70.3 San Juan – Race Report
I apologize for it taking 10 days to post this race report but I have been training hard and have written and rewritten this race report.
After the glitches and poor performance that occurred at the ITU Clermont Sprint I was left looking for anything positive to come out of 70.3 San Juan. I trained hardcore speed all winter and had a lot more confidence going into the sprint distance tri than the half iron distance race. The field was a stellar field of world champions, Olympic, half, and full ironman superstars covering nearly every continent. On Sunday morning there were over 20 athletes that on paper had strong odds to win the race. Why so loaded? Points for 5150, 70.3, and 140.6 championships.
After two days of sitting and staring into space on our balcony my wife and I headed down to the start. Finally after suppressing all of the negative thoughts of a week ago I was amped to get racing. Time for the cannon. One minute to the start. If I only could have minutes during the race that would last the length of one minute building up to the start.
Suddenly the deafening roar of a cannon and the world goes silent for 1 second as we make that first stroke. Then for the next 20-some odd minutes it is swimming just shy of flat out looking for the best line and feet. Every 30-45 seconds quickly sight and assess whether or not I am on the right pair of feet, how far up is the lead paddleboard, is there any gaps, do I move up…gaps would open and I would pass bury myself to close the gap.
Coming to the end of the swim I took a bad line under a bridge and got separated from the lead pack along with a South American. I swam my butt off and limited my losses to a handful of seconds…Next the one part of the race I was not looking forward to…the transition area was 600m from swim exit to bike mount on cobbled roads and sidewalks. I ran smart but hard and had a great transition.
Mounting the bike I was in 5th or 6th place and I almost ran into the back of the lead vehicle that was not reading for everybody to come flying out of transition. In the opening miles of the bike I cleared everybody except for 1 person but I was not at all comfortable in the saddle. I was on the nose, I would try the middle, I would slam my butt to the back of the saddle, I choked up on the aero bars, I laid out, I tried a million little things but could not get comfortable. I was slowly losing time to whoever was tucked behind the lead vehicle. The road serpentine and it started to rain and I was thrashing the bike. At the turnarounds I could not tell who was running away with the race. I knew I was riding fast but I knew I was also killing my run one peddle stroke at a time.
As I came off the bike I finally realized who the leader was, Ben Collins. From years of racing each other I knew that Ben could out run me by 1-2 minutes but out bike me by 2.5 minutes…I was deflated and for the first time in since June of 2010 I got beaten off the bike at the 1/2 distance. I got through T2 and started my run holding a strong but conservative pace because I knew it was going to get hot.
At the first turnaround (3.5mi) Ben’s lead had grown to over 3.5 minutes and I had 3 minutes to the hounds coming after me and I mean they were flying. When I saw them I thought that finishing in the top 5 would make an incredibly successful finish. At mile 6.5 turnaround Ben continued to extend his lead to over 4 minutes which left me shaking my head of how strong he was the guys behind however didn’t look quiet as fresh, but my lead on them was now under 2 minutes. I threw all cards in and built to a pace that could break me, let’s keep 2nd. I focused on form firing on all 12 cylinders, by mile 9.5 I had cut Ben’s lead to 3 minutes, yet there were 3 hounds just 65-80 seconds back running for all it’s worth.
At mile 10.3 I passed Ben walking, I thought to myself, I guess he really was racing out of his skin. It was not until sometime between 11 and 12 that I realized I was now racing to win the race. I threw everything into the engine now. I can win, even though I lost on the bike. I pushed hard until I could see the finish and looked back for the first time. Clear roads. Unreal. Unbelievable.
18 Al Sultan
I am still shocked today. I trained hard this winter, but I have trained hard every winter….I really do not know what to say other than thank you to my wife, family, coaches, friends, and sponsors for supporting me through hell last spring and helping me get back to where I have dreamt and worked hard to be…#1
Thanks for your support…The ride is only getting better,
All the best,