Welcome to the Pros, Newbie.
June 23, 2013
This racing year has been filled with plenty of unknowns. Tori and I were expecting a baby in late April, and along with not knowing how my race performances would stack up to other professionals, I wasn’t entirely sure how my training would be affected both before and after the birth of my first child.
After receiving my pro card at the beginning of the year, I hoped that Rev3 Williamsburg would be my first race in the pro division. Having a race that essentially took place in my backyard would give me a sense of confidence and certainty that I was searching to find. Initially, I waited registering for the race until I knew my training showed that I was at least at the level of fitness I had been when I was able to qualify for my pro card. From there, I figured I’d give it my best and let the race shake out the way it would. So I registered about a month before the race, and started prepping as best as I could.
One change that I had to prepare myself for was a difference in drafting rules in the pro division. Now I had to contend with the stagger rule and be cognizant about keeping not 7, but 10 meters between myself and the rider ahead of me. I was a little nervous that in the heat of battle I would naturally zone into my past race habits and start breaking rules. I was afraid that I wouldn’t have the focus to follow the new rules under duress.
My race can be summed up in one sentence: I had a horrible swim. That’s it. It was the first swim start I’ve ever been involved in starting on the beach. With an extremely long and shallow section into the James, the technical ability to dolphin dive and navigate through a strong cross current was very important. I just didn’t stack up with most of the pros in this aspect. The race started, I chaotically followed what everyone else was doing (albeit not half as well), and then they were gone. Welcome to the pros, newbie.
Once they gapped me, that was it. And it happened early, like after only 100-150 meters. So with the exception of catching one other pro about halfway through the swim and having two of the lead women who started 2 minutes after me catch and pass me, I didn’t see anyone else the entire way. Again, the end of the swim rewarded those who had technical open water skills, so I lost more time sloshing my way 50 yards from the finish in knee deep water. I came out of the water 17th out of 24 pros, which was somewhat what I was expecting. The depressing part was that I was about 7 min down from the leaders, and about 4:30-5 minutes down from a majority of the pack. Welcome to the pros, newbie.
I had a decent transition and got rolling on the bike course. I knew the bike course, and knew that with the morning wind, it would be fast going out, with a headwind coming home. So I managed my watts carefully going out, re-passing the two female pros that had caught me in the swim and also catching two guys that had straggled in just ahead of me. Then I was in no man’s land. Since I didn’t have anyone to work with or anyone to even see up the road, I became best friends with my powermeter and tried to stay within myself. Around mile 15, I reached a long stretch of road and could finally see a small group less than half a mile up the road. At first I thought to myself, “Is that the main pack? Could I have really been that close?” So I gradually worked up on the group, trying to keep my power steady and my efforts smooth. At mile 23 there is a turnaround on the course, and it was there that I realized that the group ahead of me was not the main pack, in fact THAT group was about 6 minutes ahead of me (and another 4 minutes or so behind the eventual race winner Eric Limkemann who was absolutely on fire). Welcome to the pros, newbie.
So that was a little depressing, but nonetheless, I kept working on catching those three guys ahead of me. This continued for many miles, and finally once I hit Carwash Hill, I was able to really close the gap and pass the riders in that small chase pack. We played leapfrog for another 5-6 miles, and coming out of Jolly Pond, I was able to put some daylight between us. My legs felt good the last 10 miles of the bike, even into the headwind, and I was ready to run. I recorded my fastest ever half iron bike split, 2:13:18. I came off the bike in 13th out of 24.
I came into T2 right behind Kevin Collington, who had apparently had some really bad luck on the bike course, getting a flat and a drafting violation. I knew he could run, so I figured we could work together. Unfortunately, as I started the run, I felt a cramp coming on, so I stopped for a sec, worked it out, and then eased back into things. It was what I needed to do, but Collington was long gone. I got into a rhythm and started reeling off miles in the high 5:30’s and low 5:40’s. At the first turnaround at mile 2.5, I realized I was WAY behind that pack, and running 5:30 miles probably wouldn’t put me up into the mix by the end. “What? You mean those pros can swim super fast, bike super fast, AND run decently well? They don’t have a weakness?” Welcome to the pros, newbie.
I did what I could, continued my pace, and was catching the guys ahead of me, just not fast enough. Finally in the last 2 miles I passed 10th place and held it through to the end. I ran ok for me, with a 1:15:33, an effort that was solid, but I know I have more in the tank. Finished the race in 10th out of 24.
Finish time: 4:05:33, my second-fastest time at the distance.
1. First of all, I have to thank everyone who made an effort to have this race here. Charlie, Eric, and Jay and Rev3, as well as all of the volunteers, police/fire/lifeguards. I am so thankful to have such a great race here in Williamsburg, and I sincerely hope it stays for a long, long time.
2. The conditions for this race did not play to my strengths, and it really magnified my weaknesses, and I was still able to finish in the top 10. I did the best I could with what I had on the day, and I am happy about that. The guys ahead of me raced their hearts out, and they deserve a huge congrats for great races.
3. I need to continue working on my swimming. When I first got into triathlon, I could barely swim at all. Then I got proficient enough to be successful in amateur races. Now in the pro division, I feel like I can’t swim again. I have so far to go in that regard.
4. Going along with #3, I can’t rely on my bike/run like I have in the past. The guys ahead of me did not come back. I had a couple guys that blew up, but those with solid races stayed out ahead of me the entire way. Even with one of my best bikes and the second-fastest run split on the day, I didn’t make a very big dent into the main group.
5. I’m so thankful that I became a pro this year. Was it challenging? Yes. Did I pretty much get schooled by guys who are far superior triathletes than I am? Yes. That is what I wanted out of this change. I knew it would be tough, and I knew I would face new problems to solve. I know some concrete things I can work on, and I will work on those things. And when I do, I will be a better racer, and ultimately a better triathlete. I have to face the reality that I have to work my way back up the ladder again, and it’s going to take a lot of hard work. And I can do it.
6. The people and companies that help me be the person and racer I am deserve a huge shout out: Tori, Cassidy and my family, Team Snapple, CORE Fitness, 3Sports, Xterra Wetsuits, Mizuno, and Louis Garneau.