With the hot New Orleans sun shooting straight into our eyes we zig zagged through the 1500m swim. A couple of athletes escaped early including the muscular Brit, James Hadley who uses the brightness of his bleached white teeth to blind fellow competitors to his advantage. Not quite having the speed to work my way out of a tangle of other swimmers I settled content to stay with the guys who I thought were the biggest threats. My main concerns being David Thompson, a non-drafting olympic distance specialist who has had a tonne of great results over the years and the very talented ITU & non-drafting athlete Chris Forster. Chis often being a touch sluggish in the swim due to poor group swimming skills rather than swimming ability, however bikes like a demon and rarely doesn’t have the quickest run split.
The dark horse in race was the legendary Caveman, Conrad Stoltz who with 4 (or is it 5?) off-road triathlon world championships to his name anything was possible. You don’t win off-road championships without being an incredible cyclist.
A solid 500m run greeted us to get from the swim to our bikes. Chris opted to put shoes on while David and I slugged it out barefoot to try and get to the bikes with a little gap, the decision paying time dividends. Onto the 2 x 20km looped bike course which was far from flat as I had assumed New Orleans would present and the wind was blowing heavily. Having the Speedfil A2 drink bottle on the aero bars is such an advantage when the wind is blowing you around like a puppet as I could easily hydrate, leaving my arms in the aero position without having to compromise safety by taking them off. David implemented his cycling dominance gradually pulling away while I used the next 20kms to bring in those that had swam a minute quicker. It was at this point that the big Caveman came past me like I was pedalling a BMX and continued to put time into everybody. Chris Forster, James Hadley and a I entered transition close to each other with a really impressive time trial from Kiwi Tom Francis also adding himself to the mix.
With the wind and the 35 degree celsius humidity, the run was going to be a war of attrition. I knew I was already cooking using the most aero option of opting for no air vents with my super fast Rudy Project Wingspan TT helmet. Next time I’ll follow their advice and put in the mesh vent option. So I went out fairly easy. Still I was too hot. Having over heated at Cancun 70.3 last year I know that once you reach boiling point it’s really really hard to come back so I kept telling myself to slow down and get as much fluid an ice over me at the first few aid stations. Hadley disappeared early not at his best, while Forster extended a small lead. Then Tom Francis overtook me also running strong.
At this point I started to get negative. I didn’t travel 7 hours, spend 3 days away from Monica and Oscar to get 5th. As That wouldn’t barely cover the cost of racing. The more negative I got the more my running sucked. At 5kms I started to bring the head back into order finding a neutral place of calm simplicity in what I was doing and my body started to flow a little better. I caught back up to Tom Francis and passed him without surging as I could see he was now frying and didn’t want to waste energy with any bursts of speed. Then, in the distance the outline of the Caveman who was running strong but not particularly fast. I set about maximising every run stride in the new ultra responsive Zoot Kiawe’s (and fellow fat footed people yes they’re wide enough to fit a fat foot!) to bring him back to me. With less than a km, I jumped in behind this large frame avoiding the strong head wind to get my breath back as I didn’t want Conrad to believe he could come with me and have to sprint the whole way home. With a surge I went for it and Conrad responded. Within 30 seconds I knew his response had eased off and with a comfortable gap was able to even contemplate making a sprint for 2nd with Chris Forster having come back much closer into view however my brain dismissed the idea quickly reminding me how stupidly hot I was and how good a runner Chris is.
I’m content with another podium while also being hungry for more. It’s tricky this time around in the States as my time is limited and I want to race as much as possible to make the trip financially viable and to thank the amazing support I get from my U.S sponsors, Zoot and Vision. It does make it difficult to peak for any particular race as you I often have a race in two weeks time that you have to continue training for when you would otherwise be resting. So all in all I’m happy with how the body is feeling so far and feel a gradual return to, hopefully, some great form.I’ve got a little work to do on my cycling top end as it’s about 20 watts off what it was from late last year over 40kms however a few more races should lift the thresholds.
10 days more in chilly San Fran before returning to the mecca, to compete against a stacked field in the Boulder Peak 5150.