By the time the race was ready to start, the morning precipitation had subsided and all that remained was a steady breeze from the North and cool temperatures. Prior to the start of the race, I had talked with a fellow Big Shark teammate, Gregory Schrick and learned he planned on running in the low 5 minute per mile pace. Thinking he would be a bit too fast for me, I had decided I would concentrate on staying with Scott Shaw, the winner from the previous year who had beaten me by several minutes in a shorter race in September of last year (http://www.triathleteguru.com/blog/index.php?itemid=114). However, once the race had started, I found I was able to stay with Gregory without too much difficulty and so I did just that. We did the first mile in 5:45 and had opened up about a 10 second lead on the rest of the field. The final stretch of the 1.7 mile run headed into the wind so we slowed down a little and finished at 5:58 pace for that .7 mile stretch. Coming into the first transition, Gregory and I were running together, 17 seconds ahead of the next competitor and we had put 27 seconds into Scott. Of course I didn’t know any of these details at the time; all I was concerned with was transitioning as fast as possible and getting out on the bike. I had figured I would get crushed on the bike since I hadn’t trained much at all on it this year.
I made it out of transition first with no idea of the kind of gap I had on anyone else. I figured I would get passed fairly quickly so I just settled in and figured I would try to hold everyone off as long as possible. Once out on the main road, I quickly realized how difficult this ride was going to be. While the course was pancake flat, we headed directly into a steady wind of about 20 mph. The consistent sub 18 mph display on my speedometer kept yelling out to me, “You’re going to get passed! You’re going to get passed! Any second now…”
The course was an out and back course, 9 miles out and 9 miles back for an 18 mile total. As I rode, I told myself the only chance I had to possibly win was to keep the lead until at least the halfway point on the bike, hopefully even longer. However, riding at the front of a race is tough as there is no “carrot” to chase. Instead I tried to use the fear of the unknown chaser to push me on. There were several short stretches of the course that turned and headed east briefly, at each of these turns I would quickly look back and try to gauge how my lead was holding up. I could tell a rider was gaining on me, but I slowly began to belief I had a chance to make it to at least the turn around! Finally, I reached the turn around and still hadn’t been passed. Of course the nicest part of a turn around is the ability to gauge gaps and it looked like I still had about a 30 second gap on the second placed rider, Scott Shaw.
Now we had the wind at our back for the most part and the speeds quickly reflected that fact. While I was still trying to avoid the capture, at this point I was starting to feel a little more confident as I knew if I got passed now it was unlikely I would lose much time with the wind at our back. Had I been passed earlier, I might have given up a little psychologically, but at this point I was too invested in this fight. Eventually, I did get passed around mile 13, only 5 more to go! While the initial pass happened swiftly, I was able to respond and keep any type of substantial gap from opening beside the required 3 bike lengths. Now that I had a “carrot” to chase, the rest of the ride was much less stressful. About a mile from the finish of the bike, there was one final turn and Scott looked back. I think he was a little surprised to see me there right behind him and it seemed he picked up the pace to try and put some time into me. During the same stretch I began preparing for the transition, undoing my shoes and putting my feet on top of them. Eventually I pulled into T2 with an 8 second deficit on Scott.
Since I had taken the time to remove my shoes, I was able to quickly sprint to my rack and would have had a very fast transition until my gloves kept me putting on my racing flats. Instead I had to quickly remove my gloves before I could finally slide my shoes one… Eventually they were on and I headed out to eliminate the 4 second lead Scott had.
My legs felt surprisingly good heading out on the run, instead of the normal rubber leg feeling I felt like I was actually running! Within about 200 yards I had caught up to Scott. I briefly considered slowing up, afraid I might be going to fast and risk blowing up. But as I pulled up even with him I decided if I felt good I might as well keep the pressure up and go right on by. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but he said a few words of encouragement as I passed and I tried to do the same. My first mile off the bike was a 6:03 mile which is probably one of my fastest miles running straight off the bike! The final .7 mile stretch into the wind was considerably slower at 6:19 pace, but by that point the race was basically over. For the first time since 2005, I had won a multisport event!