For the 4th of July I headed up north to hang with my girlfriend Mo and her family at their lake house at Clear Lake. We had a great time and I was able to get in a long open water swim in the algae-filled lake (my speedo was full of the green stuff after!)
Once the fun weekend came to an end, I stayed in Oakland to prepare for the San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island. This was my first triathlon away from home, but thanks to my “host” family, the Huber’s kept me feeling comfortable. I was able to get on the course a couple of times before the race to check out the very technical bike course. It was a six lap course with about a dozen 90 degree turns and one 180 degree turn EACH LAP! This was very different than anything I had raced before.
Aside from the unique course, this race was different in that there was actually something up for grabs besides my ego. The San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island is part of the USAT Elite Series, which means that a top-3 finish in the amateur field would earn me a pro card. Earning a pro card is the first step toward fulfilling my dream of competing as a professional athlete and making an Olympic team.
Everything considered, I was a bit more anxious for this race than my third running of the Breath of Life triathlon a couple of weeks ago.
I started tossing and turning at around 3:30 or 4 am. Like I said I was anxious for the race. I finally got going at 5 and was out the door half an hour later. Mo and I arrived to the race just before 6 and it was cold. I was wearing a long sleeve shirt, jacket, tights and sweats and I was still chilly. After setting up my transition area I began my warm up a little sooner than normal so that I could heat up and get comfortable.
16th in 22:39, 2:10 behind the fastest
Leading up to this race everyone was telling me how cold the water in the Bay would be. I was pleasantly surprised when I dove in for a short warm up and my face didn’t freeze. It was actually very comfortable. The race announcer said it was around 60 degrees. I’ve swam in much colder.
The race started with a deep water start, which was a first for me. Compared to a beach entrance I found the deep water start to be a lot less hectic. I got out pretty well and eventually found myself swimming shoulder to shoulder with another guy. There was a group of three or four up front that I wasn’t able to hang with, and in the future I know that is where I need to be — hanging off the feet of the faster swimmers.
The swim course was two triangular loops. As I came around to start lap number two, the guy that had been swimming with me suddenly just dropped off. I have no idea where he went, so I figured he fell in behind me. The rest of the way I was swimming alone which made for a nice, calm swim.
11th 1:10, :07 behind the fastest
Like Breath of Life I tried to race into and out of transition, but be smooth taking off my wetsuit and putting on my helmet and sunglasses (as my coach Ian Murray says, “smooth is fast”). I was told I was down two minutes to the first swimmer, so there was some work to do on the bike.
4th in 1:03:59, 1:28 behind the fastest
I tried to be aggressive from the beginning. Since the course had six laps, as time went, more and more people would be heading out onto the bike course. This meant there was a lot of passing going on, and I had no idea where I was in the race relative to my competitors. Any open road I had I took advantage of. This made for a very atypical time trial bike ride, with lots of surging and then sitting up when I got stuck behind slower people that I was lapping. Adding to the whole experience were some pretty poor road conditions. Lots of potholes and very little smooth terrain.
In the end I had a great bike leg — certainly my biggest improvement over my last race. I have to thank Dusty Nabor for a lot of this improvement. Dusty is a local triathlete that swims with the Conejo Valley Mutlisport Masters (the same team I am swimming with). Dusty loaned me a sweet pair of carbon HED wheels and hooked me up with a very nice Specialized aerohelmet. I owe more than a few seconds to Dusty. THANK YOU!
11th in :41, :07 behind the fastest
Only thing to really say about T2 is that I WAS THE FIRST ONE THERE! Yep, to my surprise, I was leading! This was a first for me. With the run as my strongest of the three, I knew I had the win in the bag. Or did I? I thought back to last year’s Strawberry Fields triathlon where I lost to a guy in a wave behind me by six seconds! I couldn’t let that happen again.
2nd in 34:18, :26 behind the fastest
The only real downside of my race was that I didn’t have the fastest run split! I am used to taking huge chunks of time out of everyone’s run split, with the exception of my buddy Chris Baird of course. I started out feeling good, running about 5:15 pace. I decided I would hold it there, and then bring it home a little bit quicker.
Racing from out front is a lot different than trying to chase down guys. I knew I was running a decent pace and that would be good enough. Still, I was motivated to have the fastest run split once again. With about a mile to go, I felt good and decided to really press it. Shortly after, I felt a cramp coming on in my hamstring. The last thing I needed was to walk it in to the finish line. I decided to be smart and conservative and just hold my pace. The course was definitely a bit long, as the Garmin had me at 5:16 pace.
1st of 259 in 2:02:46
I finished the race with a huge smile, knowing I had earned my pro card. I had a little interview after the race and it is up on Youtube. I will share that with you guys in the coming days.
What the heck is a pro card?
For my readers that aren’t so triathlon savvy, you might be wondering what a pro card is. A pro card, or “elite license” as it is also referred to, allows athletes to compete in more competitive races. Basically, you get to compete against other professionals. It is the first step in reaching the top of the sport. To compete at the Olympics, you need to have great results at the biggest races in the world. To qualify for these races, you first need to accumulate points in smaller races. And to enter these smaller races, you need a pro card.
I have competed in two triathlons in 2011 and have two wins, plus a pro card. Things are going great! I still have so much work to do, but I am super motivated to do what I need to to reach that next level. Not just racing as a pro, but competing for podium positions. My next race will be Age Group Nationals, possibly my last race as an amateur. I want to keep my winning streak alive.