After my “vacation with a kick in the head” at nationals, I was ready to prove myself at an Olympic points race once and for all. To catch you up on my luck I’ve had, here’s the order of events that have occurred at all the important races I’ve been to: Food poisoning, bike getting totaled by the airlines, rear wheel blowout, extra lap on the bike, and kicked in the head. So now it was time for some redemption at the Elite Draft Legal Series Finale in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
From the beginning of this race I knew I had a slight advantage because it was a non-wetsuit, current swim which played majorly to the benefit yours truly! Before the race I chatted with 3x Olympian Hunter Kemper about having a breakaway of just us two on the bike, so going into the race my plan A was to ride very hard, get a good size gap on the chase pack, and try to survive on the run. My plan B was to just relax on the bike and try to outrun everyone who might be in the lead pack. I ended up having to ad lib mid race and go with plan C.
The swim started perfectly for me. I had a fantastic dive and was in the lead from 5 seconds into the race. After the first lap Hunter and I had a 30 second gap on everyone, and after the second lap we had a full minute! I honestly was swimming extremely smooth; my HR probably never went over 160 the whole time. Because of this efficient swim I was able to have an awesome transition and get out onto the bike course with a good size gap over Hunter. I got my feet in my shoes quicker and smoother than I ever have and kept taking peeks back to see if hunter was on my wheel. Once he was on my wheel and he got his feet in his shoes we were off. We worked together extremely well the first lap and were stoked to see that we had a minute lead over the chase pack of 13 guys.
Coming down the hill that leads to transition, we had a strong tail wind that was allowing us to be riding a little over 35mph. We were about to finish our first lap (there was 8 laps, and it takes about 7min each lap) and start our second lap when the unpredictability monster reared its ugly head. I was leading with Hunter right on my wheel when a triathlete, who had JUST finished the swim portion, ran into transition RIGHT in front of us. All I had time to do was yell “HEYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!” as loud as I could and swerve. Hunter wasn’t able to react fast enough and he ran straight into the guy causing Hunter to go flying through the air with his bike. I looked back and saw the aftermath and yelled at the top of my lungs “NO WAY DID THAT JUST HAPPEN, NO WAY!” immediately I had to regroup and move onto plan B.
I decided it wouldn’t be smart to ride solo for the next 7 laps with a group of 13 people behind me so I soft peddled until the chase group caught me (which wasn’t for another lap and a half). By the time they caught me my HR was about 110 and I was feeling amazing. When I joined the group I pushed the pace and our group got about a minute lead of the 2nd chase group. I attacked the group about 800m before transition and was able to enter T2 with no one around me. I kinda bogged my T2 and even though I had a slight lead I ended up being 3rd out of transition.
The first lap of the run there was a group of about 8 of us, then the 2nd lap it was whittled down to 4 then the 3rd lap it was just 3 of us. On the final lap it was just two of us, me and Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker (who runs a 14:08 5k). He finally gapped me with 800m to go and ended up cruising in for the victory about 5 seconds ahead of me. 2nd place was a fantastic finish for me, and probably my best performance of the season. My name is now on the map in the draft legal world, and I finally have some ITU points! After having the fastest swim, being one of the strongest on the bike, and having the 3rd fastest run of the day, I’m beginning to establish myself as a “Triathlete” not a swimmer who does triathlons!