This year, Rebecca was able to join me down south. This also kept me relaxed and helped out a ton to have my girlfriend and partner in crime there with me. She's been such a huge supporter in my triathlon journey and it was awesome to share this important weekend with her. We swam and ran together in the days leading up to the race. We just had fun together and it took my mind off the race. Sports Basement also played a major role in the weekend, as they provided a secure place to pop our tent and took care of meals and drinks. One less thing to worry about during the craziness of Wildflower.
I was very calm race morning. I don't get nervous for races myself, but sometimes all the nervous people around me in transition make me feel a little anxious. It was a good morning to have my iPod for warm up. I was in my own little zone.
I was more confident and looking forward to my swim for this race than any other triathlon I have ever competed in. I know that I have the strength to find the fast swimmers after the horn and stay on their feet. After a crazy 100 meters or so, 3 or 4 guys took off. They gapped me and I knew I couldn't get them, but a guy swam up next to me going at a decent pace that I thought I could hold the rest of the swim. We swam stroke for stroke, shoulder to shoulder for about 4 minutes and I thought, this is stupid; I'm working much harder than I have to and we're going the same pace. I slowed down for a few strokes, tucked right in behind him and let him do the work. I followed him in his slipstream the whole way until about 400 meters to go. We were on the last long straightaway and because its a long way, there were kayaks stationed along the straightaway for sighting. Even though I was drafting, I still looked up every now and then to see where we were going. I noticed he was headed right for the kayak and I could see the kayaker trying to move out of the way. I immediately broke from my leader and as he ran straight into the kayak I took off. I've been working a lot in the pool on 200s all out so I got into 200 all out mode and hammered to the end of the swim. My swim time was 20:00-flat, the 24th fastest swim among all the men for the day and a huge 1-minute PR in the 1500-meter. I had set up the rest of the race perfectly and took all that confidence into the bike.
My strategy on the bike was to keep it chill. In training, I've had some back problems going from the bike to the run and I didn't want that to creep up on me on this day. I didn't want to hammer up the monster hills too hard, draining my legs, but wanted to keep a high, intense tempo on the downhills and flats. Because I was the 4th wave to start the triathlon behind the men's and women's collegiate waves and the under 24 men's wave, I could use the people ahead of me to key off of. Everyone feels fast when they constantly pass people. I had a bike split goal of 1:05, but it was a little windy and when I hit half way, I knew that was a little out of reach. Having 1 of my 2 water bottles pop out in the 3rd mile of the bike didn't help either (I need to figure out a better hydration situation on the bike. Any suggestions?). On the way back, I focused on staying relaxed and getting ready for the run. My bike split of 1:07:29 ended up being the 3rd fastest of the day.
I had a great transition, which was key for me. I had some blister issues with my shoes the last few weeks leading up to Wildflower, so I decided to put socks on in T2. I figured the time I would lose in T2 putting socks on would be less than the time I would lose if I ran with blisters for 10k. After looking at the results, my T2 time was 3rd fastest out of the top 10 finishers. My first mile was 5:20. Mile 2 was 5:25 and I thought, crap I'm slowing down. Thankfully my back was holding up, but my legs were very tired. At that point, I told myself to work it hard for 10 minutes. At the 5k sign, I was over 17 minutes, but I knew the 5k sign could not have been in the right spot. At around that point, some collegiate guy from Cal Poly who had stopped to walk a bit, I think his shoe might have been untied, started running with me. We were shoulder to shoulder for about 800 meters and this gave me my second wind. This helped a ton and I set a new goal of hammering the rest of the run and dropping this guy. After all, I was racing the clock. I had no idea what my splits were for the rest of the run, but ended up splitting 32:36 for the 10k. That time, from a little research (and I think this is correct) is the 3rd fastest 10k ever recorded on the Wildflower Olympic course. I was 2 minutes faster than anyone else that day.
I knew that around 2:02 has won the race the last 4 years. The last 3 winners are my training partners and friends John Dahlz, Kyle Leto, and Kenny Rakestraw, who are now all pro triathletes and having very successful careers. It's a huge honor to win this race. My time was 2:02:26. I thought I had won it until I checked the results 20 minutes after I finished to discover I was beat by exactly a minute by a dude named Dylan McNeice. Dylan is a pro triathlete from New Zealand who has raced in World Cup events and even the World Championship race for his country. He is one of the best swimmers in the world triathlon circuit which explains how he put a full 3 minutes on me in the swim (I was 20 seconds faster on the bike and 2 minutes faster on the run). It's a tough pill to swallow taking runner-up at Wildflower, but the silver lining is that I qualified for my pro card. It's something I've been chasing since I took 4th amateur in 2 races last year that top 3 go pro and crashing in a 3rd race where I was set up for a great result.
Now it's time to race the big boys in the sport as a professional triathlete! Next up is Escape from Alcatraz in San Francisco, an event I've done twice before but always looked up to the pros in awe on the start boat. After that, at the end of June I head up to Monroe, WA for my first ever draft-legal Pan-American Cup race against other pros from all over the world!
Thanks to everyone for the support on facebook, twitter and in person. It feels so good to have people interested in the sport and interested in how I do. It keeps me motivated.
Thanks for reading.
Thanks for reading.