This past Saturday I lined up on the beach next to some of the best in the country. Three-time Olympian (triathlon has only been an Olympic sport 3 times) Hunter Kemper and a top US Pro Ben Collins highlighted my first ITU Olympic distance experience. I didn't go into the race expecting to be rubbing elbows with these guys, but I was excited to have this opportunity to gain valuable experience for future races. Going in, I knew the swim would be fast. All ITU swims are fast. The first 300 meters went by in a blur. It was a whirlpool out there and I was getting sucked along for the ride. The first buoy was 350 meters out and at that point the bottleneck happened and I was no longer sucked along for the ride, but sucked under the water. I got absolutely pummeled at the turn. At one point I came up for a breath on my right side and took in 0% air and 100% water. After taking some swim strokes, choking, coughing, and trying to take a breath all at the same time for 30 seconds, I regained composure. After the quick 2nd turn heading back to the beach for the end of lap one, I saw that I was well back of the leaders. I tried to catch some feet but could not. At the end of lap one, there was a short run along the beach, around a buoy before plunging back in. I sprinted onto the beach and ran as fast I could around the buoy to catch some guys. After all, I'm faster on land than in water. It worked. I caught a pack and stayed on their feet for the rest of lap 2. Once out of the water, I ran as fast as I could to transition (every second counts in ITU) and grabbed my bike. Heading out I noticed that most of the bikes in transition were already gone. I had some work to do...
I was scared that with a bad swim, there would be no one to ride with and that I would be hung out to dry all by myself. Fortunately for me, that wasn't the case. I jumped on my bike with 3 other guys together and worked hard to mop up 3 more riding by themselves on the road. I felt really strong on the bike taking, what felt like, faster pulls than the others. On the 4th lap of 8, we caught the 3rd group on the road growing our group from 7 to 12 riders. I still felt like we needed to go faster, so again I took strong pulls at the front. We got out of the water 2:30 down from the lead group and although I felt like we had a decent ride, lost another 2 minutes on the bike. There's not much you can do with a 10k run when you come off the bike 4 and a half minutes down on the lead group. I still had some work to do.
I came out of the water in 35th place out of the 39 that started. After the bike, I had moved up to 25th. Immediately off the bike and into my run I felt dead and my legs were shot. I could now feel all the work I did on the bike and regretted it (chalk that one up to "experience"). Two of the guys in my bike group took off and I didn't have the legs to respond. About a mile into the run, I was able to compose myself and settle into a pace that slowly picked people off, but was not making up ground on the 2 that broke from me. I made my way through most of the 2nd bike group on the road and even caught a few stragglers from the lead pack that was 4:30 ahead, but I was just not feeling strong. With a half mile to go on the 4th and final lap of the 10k run course, I gave it all I had to pick off a few more guys in sight, but I was happy to see the finish line. At the end of the run, I had made my way up to 17th overall.
A good day of racing for me. I have a lot of work to do and a lot to learn. It seems as though I say that after each race I compete in this year, but it's true. I'm in a whole different league now racing professionals that have been doing this for years. At this level, it's not always the strongest triathletes that come out on top, but the smarter racers. Monroe gave me some of that valuable experience my coach, Brian and I can take to form some specific workouts for the next few races. The goal is to not only become a very strong triathlete, but to work on being one of the smartest in the field.
Next up for me is the San Francisco ITU Pan American Cup on Saturday July 9th. Yes, I said San Francisco...my home town (sorta)!! The elite race starts at 1:00pm sharp on Treasure Island. I invite all Bay Area triathlon fans to come out and support. Swim is 2 laps, bike is 8 laps, and the run is 3 laps. You will see us A LOT and won't be disappointed. I hope to have a better swim and get more experience in this fun style of racing. Thanks for reading and hope to see you out there next Saturday.