It felt so good to be back racing ITU! The high stress, intense competition, polluted bodies of water, dangerous pack riding, briefings with info I already know; I was gradually cocooned by the blanket of nervy race prep that I’d missed all too much.
After an awesome race in New Orleans, I was confident that I was fit, much fitter than I’d expected. Great training, however, doesn’t always translate into a high caliber ITU performance. I was nervous that the swim would be too fast and I’d miss the bike pack, or after a high intensity ride I’d be trashed and unable to run a time reflective of my training.
But I nailed it! My confidence wavered a couple days before the race, but I donned a Hawaiian shirt, focused on a solid race prep, and with the help of some Guns and Roses I started feeling pretty good.
It had also been my birthday a couple days prior to the race. Thanks to Luke Farkas’ persistence, I received a free piece of Tiramisu from a very grumpy Italian waiter at Thursday night’s dinner. Score!
The swim, as all ITU swims are, was rough. Not often, however, have I been actually grabbed and forcibly dunked when I wasn’t going around a turn buoy. Usually it’s just a “By your leave, good sir, may I grab your ankle while another gentleman unobtrusively swims on your back?” Over-all it was a nice reminder that triathlon is a contact sport.
The ride was remarkable in that our group worked together well. I was glad to feel comfortable, but that ended up with me pulling through substantially too often. Since I’m still not running at 100%, I really wanted to put a gap between me and the second group. We ended the ride with about 2 minutes on the chase pack, so mission accomplished! I executed well at the very finish, and entered T2 first out of our pack.
The only really scary part of the ride was when the wind would occasionally stop blowing – at those times, I’d momentarily cop a feel of the awesome heat and humidity. Like most feels I cop, this left me shaky, sweaty, and anxious about the impending punishment.
The anxiety was well-warranted. There ended up being two hydration stops per lap of the 5 lap run. Situated so that you could grab them each twice per lap, I grabbed something 16 times through 4 laps. That’s sixteen drinks and splashes of water, and I could have used more. I was roasting, my head hurt, and I felt dizzy. Fortunately, what mattered was that my legs felt fine.
I’d run the first couple laps with Huffman and Kanute to make sure I didn’t couple my usual terrible pacing with the overbearing heat. Hearing from Huerta (who’d had a bike issue) that I had a 15 second penalty, I gapped Will a bit during the 3rd lap so I could stop on the 4th lap and not be behind.
A 15 second penalty feels long, but not so long that you recover. As soon as I stopped, my legs stiffened. The Huffman caught up as I took my penalty and I ran out to meet him when my time expired. Having him next to me sparked some aggression and I threw in a strong surge that lasted the entire last lap. I finished about 40 seconds up, but with the heat my normal feelings of fatigue were switched – my legs felt awesome, but my head was screaming “NO! NO! I hurt, please, please, let me be.”
That voice was silenced till the finish, but this photo sequence captured my finish line exhaustion:
This photo showed up on usatriathlon.org, and I was stoked to make the homepage for the first time.
And now, a complimentary aerohelmet picture from New Orleans. So aero:
But I won twice in a row! That’s awesome! To go from 4 months of injury to two wins in 7 days felt incredible. I have to step up my game for the World Cups and WTS’s to come, but I’m excited to know that I’m doing good work.
Now for my inspirational picture of the week:
Can I make it three in a row at Edmonton?