5th – Latin American Championships
I was nervous for this one. I was like an age grouper with my transition bag packed on Friday for the race on Sunday. The reason was…I had no idea where my training was at and I was going up against the titans of the sport…Docherty, Galindez, Gomez, Reed, Wurtele add 15 more guys that have won major races at the 70.3 distance and that set the field. I had no idea where by training was because the snowy and cold midwest winter has kept me off the roads and running and mountain biking on the snowmobile trails.
This said I knew I was really fit but the question to be answered on race day was: “Is fit fast?”
The trip to Panama came just hours after arriving home from the 2014 Orca product roll out at Playitas in Fuerteventura, Spain. It was great to get a week of training in without having to “adapt” to the weather. That said between commitments I was trying to get everything out of the trip training wise and never really got jet-lag…By the 5th day I was beyond exhaustion. Yet at the start line of 70.3 Panama we all had a story of our winters and it seemed that I was the Rocky Balboa of the professional triathlon community…taking my surroundings and making everything out of them.
When the canon fired the only thing on my mind was carnage, “fighting to win and punish.” The swim was with the current of the Panama Canal which, believe it or not, has a 16 foot vertical tide. It was amazing to see sea walls and buildings fly by at a rate faster than a brisk walk. I would like to say that I swam a 16 minutes 1.2 miles due to the Orca Alpha 1.5 but there was also a bit of current aiding my winter swim speed. Two fish got away but not far at all as a group of us pulled by Docherty kept the pace blistering and contenders in the hunt.
Transition included a long run, it was a kilometer from swim exit to bike mount and the race really got shook up in that with many guys absolutely blitzing it. I went from 4th out of the water to outside the top 10 by the time we got to the bikes. I have learned from a lot of years of racing to pace yourself running to transition because sprinting and making up 5 seconds could lose you a minute on the bike.
I went to work as soon as I got on the Ordu. The Mavic brake pads were about to get a workout in this 4 lap circuit of 3 out an backs per circuit. Once strapped in I rolled on the power, the legs felt good but how long would they last. At the end of the first circuit I had opened up a small gap over the chasing pack. This is when the dynamics of the race started to change. Now it became a heads up race with hundreds of age groupers pouring onto the roads. The lead motorcycle did a great job of warning the athletes that the leaders were coming and I was vocal (imagine that) in English and Spanish.
At the end of the 2nd lap I noticed that somehow Galindez had lept across the gap and was now hot on my heels, the pack was in hot pursuit. At the end of the 3rd lap I noticed that there was a small gap to Galindez and that the pack had slipped a bit but their numbers were still strong. My legs felt like they were wilting a bit and I could feel the heat starting to radiate off the buildings and pavement, but my mind said this is it, wind it up…So I did. What happened in the final lap of the bike surprised me a lot. The pack fragmented.
I came into T2 holding a slim 2 minute lead over the nearest chasers and 3 back to the best runners in the sport. With a slow T2 making sure I was properly Gu’d for a hot run I charged out of T2.
Mile 1 5:50, aid station 1 a quick 5 second stop to fill my suit with ice, mile 2 11:55 with the stop, the first turnaround and the competition was right there. By the 5K Javier Gomez had the lead and Billard was on my heels…3 minutes in 5K and I was running sub 6’s…hmmm. I need to bike faster next time. By mile 5 I had slipped to 4th with Richie and Docherty just seconds back. The heat was intense and cramps were being fought. I just tried to keep form and push. I hit the final turnaround, at 15K with Richie just 45 seconds up but Docherty was no longer behind me and it was a sizable gap back to Wurtele. I pushed to try and close on Richie who I could tell was battling hamstring or calf cramps. I got it down to 30 seconds and then the heat popped me. I would walk the final aid station fueling like it was mile 4 or 5 because the last 2.5K seemed like it could take the rest of the day. I pushed on and ran it the rest of the way home maintaining 5th place.
The heat really played into my favor eliminating a lot of the sting of the fast runners…unless your name was Gomez. It was a great way to start the 2014 season and I am looking forward to getting some great training on the roads in the coming month.
Fighting to win and punish,