After a very literal pain in the butt that turned out to be a sacral stress fracture I got the all clear to resume training in March. Instead of going back to aerobic base building basics I decided to test out the ‘old school’ method of training that is racing a tonne to get strong and fit. Back in the Aussie triathlon glory days while I was running around thinking I was going to be the first 5ft NBA basketball player utterly oblivious to triathlon there was a time when you didn’t have to travel abroad to be a professional Australian triathlete. However those that did including the legends Welch, Bevan, Macca, Stewart etc had a crazily busy race schedule and off the back of the Australian season would go on to dominate internationally. I wanted to see whether that method would work for me, hence from March to May I tried that philosophy and did five 70.3/Half Iron distance triathlons in three months. By the last couple of races I was starting to find my form again. Disclaimer- I only think the ‘racing to get fit’ method works for those that have several years of aerobic base work and sound running technique under their belt.
My plan for the States was to take advantage of the speed my youth sometimes coughs up and focus on Olympic Distance racing. It’s taken me a good 5 years of learning how to swim to finally consider this option (huge thanks to Grant Giles). Additionally prize money is normally better than 70.3 and Ironman racing yet and it’s only two hours of suffering so occasionally I can even afford to get a motel before the race instead of sleeping in my hire car.
The hitters of the race included Paul ‘Barney’ Matthews (multiple 70.3 and Olympic Distance Champ) , David Thompson (Rev 3 Series winner and serial podium finisher) Tyler Butterfield (70.3, ITU and Olmpic Distance champ), Stephen Hacket (Aussie who can swim and bike with the very best), Andrew Starykowicz, Eric Linkemann and Andrew Yoder (15yr old with a very good fake ID that lets him win many a short and Long Course race). There were many other U.S guys that were dangerous and a few more that would never get a pro licence in Australia. Aussie Michael Fox also towed the line but after having made the same mistake myself at Rev 3 Quassy of a long flight then only a week at altitude I knew that he was going to have a very tough day. One week at altitude kills, if you survive 3 weeks you’re stronger than ever.
I knew the swim was going to be key to a good race so I was pretty annoyed that the officials let half the pros in the water to warm up and then blocked the other half including myself from entering the water. I’m 62kgs, I need to warm up or I turn into a small ice sculpture. I found Barney for the swim and went hard to stay on his feet for the first 500m. Then he surged and dropped me and I realised I was way wide of the main pack and all by myself. Strangely enough I actually started singing ‘all by myself’ in my head. Talk about an inability to focus! Thankfully with the help of my Zoot swim skin and a dangerously high lactic acid level I was able to only lose about 20 seconds to the main pack. I got onto the bike and was relieved to know that my legs were going to work for me. I always know whether I’m going to ride well within the first 20 metres.
The 40km bike course was surreal. I weaved my obedient Kestrel Kev 4000 through a completely shut down Washington city with many spectators cheering us on and many more wondering what the hell was going on. The course was a U turn buffet and guys gradually got shelled with the fast accelerations out of these turns. I hit transiton with Dave Thompson, Jordon Jones and a Russian guy who got third at Eagleman 70.3 last week, Stanislav Krylov.
Barney had ridden amazingly. He has been in tremendous form in the last 3 weeks picking up $10 000 big ones at Rev 3 Quassy and winning Kansas 70.3 by 5 minutes with his tradmark deceptively fast troll like run (1.12 half marathon!). He had now had put about 2 minutes into us on the bike. When I was doing my 5th triathlon battling out my age group at Gold Coast Half Ironman Barney won the race so I always get a little awestruck when I get to race guys, Barney included, that I thought were invincible when I was racing age group.
It was evident that it was Barney’s race and I just had to take to care of David Thompson and Jordon Jones to secure a nice pay day. I really only opened up to max effort between the 6 and 7km mark which dropped off the 2nd place contenders and I could then run more comfortably and keeping my legs a little fresher for next week’s Philadelphia Triathlon. I was surprised to have the quickest run of the day and very happy with 2nd place securing good points towards qualifying for the best paying triathlon race in the world Hy Vee Triathlon. However if I had backed it off ever so slightly Barney would have backed it off much more getting a very comfortable win.
A huge thank you to my homestay Toby Mandel. So hospitable, generous and kind and I hope you come to Australia so I can repay the favour.
For my Aussie readers, enjoy winter suckers!