On July 14, 2007 I arrived in the parking lot of Lake Gardner in Amesbury, MA not knowing anything about the sport of triathlon. Having only watched a handful of races in my lifetime, I was woefully unprepared for the challenge before me. While I'd grown up as a swimmer, I spent exactly zero minutes swimming in the lead up to the event. Though I knew how to ride a bike, I had no idea how to ride a bike well or fast. And running off the bike was a concept so foreign that it's a minor miracle that I made it across the finish line. I even wore socks.
In the seven years since that day I've changed a lot as an athlete and even more as a person. The major milestones in the years since that first race include - in this order - an engagement, a college graduation, employment, seven moves between apartments, a change in employer, homeownership, puppy adoption, and marriage. In that mix I also discovered that I have somewhat of a talent for the sport of triathlon, though my own valuation of those skills has ebbed and flowed. I learned how to train, I've spent countess hours doing that training, and as a result I've had some success racing. Given that my place in the sport was birthed at Powow in 2007, few races mean as much to me as the one held every July in Amesbury. While the name of the race and its management team has changed over the years, it remains important to me.
|2007 - when I didn't know the flying mount existed|
|So young and clueless|
Just six days after crossing the line at Challenge St. Andrews I repacked my bag, tossed my bike in the car and headed south. Hardly an ideal situation for my best racing, I knew the day would require some artful racing in order to be a success. I'd won the race in 2013, but I knew repeating under these circumstances was not going to be an easy feat. But earning a paycheck was likely if I used my brain to get around the course. With some money on the line I'd done some homework and spotted Dustin Weigl on the start list. Dustin's an incredible athlete who will, in all likelihood, turn pro in the next few years. We've raced together before and have taken turns grossing the finish line first. That said, Dustin had won three straight races heading into DAM and is having an incredible season. For me, getting to the finish first was going to be difficult on tired legs.
It's no secret that I'm swimming better than ever this year and I intended to use that to my advantage again on Saturday. At the gun I went to the front and pushed the pace. My goal was to put as much time between myself and everyone else - particularly Dustin - as possible in the swim. I figured a minute gap would be a good start to the day and that's about what I got. I didn't necessarily go all out in the water as I knew my body was running on a fixed amount of energy for the day, but I did enough to make sure others had some work to do once they were back on land.
My first transition seemed to go okay, though looking at the splits it seems that I was taking my time. Oops. Seriously, 1:18 for a transition that took me less than a minute last year at the same venue is not good. While not the end of the world, it is something that bothers me. Giving away time in transition is completely needless. There's no excuse to lose time while standing still. Along with my switch back to short course racing, it looks like I'll be dedicating a bit more time back to transition practice in the driveway the rest of the year.
I spent the first 10 miles of the bike with my head down just following the flashing blues of the two police escorts in front of me. I was riding hard, but not irresponsibly so. Again, I was well aware that things would likely fall apart at some point given the tax my body had paid just a few days earlier in Canada. My objective was simple: delay the onset of that collapse as long as possible by managing my effort early.
At mile 10, as I crested the final hill on the course, Dustin finally made his way to the front of the race. Knowing that he's phenomenal runner, I figured my chances at a win were over but I knew I could drag myself to a solid second if I was smart. I asked Dustin as he came alongside whether or not anyone had come with him on the bike course. They hadn't, he indicated, and we rolled through the next 2.5 miles separated only by three bike lengths.
The second transition went much more smoothly than the first and I exited just steps behind Dustin. Unfortunately, that was as close as I'd be until after I crossed the finish line. He ran the 3 mile course in 15:4x and that was a pace I simply couldn't match on a good day, let alone on legs that had just raced 70.3 miles six days earlier. I just plodded along at a pace knew I could hold without imploding. It was somewhere in the 6 minute per mile range. It wasn't impressive and it certainly wasn't pretty, but it got the job done. By the turnaround point I saw that I had 2nd place wrapped up by about 3 minutes and just cruised into the finish.
With the race over, I was reminded of why I love local short course races. I knew so many people at the event and had a chance to catch up with many of them - mostly Nancy Thomson who I spoke with for the better part of an hour. The atmosphere around these sort of races is so relaxed and everyone's guard is down. It's not the same vibe you get at longer races or corporate branded events. For me, it's an environment you can't beat and it's what first drew me into the sport seven years ago. It's easy to feel pressured to perform on bigger stages and at longer distances as you progress through the ranks of the sport. The thinking around the sport is, generally, that the longer your race and the more people you race against, the better you must be. Sadly, it's the state of the sport today. For some, it's what they look for in the sport, but I was reminded this weekend that there's no reason to follow that path if it's not one that makes me happy. With that in mind, I redid the rest of my schedule for the season and picked races that looked fun rather than being the ones I'm "suppose" to do. It's the best decision I could have made and my outlook on the rest of the year couldn't be more positive.
|At least this time around I looked like I knew what I was doing!|