Sunday marked my third consecutive race at the Breath of Life Triathlon in Ventura. Two years ago I entered because I thought it would be fun, and was thrilled to finish 8th overall. Last year I won my first Olympic distance triathlon here, and thoughts of pursuing triathlons in my future were planted. This year’s race affirmed that becoming a professional triathlete isn’t just a dream, but a realistic goal.
My race report begins on Saturday afternoon. The brackets on my Quintana Roo CD 0.1 that connect the aero bars to the handlebars seemed to have some stripped threads, so my sister’s fiancee Dan (a fellow engineer) suggested I put some Locktite in the threads. As we retightened the screw, we really stripped it. 6 pm, the day before an early morning race, and I have an out-of-commission bike. We called a few bike stores and eventually found one that was open until 8. They were able to retap the hole and put a bigger screw in. The brackets held for the race, but I need to do something about it before my next one.
5:30 Sunday morning came around and I was up getting ready for the race. I owe a big thank you to my Aunt Britta for letting me stay at her house in Ventura. It is so much more relaxing staying just ~5 minutes from the race course, as opposed to 40. I went with the usual breakfast and made my way to transition at around 6:15.
Chris Baird and I did a short run of about 1.5 miles and then made our way down to the swim start with about 15 minutes to spare. I made sure to get in and do a good warm up (Coach’s orders!).
14th in 17:53, 1:37 behind the fastest
Like last year, I had a rough start. I initially started off well, but all the people swimming over each other took its toll on me. After taking a big swallow of sea water, I sort of let up a bit and regrouped. From there I got in a pretty good rhythm and felt much better on the second, less congested lap. I exited the swim in about 10th in my wave. I will need to be at the front of these local races if I want to be competitive at the next level.
4th in 1:43, :17 behind the fastest
My focus in transition was to keep racing. In my past few triathlons I think I have been too worried about what I need to do in transition. With a bit more experience, and some practice, I was able to run fast into and out of transition.
7th in 1:01:57, 2:21 behind the fastest
Heading out on the bike I had a good mount, passing one guy right out of transition, but then lost a bit of momentum by misplacing my left foot on the shoe. In a non-drafting race like this one, these couple of seconds that I lose in transitions are likely not a big deal, but it could make or break a race in a draft legal format. Since that is the direction I want to go in, I need to really perfect these skills.
The course was very flat and fast. There were a few spots with a slight tailwind, and I tried to crank it up and tank advantage of those sections, reaching 27 or 28 mph. I took a Gu at about 10 minutes into the bike and had planned to take another one with about 10 minutes to go, but could only get down about 1/4 of it. At this point I’m just trying to figure out how many calories I should take in a race and I will have to continue with trial and error to see what works best for me.
According to the Garmin the race was slightly long at about 25.5 miles. This works out to 24.7 mph, about 1 mph faster than last year. My coach Ian Murray has been slowing increasing my biking volume, so I have yet to do any really hard, long rides. I think once we throw a few more of those in there, I will be able to crack that 25 mph mark and feel fresher for the run.
14th in :55, :12 behind the fastest
I had a good dismount and was running pretty quickly into transition. Eventually I got behind a lady that was just heading out to start her bike ride (she must have been a Sprint competitor). She was awkwardly running with her bike in her cycling shoes, so I just had to be patient and wait until she passed my rack. I then quickly racked my bike, took off my helmet, put on my shoes and grabbed my race belt.
1st in 32:22, :25 ahead of 2nd fastest
Finally onto the run! The great thing about triathlons, from a runner’s background, is that you know you can always move up during the last stage of the race. I have yet to be passed on the run in a triathlon, and Sunday was not going to be my first.
Heading out of transition I heard that I was down 3 minutes to the leader. Shoot, that seems like a lot. If he can run a 35:00 10k, I will need to run under 32. I was in 4th at this point, so I focused on one runner at a time. I passed the first guy within the first mile, splitting a 5:03! Oops, I may have just blown the rest of my run. Then I saw the next racer up ahead. I passed him before the 2 mile mark with a 5:11. There was a nice long straight road for me to see how much more I had to make up. I could only see one guy and I passed him relatively quickly, before mile 3. Am I in the lead?
There was a turnaround at 5k, so this allowed me to see where exactly I was in the race. I was still in 2nd, but now just 50 seconds back of the leader. He looked good, but clearly running a much slower pace than me. I kept looking at road markers and counting the time it took for me to reach them. I was chipping away at his lead, but with 2 miles still to run, I was worried I was going to run out of gas. There were several racers out there yelling encouraging words to me, like “you can get him!”
I tried to think about how much more fun it is to finish with a victory, and I pressed on. I continued clicking off the miles in around 5:12 and eventually caught Jason Smith, the race leader, with about a mile to go. Since I was hurting at this point, I thought the best race tactic would be to go by him quickly so he doesn’t even think about trying to go with me. It worked, and I was able to cruise home the rest of the way. As I made the last couple turns toward the finish line, I saw my family and friends all cheering for me. What a great feeling. What a great memory.
My Garmin had 32:23 for 6.26 miles (5:10s), which surprisingly is a faster pace than either of the triathlons I raced last year. Since I haven’t done much run volume over the last two months, I figured I would run slower. To a certain extent, fitness is fitness, and all the swimming and biking seems to be keeping my run up to an acceptable level. As I move up in the triathlon ranks, I will have to work the run a bit more to compete with the very best in the sport.
1st of 352 in 1:54:47
After I finished I was called up on stage to speak with the announcer. He asked if I would be returning in 2012. “We’ll see,” I replied. If things go the way I want them to, a year from now I will be onto bigger and better things.