I believe this is where I???m supposed to tell about all the changes I have made over this off-season, and how that is going to translate into newfound success. While I have made a few changes in equipment (thanks to USA Triathlon and ENVE Composites??? more on that below), by and large, much is the same as last year. You may recall that last year I joined Paulo Sousa???s The Triathlon Squad, began working with them in November of 2012 and then moved to Poway to train full-time in January. Similarly, this season???s training began in November and I continue to live in Poway, training full-time with the same guys under the same coach. The reason for my success in 2014 won???t be due to changes, but consistency.
Winter training was good. We put in a lot of hard hours, enjoying most of them, surviving some, and staying engaged always. It???s always great for a few months to pass and realize you haven???t missed any training due to injury. Kudos to Paulo for training smart. 🙂 I???m excited to translate this fitness into results.
I actually had a bit of a false start to the race season already. On February 16, I ran a local road race, the Coronado 10k. Some pretty quick guys in Scott Bauhs and Ben Bruce came out and led the race up front. I was in a pack of a few guys most of the race and ended up finishing 5th in 31:32. It was a fun event and a good way to stir the dormant pre-race butterflies a bit. As Paulo put it, it was a ???good tempo run.??? Results??Strava
Last weekend I was down near Fiesta Island for the UCSD Tritonman Triathlon. This was a collegiate draft legal race that let some of us from The Squad jump in. It was a sprint distance race, and a great opportunity to have a test run before races start to count. I made a few mistakes, highlighting some things to focus on and fix this past week in training. I ended up 5th (6th if you count Greg Billington, but officially he was disqualified for not serving multiple penalties!). Thanks to the race organizers for giving us the opportunity to race locally. ResultsPhoto album
This weekend I am in Clermont, Florida for a sprint distance ITU Pan American Cup. This race was my second ITU race of my career back in 2012, where I finished 17th. I remember my excitement after the race, knowing I???d earned my first ITU points. Goals are a bit higher this time around. Here is the start list. (I???m ranked 10th)
A few days after returning from Florida I will be heading off to Australia with training partner Joe Maloy. USAT will have a small camp where we will stay and train before racing the Mooloolaba ITU World Cup on March 15. There is a possibility for me to race in the New Plymouth ITU World Cup a week later, but as of now, I am not on the start list. There is a chance I will roll on to the start list, so I will be keeping an eye on that. This will my first time to Australia and I???m obviously looking forward to it very much.
Thanks to Litespeed???s support of USAT, I will be racing on a new Litespeed L3 this year. I was on my previous bike, a Blue RC6, for nearly three years and it was time to upgrade. This was the first time I have had to opportunity to build a bike up from just the frame myself. With two mechanical engineering degrees (I finally finished my Master???s of Engineering degree in December!), I thought that if I can???t figure this out, I might want to ask NAU for a refund! Thanks to a bit of help from training partner Eric Lagerstrom and Paulo, I finished the build in a couple of days. The bike rides and looks great, thanks in large part to ENVE. They sent me a fresh seat post, 40cm road bar and 100mm stem to go with the SES 3.4 Clinchers that I train on and SES 8.9 Tubulars that I race on.
I have a??tentative race schedule posted. There are a lot of World Cups on there, and with Olympic points qualification beginning in May, these races will be more and more difficult to get into. It’s likely I won’t know whether I am racing until a couple of weeks before the event. The only way to really guarantee the races I’d like to do is to BE BETTER!
After my race in Buffalo, I flew to Boston to stay with fellow professional triathletes Chris Baird and Brianna Blanchard for a few days. I had never been to Massachusetts before and I was anxious to see why my mom raves about it. She began racing the Boston marathon in 2004 and pretty much became a Boston fan overnight. She even cheers for the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics now. 2013 will be her sixth edition of the Boston marathon, which will be extra special with my sister Jaclyn joining my mom for her first time! Basically, Boston has turned into a destination for the Pedersen’s.
