In 2012 I raced my first draft legal triathlon in the Elite Development Race at the ITU Dallas PanAm Cup. It was there I earned my spot in USAT’s Collegiate Recruitment Program. In 2013 I raced this same event as a professional. I was lapped out seconds before the bike to run transition. I decided to take 2014 off from this race after feeling a bit defeated in the draft legal scene. I hid out in the non draft olympic circuit and focused on training. So, going into this year’s race I carried a bit of anxiety, as I needed to face some fears and I had to prove to myself I belonged in draft legal triathlon. When the race was converted to a duathlon (5k run / 20k bike / 2.5k run) due to contaminated water conditions, I simultaneously became thrilled and upset. You see I am strong runner and cyclist. So, the opportunity to see how my swim has improved disappeared, just as I gained the opportunity to become a major contender in the Continental Cup.
Then, I remembered that the likes of Allen Webb, Sean Jefferson, and John O’Neill were going to toe the line with me. My coach, Trista, and I both agreed that this was a blessing in disguise and I needed to start believing I could do some damage. My Mother decided to come out last minute, and I think she was more excited for the change than anyone else. I spent Friday previewing the course, practicing duathlon specific transitions, and lounging around the host hotel managing my nerves. It was also good to see some friends I hadn’t seen in over a year at the pro meeting.
On race morning I got up early and completed the majority of my warm up to prime the body. I then hid out inside away from the heat until the last minute. I checked in and performed a short run warm up and stayed cool in the athlete’s lounge until we were all called to line up.
RUN: Just as if this were a swim start, we were called one at a time to the start line one at a time based on ITU points. I was low on the list, so I had to start third row back. I placed myself behind a few guys I knew could run. Once the horn went off I got myself to the front of the pack and sat conservatively about eight people back. I was surprised the field didn’t start breaking up sooner, despite our sub five minute mile pace. After the half way point I shared the lead, this was shaken up about 400 meters from transition one. Still, I nailed the transition and ended up first cyclist after the mount line.
BIKE: I didn’t quite know what to do with myself at this point. I never earned this position after the swim. I slipped into my shoes quickly and prepped for the lead pack to form. Again there were more of us than I thought there would be. Fifteen or so men jockeyed to sort out a pace line. Sean Jefferson took command of the pack early on and got us operating. Unfortunately my draft legal cycling etiquette was a little rusty… I did get yelled at once or twice, but I hope I proved a strong contributor to the group. Sorry gentlemen, I’ll be fresher next time! By the time the last lap and a half came around our group was down to about 9 that rotated through with good efficiency. I knew there were two well formed chase packs, but I didn’t notice if they were gaining or if we were gapping. At one point a few riders lost control next to me. I held my line, ready to react if anyone swerved my way. Everyone recovered, except for Allen Webb. He went down hard with a crash and a thud. I was mortified, and hoped he was okay, but you can’t look back when in the middle of a pack going 30 MPH. We all stay upright in a delicate pattern by each rider staying attentive. I was at the back of the pack as we approached the 180° turn into the dismount line. I quietly slipped my feet out at the back, and waited to work my way to the front when the rest of the group reached down to get their feet out.
RUN: I nailed another transition and exited in second position. But man, oh man, my legs were not under me. Russell Pennock, Sean Jefferson, and Jason west passed me right away, and they would take the podium. Robby Webster and I stayed together and fought for 4th place once our legs came back to us. He out ran me in the end. But I was thrilled to grab 5th overall, the last spot for payout, and a random USADA drug test.
Yes, I lost the chance to see how my work in the water was paying off, but I did confirm I can run and bike with these guys. Though I’ll have to learn to be a little more conservative with my energy and pulls on that bike portion. Which could have made the difference and placed me on the podium. All that is left to do is swim my way into a decent position. And I’ll let you all know when that happens.
Thanks for all the support, And thanks to my enthusiastic Mother for cheering at every key corner. She even caught part of the action, literally. A dehydrated and delirious athlete in the women's race decelerated, unclipped her foot from her bike and basically crashed into her while passing out. The Canadian athlete is fine, and Jeanne Willis has only a medium/large bruise.