My first official Pro race of 2017 and it was a fun one! I had been planning on doing this race since I first learned that I would be working in Phoenix since it is only a 6-hour drive to the race. This race often draws out a ton of talent as many use it to test out early season fitness against other top pros. 2017 was no different as the start list included some of the fastest men in the sport including multiple previous and current Olympians and World Champions. Not to mention other younger athletes that were also looking to prove themselves against the best. While my training hasn’t been perfect, I knew that I had put in some good work and was beginning to learn how to execute a race of this distance. To say I was excited would be an understatement!
Since I had work Thursday night, I left Friday morning and made it to the Pro meeting just in time at 4 pm. The tone of the room seemed pretty serious as it typically does. These guys and girls are all fighting for the same top spots and they all know it. After the meeting, I checked out where the swim start and transition would be with friends Jesse Vondracek and Kevin Portmann before heading to where I would be staying about 15 minutes away. Jesse had hooked me up with Diana and Ken who have a beautiful home and graciously offered to let me stay with them. After getting everything ready for the next day and eating my new favorite pre-race meal (rice, beans, and an avocado), I headed to bed for our 4 am wake-up.
The morning went relatively smoothly with the exception of having a flat tire on my front wheel when I went to pack up my bike. My race tire apparently had suffered more damage than I initially saw from the flat at Toughman Arizona 2 weeks ago and caused a flat in my tube. I quickly changed back to my previous tire and tube (the ones I commute on typically) to avoid my race tire causing any more issues. It was a bit cold upon arriving to transition but this is exactly how I like it before a race. Soon enough I had the wetsuit on and was heading into the 62-degree water for a “warm-up”.
I have improved a bit in the water in the past few months of training, but I still had memories of losing 8 minutes to the leaders in Miami last October. This didn’t matter though as the gun went off and a group of floating guys turned into a 30-second wrestling match. There were many times in the beginning of the swim where I was on top of people and people were on top of me. I got elbowed and hit a number of times, but by the time things began to clear out, I had found myself holding pace with a group of swimmers around me. This was promising as I knew swimming with others would provide a faster time than having to do a solo effort. Near the turn around point of the swim, I lost contact with the front part of this group but there were still many swimmers more strung out around me. I spent the remainder of the swim holding a solid pace without burning any matches and pacing off of others where possible. I ended up coming out of the water in 33rd place and got onto the bike with hopes of gaining some placements over the next 56 miles.
The first 5 miles of the bike were fairly technical with a lot of places where you needed to avoid road hazards. After this section, I was able to start to get more into a rhythm and began to catch a couple cyclists. There was a turn around section a little under 10 miles in that allowed me to see much of my competition and that most of them were within a few minutes. This gave me some confidence, but I kept my power and effort under control with a plan to increase the pace throughout the ride. Around mile 15 I was passed by number 29 (later identified as Tyler Jordan) who was doing a solid pace. This was right as I passed Jesse Vondracek and things got interesting. While we gave each other plenty of room to ride, none of us wanted to let the others go.
Tyler and I switched the lead a few times while Jesse always remained behind the 2 of us keeping pace. The pace was right around what I was comfortable doing with a NP of 290 watts and I was often tempted to up the tempo, but didn’t want to pay for it later on. We were still gaining on many athletes and with 10 miles to go I made a pass on Tyler near an aid station and picked up the pace hoping to gain a bit before the run. I was able to reel in 3 more athletes in that stretch and a small gap in Tyler and Jesse while still keeping in my plan.
Bike file here
I got off the bike in 21st place which meant I was able to advance 10 positions from exiting the water. There was one athlete directly ahead of me immediately upon starting the run and I quickly told myself not to get carried away. That soon didn’t matter as he headed into the nearest port-a-potty. Probably the easiest pass all day. It didn’t take long for me to notice that there was another athlete up the road (Luke McKenzie) and Jesse Vondracek right behind me. I felt great and very easily could have gone much faster, but forced myself to slow down in order to conserve something for the later miles. Jesse bridged up in the first mile to begin running next to me and before mile 1 was over we had passed Luke.
The next few miles consisted of a lot of socializing between Jesse and me while holding just under a 6-minute/mile pace. Neither of us were having any difficulties aerobically and we both knew it would come down to who’s legs could hold out the longest. After 4 miles, Tyler Jordan had bridged up to our group and helped up keep our pace honest. We were all still fairly talkative through about mile 6-7.
At some point one of us made a joke about surging and I decided to see if I could hopefully break them with 2 short surges. This got me the lead for a short time, but my legs were fading quickly despite still having plenty of energy left and breathing relatively easy. At an uphill around mile 9, the 2 of them got a gap on me which started to grow. I fought to hold pace, but my legs didn’t have the pop that they did at the start of the run.
The last few miles had me fighting to hold a good pace which ended up being about a 6:20-minute/mile pace. While I knew there wasn’t anybody within striking distance behind me, I kept the pressure on to the finish and ended the day with a 1:19:55 run time and 21st Overall in 4:12:31.
I am very pleased with my performance and placement in a race with a field as strong as this. The thing I am most excited about, though, is that I still see improvement very possible in all aspects of my race. I was within striking distance of a very good group in the swim that would have gotten me to an even better start for the rest of the race. I feel that I biked very much within my limits and that in the future I can put in a few more efforts without risk of burning out later. Although I faded a bit on the run, it was very slight this time and something I know I can improve with some more work on my muscular endurance. Once I can get to the point where I can actually start to push things a bit more during the race without fear of a later meltdown, I know that my times will begin to drop even more.
Only 1 more week until my assignment here in Phoenix is finished and I return to SC! I’ll be taking a few weeks off between assignments to spend some time with Rebekah and our dogs. I also hope to get some quality training in during that time to set me up for a great Spring and Summer of racing! Take a look at my race schedule if you want to know if you’ll see me at a race as I try to stick to that as best as I can. Some of them may change depending on circumstances at the time, but I’m super excited for the rest of the season!
Ps. Didn’t use the GoPro much today so photo cred goes to James Haycraft and Ironman.com