Chris and Brianna have a great apartment in an old building in the financial district. I went riding in some of the suburbs of town and went running along the Charleston river, through Cambridge and onto Harvard???s campus. While Chris was grinding away at work, I went with Brianna to MIT for a couple of swims. I got to see a bit of the city as I walked to the ???shipping dack at the John Hancack building by Capley pack??? to try to intercept two UPS packages with our Duathlon Worlds uniforms that wasn???t scheduled for delivery until after our departure for the airport. I found the shipping dock at the John Hancock building by Copley park without too much trouble and grabbed our packages.
Boston struck me as a very clean city, especially compared to other big US cities I have been to like Los Angeles and New York. The city is very young and active thanks to all the universities and paths along the river. While I am in no rush to move there and see what the winter months have to offer, I can see why Chris and Brianna like it (as well as my mom) and appreciate their hospitality.
On Tuesday night, Chris and I began our journey to Nancy, France. Flying to Europe from the East coast is so much easier, and I would be reminded of this when I returned on my non-stop flight from London to Los Angeles. A six hour flight had us in London???s Heathrow airport on Wednesday morning where we boarded a plane to Luxembourg. Once in Luxembourg, Team USA coach Jim Vance picked us up and we drove a couple hours south to Nancy. We arrived around 1 pm, and weren???t scheduled to do any training until 5, so Chris and I went for a walk to try to find something to eat. We found a market and picked up a few snacks, including the delicious spread called Speculoos. At first we were disappointed when we discovered it wasn???t peanut butter. After spreading it on a couple cookies, however, we forgot about the peanut butter and began a dialogue on why this stuff doesn???t exist in the US!
Over the next few days we got to see quite a bit of the city. The necessity to always be searching for places to ride or run (or swim) can be a pain, but it affords you plenty of opportunities to explore. I get to see miles and miles of these foreign places that I would not have seen otherwise, which is certainly one of the perks of being a professional triathlete.
In addition to the sights, we often see more of the culture as well. On Thursday, I walked to a local pool with one of the elite American female athletes??? boyfriend. At the front desk of the pool, we each paid 3.80 euros and showed our swim cap and bathing suits ??? men must wear brief or square-cut style ???Speedo??? to swim. Thank goodness I don???t go anywhere without mine! We then went to the coed changing room, which was a bank of cubicle-like stations with a door on one side for entry and a door on the other side to exit to the pool. I entered the cubicle and latched the ENTER door close. I turned around and found the EXIT door was open, so I closed that one and latched it shut. Just as I did that, I saw the ENTER door swung back open. Must have not closed it properly. I moved to the ENTER door and latched it shut. Now the EXIT door swung open! I realized the latches on both doors were linked, to prevent people from leaving the cubicle out one door and leaving the other side locked, which is smart. However, because the doors naturally swing open, this also prevents people from successfully closing and locking both doors without a 7-foot wingspan. Being the clever engineer that I am, I improvised by closing one door with my right foot, closing the other door with my left hand and latching it with my right hand, all while balancing on my left foot. I felt like there must have been a hidden camera on me with a French audience watching, laughing and saying, ???Stupid American!??? After stretching both my mind and body in the changing room, I rinsed off in the shower and headed to the pool. In the hallway between the showers and the pool, there was a 5m section sunken 15cm or so with a puddle of water that you had to walk through. I shook my head, bewildered, and thought, ???It???s all part of the experience, Russ.??? Finally, we made it to the pool! It was a very nice, white-tiled pool with four lanes FILLED with people doing breast stroke! I ended up getting a crappy 1500m workout in, which was ok as I wasn???t expecting to get in any swimming in France.
The race took place in the beautiful, ornate Stanislaus square, surrounded by old buildings with exquisite fa??ade, black iron fences with gold leaf trim, and polished cobblestone. The run course went through an adjacent park, which was flat with lots of sharp turns. The bike course had a small hill on it to bring you up to an elevated highway and had some very technical sections coming by transition. The men’s elite race wasn’t scheduled to go off until late afternoon when the park and square were completely packed with spectators and age group athletes waiting one more day for their chance to race.
I made an effort to do more of a warm up than I typically do for a triathlon. I got in a good 20 minute run and a short 3 minute tempo before heading over to the starting area. The final 15-20 minutes were a bit confusing, not knowing exactly where I needed to be. As a result I think I spent too much time standing around. My heart rate had come down considerably and I think I was just a little too relaxed.
