Over the weekend I traveled to Oceanside, CA to compete in the first 70.3 triathlon of my career. To be honest, I was feeling a bit undertrained after being sick two weeks out from the race and not being able to knock out a couple key workouts. Nonetheless, I drove down Thursday planning on soaking up as much of the experience as possible.
I tried not to go to the race expo, but it was hard not to get sucked in to the many vendors. Ironman does an amazing job creating an entire experience at their races. At the pro meeting Friday evening, I found myself in the same room as many of the top guys in 70.3 including Sebastian Kienle, Jesse Thomas, and Andy Potts. The word on the street was it would be one of the most stacked races of the year.
I didn’t sleep well, but felt energized and ready to go race morning. I made my way to the transition area and set up, before realizing I forgot my goggles in the room. Running back gave me a perfect warmup before the swim. I felt calm as I made my way to the start buoy and waited for the start cannon to go off.
I lined up next to a strong swimmer on the outside and quickly got on his feet the first 100 meters. Unfortunately, Sebastian Kienle had the same idea and when I got too close after a while he grabbed my shoulder and pushed me back with one clean stroke. I don’t even think it broke his rhythm. I settled in from there and cruised the rest of the swim. I wasn’t sure where I came out but when I heard less than 3 minutes to the leaders, I knew had put in a solid effort.
As opposed to religiously following my power numbers at the beginning of the bike I decided to go with the race. This may have determined my fate later on, but I pushed on anyway. In training I worked on building up my power-to-weight ratio as high as possible. I worked my weight down to 137 for race day and felt I could comfortably hold the power needed to go with the top pros. What I didn’t consider, however, is that in a flat time trial effort overall power matters much more than power-to-weight. I was having to hold way over my sustainable effort on the flats to keep up with the other guys. I was able to do this until about 10 miles to go, and then I lost power drastically. In fact, in the last 4 miles of the ride, I lost an incredible 3 minutes and thought there was no way I could run after.
Following the bike I truly had no expectations for the run, and just wanted to go out and feel good. I was off the bike in 29th, and my goal of a top-20 finish was still possible. The first lap of the run I picked off people left and right, moving up to 22nd place. I didn’t feel good, but at each turnaround I was closer to my goal. Then mile 8 happened. I’ve heard about people hitting “the wall” but never experienced it myself until then. The final 5 miles seemed like an insurmountable task. I found myself grabbing for anything I could get my hands on at the following aid stations. All but one of the people I passed to that point passed me back in the final 5 miles, and it took everything I had just to keep shuffling along. I eventually made it to the finishing chute, and was relieved more than anything.
I was the 28th pro male in a time of 4:23. Looking back I can’t help but feel optimistic about my future at this distance. I know I’m capable of a 4:10 performance in the shape I’m in now, but also know the changes I can make moving forward to be even faster. I have so much more respect for the distance than I did in the past, and am eager to get back to training for the next one!