In previous years, I was pretty sure that they had started the Pro & elite racers with my age group, but when we arrived Friday night, I found this wasn't the case, and that I would be starting 25min behind the Pro/Elite wave. I was hoping to get to start with those guys just to see where I would be, and after receiving some (cough, cough) "coaching" from my friend and training partner, Kevin, I decided the 25min gap (and the traffic it would leave) would be too much, so I requested to switch up to race elite and said request was expediently obliged (Thanks Ron).
Race morning was a little rushed, but I got myself to the line with a few warm up strokes, and readied for the onslaught.
Swim: 24:01 (No Bueno)
The swim was a beach start, and as I tend to fair better in water starts, I wasn't too stoked on that. As soon as the horn sounded I took off in a painful sprint to the water. My legs just weren't ready for that (a sign of things to come). I was quickly gapped by John Dahlz who, quite frankly "gapped" (if you can even call it that) everyone. My swim felt just kind of whatever. I was never too tired or spent, and felt pretty good, just not "fast." After my races this season it is clear that my swim has fallen off somehow (strange given the BIG increase in pool time I have put in this year).
Right when I got on the bike I knew I was in for a long day. My legs were screaming about 1/4mi into the ride. I knew I had to go hard to keep up with the guys in my wave, so I pushed the entire way and just tried to "embrace the pain." About 10 or 12 miles in Mac Brown caught me on a slight uphill and there was no staying with him. I was sure the train of riders would soon follow, but to my surprise only one sole rider came. After trading passes for a while, I was finally able to drop him when we hit a flat section, and just tried to hammer the rest of the way home. In the last couple miles I caught my friend Mike Sevier and knew I had to get as much distance as possible in those closing miles. Mike runs with our club sometimes and the guy Hauls Ass so I knew with him on my heels I was going to have my work cut out for me.
Out onto the run and all I was thinking about was Mike bearing down on me. It served as good motivation. About 2mi in I heard footsteps and was surprised to see it was not Mike, but Patrick Baldwin. I was surprised because I was sure Patrick was ahead of me at that point, which he would have been if he hadn't missed the last buoy on the swim and been forced to swim back out and round it before getting on the bike. I tried to stay on his heels, but that thought (er...dream) quickly faded as he pulled away to run the fastest run split of the day. Dude was blazing! Just before the turn I was caught by the same guy I traded passes with on the bike. At the turn I was able to see the whole field and saw I was in 6th and I would remain there the rest of the race (the guy I traded passes with was assessed a drafting penalty (deservedly so) & therefore ended up placing behind me and moved me up to 5th). The run was sort of a strange feeling. I ran hard and gave it all I had, but I just never felt like I could kick it up into that "high gear" that I needed for that distance. My legs and breathing felt good, and I was pretty comfortable, but I just couldn't pick it up. I wasn't having any problems, and I raced in my new Zoot Ultra 2.0 which felt AWESOME! (first time wearing them and not one blister or "rubbing" issue).
Plain and simple, the guys ahead of me were faster and stronger. No excuses. This week it is back on the horse to try and rectify that, and continue the build for Kona. Time is ticking away rapidly and I got some big work ahead of me.
T3 was well represented this weekend and we had a solid crew for a post race Sharkeez trip with the brothers Pearson, Brynn, Christina, Sean, Trish and the super fan parental units where we all toasted the only Podium Finisher of the day.
On a last note, the race this weekend was marred (at least temporarily) by one racer who chose to cut the course and blatantly CHEAT HIS ASS OFF!! Apparently this guy is rather notorious for pulling such antics. It was easily the clearest case of cheating I've seen or heard of. Patrick had seen him on the course squatting behind his bike, and thought he recognized him from previous races and had just said that to us while we talked after the finish. About a minute later, we hear his name announced and he comes across the line. The guy was in his 40's and thus started significantly behind our wave. Yet no more than 10mins after we had finished, he comes across the line? Patrick knew what was up and I gotta hand it to him and commend him for confronting the guy right as he came out of the chutes. The guy couldn't have acted more guilty and made his weak denials and "take a picture next time" defenses as he scurried away from the finishing area. Sure enough, after a quick check, his time would have made him the overall winner by a "significant margin". The race director's made a quick and correct decision to DQ him without batting an eye. Is there any excuse for this? I love this sport for the challenge it presents. Personally, the satisfaction I derive from knowing that I worked my ass off in training and put it to the test on race day comprises that certain intangible and priceless value of this great sport. The personal satisfaction gained from knowing we worked hard to achieve a goal (whatever it may be) and the sense of accomplishment that comes therewith is what, I would think the overwhelming majority of us, pay our entry fees and toe the line in search of. The fact that someone would blatantly cheat, on repeat occasions, boggles my mind. What could you possibly gain from such an act? To think that this guy has knocked numerous people off podiums on days when he wasn't caught, when he timed it a little better and when race directors were faced with the tough call but gave him the benefit of the doubt, is, to say the least, upsetting. The vast majority of people this sport can claim within its contingent are amazingly kind, generous, honest and outgoing people. Bad apples can be found in even the best of bunches, and I guess the astonishing "good crop" I continually see, only serves to highlight the "bad." Hopefully this guy has pulled his last stunt, or will hang up the tri kit out of embarrassment. Or maybe the USAT will do us all a favor and pull his card?