30th in 32:43, 1:39 behind the fastest
At team meetings before the race, Coach Jim Vance made it clear that he would give one guy the green light to try to run with the leaders and make the front pack. The rest of the team would try to stick together and work as a group on the bike to move their way up. I was the one chosen to go for it. I was excited at the opportunity and felt like I had nothing to lose here.
Because duathlon is more of a fringe sport even than triathlon, most competitors came into this race with no ranking. Outside of the first dozen or so athletes, starting positions were given at random. I randomly received number 58 out of 59, but didn’t think this would matter much because it isn’t a mass-swim start — it’s just another mass-run start like I have done hundreds of times before. I was wrong, however. For some reason the start line was quite narrow, and only fit maybe a dozen athletes across. By the time my number was called to the start line, it was already 4-men deep!
When the race started, I immediately began to work my way up. It felt much like a cross country race, which made me feel pretty comfortable. Only now, I was trying to get myself near the front. I did a lot of weaving and dodging guys to work my way up, and after one 2.5km lap, I was in a pretty good spot, maybe 15th or 20th place and 4 or 5 seconds off the lead. The quick start soon caught up with me, and within another 800m I saw a gap ahead starting to form. As I went by Coach Jim, he yelled, “You gotta decide now! Either go with them or ease up.” It was sound advice and in hindsight it was definitely one of those important moments that happen in every race that effect the outcome. Considering there was a 40k bike and 5k run left after the conclusion of this 10k, I decided to ease up. I just didn’t have it in me to go with that front group on that day.
USA Teammate Dan Hedgecock passed me soon after. By 5k I was a little worried that my aggressive strategy was already catching up with me. At the 180 degree turn around halfway, I saw Ryan Giuliano and Josh Merrick weren’t too far behind. Once they caught me, I focused on staying with them and took a little comfort in knowing that I would have them, at the very least, to work with on the bike.
33rd in 54:59, 3:03 behind the fastest
As planned, Josh, Ryan and I got going on the bike and starting working together right away. There were some real studs behind us, and soon a group of five guys or so caught us. This group was led by two Belgians and a big Russian guy. I got in the rotation with them and we were all working well together. The group ahead was coming back to us. I was working pretty hard, but nothing that didn’t feel unsustainable, especially when I was able to sit in for three to four pulls. That’s a lot more rest than I ‘m used to!
About halfway through the bike, my calves were beginning to pulse a little bit coming in and out of some of the sharp corners. Pulses turned into small cramps. On the 5th or so lap, just as we were headed towards the elevated highway, my right calf completely seized. My foot was completely flexed with my heel being pushed all the way up. I tried to force my weight onto my foot and drop my heel down to stretch the cramped muscle, but it just wouldn’t let go. While all this was happening, I stopped pedaling and was coasting. The bunch went around me and left me behind. Eventually I was able to get a normal pedal stroke going again and I settled into a less intense time trial effort. Any chance at a good performance went out the window. The group that I was riding with bridged up to Dan Hedgecock’s pack less than a lap later, showing me once again how big of an effect small lapses can have at this level of racing.
Eventually I bridged up to Josh, who had also been dropped by the bunch. We rode together for the last lap and went into T2 as just the two of us.
30th in 17:23, 2:11 behind the fastest
I was a little timid to get the run started after those bad cramps on the bike. In the past when I have suffered with cramps, it has always been on the run and never on the bike. The huge gap ahead didn’t help much, and I quickly settled into a pedestrian pace. I kept turning over mediocre kilometer splits, one after another, until a Spanish guy caught me. With about 800m to go, he opened a small gap on me and I began to feel even more sorry for myself. We made our last turn, and at about 400m left, I finally told myself to “SACK UP” and threw in a surge. The Spaniard was hurting too, and barely made an effort to go with me. I had a spectacular finishing kick to seal the deal on a 31st place finish.
