It is true, I had some demons to conquer in Sunday's race. My last two attempts at a draft legal sprint triathlon were far less than glorious. And they left a bad taste in my mouth. Clearer more than ever, I understand just how crucial a solid swim is for an ITU style triathlon. I am a strong runner and a strong cyclist. But those strengths are all for not if I can't earn a position in the swim. This weekend in the Richmond U25 EDR I proved to myself I can still have success in a draft legal race while I build my swimming skills.
Yes I did earn and apply for my professional status through USA triathlon after my qualifying race in San Diego two weekends ago. But in the case where there is an Elite Development Race without an accompanying professional wave, pro athletes are allowed to race (as it is an opportunity to practice a draft legal style triathlon).
I spent a lot of time and thought prepping myself for an all out swim. I knew that the bike and run would fall into place and I could rely on those strengths no matter what. When the starting horn sounded I bolted off the lakeside wall with the other men, I thrashed for position in the sprint. I managed to hold position in mid pack. I wanted to come out of the water in the top ten, and ended up twelfth. This is still not the swim I need to have, but this is progress.
As I ran between two office buildings from lake to transition zone, Barb Lindquist belted out "one and a half minutes down." I immediately committed to catching the front group on the bike. Once mounting, I sprinted until I caught the next pack. I tried to rally the troops and and get a strong pace line in order. I had never taken a leadership position on the bike before, and it was interesting to see who was willing to work and who was not. More talking goes on in the bike leg of a DL triathlon than most spectators realize. In the end I made a strong team with a racer from the Navy. We tore through the rest of the field and caught the front chase pack at the end of lap four. I rested a moment, and then took advantage of the group when they idled to take feet out of their cycling shoes as a group and sprinted up to the front before taking my feet out for the dismount. I was first of the pack out of the second transition. There was only one racer with 90 second lead on me heading into the run.
About five steps into the run I already felt queasy from my catch up effort on the bike. I just had to hang on for this 5k run. My team mate John O'Neill and I ran together and bridged the gap from the strong swim/biker in the lead. When it came to the last 800, I couldn't find the gears to match John's surge. He ran into first and I ended up third by three seconds.
I finished proud of what I laid out on the course, but hungry to perform better. There was a point where I could have surged and fought for the win or settle for third; and we know the outcome. I have confidence I can hang with the pros on the bike and the run, but I still have work to do in the water. Soon I hope to gain the fearlessness and control I can summon in the bike and run in my swim.
I am thankful my Mother and an old friend of hers came out to support me. It really means the world when family follows me around the states to cheer. And I am proud that my training cohorts Chelsea Burns and John won the U25 EDR races. Now, it is time to graduate to the next level of racing. Keep an eye out for me at the Dallas Pan Am Cup on June 2nd.