bump from a bridge spelled disaster for a lady right in front of me who’s bike seat disintegrated into the pieces that hold it together and nuts and bolts went flying across the road in front of me as the seat fell off the back. A near miss. Bike time was 57.54 for the best amateur split of the day and my best Olympic bike split as well.

I started off on the run comfortable and controlled clicking off 3 quick miles at just sub 18. Things changed drastically after the halfway as I began to fade. I have struggled with my nutrition in the past at this distance and although I thought I had it figured out also had a back up gue in my pocket for just such an occasion. Too little to late and I was in survival mode with two miles to go and contemplating walking. I had been there before and could not believe I had let it happen again. I dragged myself to the finish line (run course was 1/2m long adding insult to injury) and couldn’t believe I had likely just driven all the way to Memphis to finish outside the top 10. Run time 43.33. Total time 2.04.57.

The relief I felt when Yvette told me I had managed 7th was immense and I knew at least I had gained my qualifying spot to Des Moines for the 5150 Championship. After a delicious BBQ spread we headed out for our 10 hr drive home since we didn’t have to stick around for awards. Back home that evening we again made the startling discovery that some pros had been mixed in by mistake which bumped me all the way to 4th. I had just missed the podium, and my first automatic pro card qualifier, by less than two minutes.

After all that went wrong or could have gone wrong in the end the only thing that matters is results. The results will show that I placed 4th and qualified for the 5150 US National Championship. All the rest will only affect how I prepare for my next race.

Next up Kansas 70.3. Train safe and don't forget to bodyglide your neck when you wear a wetsuit.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Dollar Bills and Fast Wheels

“Who’s going to beat Ben, I’ll give $250 to the person who beats Ben today?” I smiled to myself since I knew the cavalier bet was not the lock he thought it was. I was flying a little under the radar having crashed the previous year and knew I was very capable of winning the race and beating last year’s TriZou champion and 2010 Jr. Elite National Champion, Ben Kanute. So when the race director issued that challenge right as we were jumping in the pool it was game on and time to get paid.

This was my fifth year at the race on Mizzou’s campus, third year in the elite wave. It has been a race that usually doesn’t have a real deep field but always had notable competition. Past winners include, Matt Charbot, Andrew Starykowicz, TJ Tollakson, and Ric Rosenkranz all of which went on to have notable pro careers. Two years ago I left with confidence, having just run the same split as Simon Lessing, and renewed goals to get my swimming and biking up to par. It puts it in perspective when you get lapped in a 400, which Ben has done to me until this year.

I exited the swim this year with an approximate 5:30 long course 400 swim time and "only" a minute down on Ben and in 6th place. Yep, do the math that guy is a talented swimmer. I pushed hard early on the bike knowing he is also a talented runner that won on a sprint finish the previous year and that I would need to be within sight, or better yet slightly ahead, by T2. The course is a hilly 2 lap course in Columbia with a little wind this year that added to the difficulty. I made the pass around mile 11 and hit T2 with the slight lead and the race director “getting a little worried.” My time for the 14 mile bike was 36.32. Notice my new Zipp wheels that Mike at Bicycle X-Change rush shipped in time for the race and likely made the difference for the fastest bike split of the field and the overall win. Thanks Mike!

I only caught a glimpse of Ben on the run at the turnaround and he was running strong a short distance behind me and I hadn’t gained anything on him. Results would show he ran 8 seconds faster than my 15.48 so he probably continued to gain but I wouldn’t know it until I hit the finish line because I never looked back. This was an important run due to my lack of run training this spring, and not having full confidence in my injured hamstrings, yet still being able to hold the lead and take the win.

I am satisfied with a tough win and looking forward to my peak race for the spring in three weeks at Memphis in May…now actually in Tunica, MS. Top 10 elite amateurs will qualify for the US National Championships at HyVee in Des Moines and it is my goal to be among them.