31st in 1:46:38, 5:58 behind 1st
31st is clearly not where I had hoped to finish. Even without the cramping on the bike, I was not ready to compete with the top guys in this race. Coming from a competitive running background, the whole experience was a little eye opening. The top ITU guys can run, and I’m not going to be able to compete with them if I’m not focused on being a better runner. I don’t regret coming on this trip — I think I learned a lot — but I know that I won’t be returning to Duathlon Worlds unless I know I am ready to roll a fast 10k, and I have the mileage in my legs to keep going after.
With that said, I wouldn’t change my training prior to this event. I am focused on becoming a better triathlete, and right now, that means swimming faster. I need consistent, hard work in the pool, and I’m glad I didn’t let this race derail my focus on that.
After the race, Coach Jim Vance told me that I was one of the athletes that he would like to compete in Sunday’s mixed team relay. The relay format includes two females and two males all completing a 2km run-8km bike-1km run course. The order is female-male-femal-male, and I was picked to be the first male to go for Team USA. D’Ann Arthur led the team off, but couldn’t finish due to some injuries incurred from a bike crash in her individual race, so I never got the hand-off to start. This event sounded like a lot of fun, and I hope I get an opportunity to do one of these mixed relays at a duathlon or triathlon in the future.
The rest of the trip was basically a lot of travel. Driving from Nancy to Luxembourg; flying to Heathrow; flying to Los Angeles; driving back to Simi Valley. I got to meet Andreas Raelert in the international terminal while we waited for our bikes to be delivered. He was headed to Westlake to do some pre-Kona training. Very nice guy and it was cool to meet him.
Finally, some thank you’s. Big thank you to ENVE for helping me get to France for this race. Thank you for supporting my professional career thus far. Also, thanks to USA Triathlon for selecting me for this race. Jim Vance did a great job in teaching me the in’s and out’s of duathlon. I had a couple of opportunities to talk to him about training and coaching in general, and I appreciate his solicited advice. And of course, no trip would be possible without my great parents. This time, my dad gets a special mention because he had to battle the 405 traffic solo and came to LAX to pick me up. (Mom was out of town on business, otherwise I am sure she would have come too!)
Last year I was invited to an 8-day camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as part of the Collegiate Recruitment Program. 2004 Olympian and CRP coordinator Barb Lindquist led the camp, teaching us the ins and outs of the ITU professional triathlon circuit.
Since this is a primarily a skills camp, athletes are not invited to return the following year. The idea is that you graduate from the camp and should now be implementing what you learned in real-life race situations, as I am doing in my first professional season.
For this year’s camp, USA Triathlon made a video narrated by Barb of all the activities they did. While I am not in this video, I thought it was worth sharing as it shows the same venues we used and similar exercises.
I am currently in Terminal 5 of London???s Heathrow airport as I sit down to finally write this race report. As there is no free wifi available here, by the time this is posted I will be safely back home in California. This trip began on Thursday the 13th, and has taken me through three states and five different countries on two continents, completing the first half of my season-ending racing extravaganza, known as the ???PD World Tour.???
Before I go into the details of my trip to Europe for Duathlon World Championships, I need to wrap up my thoughts on USA Elite Nationals at the Buffalo ITU Pan American Cup from a week ago. Duathlon Worlds had some of the very best multisport athletes competing, but Buffalo was a much bigger race for me for a few reasons.
My parents and I took off for Buffallo, NY on Thursday and got into town late that night after a quick stop in Baltimore. Once we got to our hotel room I went straight to bed and decided to worry about setting up the bike in the morning.
After a delicious breakfast at the hotel restaurant, I got my things together and headed to the course. It was fairly windy and not fairly cool. Nearly every race I have done this season, with the exception of the Desert Classic Duathlon in March and Escape from Alcatraz in June, has been quite warm. In the warmer conditions it seems like a lot of the guys without a running background really blow up on the run, which is helpful when you are chasing from behind. Still, I wasn???t too worried about any lost advantage and welcomed the different conditions.
I rode a few laps of the bike course first and then got in a short swim. The bike course was very flat with about 90% on very smooth roads and the remaining 10% was still not too bad. The water was quite choppy and appeared to be too warm for wetsuits. One of these days I will get a wetsuit legal ITU swim, and I will be ready for it!
