With so much adrenaline pumping and a flurry of arms, I didn't really notice the freezing water of the San Francisco Bay. Triathlon's super swimmers of the field took off, but I settled into my pace, which conveniently happened to be the pace of most of the pro women in the field. I had a group to swim with! The Bay has some crazy currents going on so sighting was tough at times. I would keep my head down for a few strokes, look up and the group would be way to my right. I would then swim hard to catch them, put my head down for a few more strokes and have to do that all over again. I then decided to sight more often and make a better effort to stay on the feet of the group. A few times it got physical and usually I don't mind bumping elbows or whacking someone in the head in a triathlon swim. It's part of the game...I get it too. But I was in a group with most of the pro women. A couple times I would hit one of them and think "oh sorry," but not really. Like I said, it's part of the game! I had my goggles and a swim cap as a disguise.
I got out of the water and made the 1000-meter trek to T1. As I ran along the path, I saw some of my competition already take off on the bike, but as I got to my bike and headed out myself, I saw other competition still making their way to T1. I was in a good spot! The Escape bike course is extremely demanding. For the entire 18-mile course you are either going uphill, going downhill, turning, or on terrible pavement. There is no getting into a rhythm on this course. At mile 4, Kenny Rakestraw came up next to me on one of the climbs. I thought to myself "perfect, him and I will work together for the rest of the race." Well, I was with him for another 2 or 3 miles and then my legs decided to stop working. The hills had gotten to me and Kenny slowly started to pull away. I found myself in a pack with 2 other riders that stuck together for the rest of the ride. I was 23rd out of the water and I believe I had made up 1 or 2 places on the bike.
After racking the bike and heading out for the run, I immediately dropped the 2 other cyclists in my pack. Two other runners were in sight ahead of me, but that was about it. At mile 2, I caught the 2 runners, but could not drop them. The damage was already done to my legs from the ride and I could not get them to respond. The 3 of us ran together all the way down Lincoln, onto the beach for the 1.5 miles of sand running, then up the sand ladder. The infamous sand ladder consists of just under 400 log steps laid across the sand to aid the climb from the beach 400 feet back up to Lincoln Ave. My coach told me before the race that no matter how terrible I felt, he wanted my last 5k to be fast. After the sand ladder, I gathered myself and ran at the back of our 3-person pack until the 3 miles to go sign. At that point I took off. My surge dropped one of the two. Three minutes later I put in another surge and dropped the last guy. I thought to myself "where had this speed been the rest of the race?" I kept that pace all the way to the finish line for a 19th place finish, almost catching 18th.
Overall, it was a great first experience as a pro triathlete. The field was stacked with past Ironman and Half Ironman world champs, a few Olympians and local studs like Leto, Rakestraw and Dahlz. I want to thank my dad who flew out all the way from Detroit to see my first pro race. He's without a doubt, my super-fan. Also, thanks to my girlfriend Rebecca for all the support and cheering her head off out there, and to everyone along the course screaming for me. There is a lot of work to be done, lots to learn, but the fact that my friends and guys I train with finished on the podium motivates me to work harder and stick with it. Next up for me is a trek up to Seattle area for my first ever ITU draft-legal race on June 25th. After that is another ITU draft-legal competition back in San Francisco on Treasure Island. Thanks for reading everyone and thanks so much for the support!