The weekend was even more special because I had Ashley along for the first time in quite a while. With her somewhat busy schedule, it's rare she can sneak away for a weekend so I was happy to have her cheering on the sideline. We met up with our great hosts for the weekend, Marc and Angela Young, who lived on the run course only a few miles from transition. I gave a quick pre-race interview to the Rev3 Staff, attended the pro meeting, and participated in the pro panel while nervously watching the weather forecast. By the time we were eating dinner (best pre-race dinner ever...), it was in the mid 50's with wind and occasional rain... Great.
Race morning came around and the weatherman was unfortunately correct. It was not pleasant, but I took the view that everyone had to deal with the same thing and all I could control was my attitude. I figured if I was racing for people fighting cancer, a bit of wind and rain was nothing! Warm-up was uneventful and it was nice having Ashley around keeping me on task (what do I do without her?). I headed down to the swim start ready to race aggressively and let the chips fall where they may. Given that the strategy had almost worked at Cedar Point a few weeks back, I figured that with a shorter race I would have less time to get caught at the end. Of course, the spectacular blow-up from Cedar Point was still in my legs and my mind so it was honestly very difficult to convince my body to tempt fate as the horn sounded.
The start of the swim was smooth and uneventful with a clear shot to the first buoy and a relatively small pro field. I knew there were 4-5 guys who could win the race so I wanted to put in as much time as I could early on. I pushed the pace the entire swim and lead from the start. I came out of the water just over 17 minutes later with Kyle Leto and Matt Wisthoff on my heals. We had a gap on the rest of the field so I knew my pace-making was having it's intended result. In transition, I fumbled with arm warmers as I stripped off the BlueSeventy wetsuit. It took me a few extra seconds but I knew that it was time well spent as we started the bike leg.
The three of us went back and forth for a few miles as I tried to get my legs to get moving. Although my plan was to be aggressive, it's not my forte to blast short and high power. I started to warm up a bit (legs, not overall temp) and noticed that the other guys were fading slightly so I put in a surge to gain just a bit of separation. As the separation grew, I pushed harder and felt better. It was freezing, raining, windy, and hilly. My visor was fogging, my body was cold, and I was constantly pushing sanity taking turns and downhills at speed. It was a blast. I actually started to enjoy myself in a weird sort of way as I finished the last few miles heading back to the park. I hit the second transition feeling better than I thought possible after averaging over 350 watts and with a nice 2:45 lead on 2nd place!
I knew I hadn't been able to do much running coming off of Cedar Point, but I also knew that everyone behind me had dealt with the same tough bike and wouldn't be fresh enough to put in super fast times. The run was just as tough as the bike and I knew that all I had to do was hold on. The last 8 miles of Cedar Point were replaying on my mind as I kept a steady pace and avoided pushing too hard. It was a controlled effort the entire run through more hills, cold, and rain. Around mile 5, I got a time check that I still had roughly 2 minutes. I knew it was in the bag and started to let myself enjoy it a bit. Coming into the finish line, it was great to see Ashley and to break the tape with one of the biggest wins of my career.
I couldn't be happier with the win given the special nature of the race, the tough conditions, my wife spectating, and my struggles with injury all year. I am happy to have raced for Evan and given him one more reason to stay strong against cancer. In honor of the Half Full cause, I'll be donating a portion of my prize money to the Ulman Cancer Fund along with my normal donation to the Blazeman Foundation. I encourage any of you reading this to donate (to either cause) as well.
Thank you to Rev3 for putting on a great race for a great cause. Thank you to the Young family for taking ashley and I in for the weekend. Congratulations to everyone who braved the weather and completed the race! I couldn't do what I do without great support from friends, family, and sponsors along the way. BlueSeventy, First Endurance Nutrition, ISM Saddles, 3Sports in Richmond, The Sport Factory, and Utopian Coffee all have been great. I'll be toeing the line again in 6 short days down in Rev3 South Carolina. I would say I'm hoping for better weather, but given this weekend I'm looking for storms!