Shortly after the course recon I went to the athlete briefing. Pour on the nerves. The athlete briefing is always when I first start to feel pre-race butterflies. Seeing all your competition for the first time and going through all the race maps and procedures suddenly makes it seem so real. Yes, you really are racing tomorrow.
For dinner we decided to head just 20 miles north to Canada to see Niagara Falls with Brianna Blanchard and her dad. What an amazing site! A storm had rolled into the area, bringing rain and some more wind with it, but it cleared up shortly after we got to the falls. I found the water, and the good company, to be both soothing and distracting, and felt ready to go for the big race.
Like most ITU races, the start time was in the afternoon at 2:00. I had the best night of sleep I had had all week, snoozing 10+ hours. After an omelet and gathering all my things together, it was approaching noon and time to head over to the course. The sky was dark grey, and the wind persisted, but the rain had held off all morning and wouldn???t be an issue the rest of the day.
Because of the cooler temperatures, I chose to warm up a little more than I usually do. Before most triathlons my warm up on land is limited to a light jog and a few drills. This time I hopped on my bike for 10 minutes or so before checking in and then jogged around with Dan Feeney and Justin Roeder before we were allowed to get in the water for swim warm ups. Justin was making his elite debut, and coming from a D1 running background like myself, I felt compelled to give him a few pointers. I am still no expert ??? I certainly don???t have all the answers ??? but I was in his shoes less than a year ago and I could relate to the feelings and emotions he was feeling.
The wind was holding steady around 20 mph, bringing goosebumps to my wet skin after the ???warm up.??? I dried off with a towel and put a jacket on, but was still shivering as I waited for my start number to be called. Some of the athletes warmed up in a wetsuit, despite the race being above the 20??C threshold, just to be sure they would stay warm. This seems like a great idea, and I considered doing this, but I didn???t want to feel faster in the warm up than I would during the race. Maybe I am overthinking this and putting too much emphasis on ???feel??? for the water? Certainly something to consider next time there are cooler temperatures for a non-wetsuit swim.
Once ???#18 Jason Pedersen??? was announced on the PA, I jogged down to the pontoon and found my way to the rightmost available spot. I ended getting a great place with Kevin McDowell to my left (a strong swimmer) and Kaleb VanOrt two spots over to my right. Directly right of my starting position was a cleat that was marked off, giving me and Kaleb some extra space once we dove in.
34th in 20:34, 1:21 behind the fastest
I got a good start and found clean, open water for at least 15 strokes. Things were already shaping up much better than Kelowna, despite not being able to see too far ahead thanks to the big chop. In fact, the chop was much bigger than I had anticipated. It was really throwing me around, so I focused on a quick turnover and finding some feet to help me break some of these waves. A few meters to my right there was a strong pack that I knew contained all the race favorites, but they were going too quick and were already too far ahead for me to bridge up. I was beginning to worry that I had missed out once again and was in for another solo swim, but as I neared the first turn buoy, the pack slowed considerably and I was able to latch on around the next buoy and comfortably stay on some feet as we turned back for the end of lap 1.
Coming out of the water I saw Dan Feeney was right ahead of me, and ahead of him was a string of guys. You???re not going solo today! My mom yelled that I was 50??? off the leaders as I charged back in for the 2nd lap. Dan, unfortunately, had a poor dive back into the water, slowing a bit. I knew I had to stay aggressive and couldn???t wait so I went around him. A small gap opened up. This is your race! Close that gap! My coach Ian Murray had prepped me mentally for these situations where you have to give it all you got, well beyond a sustainable effort. If you don???t seize those opportunities, the race is lost, and it doesn???t really matter how much you saved in the tank. The rest of that lap I did whatever I had to to stay on those feet.
Coming out of the water and into T2 it was more strung out than I was hoping. I knew I needed a quick transition and would have to go ???hairy hard??? (more on that term to come in my next blog???) once I mounted the bike to bridge up to a group. Still, I was really pleased with the swim. After losing 50??? to the leaders on the first lap, I was able to limit my losses to 31??? on the 2nd. I was able to draft throughout the swim and never found myself isolated. Overall, a huge improvement over Kelowna.
