Los Angeles is a wonderful place when the city sets the stage for a few thousand athletes to swim, bike, and run all over its landscape. It becomes a celebration of human movement for all ages. Joy permeates, asphalt cracks, the human spirit lives large.
Venice beach is on fine display when Mauro Cavanha and I roll up on our speed bikes sometime past 5am. The air is fresh and clear with a full moon enchanting the land and sea boundary. My attention during the minutes before the race is on the heavens. The shadow fall creates hues of purple and blue and pink just above the horizon where the endless sky meets with the vast Pacific. Amazingly, in this band of colors is the full moon. I stand, gazing out at nothing and everything, letting the calm envelope my spirit. I let the image tattoo itself in my cortex and begin to let go. The moment lasts forever and I am in awe of it all. I feel something deep from within whisper but firmly state, ‘Thank You’.
A few times earlier this week I pondered to the mighty Pacific about where ‘my’ wave might be at this moment? I visualized catching a wave at just the right instant and riding its energy to shore. I asked the sea for this small pleasure during my race. Upon first glance of the ocean that morning I am a bit disappointed to see calm waters.
I begin heading into the calm ocean to warm up when a silent but powerful surge goes through me, a big smile lights up my face. It felt like entering the water triggered the surf to rumble up. The waves are getting huge! My warm up becomes a body surfing session! Yippeeeee! Some of the waves are scary big. Smash you to pieces big. Whoa, maybe I asked for a bit too much. I catch a few waves but it seems impossible that I might catch one in the event, having to be in exactly the right place for the right wave. I certainly, don’t have the patience during a race to stop and time things precisely. The waves energy become hypnotic and I linger in the feeling of swimming in the largest body of water on the planet.
I spend the rest of my warm up figuring out how to get out with incoming monster waves hurling you back to shore. I use a technique that one implies while surfing and put my nose on the bottom while digging my hands into the sand to anchor my body. Then, you have to wait. When you are racing, it feels like you wait, and wait, and wait…OK, now go. My patience pays off after the gun goes off and I make it to the first buoy with the leaders and a gap behind us.
Once we’re out in the deeper water; the ocean is calm and I do little more than focus on the feet in front of me while swimming in 3rd or 4th position. The swim is awesome, just fun. It’s so cool to have a race like this where an event places importance on ocean swimming and people from all over the globe come to test it. When you are fortunate to be at the front and thriving in these conditions, the challenge puts a huge smile in your soul.
Feeling great nearing the last buoy I consider going for the $1000 swim prime. We turn the last buoy and the 5 of us (Hunter Kemper, Cam Dye, Ben Collins, and Jimmy Seaar) pick up the pace. It seems that I’m just off the pace for winning the prime and settle in to conserve energy for the bike and run. Then, thrilling happens. It is, without a doubt, the best wave of my life. It picks me up like some sort of intelligence giving me a hug. I can hardly believe my fortune and an ear to ear smile sums up my feelings. I’m riding high above Ben and Jimmy and enjoying some sweet surf. The wave thrusts me to the front of the race and I ride it thinking the swim prime is going to be a steal. Alas, although I caught the wave the best, the others also gained some free speed from the wave. Closing in on the beach, I swam longer than I should have while Jimmy stood up and ran to the beach to win himself a grand.
Standing and running up the beach after the swim proved to be the hardest part of the entire day. The HR spikes and you could hear each athlete trying to suck in copious amounts of oxygen. Here, I make a big mistake and forget to get my wetsuit down around my waste. Cam got to his bike just after me and was gone while I fumbled getting my wetsuit off. I never saw him again until the out back on the run with a huge lead. Ben had a poor T1 as well and we mounted the bike together but he was quicker getting his shoes on. This gap remained for the next 10 to 15 miles while growing slightly. Eventually, he pulled away. I caught Jimmy and then Hunter caught us. Jimmy then, got sent to the sin bin with a penalty while Hunter and I vied for pace setter. I tried to drop him but couldn’t shake him. With 5 miles to go Chris foster seemingly came out of nowhere and up’s the pace. I lingered a bit too far back but came in just seconds behind them in T2.
Now, began my main objective for this whole race, to set a PR in the run (currently 33:30). Hunter and Chris began pulling away while I run my pace and feel good. Let’s ease into this and finish strong. Ben did not get too far ahead on the bike and at the first turn around I was close with 2nd thru 4th with a pretty big gap to 6th. Awesome! It is a pleasant surprise to see some of the space created by having one of the faster bike splits on the day. Andrew Russell, though, is a fast runner and too close to be comfortable with my position.
After finishing the 1st 5k lap and feeling strong I did my best to negative split the last lap. Andrew had closed the gap and I braced for an effort that might hold him and his 31 minute 10k speed off. The second time running up Grand Ave put the effort of the race in perspective. My body had been going flat out and running up this incline made it wince a bit. With a little over a mile to go Andrew was close, and it looked like he would catch me. I braced again for a strong finish, he was going to have to earn it.
He attacked going into the steep downhill of Grand Ave and then held a small gap. Once we leveled out again he held good form and kept me out of striking distance. I actually, wanted a sprint to the finish for a change, but Andrew held strong so I finished comfortably with nobody in view behind me.
In 2008 at 33 years old I finished the same race in 1:58; today I finished in 1:51! It feels good to be getting fitter at my age. I think I’ll keep doing it for a while. Live, learn, adapt.
A few hours after the race I was back on a plane to Boise, 30hours in LA with a little under 2 of it being flat out racing. It is surreal to be home that night with my family in Boise after taking to the streets of LA just a few hours ago. I love it. The race feels like a dream, it is a dream. It feels so good to be home with the family, celebrating our health. ‘Thank You’, comes a strong whisper from somewhere deep within.
LA Triathlon Results 2012 6th place