For those of you??just interested in my usual race report, and not the 700 words on how I got there, scroll down to here.
If you have been following my triathlon career, you know that I have been focused on ITU racing because I had a dream of becoming an Olympian. I joined The Triathlon Squad in 2012, moved to Poway, and put everything I had into achieving that dream. I had some great results along the way, but always struggled with consistency due to my swimming, and that often resulted in “character building” races where I raced the bike/run with a never-give-up attitude for a middle-of-the-pack result. After many of these types of races, friends, family and peers would often tell me, “You would crush it in non-draft racing.” To which I would reply (or think to myself, at least…), “What’s the end game with that?” One of the great things about an Olympic pursuit is it is black & white. I achieve, or I don’t. I felt that if I went down the path of non-draft racing, it would be difficult??for me to say whether I was succeeding, whether this pursuit was??worth it, or whether I was just putting off real life because I liked to train and see the world. So I continued the ITU points chase, continued working with The Triathlon Squad, and continued dreaming.
This past winter??I hit a bit of a road block and was diagnosed with a tear in my labrum in my left hip. I wrote about it a bit in my Bridgetown race report. I chose not to get surgery and was able to slowly build into some really good run training. However, the timing of the injury derailed my early season racing plans??and left me lower in the ITU rankings than I had hoped to be (especially relative to the other Americans that I am fighting with for race starts). I felt that with the limited racing I would be able to do, I really needed to nail each one to put myself into a position where I could make the start list at the most important events and be capable of competing well. April, May and into June I had a couple of good races and felt like my training was going very well and was ready for a career day at the Huatulco World Cup. On the first lap of the bike, just after settling into the middle of the lead pack on the bike, I blew out my front tire. The??field slipped away, and looking back now, I think that is a defining moment where I think??the dream slipped away, as well.
For a variety of reasons, I felt like I could no longer make it to the Rio Olympics. Of course, I could see the qualification process down to the bitter end, which probably won’t be until May of next year, but knew that I would only regret not making a change sooner. I am getting married in November, and I felt the opportunity cost to me and my fiancee in continuing down this path was too high. So after two more races in July, I decided to leave The Triathlon Squad, move back to LA, and begin looking for a career in mechanical engineering.
That sounds like an end to my triathlon career, and it is the end of my triathlon career as I knew it. When I made that decision, I was still in great shape and didn’t want all that fitness to go to waste while I start the process of looking for a job, so I scrolled through the late summer/fall triathlon calendar to see what was available. I found a couple local events, the Santa Barbara Triathlon and Nautica Malibu Triathlon, and decided those would make good stepping stones into my first half Ironman race, Silverman. In between??submitting job applications and spending a lot more time with my family, I still managed??doing quite a bit of training and have enjoyed transitioning into this different lifestyle.
I took off for Las Vegas late on Friday morning.??It is so nice to not have to pack up a bike and get on an airplane, and as I made the ~5 hour drive,??the novelty of driving to a fairly big event was not lost. I arrived in the afternoon and promptly checked in at the race expo, where I bumped into Taylor Reid. Taylor is a fairly new member of The Triathlon Squad, so we have done some training together and even shared a common roof over our heads in the past few months. We went for a shakeout run on some of the run course. I had looked at the elevation profile of the course before arriving, so I knew there would be some hills, but I noted that the incline felt steeper than I had imagined.
Silverman has split transitions (the bike course is point-to-point with separate T1 and T2) so this race had a bit more logistics. Running shoes were to be dropped off at T2 and bike checked in at T1 on Saturday afternoon, the day before the race. This was all new to me,??and made my pre-race day more hectic than I am used to. After the race briefing, I headed out to Lake Mead to get a quick bike ride in on some of the course, check my bike in at T1, and a short swim. The tradeoff to all this madness was that on race morning, pretty much all I had to worry about was getting to the start, filling up my bottles on the bike, and pumping up my tires. Mo and my parents flew in that afternoon and met me back at the hotel when I was all finished. We enjoyed a relaxed evening with an early dinner and early bed time.
Start time was 7 am, so I got up at 4 and began eating. I had a bowl of oatmeal, banana, two hardboiled eggs, two small cups of coffee, and some SaltStick. My parents drove me out to the race start so I didn’t have to take a shuttle from T2. We arrived with plenty of time for me to make sure everything was good to go in T1 and get a short warm up in the water. I believe the announcer said the water temperature was 77F making it well above the wetsuit cutoff for professionals. The air was a little cool and there was already some wind picking up, making it pretty chilly standing at the start line in waste deep water. I noticed a number of the other pro men shivering as we waited the cannon blast start.
