Would love to visit Brazil someday..
My twitter profile has said that since I began racing as a professional triathlete a couple years ago. What it is alluding to, of course, is the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. It???s my way of putting it out there that I am training to be an Olympian.
Almost two weeks ago now, I checked off half of that dream ??? I travelled to Brazil, for a professional triathlon even! The obvious missing piece here is the Olympics part. Oh well, that will have to wait I suppose. Still, I had a great trip down to Vila Velha for this year???s ITU Pan American Triathlon Championships, kicking off my first ITU race of the year.
USAT sent a group of four elite males down to Brazil in hopes of getting a medal. There were three of us with a running background ??? Sean Jefferson and John O???Neill ??? and a great swim-bike specialist in Luke Farkas. The plan was to work together on the bike to put us in a position to run with the leaders and compete for the win. The plan worked, for a bit, before it came crashing to an end, literally.
20th in 17:21, :30 behind the fastest
After a very poor swim at my last race, I was anxious for some redemption and to show all the work I have done in the pool is paying off. I lined up towards the right side and watched the surf crashing down on the sand in front of me. The starting horn sounded, and we sprinted into the white water.
Before the race, I spoke with my coach Paulo Sousa about staying positive, doing everything I can to stay on feet in front of me, and to remember that any time not lost in the water, is time gained. The first few hundred meters to the first buoy were typical, pretty physical and lots of splashing around. There was some decent chop/swells which made it difficult for me to sight well, but I was just concerned with the person right in front of me. As we rounded the first buoy, the pace slowed and it all got very bunched up. This is normally where things start to go wrong for me, but on this day, I accelerated away from the buoy with the pack.
It was a two lap swim. After the first lap I could see the leaders weren’t too far off, and there were still a number of guys behind me. It was important to not let any gaps open up while exiting the water and diving back into the surf, or I would be swimming the second lap alone and much slower. The bunch was much more thinned out now, but I was still able to find feet to draft off of. I have a huge sense of satisfaction from this swim as it is the first time I have swam the whole way drafting and holding my position within the pack. That???s the way it should be done, and will try to make this not the exception but the rule.
9th in :37, :05 behind the fastest
I struggled a bit to get up and out of the surf, allowing USA teammate Sean Jefferson to open up a small gap on me. I knew Luke Farkas would be waiting up ahead to help at least one of us, so I wanted to be sure to be with Sean and not be left behind once the connection was made. There was a big sense of urgency getting through the rest of transition, which went well, until I mounted the bike and struggled to get my feet on top of my shoes.
8th in 1:00:22, :53 behind the fastest
Once I got on the shoes, I jammed basically all out until I caught up with Sean a couple minutes later. Looking at my power file for the race, my 1 minute maximum came at 15 seconds in, going 442W while stomping on top of my shoes. I caught onto Sean’s wheel, hit a quick 180 degree turn, and we soon caught up with Luke.
From there Luke went to work, towing Sean and I up to the chase pack. The three of us went straight to the front of that group, and continued to close the gap to the leaders. Luke would take a long, strong pull at the front (maybe 30-40 seconds), then Sean and I would pull through giving him a short break before going back to the front. A couple guys from the chase group tried to help out occasionally, but most of the work was being done by Luke… until he got a nail in his tire only a couple laps in!
Prior to the race, Paulo spoke to me about being resilient in races even when things aren’t going well. We were only about 20 or 25 seconds from the front pack at this point, so Sean and I pressed on and welcomed the help now being offered by some of the others. The pace line was much less organized now, however, and within half a lap there was a nasty crash by a U23 athlete from Uruguay. He was pulling through to the front, and only a couple spots back when he hit a bump and began to swerve, taking out several riders including Sean. I made it through OK, but now was left with just a couple other guys. I lowered my head and began to try to bridge the gap solo.
This left me with almost two laps trying to hold steady power around 350W. There were a couple of USAT coaches and staff throughout the course yelling time gaps. The gap was opening to the leaders now, from 30 to 35 to 45 seconds. Finally I noticed there was an organized chase group of about seven or eight guys, so I sat up, had a drink and a Gu, and began working with them.
There were three Brazilians in this group (Carvalho, Sclebin, and Moreira) that were sharing the work with me. The gap to the leaders was now hovering around one minute and holding there. On the last lap, however, it seemed the pace was beginning to slow again, and I opted to sprint out of a 180 degree turn and try to open a gap. It worked, and I was able to come into T2 with about a 15 second advantage over the chase pack, and about 1:10 behind the leaders.
Some final stats (according to Garmin+Quarq – link):
- 25.7 miles
- 25.4 mph
- 328W Average
- 339W Normalized
3rd in 34:20, :56??behind??the fastest
With all the work I had done on the bike, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned with how my legs would feel. Like always, coming out of T2 I felt pretty trashed. There was a big gap on either side of me, so I took my time to try to build into a good pace. At the first turnaround, I could see some of the guys up ahead were already hurting, and I knew I could pick some of them off. USAT Coach Steve Kelley told me I was in 11th place. I looked ahead and focused on one guy at a time. Things were going pretty well and at half way I had moved up into 8th, but that’s when Sclebin passed me (he was in the chase pack that left T2 15 seconds behind me). I tried to go with him, but my left hamstring said, “nope.” The pace didn’t feel too bad, but I was limited by the fear of cramping up, which could reduce me to a walk within moments. I decided to take the 3rd lap a bit more conservative and then go for it on the final lap.
As I rounded the penultimate 180 degree turn, I tried to lean forward a bit more and really push it. My hamstring seemed to be cooperating, but Sclebin was really moving up ahead and I wasn’t able to bring him in. With maybe 800m to go, our bike mechanic Brian Hughes yelled that the athlete ahead of me was in 5th place. Top-5 is in the money. I thought for a moment how much more rewarding this race would be if I was able to dig a little deeper at the end to pass him. I flew by him with about 300m left, and to my relief, he didn’t put up a fight. I crossed the finish line, looked back, and then saw the athlete I had been chasing turnaround the cone and set out for another lap — he wasn’t in 5th place! After getting some fluids down, Luke came to congratulate me and confirmed that I was indeed 5th place.
5th in 1:53:10, 2:12 behind 1st Results
I am very happy with this race. Early in the year, when I wanted to travel to Florida for some ITU racing, Paulo said, “When you race, you will be ready to swim with the pack. We aren’t going to rush it.” I was patient and focused on improving everyday I got in the water with him on deck, and together we made that happen. Still, this race is more of a step in the right direction than an I-have-arrived performance. ITU swims are going to continue to be a struggle, for quite a while I think, but I now have the confidence knowing that I have done it before.
I would like to thank USAT, Andy Schmitz and the rest of the High Performance crew for sending me down to Brazil for this experience. PATCO is a double points race, and I shot up the rankings now to 11th American and well inside the top-200 in the world. Luke Farkas also deserves a shout out for letting the lead pack go and dropping back to help Sean and I. Without his early flat, I have no doubts we would have caught the front group, and with the 3rd fastest run on the day, I think a chance at a medal would have been strong. Also thank you to ENVE and Hypster.com for supporting me.
Now I am staying in Spain for a month. I will be racing in Geneva this weekend at a European Cup race and in a few more weeks at the Tiszjauvaros World Cup in Hungary.