This year I attempted to race three 70.3 events in four weeks. Eagleman was the final race of my spring campaign, and with a 2nd and 7th placings at my first two events, I was confident that another top 5 was in the cards.
As always, the swim start was quite chaotic, and I mixed it up with the best for a few minutes before eventually fighting to stay on the feet of the tail end of the group. Matt Russell was directly in front of me, and for a few minutes the gap was large enough where I wasn’t quite in his draft and had to work extremely hard to catch back and join the train. Eventually around the second turn, I caught a second wind and reeled the group. Unfortunately by the time I rejoined the group, there had been a split further up in the group. I counted four of us in this group, and soon I found myself very comfortable. At that instant, I knew I had to get to the front and drive the pace to limit the time to the leaders. I got to the front and did just that, leading the group onto land about three and a half minutes down from the leaders and a minute and a half down from the main chase group.
As I have grown accustomed to, Matt Russell and I exited the swim within seconds of one another. Due to some unfortunate timing, my powermeter battery was dead, so I would be riding solely on RPE. I decided as I was mounting my bike that I I would do whatever it took to stay within contact of Russell on the bike. This plan was optimistic, as Russell has outsplit me on the bike by a few minutes each race, but I was up for the challenge. After we both missed a turn and rode about .4 extra miles before getting back on course, Matt went to work, and I just put my head down and pushed the pedals hard enough to stay within 50 meters of him. We ended up catching most of the main swim group right around mile 20, but didn’t stay too long. Russell was on a mission, and I continued to try to stay in his wake. It was around mile 40 that his lead became large enough where I could see him, but distantly. At mile 45 he caught one of the lead swimmers, but he ended up sticking with Russell and riding with him out of sight for the last 10 miles of the ride.
As I rode into transition, I heard I was about a minute back from the two up ahead and another 90 seconds down to Cody Beals. The leading two racers were well up the road. My legs felt good, my stomach felt good, and I got to work. I caught Kevin Ryan just as we approached the mile mark for 5th, and then slowly crept up on Russell, catching and passing him by the 5k mark. I was expecting to be able to work together with him for a while, but when I passed him a gap immediately opened up. I went with it, and tried to maintain my pace of running 5:50-6:10 pace in the hot, open run course. By mile 6 it appeared that I had put about 20 seconds into Russell, so I was confident that I could finish the run strong in 4th. What I didn’t know at the time was that Andrew Yoder, who had started the run in 2nd, had been quickly coming back to me. By mile 10 I could see him and the 3rd place cyclist, and by mile 10.5 I had moved into 3rd. Almost simultaneously Russell reappeared in my rearview mirror, and was threatening only 5 seconds back. With only about 2 miles to go, I put my head down and started as hard of a kick as I could to maintain my gap, but Russell was moving much more swiftly, and soon passed me and continued to put about 40 seconds into me over the final mile and a half of the race. I completed the race in 4th, which normally I would have been thrilled with, but after having tasted 3rd briefly in the late stages of the race, I was left with a disappointed taste in my mouth that I didn’t have the legs to close it out and maintain a podium position.
After looking back at my month, I am fairly satisfied with the progress I’ve made and how I was able to display that progress in racing situations. I made the main pack in one swim and second pack in two swims, I finished in the money in all three races, and I podiumed for just the second time in a 70.3. Now for a little rest and planning for the second half of the 2017 season!