I'm never one to hold back details, so I'll just say it. I found out two days before Escape from Alcatraz that I had a parasite. I found out the unpleasant way. Not nice. I think I got it in St. Croix 5-6 weeks earlier, but I'll never really know. I spent that day in San Francisco running around a city I didn't know trying to get into a doctor to get it sorted out. It explained a few things though, like why the training block in Tucson was littered with many more bad days than usual, especially on the bike. But the here and now was to get a test done, get some medication, and get on with the race and think about my condition afterwards.
Once the race was over, the next thing was to plan what was next. The plan was to back up Escape from Alcatraz 6 days later with the 70.3 in Boise Idaho. After a conversation with my friend & manager Evan Gallagher from BPM, he had me convinced in the moment that I didn't need to go race in Boise, to focus on getting healthy straight away. I thought about it lot, about pulling the pin on Boise. In the end, I decided to go and race, for the reasoning that I wasn't in that bad a shape from the parasite, and because I know the course in Boise and had a great homestay setup that makes being in town easy. Had it been a race or location I wasn't familiar with I probably would have pulled out. I committed myself to racing, and boarded the plane for Boise.
The startlist in Boise was strong. It got easier in the days leading into the race with Crowie and Ben Hoffman pulling the pin, but McMahon, Wurtele, Bell, Twelsiek and some other great athletes were still present. This didn't deter me as I thought the course, conditions and 12noon start time were advantageous to me. I wanted to flex my muscle. Because of the ailment, I knew I wasn't at my best physically or mentally, but the will was there and sometimes that's all you need.
It's the weirdest feeling racing Boise. You're standing there in the baking heat, but waiting to step into ice cold water. The water was almost the same temperature as the bay in San Francisco a week earlier. It is however a gorgeous swim in the chilled clean/fresh water, not often do we have this luxury in Triathlon. Once the gun went off I settled into a rhythm, but had Kevin Everett on my hip. Hip swimming is one of those things, it's easier for the one on the hip, but harder for the one whose hydrodynamics are compromised. It's like having a anchor holding you down. I was keen for Kevin to swim with me because I wanted company on the bike, but I wanted to break him off my side which took a bit of cat and mouse. I eventually got out by myself and started to wind it up a little. The swim was almost too short, I didn't feel like I got into a rhythm until the last few hundred meters. I excited first with Kevin and Brent McMahon behind. I didn't panic, I wanted company on the bike as I mentioned before.
Out of transition it was clear Kevin was keen to set the pace. I sat in and tried to get some sort of clue who was where, and how far behind. The bike course was like one big wide open space, and it soon became clear an athlete behind was determined to bridge. It kept me guessing for five minutes or so who it could be and I was surprised to see it was Luke Bell. We weren't riding slow, so Luke must have been feeling great. It was right when Luke tacked onto the train that I heard the ping of metal on the road and instantly I thought I had lost a bidon cage from my behind my saddle. That theory was flattened when I felt my saddle slam back moments later. I had lost a bolt from my seat clamp and one rail was totally naked in the air, nothing pinning it in place.
With all the preparation a triathlete can do for a race, it's a big blow to think it can all be undone because of a careless mechanical. I wondered how long it would take until my seat fell off entirely. At this point in the race about 20 minutes in, I thought I would be on the side of the road in a few minutes starting the long walk home, but I managed to stay in the pack, uncomfortably pivoting up and down on the saddle with its position as far back as the rails would allow. I found myself shifting around every 3-4 seconds, trying to get the saddle to some sort of horizontal position, but every effort was in vain. This was going to be a long ride.
We eventually got to a decent climb about 3-4 minutes in length. I was frustrated by sitting in the pack, it's just not my style and it was bugging me. Despite needing to sit in to compensate every watt I was losing from the limp seat position, I went to the front and hammered up the climb. It's easy in hindsight to say this was a mistake because I probably burnt the only match I had. I stayed on the front another 10 minutes or so until we got to the turnaround, at which point I was happy to sit back in. The boys had other ideas though and attacks started going, firstly by Luke Bell who had freshened up from his bridge at the start of the race. I had no power to respond, I was just getting nothing from the legs. At this point I resigned to the fact I would be fighting to finish the ride, as the perceived effort went up and the watts went down.