11th in 27:40, 2:27 behind the fastest
Many of the best swimmers were lining up on the right side of the starting line. The wind was blowing from the SSE, making it right-to-left as we looked out towards the first turn buoy.??I chose to go just to their inside, thinking they would come over and I could slot into the pack. I started out fine and noticed I got in front of some of the slower guys.??By 100m, the swim became really choppy and I struggled to keep a high tempo. I have been swimming openwater with Tower 26 in Santa Monica, but the conditions have been beautiful out there every morning and I think spoiled me a bit.??I was really battling the waves out there and the front group of guys got away from me as we were making the turn a half mile in. The chop was a little kinder on the way back in, and I just thought about limiting my losses and remembering that it was a long day.
Before the race I thought coming out less than 2 minutes behind the leader would put me in a decent position and was an attainable goal, but I missed that mark a bit. There was a group of three guys that came out ~1:30 behind Cam — Drew Scott, Matt Lieto and Guy Crawford — and I think just behind them is??about where I should have been.
As I ran through transition, Mo told me I was in 12th and told me my time deficit. My first thought was this was a rough start, but I again reminded myself this is a longer race and to just get out on the bike, stick to my plan, and see what happens.
3rd in 2:15:26, 2:27 behind the fastest
I was really looking forward to this bike ride. I have been very curious to see how hard some of these top guys go for 56 miles, and I liked my chances on a hilly course like Silverman’s. I had a target of about 300 W, which I thought would give me a competitive split and give me a chance to run well off the bike. Since I came out with the deficit on the swim, I wasn’t able to get straight into a group, so I headed out with my power number in my head, and knowing that I would be pushing a bit harder on some of the climbs, but it might average out on the descents.
With the SE wind we were flying north up Lakeshore Rd.??By the time we hit Northshore Rd, I had moved up to 10th position. As we rolled down and up the hills, I could see guys ahead, and one by one, I started to pull them in. I was happy when I rolled by Drew Scott, last year’s winner, and I started to feel like I was really in the race now. Eventually I saw Cam Dye, followed closely by Michael Raelert, coming back the other direction. I took a peak at my clock and hoped the u-turn wasn’t too far ahead. As I made the turn, I was just behind Paul Matthews and Kevin Collington. I checked my clock again and noted that I was just a little over 3 minutes behind Cam. I got pretty excited here as I was riding very close to Cam’s pace.
It was around here that I think I started racing a bit too emotionally. As I said, I was excited and wanted to keep pushing and try to close the gap to the leaders. I was feeling strong, but we were not even halfway done with the race! I tried riding a legal distance behind Kevin and Paul (Kevin had made a pass) for a few minutes. The effort felt too easy, and I began to worry that the front of the race was getting too far ahead. I decided to make the pass and keep pressing on at my own pace. Instead of waiting for a climb, I made the pass on a slight descent. About two seconds into making the pass around BOTH guys, I realized I was going way too hard. But since I had already entered the draft zone, I was committed to the move, and just pressed on. I think I may have burnt a match or two there. (Looking at my power file shows that I went 464 W for 30 s down a 3% grade to make that move.)
As we made our way back to Lakeshore Rd/Lake Mead Parkway, I put some space between me and the guys behind. Around 35 or 40 miles I saw my parents and Mo, and could hear the excitement in their voices. I was riding in 3rd, just a few minutes behind the leaders, in my first 70.3! There was an aid station here, and I grabbed a bottle of water, but only took a few drinks before tossing it. Another mistake, I think. While it wasn’t a hot day, it was very very dry. I had 48 oz of liquid on board (which had a total of about 600 calories in Carbo Pro + Gatorade + SaltStick mix) and on a course like this, in such dry conditions, I probably should have drank an entire bottle of water from that aid station.
I actually planned to get some more water at the final aid station at around 50 miles, but it was on a section where we were going over 30 mph. I could have slowed down, but Cody Beals had just passed me and I didn’t want to give him too much time in the final miles. The long climb up Gibson was into a headwind and was pretty brutal. I tried to stay tucked in a tight aero position here, but I was starting to get tired and just general discomfort from the relatively long TT, for me.
