I debuted on the World Cup scene this year and was humbled. Tongyeong WC decided to become rather pugnacious and my ego didn’t really put up much of a fight. Some dignity decided to get involved, but it came out with a couple shiners and peed a little bit of blood. I think the best consolation I heard was “at least you got some valuable… experience?” Whoot!

Guatape, while not altogether perfect, was a step in the right direction. One of my flights ended up being delayed so I missed my ticket into Medellin. This meant that I spent a pleasant night and day hanging out in Miami waiting for the next daily flight into Colombia. The itinerary for that day included a $50 taxi ride into the less fortunate areas of Miami trying to find an advertised 50m swimming pool. It was there, empty, and my stuff wasn’t stolen while I swam, so – success!

My flight arrived in Medellin at around 8:30pm two nights before my race. After a harrowing taxi ride shared with Flavia Fernandes, I was at a little resort in the paradise of Guatape. The owner of Hosteria Los Recuerdos was eager to please and the hotel had three complimentary meals/day, so my stay was quite pleasant.

The next day I rode the course for the first time and was stunned; partly by the beauty, mostly by the ridiculous climbs. If the hills were hot dogs and my 36 hours of traveling a bun, my meal was certainly without relish and would assumedly soon be slathered with ketchup. I was anxious.

That night, however, a torrent of rain poured and I thought, “Hey, maybe it’ll be changed to a wet suit swim tomorrow and people will slow down on the descents.” Not only were we allowed to add a few mm of buoyancy the next morning, but mudslides forced the closure of the harder hills on the bike course. The race was even turned into a sprint, which I wasn’t exactly thrilled about, but I suppose I can’t have everything. I was relieved.

Pretty much all the top ITU Americans, except an injured Hunter Kemper and including the long absent Andy Potts, were present and I was pretty excited to see where I stacked up. Since I had missed the race briefing after my delayed flight, I had the second to last start spot on the pontoon beside the versatile Potts. I made the pretty easy decision to try to stick to his feet for as long as possible. He was to my left, so I tried to swing that way quickly. He had made the same decision, while the rest of the pack swerved to the right. So it ended up being two packs of swimmers – one huge group, and then Potts leading the way with me flogging myself to stay on his feet. This was the first and probably the only time that I will ever do an ITU swim with clean water for the first 400m. It was incredible. I lasted until we joined the other group and promptly died. I did my best to not drown during the rest of the swim and managed to exit the water at the back of the front pack.

The ride was easy! I managed to position myself in the front third of the group for most of the race, which was absolutely vital. There was a 180 at the top of the big climb, and I heard that being at the back of the pack was brutal as the peloton would completely string out on the downhill.

I felt perhaps a little too stupendous starting the run as my usually fast first k turned into a sprint. It was quite fun while it lasted, but the rest of the 5k mustn’t have looked particularly impresseve. I managed to outlast a surging Mark Fretta to come in 16th, which was a definite improvement over Tongyeong.

My result moves me up to 4th on the US list for entry into WCS starts. This puts in a very good position for entry into the Olympic Trials next year. Back in July I was coming out of 10 weeks in casts and my only result had been a 15th place finish at a weak continental cup where I ruptured my plantar fascia (about a week later I had a ruptured PF anyway – presumably it happened either during or prior to the race). I am in a much better position now than I had thought possible just a few months and I know that I owe a huge part of that progress to my coach Paulo Sousa.

My last race of the season is tomorrow! Looks like it’ll be a super fun bike course, too.