The next hour on the bike was one of the most mentally toughest periods I have endured in racing. I was getting shelved everywhere on the bike by guys that I know are no better than I. I couldn't even keep in a legal draft. The Boise 'steppe' is no place for a weak mind, and even though I could see the guys ahead who dropped me, I knew I was only going to get further behind. I made concessions with myself to get me to the end. The first concession was that it would be easier to actually finish the ride than wait for the sag wagon. The second concession was that as soon as I had finished the race I would book a flight back home to Australia and it would all be okay. That was the main thought that kept me going during the race, a flight home. A third reason I continued was simply that I needed the points to secure my spot for Mont Tremblant. In between all those thoughts were sub-thoughts cursing myself for not tightening a bolt The seat was now moving either every pump of the legs. I normally have the problem of over-tightening bolts and stripping threads. Shit happens...
I had memorised my bike split from Boise in 2013. I had a strong bike last year, but I knew between my stronger legs and faster equipment that I could go much faster. In thinking before the race, I was looking forward to seeing the time at dismount line minutes ahead of said memorised split. In reality, I watched that split tick over and knew I was still a good 4-5 minutes from T2. I just couldn't wait to get off that bike, I'd only gotten slower in the last 10 miles. I eventually made it.
I felt like a beginner getting off the bike, that same hurt I felt trying to run off the bike in my first triathlon. It was an odious feeling; my muscles hadn't taken well to the numerous different positions of the loose saddle. I was that far back in the field that I didn't put any pressure on myself to start cranking the first few miles. It would have been a victory just to finish the race. I saw Crowie on the sideline, he said something to me that I can't remember. I thought about stopping and telling the champ about my misfortune, an excuse as to why I was so far behind, but I chose to labour on as I had a better place to be; the finish line.
The first few miles were really lonely. I'm used to being up the front off the bike, so I either have a lead cyclist or other athletes around me in the race. This time I had nothing, no one in front, no one behind. It felt like I was on a training run, there were no race emotions. This all changed when I caught the first glimpse of 5th place up ahead. The turnover picked up. If I was a dog, my tail would have been wagging. I caught and passed Derek Garcia, a guy with an amazing story as a recent cancer patient who fought the illness throughout 2012. This was no time to be sympathetic though, I wanted my dignity back. I immediately started looking for 4th place.
I finished the first lap and immediately welcomed the presence of AG'ers on the course. Anyone to race against to keep the fire alive was all I needed, no matter how quickly I caught them. The turnover was good at this point, and the KM splits started to get faster, I felt like I was racing again. At about mile 10 I saw someone ahead and I could make out a bald patch on the back of his head. Could this have been Maik Twelsiek in 4th place? I surged to try and catch, confirmed it was Maik and quickly made the pass. I was in 4th.
I held the pace until the second last mile when I saw Luke Bell in 3rd place on an out and back section. I counted and he was just under 4 minutes ahead. I had done what I thought was impossible, to claw my way back to a decent, but there was going to be no podium heroics today. I cruised in the last mile of the race and was temporarily appeased with 4th place. A little victory of the self, I was able to control the uncontrollable on the bike, but I was in no way satisfied with the outcome. I sit here now in Vail CO 8 days after the race and am still not satisfied. I was able to put the emotions of the race aside and continue on with my training an race plan here in the USA, but I guess that's what racers feel, that's why they get up everyday; to feel that feeling of having done their best possible. I can only be satisfied when I have that feeling. I want to race right now to make up for the disappointment, but that's not good for the season goal at World Champs. I am hungry to feel that satisfaction. Post-parasite & Boise mechanical, I have a lot to look forward too....