It took the 75 swimmers several minutes to line up for the in the water start to the largest ITU Pan American Cup this year.But there was no rush, the start would happen sooner or later and with the fog burning off the sun felt good on my cheeks.The massive start list had everyone a little jittery, the gun boomed and the bay became froth and elbows.It’s difficult to say if I went straight or entered another lane or if the guys around me just thought I liked to play water polo in the first part of a triathlon but it got a little bumpy.I knew of several speedy swimmers in the field and did my best to swim in ‘free’ water and keep up with them, but the real estate seemed limited.
Turning the first buoy strung out the field and I was still surrounded by a lot of strong swimmers.Near the end of the first lap the lead group gaped mine and I made a wise decision to conserve energy and not attempt to chase them down. If had tried, I may or may not have caught the group but I would have been exhausted.Settling into a good pace we closed out the two loop swim about 40 seconds down to the 1st group.
Being this far down in the swim would usually cause me to panic a bit, however, today I felt ok with it.Mostly because I knew my biking fitness was through the roof.Sure enough, in the first few miles of the bike I merged with 5 other guys in an attempt to catch the lone leader, Ben Collins.
I felt like a kid playing with his neighborhood buddies.The bike race was just plain fun; I distinctly remember wishing we could do a few more laps.We took 90 corners and found the challenge of taking the best lines thrilling.I was also certain that we would catch Ben or he would wither away with fatigue before the bike was over.This was no day for a solo attack, the wind was fierce.
Nearing the end of lap 5 (6 total) Ben was tantalizingly close and it seemed one good pull from one of us would reel him in.We did not.In the last kilometer of the bike I surged and maintained a small enough lead (plus having the fastest T2 split) to start the run in 2nd.I had a big inner smile; these ITU races sure are fun!
Starting the run at a comfortably fast pace was enough to keep my competitors at bay and I felt like I was making up some ground on Ben.I was sure he would fade in the run after his effort on the bike and anyway I was going to do my best to keep him honest.
After lap 1 (of 3) the gap to Ben was just about 25 seconds.It was a game of cat and mouse and it seemed only a matter of time before we caught up. (I was now running with Fisher from Australia, only 19 years old…watch out for him).We worked together in the wind but we did get a little complacent.Slowing to a slightly more comfortable pace, we still thought it was enough to close in on the leader.
At the end of the 2nd lap there was no change, Ryan and I running side by side with the rabbit just up the road.But Ben hung in there and earned a very impressive victory, time trialing the whole race!The guy has some fitness, took a big risk and it paid off.Ryan and I, so focused on catching Ben, lost some mojo in the last 1.5 miles and were caught by Sexton from the U.S. and Sacchetto from Brazil.
I’m thrilled with my race and enjoyed the whole bit…well, apart from the last mile, that hurt.Placing well is great and the prize money is needed to keep up this expensive hobby.It’s almost a race for survival sometimes.However, I’m loving the journey and thankful for my good fortunes.In my next race, I’ll be upgraded.Yes, the big fancy, holly cow, transformation, evolution, shock and awe of being a DAD!Whoa!I’ll have Dad Power!