Pacific Grove 2014

As always this years Tri-California Pacific Grove was a blast and it fell on such a beautiful times I had to remind myself I was racing and needed to refocus on what I was there for. This is another annual favorite for me because it is fun format, draft-legal, and it is close to home. Not to mention it starts at noon! I had been feeling pretty run down for a while leading up to the event and a week before I was not sure if I would race at all but as the rest took hold I felt better and better up until race day and I am glad that I decided to toe the line.

There are always some regulars that race this event that I know well and love racing with including John Dahlz and Tommy Zefares who are both NorCal natives and we have been racing together for years. This year saw the late addition of several ITU athletes that regularly race in Europe and are on a totally different level than most of us locally so it promised to be a fast day.

Right from the start Tommy and the other ITU guys hit the gas and a group of six had a gap on us at the first buoy! I was swimming with two other guys though and I figured that group would fragment and we might catch one of them and get someone coming up from behind so chasing might be a workable option. At this point I got distracted because the water conditions were so amazing! The kelp had receded some from years past, possibly because the water has been so warm, and we didn't have to crawl over any! On top of that the water was really clear and we were swimming over a rocky kelp forest with all kinds of fish and other sea life floating around. This was one of those moments I had to catch myself because I found myself sightseeing with things on the ocean floor and loosing track of the guy in front of me. The swim was very smooth and I was taking it a little easy partially because I knew I couldn't catch the guys ahead of us on my own and partially because I still wasn't sure of how good I was going to feel later on.

I exited the water with two other guys and I was glad not to be riding alone but also hopeful that we would catch any stragglers up the road and put time into anyone chasing. T1 was smooth, except for the fact that I lost my goggles on the way to my bike and this time they weren't there when I went back later :( I loved those goggles. The three of us exited transition together and immediately started working well together and got some rotation going. At the turn around Tommy had a gap on two guys chasing together and there was one guy chasing them...John was another thirty or so seconds back and it was about a minute and thirty seconds back to us. That made the three of us 6th 7th and 8th on the road. After we made the first turn around we had a solid gap on anyone else but there were some solid bike/runners getting together to form a chase and we would need time on them before the run. On the way back to transition I really felt better than I thought I would and I knew I was riding stronger than the other two I was with so when I saw that the gaps had not changed with the exception of us making some time up on John I was excited that we might be able to pick him up and then start making some real progress.

After the turn to start the second lap I really caught a good deep breath and something told me I could bridge to John alone and leave the two I was with reducing the number of people I would have to run against later. At the first rise in the road I attacked to get the gap and then put my head down and started going about the task of catching the guys up the road to get into the podium chase.

To my surprise John had eased up a bit, I think expecting us to catch him, and once we got together the gap to the two I had left grew quickly. John and I worked really well together, knowing each other well and having ridden together a fair amount in the past. It is nice to have someone that has similar strength and work ethic to you to really get some good work done.

Amazingly with how strong I felt like we were riding, we still weren't making up time on the four up front but by the end of the bike we had put a sizable gap on the rest of the field and it felt good to know that we had a couple of minutes to work with on the run. We exchanged encouragement coming into T2 and talked about the people in the field and how they might run and what to look out for before a frantic change of shoes and a dash out onto the run course.

John is a stronger runner than I am and has been for years so when he started out at a pace I figured I could probably not handle I just pulled my visor down and listened to my body, waiting for it to tell me where my limit was. I felt surprisingly good and I knew I was running well which gave me the confidence to push a little harder once I got a mile or so in. On the second lap of the run it looked like John was fading a little and I could see that I was catching up to him. I think he was fading and I was accelerating because I caught and passed him at about mile four and started the last lap with a bit of a gap. I never looked back and was feeling so good that I am sure I ran the fifth mile a little too fast because at the last turn around my body really started to shut down. As I faded John came past me again with a fury and I couldn't go with him. I gave him a pat on the back and did what I could to keep my pace up but I was toast. John got twenty or so seconds by the line but I was totally happy with where I finished.

Given how I was feeling I am very happy with how the race went! It was great to have family and friends cheering me on as well as tough competitors to keep me motivated. A special thanks to Nancy Robertson Zaferes for capturing so many great photos of the event!

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