21st in 1:02:11, 2:03 behind the fastest
Out on the bike I went to work, getting my feet in my shoes quickly, and went around the guy that I had followed in the swim (sorry, bud). The course had a number of 90 degree turns and two 180???s per lap, giving me opportunities to see up the road and judge how far back I was. There was a group of about 8 or 9 guys 25??? ahead forming, giving me a target to aim for. On the first couple laps the gap opened up to 30-35???, but then I began to reel them in. Each lap I got more and more people cheering for me. As much as it sucks to ride solo in draft legal races, it is great to have people watching get behind you and show some appreciation for the effort you are making. It definitely helps keep you motivated while chasing.
Finally, about 5 laps in I think, I bridged up to the group! After time trialing the last 100 km???s or so of my ITU races, just catching any pack at all was a victory. I took this opportunity to drink some fluids, take a Gu and rest a bit on the back of the pack. That lasted about two minutes. I felt the pace was slowing. My aspirations for this race were further up the road. I didn???t want to just race those in that pack; I wanted to give myself a chance to catch a few of the guys in the packs up ahead. It seems not everyone at the continental cup level shares my aspirations and they are content to just sit in and not do any work. To Hell with them, I said, and back into the wind I went. Seeing another motivated rider made a difference to a few guys, and four of us shared most of the work for the rest of the bike.
7th in 33:20, 1:36 behind the fastest
In terms of race execution, T2 is where I made my biggest mistake. I made an effort to work the final kilometer or so of the bike to get into transition at the front of my group. I got my feet out of my shoes without any trouble, got out of the saddle and sprinted to create a small gap, and was first off the bike. Racked my bike, helmet off, shoes on, and that’s when I noticed a problem. While setting up transition before the race, I often put Body Glide or Aquaphor on the inside of my shoes so they slip on a little better. I had put a tube of Aquaphor in my right shoe so that I wouldn’t forget to put in on before the race. Not only did I not use the Aquaphor, I actually left the tube in my right shoe! When I slipped my right foot in, my toes jammed into the tube. Oh shit. I actually thought about just running with it in the shoe for a moment, but that was a terrible idea. I took off the shoe, threw the tube in my transition box, and then put the shoe back on. All that took just enough time for everyone in the group to pass me.
I gave up free time with that rookie mistake, but what I was most upset about was letting Canadian Alexander Hinton go. From past races I knew Alexander was a great runner, and wanted to try to stick on his back in the windy conditions. By the time I got out of T2, he had a bit of a gap that I was never able to close.
Instead, I slowly worked my way through the group on the first lap until I caught another Canadian. There was a short ~200m section with a stiff headwind, so I tucked in behind him. Apparently he wasn’t too happy with me drafting, so he made a sharp turn off to the left side, putting me back into the wind. I slowly veered left to get back into his draft. Just as I got behind him, he cut hard right. I slowly went to the right. He went left. This continued for the entire stretch. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in my running career! Here we are in like 22nd place, just 3km into a 10km run, with the leaders gaining more and more time on us with each step. I couldn’t believe he would bother trying to shake me at this point in the race. We have bigger fish to fry! As we made a right turn, the wind became more of a crosswind, so I moved up onto his side. That’s when a strange situation became, well, kind of awkward…
As I ran up on his side, he actually reached over, grabbed the string of the zipper on the back of my suit, and unzipped it! He unzipped my suit! What the hell?! I couldn’t believe what was going on! He said something like, “It will help cool you off.” So now after??literally going out of his way to not allow me to draft off him, he wants to help me? And remember, I started this race shivering! Keeping cool was not really my biggest worry. I said, “let’s just work together,” and went by him. Shortly after, he fell back, and I returned my focus back to the race.
This video shows our little drafting battle thanks to a great sequence of photos my dad took.
For the remainder of the race I tried to pick off guys from the two packs up ahead. Most of the guys up ahead were running fairly well, and the gap coming off the bike was just too much to make up. In the final 100m or so, I was able to sprint past one last guy and finish in 17th place.
