Racing Pro First Impressions
As I fly home on a flight from Houston, Texas after wrapping up a 10 day trip to the South United States I figure it’s a good opportunity to recap what I learned in my first two races as a Professional Triathlete. First off, there’s no “B” or “Development” Ironman races for the Pros in North America anymore. When I originally signed up for these I thought they would be moderately competitive fields, ones that would be good for getting my feet wet, not the case! I guess the answer to that is suck it up and get faster. I’ll most likely pick races based on timing and accessibility going forward. Second, preparation isn’t everything, but it’s pretty freakin’ close!
After two delayed flights and spending 12 hours living off of snack food we arrived in New Orleans at 3am Friday morning. Not ideal but we decided to get up at 9:30 anyways. They next two days were full of stress trying to deal with bike issues the wrong way, spending too much time driving and fretting over cramming in things that weren’t deal breakers for race day. My sleep pattern the 3 days prior to the race went something like: 5.5 hrs, 11 hrs, 4 hrs. Don’t even get me started on my meal pattern.
On race day the swim went ok. I swam a PB by about 4:30 minutes coming into T1 in 22 minutes… Yes it was short; however, in relation to other swimmers I was in a pretty good position. Being less than 4 minutes back of Andy Potts isn’t bad, it’s not great either though. I didn’t feel strong to start the bike and to make things worse I took a slick 90 degree corner too fast, my back wheel lost traction and I crashed pretty hard. Dazed and very unsure of how to deal with the situation, as I have never crashed on a road bike before, I stumbled up to my feet, checked my body, checked my bike and made the call to get back on my bike and see how things would go.
It was a fast day, the leaders biked 2:01’s and 2:02’s. I was only able to hold power numbers that normally I can average for 180k. I still biked a 2:14 including the time spent on the side of the road after my crash but it was very poorly representative of the work I’ve put in with my coach this year and what I know I’m capable of.
I made a quick transition in T2, hobbled out onto the run and eventually my hip somewhat loosened up but all I could hold was a steady pace much slower than what I’m capable of. I was stubborn and didn’t want to DNF my first race as a Pro. It wasn’t pretty, I ran my slowest half marathon since my rookie year in triathlon, but I was proud that I finished.
I was fortunate in New Orleans to meet Matt Chrabot, a veteran pro that has been racing for a very long time. He was rooming across the hall from us at our hotel and I got to see how he approached things leading up to race day. It was pretty much the complete opposite of what we did. We arrived on the same delayed flight from Denver, so he opted to sleep in until 11:30 that day. He never seemed all that concerned about trying to squeeze in the extra training sessions if he didn’t have time, it was more about resting, eating at the right times and getting his sleep pattern on track for race day. On race day he ended up running side by side with Andy Potts at the front of the race and finished 2nd. Though my race was a total disaster the trip to NOLA was well worth it to learn those lessons.
We spent an incredible 3 days in NOLA after the race. If you haven’t been, it’s well worth the trip. We tasted beignets in the French quarter, people watched on Bourbon Street and listened to some great live music. We even got out to the bayou on a boat tour to check out the gators, scenery and other local wildlife.
My wife headed back to Vancouver on the Wednesday and I made the trip to Galveston for Ironman 70.3 Texas. Ironman set me and my friend Jeff up with an amazing homestay. Immediately I started implementing what I learned from New Orleans, sleep and meal timing became a big priority. The next few days were kept very low stress and I could feel myself getting to a better place both physically and mentally. The unfortunate thing is my hip took the brunt of my bike crash in NOLA. My shoulder had loosened up by Thursday and my “swellbow” was recovering but my hip wasn’t getting any better. I tried running on the Thursday and it was incredibly uncomfortable running an easy pace. My homestay sponsor Anne lined me up with a massage appointment at Therapeutic HealthWorks in Galveston that helped things quite a bit but when I tried running again on Saturday it was far from 100%. I couldn’t even do short light pickups without pain. Since I felt good on the bike and in the water the plan was to still race but to do the swim-bike only. I got consent from coach Noa to run the first bit of the race which I ended up doing but the hip just wasn’t right.
On a positive note, I had a solid swim in Galveston. It was non-wetsuit, it was slow for everyone judging by what Andy Potts swam. We came out of the water a little over 4 minutes back, similar to the week before but considering my previous two non-wetsuit swims were total disasters, this was a big confidence booster. I felt pretty good starting the bike, power numbers were more consistent with what I would expect from training and I got to work on moving my way up the field. The big difference I noticed with racing pro is the strength of guys on the bike. It took me a good 30 minutes to bridge up to a group that had only made it out of transition 30 seconds before me and I was pushing hard. With the 12 meter draft rule it also makes it pretty hard to make a pass on a group. The first group I bridged to was a pack of 4, I had to put out and hold well over 400 watts to make the pass. Not something I ever did racing as an age grouper. Then you have to recover while still holding well over 300 watts so that you don’t get repassed! It was a total suffer fest on the bike as it seemed everyone was pushing the pace hard but it was awesome!! I set a PB riding a little over 90k in 2:05:01. This brought me into T2 with less than 3 minutes to Lionel Sanders, Andy Potts and Cody Beals who would eventually make up the men’s podium. This was a huge confidence booster, I didn’t get an opportunity to show the work and improvements I’ve made on my run in the last 6 months, but I know this is where I’m supposed to be racing.
It was really weird not finishing, if I was to describe DNF’ing in one word I would say it’s awkward… And it should be! Looking back to the decision I still think it was the right one, there was way too much risk of setting back my training back a month or more if I further damaged my hip. This was a “B” race for me and all in all this year is a development year and one meant for learning. I’m actually far more satisfied with this race than I was with New Orleans as the swim/bike represented where I am at in my training.
The next big race on my calendar is Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant. I know what needs to be worked on and I now know how I need to approach the weeks leading up to that race. I’m really excited to see what I can put together in Quebec, if it reflects what we’re doing in training and what I did in Galveston it should be a very solid result.