The last two weekends I've toed the start line for my first races of the season in New Orleans and Galveston. I've never raced back to back 70.3 races this early in the year, so I knew I was in for a bit of a challenge. Both races promised to be flat and fast with a solid pro field, which would be a perfect fitness test moving into the bulk of the season. Heading into the New Orleans race I knew I was fit, if not a bit under-rested. I was confident I could make some noise at the front of the race and start the season with a bang. This feeling was re-affirmed when I read a preview of the race from the Canadian Triathlete Magazine...ARTICLE HERE Of course, it was a bit surprising to learn I was actually Canadian, but to be mentioned as a contender was encouraging!
In New Orleans, we had a wetsuit swim where Andy Potts, Matt Chrabot, and myself made an early break. The new BlueSeventy Helix is pretty incredible and I was surprised just how much the flexibility has improved on the old suit (which was awesome to start!). On the bike, the three of us kept the foot on the gas and ended up covering the first 30 miles in just over an hour with a nice tailwind. Unfortunately, early on while making a pass to take the lead I got too close to Matt before moving over and was called for a 5 minute slipstreaming penalty. This meant that I had to sit in the penalty tent midway through the bike while the rest of the race passed me by! I moved from 1st to 14th during that time and am slightly ashamed to admit it mentally ended my day. Once back on the bike, I couldn't muster the energy or focus needed to gain ground on the group and ended up coming into transition with the mindset of running the half marathon as a solid training day. With Texas on my mind, I ran a steady pace to finish 11th and immediately started the recovery process with a massage, ice bath, and First Endurance Ultragen.
Thank you to TriBike Transport for taking care of my bike between the races. As easy as it was to travel down to New Orleans with my new Armored Hen House, not having to break down and build up the bike between the two events was incredible. I spent the next week training very lightly and trying to rest as much as possible. The week went by very quickly and I found myself back on a plane heading to Texas just four days after arriving back in VA.
In Galveston, I met up with my fantastic hosts Dave and Maria in their beautiful guesthouse. I was relaxed and confident that the training day in New Orleans would pay dividends with a strong showing in another strong field. I picked up my bike from TriBike Transport, hung out at the Dimond tent, and took care of registration in the 100% humidity and thunderstorm-filled Texas weather. I checked in right behind eventual winner Lionel Sanders, who has joined Andy Potts and others as triathletes that my wife cheers for other than (and instead of) myself...
Race day brought a non-wetsuit swim and another small swim break away. This time, Davide Giardini took off like lightning and left us in the dust. I pushed the bike pace early and by the 30 minute mark I passed Andy for 2nd place. I made sure to be very cautious about my passing and avoided any penalties this time! Everything was set for a serious attack and hopefully a gap on the field heading into the run. The humidity wasn't a problem with the new EFS Pro and the Wattie Ink kit kept my comfortable as I kept the power up. Unfortunately, my legs did not have the strength to keep up the pace and I started to fall back. Slowly at first, but after about 90 minutes of riding I was in serious trouble. I simply did not have it as the chase group caught and passed me with ease. By the time I hit the run, I was just plain out of gas. I had no reason not to test the run pace and had only over-amitious self to blame, so I took off out of transition with the goal of salvaging my day.
Luckily, the blow up on the bike kept my HR low and I actually felt pretty good once I got my running legs underneath me. I was able to reel in a few of the athletes from the chase group and saw a group of athletes standing on the side of the road who were sent off course. Despite never wanting to improve my place due to others misfortune and feeling bad for the guys affected, I was suddenly close to running my way into a payday! The 3 loop run course provided plenty of spectator support and many opportunities to see my competitors so I knew I was close heading into the last few miles. Unfortunately, I came up just a few seconds short of passing Greg Bennet for a money position and had to settle for a 7th place finish after a rollercoaster day of racing.
After the race, Chris from Ruster Sports helped me pack up the bike and I got to hang out with the famous Dimond Van. I then spent the afternoon relaxing and enjoying the company of my fellow racers at the Lost Bayou Guesthouse and telling war stories. It was a nice end to a long two weeks of racing.
I enjoyed the experiences from the past two weeks, but am hungry to get back into training for Challenge Knoxville! Thank you to all of my family, sponsors, and supporters who are reading this. The season is young and I have plenty more racing to come! For now, I've got my training plan full of recovery stroller walks. Next stop Knoxville.