17th in 1:57:31, 4:47 behind the fastest
I came into this race ranked 18th, so I ended up placing one spot higher than that which is always good, but I had higher expectations. Taking out international competition, I was 10th best American at my first elite national championship, which sounds pretty good, especially considering I was only 5th at age group nationals a year ago. However, there were some very talented Americans that skipped this race that would have bumped me further back had they shown up. I did show some improvements here, especially in the swim, but I am still not quite cutting it at this level.
As far as points go, I scored the same number of points I did back in March in Clermont with a 17th place finish there. Unfortunately, ITU only counts three Continental Cup races on the points list. Since this was my fourth Continental Cup, I needed to place 16th or higher to improve my ranking. Maxing out on races to score is a good problem to have. I have shown some good consistency in my first professional season, and I am proud of that.
Here is a link to my latest blog for USA Triathlon. I have always dreamed of competing in the Olympics, but I am now in a situation where I have made it a goal to compete in 2016. More on that to come… over the next four years. Until then, this blog will have to suffice.
This one has more of a team focus as this may have been the last race I do competing on a team.
Thanks for all the encouragement you all have given me these last few months. I have received some very nice words about this race especially. I try to reply to everyone, but in case I missed you, THANK YOU! You make it so much easier to get through the hard yards day in and day out.
As with the previous days in Taiwan, I woke up race morning quite early. At around 3 or 4:00 am I had a little snack and then laid around until 6:00. Before I left for Taiwan, Barb Lindquist told me a story that her swim coach told her years ago. After a poor night’s sleep, Barb’s coach told her, “You’re too good of a swimmer to let some lost sleep affect your race.” Now I’m certainly not too good of a swimmer, but I knew I was well prepared for this race and didn’t worry about a couple of hours of sleep I may have missed.??Dustin McLarty and I headed to the breakfast buffet, which opened at 5:00 for the race instead of the usual 7:00. I had a fried egg over-medium, a bunch of toast, and some frosted flakes. The rest of the morning was spent packing our things and cheering for the women outside our hotel as they began the bike.
The race was set to begin at 10:30, so at 9:15 I headed down to transition with the rest of Team USA. After being sent all over the race venue, we eventually found the athlete’s lounge and were able to check in. I was able to set up my transition and finished up at 9:50. Swim warm up was 9:45-10:15, and since I did not have a chance to swim the course the day before, it was important to swim an entire lap. The course included a pontoon start and a straight out and back around one buoy. I quickly dropped off my things at the athlete’s lounge and jumped in the river. By this time the wind had really picked up and there was quite a bit of chop when heading back in after the turnaround buoy. There was also a noticeable current pulling from right-to-left heading out.
33rd in 20:56 (2:15 behind the fastest)
I was ranked 7th going into the race, so I was able to line up pretty much anywhere I liked. Since there was a bit of a current, I went over to the right side and picked a spot about 15 spaces from the end. The plan was to have Dustin McClarty (#15) and Kalen Darling (#18) to line up next to me. They were far and away the quickest swimmers in the field and were planning a two-man breakaway. They were both lined up to my left, so I knew after 25m or so there would be an opening to my left that I could swim in with clean water.
I had a good reaction to the gun and the plan with Dustin and Kalen worked great. It was probably the smoothest start I have had at an ITU race. At the turnaround buoy it got much more crowded and I just tried to stay on the feet in front of me as we came into the chop. Just before exiting lap 1, I saw fellow American Chris Braden to my right. Chris is not know for his swim necessarily, but I know he has made the main bike pack before, so I thought I was in a good spot. We raced around the pontoon and jumped back in. The second lap had much less contact as things had strung out a lot more. Coming around the final buoy there was one guy ahead (Martin Novak CZE) and I did a good job of latching on his feet. Unfortunately, he was gapped ahead and we came out of the water alone.
In hindsight, I probably should have followed Chris after the first lap and tried to stay on his feet. I knew he was capable of being a main pack swimmer and may have been able to stay on his feet. Still, I am actually pretty happy with this swim(although I wasn’t during and shortly after the race). I was in a good position after the first lap, which is more I can say about my previous ITU races. I also did a good job of sticking on feet in front of me — I just chose the wrong feet.
