If you don't already know, this race and I have a little history. This was my seventh year racing it and I had finished second overall the past four years, the Sentinel even ran an article leading up to the race about this fact because it has kind of become a running joke around town. In 2009 I was runner up to Sami Inkanen, one of the best 'amateurs' on the planet, the next year it was James Duff who is a long time fixture in the NorCal triathlon world, 2011 I was runner-up to Brian Lavelle who is a seasoned professional and last year Jack Calhoun, a collegiate swimmer, had a stellar day and ran away with the race. I have been racing well all year and even tough I am a little worn out from the long season, I felt good about this year and hoped to do well.
Race morning went well with lots of handshakes and hugs from friends and family, it looked like it would be a beautiful day. There were some fast faces I recognized and some jazzed up collegiate athletes in transition so I knew it would be fast but I was feeling good. It is so nice to be able to race in your own town, sleep in your own bed and warm up on roads you know. I went for a jog up on West Cliff to stretch and get warmed up...the view overlooking the bay and the sun rising over the mountains was spectacular. There could not be a better way to start the day.
Down on the beach the excitement and energy in the air was so much fun and I was excited to get out there on my favorite course. I lined up next to my good friend Yuta who is a stellar swimmer hoping to follow him for a fast trip around the wharf. At the gun everybody took off and it was a chaotic entry. A few waves were coming in and people were sprinting into the water so we were all crashing into and over each other. After a couple of hundred yards it calmed down and there was already one guy pulling away. I was swimming just behind Yuta which was a great position for me and we started setting a good tempo out to the turn-around. By the time we got to the end of the wharf Yuta had gained about twenty seconds on me but for me that is great as he is incredibly strong. On the way back in I could not see anyone else but I just picked a line I liked and tried to keep my pace up.
|Photo Credit: Martin Spierings|
I felt good coming out of the water and I quickly run up to T1 in hopes of closing down any gaps from the swim as soon as possible. I got into transition and Yuta was getting ready to head out, we exchanged encouragement and as we were heading out someone yelled that the gap was a minute and twenty seconds to the leader. I could not believe it...that would be an incredibly fast swim and I jumped on my bike, making quick work of getting up to speed. There is a short out and back about three miles into the bike course and I got to get a look at the leader. I did not recognize him but he was tall and built like a swimmer so the gap was less of a surprise. I hoped to catch him before the bike was over and I felt good so I set to work. The long section of the course up Highway 1 is beautiful and lends itself to fast sustained riding. This is my favorite way to time trial because there is something about the rhythm of the wheels churning at high speed and the feeling of pumping out a quick tempo that is so satisfying. The air was fairly calm and I was moving along at a good pace so when I got to the turn around and saw that the gap had actually extended I couldn't believe it. I swooped through Davenport and got back on the highway for the fast trip back to town, keeping my head down the whole way and pushing over the hardest gear I could without my legs falling apart.
I made a quick trip through the second transition and got a lot of conflicting information. Someone said the gap was forty seconds and then someone said it was a minute and twenty. I tried to see if anyone yelling numbers actually had a watch and one guy was actually looking at one as I was coming by, 'A minute and twenty!' he yelled. After the race I checked and the gap was actually about one minute and forty seconds. There is a short hill at the beginning of the run with a big crowd of people at the top and as I came to the top I pushed my legs and brought them up to speed amongst the encouragement of family and friends.
Once I got out onto West Cliff I could see the leader off in the distance and I hoped that the run was his weakness and/or he had worn himself out with such a strong swim and bike. I felt like I was running really well and many people I knew were out along the run cheering and giving me encouragement. I must have been running well because I started to cut into the gap pretty quickly and at a mile and a half in the gap was down to forty five seconds. I was feeling hot and tired though and the first aid station didn't come until almost two miles in so the speed started to take a toll on me. As we neared the turn around the gap had shrunk to less than twenty seconds. I was really starting to hurt but I figured that at the rate I was gaining and still having three miles to go, I could get him.
Seeing so close behind gave him some motivation and he picked up the pace just as I was fading a little...the gap came to a standstill around at around ten seconds. He was just ahead of me, close enough that I could hear his footsteps but not quite close enough to hear his breathing. I was baffled that I was no longer gaining on him and somehow that short distance seemed like a brick wall. I would push hard up the little hills but I just was not able to gain any ground. The effort of chasing for such a long way was taking it's toll and I couldn't get that extra speed that I needed. With a mile to go my mind started to get heavy with the realization that another year was going to pass without a win and I just could not believe it. Inside the last half mile I put every last ounce of effort into trying to catch up but it was just too much. The final straight away was a torturous slow drudge, with my head sagging further and further, my body felt like quick dry cement and I walked in the last bit.
I slunk down in the finishing area in disbelief. Again? How? It was so close and I couldn't get it...no way.
Looking back at the numbers, I had a great race. The time was great and I raced really well for this late in the season. It is really hard to reconcile coming that close to a goal, especially one you care about so much, and having it slip away. This is especially so when I did well and still missed out, where the difference could have been a couple of sips of water or a better set of waves during the swim exit. I am glad that I put up such a strong performance but I am really disappointed to have once again missed out on winning my hometown event.
This marked the las race of the season for me and I will be taking some time off while I plan my schedule for next year and focus on lining up sponsorships. Thanks for reading!