I did not cheat…
In a race where cheating was embraced by many, I made a personal pact with myself that I was going to hold on to my integrity and race as fairly as I could. The Clearwater 70.3 World Championships has, over the past 3 years of its short history, acquired the reputation of a draft pack opportunity race. It also has the reputation of being a very flat and fast race, the perfect opportunity for a personal PR.
After being frustrated by pack riding in my last event, I knew I could not let this frustration ruin another race. And besides, this was the last race of a very long season and I was ready to end it on a high note.
My wave went off at 7:20am, just 35 minutes after the first Pro wave. I didn’t even warm-up, I just swung my arms around to loosen up the shoulders, splashed my face a minute before the start, and when the gun went off I was on my way. It was a beach start, of which I usually don’t care for as these short legs can’t seem to get over the water very well, but to my surprise, I was out in front after a little running and a few dolphin dives. Where were all the fast swimmers? Probably all in a line right behind me, I assumed. I felt good on the swim, got used to the saltwater taste in my mouth and didn’t see any jellyfish or sharks. A good start to the day. Some waves and current pushed us toward Pier 60 (north) so I was continually correcting and sighting pretty frequently. It was a straight shot out and back, and by the time I was heading back to shore I was mixing in with the stragglers from the waves ahead of me. I swam in like a beached whale and was up, out of the water, and leading my age group. After a quick rinse in the freshwater showers, a strip of the wetsuit by the wetsuit peelers, and I was into transition. Wow, what service in the changing tents. Thanks volunteer ladies! I grabbed black beauty (my trusty Trek) and we were off on our 56 mile journey.
I didn’t pre-ride the course, but had studied the maps so I knew what directions we were headed. I knew that the race for my age group would be coming behind me and it was only a matter of time. I didn’t get passed by anyone for the first 8 or so miles, and then was passed by three girls over the next few miles. They were riding strong and this early in the race, I would have been stupid to try to hang with them, so they rode off out of sight. I went through 25 miles in possibly my fastest 40K pace and then just hoping that I hadn’t gone out too hard. Shortly after mile 25 a pack of maybe 20 riders started coming by me one by one. After the first 5 wheel to wheel, I looked back to find a whole train of men and women and I realized that this was my race, these are the girls that will be winning awards in my age group… and I let them go. This was the first of probably 5 or 6 packs of riders that would pass me over the next 30 miles and each time they would start coming by, I would sit up, stop pedaling, hear my free wheel spin, and wait till they all went by before resuming my own race. I started to get frustrated several times, and each time, I reminded myself that I was going to have a PR here today and I wasn’t going to have an * next to my time saying ” *note: cheated”. So, as much as I could, I rode my own race and am proud of that.
Throughout the ride I got to see several of my Timex teammates and other triathlon friends as they zoomed by. That always helped keep me motivated and focused. By 45 miles I was getting pretty tired of being in the saddle and took every little incline as an opportunity to stand. Training in Wisconsin, in the hills of the countryside, I rarely stay in my aero position for more than a few miles at a time. So asking my body to settle in for 55 of the 56 miles was a lot to ask. I climbed over the final bridge and the crowds of spectators reappeared. It was great to be done and looking forward to a solid run.
I was off the bike, handed it over to the volunteers (such service!) grabbed my gear bag and into the women’s changing tent. Again, the ladies there were great and put sunscreen on my shoulders as I slipped into my running shoes and I was off. I felt surprisingly good and was running solid, clicking the lap split on my Timex to check my pace. Right on target. I took water and a sponge at every aid station to stay hydrated and cool, it was working. I rounded the 180 after my first lap and headed back out for round two. Checking my overall time, I knew that I was having a great day and could certainly post a PR, even if I didn’t maintain my pace. I took a gel at 8 miles, felt like mile 9 lasted forever until realizing that I just missed the 10mile sign, and then checked my time again at the 11 mile mark. I was doing the math, and if I could hang on, I could not only meet my goal of going in the 4:40s, but in fact, I could break 4:40. Holy crap! Those last 2 miles hurt pretty bad and I was pushing as hard as I could. As I passed mile 12 I said a prayer, thanking God for the opportunity to be out there, competing with the best in such a beautiful place, and for the ability to push my body to the limit. I came through the final stretch, checked my watch one more time and knew that I would make it under 4:40, I still couldn’t believe it. I smiled at the line, then nearly collapsed. I had just put forth one of my best competitive efforts that was the perfect culmination to a long and fulfilling triathlon season.
In the end, it didn’t matter what place I took. As a competitor, we always care about our place to some extent, however, today, it was about personal achievement and I far exceeded my personal goals. So really, I could have come in 10th or 30th and I would still feel like I had won… because, in my mind, I did win.
Total time: 4:39:12, 10th 30-34 age group