October 9, 2012

Cancun ITU Sprint World Cup

After I rearranged my schedule, my final race of the season ended up being in Cancun, Mexico. Let me tell you, not a bad place to finish off the season! Even though it was 85 degrees out, with 75% humidity and random thunder and lightning rain storms, I got to stay and hangout with an awesome group of people which made the whole race experience that much better!

The Race:
It was a one lap 750 meter swim with a beach entry that, thanks to growing up near the ocean my whole life, I was able to get an awesome start. I was out in front from the very beginning and held that position throughout. Around the second buoy when I was starting to head back to shore, I took a look back and saw I had a gap to the rest of the field. I didn’t want to get out onto the dead flat bike course solo, so I eased up quite a bit and by the time I exited the water I had the #1 ranked athlete, Steffen Justus (GER), on my heels.

Steffen and I worked together on the bike keeping a solid 15 second gap back to the chase group, but when we were just finishing the first of three 7k laps, I look back and I have about a 20m gap on Justus. I eased up and waited for him to get back on my wheel and when he did he yelled to me “FLAT, FLAT!” Since we had 15 seconds on the chase group (which was basically the entire field) he decided not to stop at the wheel station and continued to ride hard with his rear wheel completely flat! He told me “Let’s go Tommy!” and pulled through with his flat. I was shocked, amazed, and totally confused about what to do. Since he had a flat, he wasn’t able to ride as fast as would be necessary to stay away from the chase group, plus it was forcing me to put in more effort than I wanted to. About 2k into the second lap I looked back and we only had six seconds on the chase group so I told Justus “I’m done” and we both sat up and waited for the chase pack. Once I was in the group I just played it smart and saved as much energy as possible all the way into T2.

Coming into T2 I worked really hard for perfect positioning, and I was able to get off the bike first which allowed me to have a flawless transition. I started the run in the lead with no one around and locked into my pace. But at this point I wasn’t feeling great at all. 

The lack of running I have done over the last 2 months was very evident. I was right at my threshold, and I didn’t even go with groups of guys that were running by me - I knew that I needed to run my own race for maximum performance. I did just that and had a much better second lap where I passed a few guys that went out way too hard and finished strong for a 19th place finish. My 5k time at the end of the race was about 30-40 seconds slower than what I would have liked to have run, and what I was running at the beginning of the year and in the French Grand Prix races; but overall I’m very happy with that performance in respect to the fact that the time I had to prepare was less than ideal to be able to show up to this race with full fitness.

F1 Super Sprint San Diego

After WTS Stockholm, getting sick, and having to take two full weeks off of training, my end of the season race schedule completely changed. Last minute I added the San Diego F1 Super Sprint race to my calendar to help me prepare for my final race of the season – ITU World Cup Cancun. The F1 race is a Draft Legal, 300 meter swim (1 lap in the ocean with chest high set waves), 4 mile bike (10 x 700 meter laps), and 1.5 mile run (5 x 500 meter laps), which you go through TWICE! This race was perfect preparation for me to get my anaerobic system ready to rock and roll because it’s literally 45 min full gas. There was a great field lined up and plenty of spectators to make this a must see and must race event.

The Race:
Only 20 men were invited to race and even though I was wearing #1 it was first come first serve for transition space and swim start line up. We all chose our spaces and places and before we knew it we were off and racing.

The swim was really short because everyone could run about half way out to the first buoy, then just inside the second buoy the waves were breaking so everyone was able to body surf in. I had a great start and was the first one around both buoys, and then a set wave came in right as I was starting to head back to shore. I had to sprint for about 10 seconds but I was able to get into the wave and ride it all the way to shore which gave me a solid 12 second gap over the second place athlete Dylan McNeice. I was literally in the water for about 2.5 minutes before getting on the bike, and after I saw I had a gap I decided to just go for it solo on the bike.

I rode by myself for four laps until Dylan caught me and then the two of us worked together alternating entire lap pulls. There was a problem with the lap counter so each time I came through I would yell to the spectators “what lap am I on?” and listen for a response from someone. I had my Garmin on so I was pretty sure how many laps I had left, but the confirmation from the crowd made it more fun and more reliable. The course was very technical with four very narrow 90 degree turns on each lap. Since I was racing Cancun the next weekend I was being overly cautious so that I was 100% sure I was going to keep the rubber side down. There was no benefit for me to be taking risks through the corners so I just babied through them and accelerated hard coming out. Not a very energy efficient approach, but I was fine with that for a training race. Because of my conservative approach, the chase pack was able to come within about eight seconds of me and Dylan heading into T2.

T2 got a little messed up and everyone had to be very alert because we were running out the same way that the bikes were coming in, but despite the chaos I was able to be out on the run course first with a small gap. This is where my race “ended”. I was literally dead tired from head to toe because I only had 2.5 weeks of training (which barely had any anaerobic efforts) and so I was running as hard as I could but ended up getting passed by almost the entire field. 

I started the 2nd swim well down and never came back from that. The next time on the bike I joined the lead group (Lapped athletes aren’t DQed, but they aren’t allowed to pull through) and just sat in the group without taking a pull. Sitting in was awesome, the 2nd bike ride was 100% easier than the first. After the lead group came into transition I finished my final lap on the bike and started the last run in who knows what position. I did my best to run hard and keep my form up, but once again I was just getting passed like crazy, and ended up almost getting last.

I had no sign of breathing issues; I was just straight DEAD tired from racing with my heart rate that high for that long without a solid base of training and no speed work. This style of racing is awesome for the spectators and can really showcase the sport of triathlon. There’s no faking it in these races either, just full on for 45 min! Ideally this will become a series in the future that I hope to be a part of to help the growth of Olympic style, spectator friendly, triathlon.