What a difference three months can make! Back in April, I wrote a blog for the AG Corner about my “Category 5 Collapse” at 70.3 NOLA where I went for it all on the bike and paid the price. My two-wheeled attack resulted in my two feet basically walking it home for 13.1 miles. Was a painful lesson to learn but it was definitely put to use! I’ve kept in touch with Josh since that debacle and can’t say enough about his encouragement. Really speaks volumes about what kind of guy he is!
Without further ado, here is my report from the “Race for Redemption” at 70.3 Buffalo Springs and my pursuit of my 70.3 World Championship spot.
The swim is a beach start with a fair share of dolphin diving/running for the first 50 meters. Like I had previously mentioned, I am not a strong swimmer but it is coming around. I had a brand new wetsuit to give me a little confidence and I placed myself on the front row/far right to give me the best angle to the first buoy. When the gun went off, I can say I was in the top 3 of the swim for about 10 seconds and then of course I was getting passed. But, if you can’t be fast then be aggressive. I held my line and really had no issues to the buoy or throughout the course. One of my team’s sponsors, Playtri of Dallas, has an Endless Pool where I have been doing a lot of sighting drills. This definitely paid dividends for me as historically I could never swim straight. This swim was spot on and I exited the water in a little over 35 mins and 28th in my AG. Onto the bike….would I make the same mistake as NOLA?
This bike course is the real deal. They actually added in another huge climb this year. To say it was “windy” would be an insult to Mother Nature. For those that have never been to West Texas, there is nothing to stop the wind from beating you down. There is nowhere to hide. So, a 20 mph wind feels like a 30+ mph wind and there was plenty of it. And, did I mention the projected high temp for the day was 103 degrees? After getting past the two climbs that greet you right out of T1, I focused on getting my HR settled down into my zones and pace my effort. Once hitting the first section of headwind, I was determined to get as aero as possible and not over bike. I reached the first turnaround and then had the benefit of a now massive tailwind. Took in my nutrition and ran out of gears heading back the way I came. Honestly, the crosswinds were the worst part of the ride. With the course layout, there is quite a bit of crosswind between all of the turnarounds. I felt like I was going to get blown off the road. Throughout the ride, I had a death grip on my bar extensions. Again, I focused on my HR zones and moved up from 28th place in my AG out of the water to 8th place off the bike with a split of 2:40. The wind and climbs really took a toll on everyone and the run was setup to be a “last man standing” race.
Just thinking about the run course at BSLT makes my legs hurt. The first 2.5 miles let you get your legs under you but then you are met with a massive hill at mile three. Like the majority of the racers, I chose to power walk it faster than I could run it. I used the walking time to get in nutrition and get my HR under control. After that hill, you get some reprieve from a solid downhill but zero shade for the next seven miles. One more climb and then it was off to “Energy Lab #2” which is a false-flat to the middle of nowhere. You can see the heat beaming off the ground and hear the buzz of all the power lines. You’re surrounded by desert and the turnaround never seems to get closer. You’ve got to gut this part out. I took whatever pace my legs would give me and held on through this section which is about 4.5 miles worth of effort. You encounter one more climb before you are back by the lake in the park. Honestly, the last three miles is extremely taxing on your mind. You can hear the echo of the finish line bouncing off the canyon but you can’t quite see it. I had no idea where I was in my AG because I hadn’t been passed by anyone on the run nor was I really passing anyone either. I was in “no man’s land” for 13.1 miles. I kept looking back over my shoulder but never saw anyone approaching. I crossed the line with a run split of 1:46 and an overall time of 5:07.
I quickly learned I had finished in 7th in my AG and my hopes got really high for a Worlds roll down. Two of my best friends/training buddies/Loncar teammates, Tyler and Ashley Johnson, had incredible races so I knew I was going to the awards dinner regardless. Ashley actually won her AG by 30mins and was the 5th OA Female including PROs! Tyler and I are in the same AG and he had an incredible race for a 4th place finish. I knew I needed to get lucky for a spot. When they finally got to the Male 30-34 AG, I was on the edge of my seat. First place passed on his spot….Second took his…..Third wasn’t there…..Fourth place was Tyler and he got his spot….Fifth took his……so there went the three spots allocated to our AG. BUT, we got an extra spot and when Sixth place was a no show, it rolled to me in 7th! That moment is a blur and I only hope I didn’t totally embarrass myself with my reaction. This is only my second full season in triathlon and my first Worlds race. I am sure there is some type of unwritten rule to “act like you’ve been there before” but I didn’t care. I was going to be excited and show it! The next hour was full of credit card receipts, USADA forms, texts and social media posts. I can’t imagine being more satisfied.
More than anything, I want you to get three things from this. First, a bad race does not define you. This is tough for us “Type A” personalities to come to grips with. There are always more entry fees that can be paid. It’s ok to be upset but use it as a learning and move on. NOLA was an incredibly hard race to stomach but in the end it might’ve been the best thing for me. Second, surround yourself with people you want to emulate. Out of my small training group, there are five of us age-groupers now going to 70.3 Worlds. I learn so much from each one of these friends and we support each other without question. Lastly, don’t ever let a dream feel too big. If your goal doesn’t push you, then it is holding you back from your full potential. There will be dark times where something you want so badly may seem like a fool’s pursuit but the only person that can control your effort is you. You decide what you want in life…you decide what you are willing to sacrifice to get it….and you get to work. It worked for me and it will work for you. Choose to be the best you that you can be.