10th in 1:35 (:05 behind the fastest)
The run to transition was quite long, over 300m, so there was some hope that I could bridge up to the main pack and get in the bike pack. As I came into transition I saw that terrible sight, empty bike racks and the trail end of the pack mounting their bikes. There was one more guy in transition, Luke Watson of Great Britain, giving me some hope that we could bridge up together.
28th in 1:05:09 (2:13 behind the fastest)
I sprinted with my feet on top of my shoes to bridge up to the British athlete. After maybe 600m, I got in his draft and was able to get my shoes on. After making a sharp turn, I took a pull into the headwind. It was clear that he was not going to be strong enough to bridge up, so I took off on my own. The pack would be able to ride much faster than me solo, so I had a very small window to catch them. I was never able to get the time under 45 seconds, and would slowly lose time to the bunch throughout the 40 km.
Riding solo in that wind and heat was really tough. I drank two bottles and had a GU out there, but was still on the limit nearly the whole ride. Thanks to my new ENVE SES 3.4 Clincher and Team USA mechanic, my bike rode very smooth and I was actually able to close the time gap to the guys that began the bike at the front of the bike pack.
After looking at the results, the last guy to make the bike pack swam 20 seconds faster than me, and after T1, was only 18 seconds ahead. If I had swam 15-20 seconds faster, I am certain I would have made the front pack and would have come off the bike more than 80 seconds quicker, with likely a lot more left in my legs. Draft legal racing can be harsh.
32nd in :30 (:06 behind the fastest)
I was feeling pretty cooked after that bike ride, so that is why my transition wasn’t the best. Heading out on the run my legs weren’t feeling all that great, but I knew in these conditions there would definitely be guys fading.
5th in 35:06 (1:57 behind the fastest)
The run course was flat straight out and back on a bike path. There were trees lining the path, but they offered no shade under the noon sun. Less than a kilometer in there were guys already coming back to me. Around that point I got in a decent rhythm and kept focusing on the guy ahead. Unfortunately we began lapping athletes coming off the bike on the 2nd (of 4) laps and after that point it was very difficult to tell where I was in the field. I was able to continue to move through the field, passing Kalen to become the 2nd American, and finish strong to pass a few more guys in the last kilometer.
11th in 2:03:18 (3:21 behind the fastest)
Initial thoughts were to cool off! The heat index apparently had reached 105?? F, and after a swim in 87??, we were all well-done. Once my body recovered a bit, I became pretty disappointed with how the race turned out. I came in ranked 7th, and was hoping for a top-8 here, and only finished 11th. It was pretty clear that my swim put me in a??deficit??that was too big to overcome, once again.
A few hours later, after going over the results and speaking with some of my teammates and coaches, I had a more positive look at the race. Sure I missed the main pack on the swim, but from the swim exit on, I had a great race. I didn’t lose too much time on the bike in harsh conditions and still managed to put together a solid run to help Team USA. My swim was actually the closest I have ever been to making the main pack, which is a huge improvement for me.
Finally, I considered the trip as a whole and not just the results at the end of the race. It was my first international experience and I learned a lot. If I get to the level that I want to achieve in this sport, this trip will be the first of many. This was also just my 4th ITU race. At this point it is important to keep racing and gaining experience, regardless of what kind of shape I may be in.
In the end we tied with South Africa for 3rd place, but lost the podium position on a tie break. A little disappointing, but I think all five of the men that traveled were thrilled with the experience we were given and will no doubt have a special bond from our five days spent together in Taiwan.
Congratulations to the women’s team for finishing 1st! Very excited for Kaitlin Shiver, Jessica Broderick and Julie Rechel. I also want to thank the Team USA support staff Steve Kelley, Brent Hamula, Jennifer Hutchison and Brian Hughes. They did a great job and made the trip easy for us athletes.
Here is a short piece I wrote for USA Triathlon’s Collegiate Recruitment Program’s blog, Escaping from ITU for the Weekend. I am working on my full race report for Escape from Alcatraz and should have that done soon.