“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another”
- Walter Elliot
Back in 2013 I started my journey racing as a professional triathlete with the ultimate goal of consistently placing on the podiums in prestigious races and possibly even winning one. Reaching the pro podium proved to be quite the challenge! While I’ve never finished out of the top 10, I consistently finish between 6th and 10th place. After two years of doing things the same way and getting the same results, I decided to mix things up. I hired a coach, I got a new bike, and I got to work.
At the end of May, I raced a 70.3 in Chattanooga, and recorded a less-than-mediocre 10th place finish. I knew I was capable of more, I just didn’t put it together on the day. So three weeks later I found myself wading in the Choptank River with 20 other pros ready to start Eagleman 70.3.
On paper the pro field wasn’t nearly as accomplished as the one I had raced against in Chattanooga, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from racing over the past 20 years, it’s never to underestimate anyone. Each pro on that starting line has accumulated a deep list of strong race results, and only the foolish would discount any professional who has earned the right to be there.
Having said that, the swim played out perfectly for me. There weren’t any super swimmers in the field, so while two guys jumped off the front about 90 seconds in front of the group, the lead group of 10-12 racers stayed together the entire way. I was able to stay in contact in the opening minutes (and believe me, there was a lot of contact), and then just kept my eyes on the group the entire way around the course. I felt steady and comfortable, and if someone started to pull off the front, I was absolutely ready to throw in a surge to close it down. That never happened, and I decided to stay tucked in to the group and come out as comfortably as possible. (11th OA, 28:04)
Transition took a little more time than usual- I decided to roll my sleeved top down during the swim to increase some shoulder mobility, but getting the wet top on while running to my bike proved to be challenging. I believe I lost one spot in the race here, and hopped on the bike in 12th place, right at the tail end of the main group.
It was such a relief to be heading out on the bike with others, but I quickly realized that the riders that came out in the front of the group were creating a gap to some of us in the rear, so I put my head down and went to work. The Diamondback felt incredible. I think the biggest thing for me is the ride quality. The Serios is so responsive. That was the one thing that I never felt my old bike could do. I always felt like I was riding a Mack Truck when I rode it, and on technical courses I never felt like I could keep any sort of momentum. That has never been the case with the Serios – when I want to go, it goes! I steadily moved up through the field over the first hour. Around that time, I reached my old college teammate Kyle Pawlaczyk. He was riding well, and it took me about 10 minutes before I was ready to move past and set the pace on my own. Fortunately, once I moved past him, I almost immediately saw another small group up the road, which turned out to be the lead chase group. Once I bridged the gap to the group, I sat up and weighed my options. I was sitting in 5th on the road, but I knew all three of the guys in that group, and I knew they were all strong runners. So I decided to push the pace for the next 15 miles and see if I could break them a bit. Turns out that the only guy willing/able to come with me was Thomas Gerlach, who I had ridden the final miles with in Chattanooga. He was intent on keeping the pace hot, so over the final 10 miles we took turns at the front trying to create as large of a gap on the rest as we could. I set a new 70.3 bike split PR by just about 3 minutes on similar power as I’ve ridden in previous races. Cheers to Diamondback and Rudy Project for getting me through that bike course as efficiently as possible! (2nd fastest bike split on the day, 2:06:52)
Rolling into transition, Gerlach had put about 5-10 seconds into me. I knew I was currently in third, and I was pumped to be starting the run that far up in the race. I threw on a running singlet (for the first time ever in a tri, but hey, it was hot!) and got on with it. As I was heading out onto the run course, Kyle came in with the two others from that initial chase group in tow. So I had somewhere around 10 seconds to Gerlach and close to 45 seconds over fourth. The big change was that this time around, unlike in Chattanooga, I felt good! Finally I had my legs and I was ready to race aggressively, not reactively. I took over second place within a half mile, and then focused on pressing on the best I could. At the first mile I received a time gap to Cody Beals, who was running way up ahead in first place: 4:30. Woof. That’s a lot of time, and Cody is no slouch on the run. So I stayed relaxed, controlled my core temperature with water and ice through the aid stations, and told myself if I got another split halfway through the run and I was gaining on him, that I would take some risks on the back half. Honestly I was still concerned with having at least four guys charging behind me within a minute, and protecting second was still very important to me. Unfortunately I never did receive any additional time splits to the lead, but I did continue to gain on third. With a few miles to go third was well behind out of sight, so I was able to focus on finishing well and in control. (2nd fastest run, 1:18:38)
Coming down the finishing chute to finish second was exhilarating. I set a new personal record for the distance: 3:56:38, lopping off two and a half minutes from my previous best time. The recent changes in equipment, technique, and approach to the sport served me well, and I was finally able to meet that goal. I was still disappointed that I couldn’t put myself in position to challenge for the win, but that will have to come another day. The key takeaways for me are that I am still improving year over year, and I now have the knowledge that I do have what it takes in training and in racing to become a perennial podium placer in long course triathlon.
Big thanks to my family for their constant support, my coach Dave Luscan for his guidance and expertise, the Snapple Triathlon Team, Xterra Wetsuits, Diamondback Bikes, Rudy Project, First Endurance, LG, and Sweatvac. Without just one of those crucial pieces, I am an incomplete puzzle who would still be searching for his first IM 70.3 Pro Podium.
2 cups Maple + Brown Sugar Oatmeal (360 kcal)
1 bottle EFS PRO Lemon Water (120 kcal)
1 banana (100 kcal)
1 gel + water
On the bike:
2 bottles containing 4 scoops EFS Pro Lemon Water + 1.5 servings of EFS Vanilla Liquid Shot (620 kcal)
1 large bottle of water
+ a couple sips of some Gatorade Endurance at an aid station (20 kcal)
On the run:
1 flask w/ 1 serving of EFS Liquid shot + 1 serving of EFS Pro Lemon Water (140 kcal)
Coke @ every 4 aid stations (100 kcal)
Water and Ice at every aid station