Columbia... the big day had arrived! Unfortunately, as has proven to be the case in recent races, weather is not on my side, and this time my health was failing me. I woke up Saturday AM, the day before the race, with a painful sore throat and it carried into Sunday. To boot, it had rained heavily early Sunday morning, making for some perilous conditions out there. Fortunately, there was almost no wind.
But no matter what, I was going into this race expecting to go all out, leave nothing to spare. I expected to win my age group and place top 40 overall. Would I? I had a tough competitor in my age group, Jason Howard, and a field stacked with pros and elite amateurs. I had my work cut out for me.
Got to the race site and uncovered my bike from the tarp I used to protect it from the rain. I think that was a good idea. My drivetrain was clean and seat and aerobars dry. I lubed myself up and put on my wetsuit and proceeded to the swim start. All the waves before me headed out into the lake and next was my turn. My wetsuit felt like it fit me well this time, I gave my shoulders a little more slack.
GO! I took it out hard to separate myself from the middle of the pack. My stroke was feeling good. I found some people to draft off of and I was swimming straight. Things were going well... until the turn around, about 1/3rd of the way in. I started feeling tired. What? Why? I started worrying, what if I can't turn this around? I swam for about 400-500 meters feeling despair. I was losing drafts and having to breathe more. Finally, I looked up and saw the shore in the distance, about 500 meters away. I felt a rush of confidence and I relaxed and started swimming. I got a second wind! I churned it into the shoreline and got out of the water and ran into transition. SWIM TIME -- 23:56... not good but a big improvement over last year.
I got into transition and looked for my bike. It wasn't there. Where is my bike!??! I looked left and right, up and down, confused and shocked. I couldn't find my bike!! I finally realized I was in the wrong side of transition and ran to the other side to find my bike. There you are, ZeroZeroTwo! Wasted 15-20 seconds. Damnit. Got my wetsuit off, bike shoes, helmet and glasses on, and ran out of transition. Michelle told me Jason Howard was 2 minutes ahead. I had my work cut out for me because he's a good biker. But I knew my bike fitness would get me closer. I hopped on and started riding.
And ride I did. One of the best rides ever. I was shooting up hills and going FAST. I felt like a rocket. I passed hundreds of people. I didn't get passed once. But I still didn't see Jason Howard.
Then... the unthinkable (to me, at least) happened... 5 miles left to go and a huge hill just up ahead... I started feeling a consistent vibration in my saddle and heard an aubible bumping noise. My bike pace slowed, despite efforts to speed up. I HAD A FLAT TIRE?!?! No way. Why now?! But it wasn't completely flat. It was getting harder and harder to ride though. Turns out it was a small puncture, but the slow release of air meant that I could continue to ride, but the rolling resistance would keep increasing, making it harder to keep pace and requiring me to pedal much harder than normal to keep pace. I felt despair. The race was over, I thought. Still, I had to get to transition and keep pushing. Who knows what would happen? Trust your fitness, Andy.
The tire went completely flat about a fifth of a mile from transition and I coasted in. A 23 mph average before the flat turned into a 22 mph average for the bike leg. I lost 3 minutes. DAMNIT. BIKE SPLIT -- 1:09:20, 22.0 mph, 68th place... good placement, but I was doing far better than that before the flat.
I got into transition. I still had a chance to rectify the flat with a good run. I slapped on my flats and hopped out of transition to start my run. I ran hard. I didn't think about pain or suffering. I just ran. Barely looked at my watch. Passed 70+ people. I just focused on running as fast as my legs would let me. It was a brutally hilly course, but I didn't care. I just ran. I still didn't see anyone in my age group. I thought that it was over... I neither won my age group nor placed. Around mile 4, I passed a stocky looking fellow who had a big X on his calf where his age should have been. Strange, I thought, he must be a Clydesdale or something. He tried to stay with me but dropped back shortly after. About a quarter of a mile to go, I'm going fast as I can. I see Michelle and Brian. They say "I think you're third in your age group" Hey, looks like I'm going to place at least... a glimmer of hope. I sprinted to the finish. RUN SPLIT -- 38:10, 20th place
I left the finish chute feeling embarassed and like a failure. All that training, was it for naught? I felt miserable. I had no idea what my times were but I didn't want to know. But I had to know. I went to the board where the results were posted and got the shock of my life.... I won my age group! And 39th overall! HUH?! What? How? I saw no one on the course in my age group. I was so confused. But so happy. I accomplished my place goal and my "B" time goal of just around 2:15:00. Turns out that guy I passed around mile 4 with the crossed out age was Jason Howard! Just goes to show me that the race isn't over until it's over. I'm glad I didn't give up in spite of the flat tire.
Reactions: Happy with my placement, not with my times. My swim was about 50 seconds slow. My bike split doesn't accurately reflect my effort and what I had been doing prior to the flat. My run was also a little slow. I could have been top 25 without that flat tire. But I'll take what I got. I'm motivated to train harder and harder. I still have a ways to go.
4 days ago