2:50am MST, St Petersburg, Florida
The alarm goes off and I awake from somewhere deep and relaxing. There’s a yearning to stay with the bliss but then I jump out of bed and begin preparing the body and mind to test it’s limits against athletes from around the globe. Athletes that are on the frontier of human endurance and expanding the boundaries of what we are all possible of doing.
It’s a blend of science and art to peak yourself for a performance and it is so rewarding to go through the experience. No matter your trade, learning the ebb and flow of your abilities is something we should all strive to excel at. For me, it is thrilling to travel to a community that sets the stage for many of us to do just that.
Every year St. Petersburg has about 5000 triathletes take over the city and challenge themselves to be better. Triathlon is a simple sport, swimming, biking and running are the most basic forms of movement we have. However, perfecting your ability to move is a complex and rewarding struggle to improve your health. When you start the journey towards better health you dive into an ocean that encompasses every aspect of your life. Part of getting it right, means having fun and enjoying the process and realizing you can always be better. It all comes back to love and balance.
50 pro men tred water all creeping forward with some getting upset and others joking. ‘C’mon guys move back’ someone shouts. The announcer yells 5 seconds! I laugh and know what is going to happen next. The creep becomes a full on swim, there is no time to hesitate. The athletes are in a full out sprint just before the actual start but it’s fair enough for a 51.5 kilometer race.
The swimmers in this field are fast, furious, and deep. I consider myself one of these swimmers and for the first 1100m I prove this by pushing the pace just off the front. Then, turning the last buoy for the final 400m I start losing pace. This is my strength in swimming, using my endurance to close out a swim, but today I find myself moving backwards through the field. I lost a full 20 seconds in this stretch!? With hindsight, the fix is easy; more LCM and lake swimming will solve this. Luckily, the lakes are warm enough now and they are my preferred workout. I’ll be frequenting them soon enough.
Even though I closed weakly on the swim I was still confident that I would be with the leaders on the bike or catch up to it. I was wrong. Probably, just by 10 or 15 seconds. Once on the bike I rode well and strong putting in a few all out efforts to close the gap. I made some progress, but it wasn’t enough. The group was right in front of me but I was redlining and just one more immense effort from catching on. While I’m trying to close the gap the talents up the road are doing the same on three leaders that have impressively separated from the rest. Collins, Amberger, and Dye are moving at unprecedented speeds. They have successfully gapped a large handful of the best athletes on the planet.
I’m in the dreaded no-mans-land. Just off the lead group (chase pack of about 12 athletes) and in front of the 3rd group. I make the easy decision, (I’m still wondering if it was the right decision) to hold up for the 3rd group. There is no drafting in the race, but having guys around you to pace and gauge your effort is paramount for staying in control. The pace is comfortable the next 15 miles. Not a good sign when racing the best athletes in the world. You need to be pushing the limits! It wasn’t until just before mile 20 when Greg Bennett flew through the group like we were on tricycles, that I decided to push my limits and go with him. It worked well and I lingered about 20m behind him for the next few miles and well ahead of the group I had been riding with. I had too much energy in the closing 5 miles of the bike.
I felt good with SCOTT’s race rockers on my feet and ran very much in control. Again, probably not quite the effort I’m afforded when racing these talents. I started the run with some of the best runners in the business. Vanort, Foster, and Atkins went on to run low 31 minute 10k’s and would move up the field. However, most of the athletes in front of us were running so fast that no one had a chance of moving up that much. When Greg Bennett and Matt Reed get 17th & 18th (they have both won the race), you know the field is incredibly fast and competitive. I finished in 22nd position.
I am most excited to finish the race feeling strong and recovering within seconds of finishing. My fitness level is very high and with a few tweaks I believe that my next race or three is going to be something special.
The race was very successful because for me the sport is about being as healthy as I can be. That is a never ending quest that boils down to love and balance. I am first a husband and a father who coaches at the Y with the community (ages 7 to 76). Together we are all growing and finding a better understanding of what true health means.
Keep on struggling and improving! Enjoy the journey!