For those who don’t already know, my life changed fairly dramatically in January, as I decided to refocus my efforts on racing and coaching. I currently maintain my position as the Health and PE Curriculum Coordinator with Williamsburg-James City County, but I am no longer teaching in addition to those responsibilities. Instead I have doubled down on making athletics, and triathlon in particular, part of my job. As a result, I have been able to allocate additional time to train and recover, I have less day to day stress overall, and I have had increased opportunities to be dad and to help Tori with family duties. That’s not to say that the decision wasn’t risky, but if you don’t take risks, you’ll never see rewards.
All year I’ve really had a mindset shift in the way in which I approach my training and racing. This is my job. It’s work. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, but ultimately I would argue that to do the work to be successful day in and day out, it’s not always fun in the moment. Pushing your boundaries and growing is not always fun. Ask anyone who has ever raced a marathon if they’re having fun at mile 22. But the accomplishment of a tough task and the potential for achieving great things makes the day to day struggles bearable. The opportunity to reach or exceed your goals makes you want to keep driving in the last third of the race.
Since 2014 I have made the pilgrimage to Chattanooga, either for the full or the half, knowing that with a current assisted swim and tough run course, this was well suited to my strengths. For the past three races, it just never quite worked out for me, and I was never able to capitalize. I was hoping the fourth try would be better.
The current in the Chattanooga River seemed to be screaming after a few weeks of heavy rainfall, so the game plan for the swim was basically to start out full throttle for the first 10 minutes upstream to catch as much benefit from the faster swimmers as I could, and once I reached the turn buoy, I could let the current do most of the work. As always, the start of the swim was kind of a mess, I got tangled up in a bunch of arms and feet just trying to stay in the wake of the front pack. Eventually the string broke, as it did for a couple of us, and we formed a nice second group. I’m not sure who ended up driving the pace in our group, but it was quick enough where I was content to stay on hips and feet and head out on the bike with whoever I was swimming with. When we climbed out of the river, I noticed there were at least 5 of us together (maybe with more right behind?) but learning from last year’s full, I made sure to make quick work out of T1 so I could maintain contact with the group on the bike. I exited T1 with four riders from our group ahead of me, and then went to work. Matt Russell was at the front of the group, and he was aiming to bridge the gap to the front bike pack, who was a little over a minute and a half up the road. The group immediately split a little bit, but I kept them within eyesight until about mile 20 when I started to work back to the group. I caught the group somewhere around mile 40, rode with them for about 5 miles, and then took off in the last 10 miles or so to try to close down time between me and the front of the field. I had absolutely no idea how many guys were in that front swim pack or how far ahead they would be, but when I dismounted in T2 I was pleasantly surprised to see 6 guys just heading out of T2 with the 2nd and 3rd place overall bikes riding with them. So although I was coming off the bike with a couple guys myself, I knew I was only about 2 minutes off second heading into the run. I liked the sound of that.
My legs felt way better off a similar bike ride at last year’s CHOO 70.3, so I was ready to attack instead of just hoping to hang on. I closed the gap to 7th within 2 miles, and although 2nd through 7th had spread out considerably over that time, they were all lined up in front of me, and I could see that the gap between me and 2nd had even come down a bit since the start of the run. I had no idea where first was, but I heard around mile 4 that we was about 7 minutes up the road. At that point I (incorrectly) assumed that nobody would see him again until the finish line, and I just tried to catch as many guys as I could in the little “pain train” that was lined up in front of me. As it turned out, I caught one guy every couple of miles or so, put in a little surge each time, and then settled back in. By mile 10 I had moved into 3rd, and with Matt Russell still about 90 seconds ahead, I figured I would give it what I had to get a decent time, but my place probably wasn’t going to change over the final 5k. To my surprise, with 2 miles to go on the last turnaround, I saw the lead bike wait and change positions to follow Matt, and quickly realized that while I was having my own personal battles catching this long line of runners, Matt had been driving this line trying to close down the gap to the leader, who was coming back quickly. I got a gap to him at 45 seconds with a mile and a half to go, and I absolutely knew I could bridge up to him and had the legs to make it a race in the final stretch if need be. It ended up only taking me about half a mile to take those 45 seconds out of him, and I politely made the pass and then let it rip down off the pedestrian bridge and down to the riverfront for the finish. The race unfolded almost perfectly today, as I was able to get into a good swim pack, work comfortably hard and stay within reach on the bike, and then use my run to close it out. It would have been amazing to have been able to bridge up to Russell, the champion, and make a race of it in the final miles, but he was just too strong today, and I just didn’t execute quite well enough to put myself in position to have that chance. Fortunately I know some things that can be changed, and I know I am capable to doing those things effectively moving forward.
I could not be happier about the support I have this year. I line up on the swim start knowing I have the best swimskin on the market in the Xterra Valor. My LG Tri Kit fit like a glove all day, the Diamondback Serios was quick and responsive, my Rudy Project Boost was perfect, King Apparel socks kept my feet super comfortable on the run, my SweatVac hat kept the sun out of my eyes when it popped out briefly (and when flipped backwards gave me an additional mental boost (Over the Top, anyone?), and I relied exclusively on First Endurance products from Pre-race to post race to keep me hydrated and fueled throughout the day. The Snapple Triathlon Team is a fantastic community to provide support from all across the country, and I’m thankful to be a part of it!
So all in all it was a great day for me! I’m excited about the next few weeks of racing, and I know that the entire starting list of each race is clamoring to get up on the podium, so I’ll have my work cut out for me, and I’ll have to continue the work I’ve started this year.