I ended up with an average power of 293 W and 303 W. Before the race, I thought I could run pretty well off that. As I took my feet out of my shoes, however, I got some cramps in both hamstrings. Generally that isn’t a good sign for the run ahead! I didn’t need to run sub 5:00 mile pace here, however, so I thought maybe my legs would handle a??slower pace. Of course, the pace is slower because I’m not running a 10k, but a half marathon!
7th in 1:22:16, 6:05 behind the fastest
My plan for the run was to take it out relaxed and let it come to me. The first mile or so was downhill, followed by about 2.5 miles of uphill. As I rolled down, I was happy that my lower legs felt great, but my quads were already quite sore. Cody Beals had exited T2 with less than 30 seconds gap on me, and I came up to his shoulder as we hit the first climb. My legs were not responding as I had hoped and Cody opened a gap back up. Again, I thought, “It’s a long race,” and let him go a bit. The run course was three laps, and I hoped I could really get things moving as I made my way back down the long downhill before the next long climb.
I wasn’t feeling??tired or??bonked, but my legs were hurting and I felt like my gait was closer to a jog than it was to fast running. The Gatorade and Gu provided at the aid station didn’t sound too appealing at this point, so I stuck with water. It still wasn’t too hot, but all the wind made it feel so dry and I felt like I just needed some liquid in my throat.
When I finally made my way back up the hill on the second lap, things started to get pretty grim. I was chipping a few seconds away on Cam (Who was actually in 1st place, not 2nd, since Michael Raelert was disqualified for not serving a drafting penalty. But I don’t think anyone racing was really aware of that.), but Cody had dropped me and I could see Taylor running great not too far behind me. As I passed Mo, she could see I wasn’t moving too quickly, and encouraged me to get my head in it and really start racing. I was still very well positioned in the race, but the trend was definitely going backwards.
It was around mile 6 or 7, as I ran uphill into a stiff headwind, that racing 13.1 miles turned into running 13.1 miles. My quads, hamstrings and glutes were all locking up pretty badly and I had some serious doubts that I could keep my legs moving all the way to the finish line. Taylor came by me and I had no answer. On my last lap, the women’s leader, Lauren Goss, whom was one lap behind me, came by me and said, “Welcome to 70.3’s.” Lauren raced Silverman last year and warned me before race day that many racers would go too hard on the bike and pay for it on the run. I was proving her rule.
Finally, with about a mile to go, I was able to push things a bit. I had to, as Chris Baird was coming in hot and about to roll me up (he ended up the day with the 2nd fastest run). I made the final turn with a 30 second gap on Chris. I knew if I could run a decent pace back down the hill, Chris would have to run sub-5:00 pace, and I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen. It hurt, but with a half mile to go, I was pretty sure I had it. Then my legs seized up and I almost tripped.??Oh shit. I took the pressure off just a bit, and finally made it into the finishing chute. Chris came in just 13 seconds behind me.
4th in 4:07:58, 3:23 behind 1st
After the race I hurt. I could hardly walk for about an hour after the race. I was told that I had actually finished 4th, not 5th because of Raelert’s DQ, and that made me feel a little bit better. Overall, I was happy to reach the finish line dead tired, and proud of my effort on the day and the preparation I put in over the past couple months.
Racing over four hours is long. And hard. I received lots of encouraging words from friends, most of them to the effect of, “Great job! I knew this was a great distance for you.” My 2015 season is over, and it is hard to say at this point what 2016 is going to look like, but I am really happy that I came out to Silverman and??gave it a go. I am told experience at the longer distance racing is worth a lot, so I hope I can build on this one in the future.
Special thanks to my dad for all the great photographs. It was really nice to have my parents out to this race as I sort of put a cap on my journey of the last few years. I never would have been able to make the sort of commitment to triathlon and The Triathlon Squad that I did without their support, both financially and emotionally. They have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and that didn’t stop when I told them I wanted to move to Poway.
I planned to drive back Sunday evening after the race.??After the early wakeup call and racing 70.3 miles, driving five hours seemed like a rough end to the weekend. But my beautiful fiancee would be making the drive back with me, and that made the time special. Throughout our relationship, we have yearned for a “normal” that would have both of us spending time together. Returning home??with her after a solid race felt like a new normal that I am very excited about.