There are few Olympic distance races left with significant prize money for professionals, but the iconic St. Anthony’s Triathlon has maintained their prize purse which makes it a competitive and exciting race every year. It was a no brainer for me to sign up for the race and see how I stack up against some of the best Olympic distance specialists around.
Preparations leading up to the race went smoothly and were made much easier by my amazing home stay hosts Gail and Chuck Lohman. They drove me to and from the race site and toured me through the bike course twice, as well as the run course. I went into the race feeling well rested and ready to roll!
The swim ended up being shortened due to rough water in the latter portion of the swim course. It resulted in about a 900m swim (including lots of running through shallow water), followed by about a 600m run to transition. I had a bad start to the swim, I went too far to the left and by the time I got to the first buoy I was way behind the leaders. I swam alright for the rest of it, but got out of the water in 22nd place, 51 seconds behind the leader! I definitely need to practice swimming in rough water more. Speed in the pool does not always translate to speed in the open water, especially in wavy conditions. I had a strong run to transition and by the time I got to the bike mount I had passed several more guys and was in about 15th place.
On the bike I immediately felt strong, so I got to work on moving up the field. My coach James Loaring had suggested starting the bike above my anticipated average effort to bridge up to the faster swimmers, and then settle down the effort a little bit once I had caught them. Its not always that a plan goes off without a hitch, but in this case it certainly did. I passed most of the field in the first 10km, and only Andrew Yoder matched my pace. I was in 2nd place by about 25km into the bike! Cameron Dye was still up the road. Eric Lagerstrom, Andrew Yoder and I all stayed fairly close together for the rest of the bike and we dismounted within a couple seconds of each other.
I had a good transition and started the run right behind Eric. His pace was strong but I held on for the first kilometer or so. I had a stitch in the right side of my abdomen which seemed to hamper my stride just a bit, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold that pace for the full 10km. I settled into a sustainable effort, and at about mile 2 Jason West passed me and was really moving. I didn’t try to stay with him. After this rough patch at mile 2, I forced my turnover to speed up just a bit, to try to get out of the rut I was in. At the half way turnaround I started feeling good. By counting my strides (3 steps to the second) I estimated that the hard charging Tayor Reid was about 45 seconds back. I stayed focused, and I could tell I was running well because Eric and Jason were no longer pulling away quickly. With a mile to go I heard someone say “he’s coming you better hurry up!”. I picked up the pace but didn’t dare look back. With about 1km to go, someone else said “he’s right behind you!”, and as we got closer to the finish it seemed I was reminded by everyone that he was there. Despite my gradual acceleration the entire last mile, Taylor caught me just as we turned into the finishing stretch. This was about a 200m run into the finish, and as soon as he went by he put in a big surge. There was no time to think about strategy, just GO! I matched his pace and pulled up beside him, then he surged again and we were in a shoulder to shoulder sprint. With 50m to go I thought I might not be able to hold the pace, but with 30m left I somehow found another gear for 1 huge push to the finish. He couldn’t match the pace and I finally pulled ahead through the line. I have never had such a close battle like this in any race, and I’m glad I got to experience it. Of course, I’m glad I won the sprint and got some redemption on Taylor who destroyed me at Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico!
Cameron Dye won the race, 1:06 ahead of me, Eric Lagerstrom second, and Jason West 3rd. Although my training has been more focused on 70.3 racing lately, I have no plans on stopping at the Olympic distance. I still have unfinished business with short course racing.
Thanks for reading!