In the days and weeks leading into Oceanside I was feeling very insecure about my chances of performing well. On March 14th I started to feel a tickle in my throat. By that evening I was coughing uncontrollably for minutes on end. I spent almost the entire next day under all the blankets in the house, with all my winter clothes on. I had the urge to cough every few minutes, so the next four nights were quite grueling. I tried to keep my training volume and intensity up but as fatigue grew due to lack of sleep, I was forced to cut back. I was also starting to accumulate phlegm in my upper respiratory tract, so it was becoming very difficult to breathe- particularly while swimming. Eventually I was able to get some sleep, but the coughing and phlegm continued for the next two weeks. It wasn’t until my ritual pre-race workout on the Wednesday before the race that I finally started to feel like I could breathe properly again.
Unfortunately, about a week prior, I pulled a muscle in my neck. I think it was due to coughing to the point of dry heaving, while running and in the time-trial position. The pain was quite grueling and I walked around with a permanent headache for 8 straight days. I think these two ailments are what made me feel so insecure before the race. I said to Erin as we were driving to Oceanside on Saturday morning “this is the most nervous I have been for a race in several years.” I actually felt a bit sick to my stomach.
With that being said, I must also say that I was very angry and hungry. Last year in Oceanside I came out of the water with over a four minute deficit to the leaders. I biked as hard as I possibly could and eventually caught them on the bike. Out onto the run course I ran side by side with Jan Frodeno for the first 5 kilometers, until eventually he dropped me. To add insult to injury, Andy Potts then caught me at mile 12 and I had no answer for him as he flew by me. I have literally thought about that experience every day since then. In fact, I spent hundreds of hours over the last year staring at a picture of Jan and I running together. To say that I came back to Oceanside this year with vengeance in my heart is an understatement. I told my dad on our call the day before the race that “if they beat me, they will suffer hardcore for it.”
Fortunately, on the day of the race, everything went smoothly. I got to transition with lots of time to spare, was able to use the washroom a few times before the gun, got a warm-up jog in, and a few hundred meters of warm-up in the water. When the gun went, I got out decently well. I was on some feet and working moderately hard. I thought I was in a pace-line, but when sighting I realized that the two guys in front of me were falling off the back of the pack in front of them. I immediately went around them but it was too late, we were dropped. I continued to work hard, and passed quite a few people over the next thousand or so meters. With about 400m to go I found a set of feet that was moderately hard to hold and stayed there for the rest of the swim. I came out of the water with a deficit of just over 3 minutes to the leaders. I assumed it was Andy Potts, and so I knew that relative to him, this was probably my best swim yet in a 70.3.
Out onto the bike my biggest goal was to bike a lot smarter than I did the previous year. In the first hour on the bike last year, I pushed the most power I have ever pushed for that duration. That made the run very challenging, but what was even worse was how sporadically I pushed the power. Out of every corner I pushed the pedals as hard as I could. If my memory serves me correctly, I think I had over fifty 500w+ surges. This time round I wanted to push a more controlled amount of power, and push it much more steadily.
Photo Cred to Jesper Gronnomark.
For the first hour, I averaged about 368w with a normalized power of 376w, and a VI of 1.02. It would have been steadier, but I was passing people and didn’t want to risk a drafting penalty for not making the pass inside of 25 seconds. In the next half hour things got a bit more sporadic. I was beginning to catch stronger bikers so race dynamics were beginning to play a role. In this half hour I pushed about 356w with a normalized power of 375w, and a VI of 1.05. With about 20 kilometers to go I caught who I thought to be the main contenders in the race (Tim Reed, Andy Potts, Sam Appleton). I went straight to the front and then eased up significantly.
No one came by to pass me so I rode on the front of the pack until about 400m from the dismount, when Andy Potts came by me. In the final half hour I averaged 302w with a normalized power of 317w, and a VI of 1.05. I knew easing up on the bike meant Dreitz was likely putting time into us, but I figured the race would be settled on the run course, amongst those in the pack behind me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It turns out, Dreitz can run! Here is the data file from the ride:
Off the bike, I had a deficit of just under 3 minutes to Dreitz, and Potts put about 5 seconds into me in transition. After about half a mile I caught up to Potts and we ran side by side for another half mile or so. Eventually I pulled away and the hunt was on for Dreitz. I must say, I’m not sure there is anything I enjoy more in a race than being the chaser on the run. Especially when the deficit doesn’t seem unattainable. This scenario allows me to enter a state of Flow, where there is very little mentation and close to no awareness of the passage of time; I am completely one with myself and the activity of running. For lack of a better term, I am no longer myself, I am the act of running. It is a very enjoyable experience. My face may show lots of pain, but inside it is all pleasure.
Photo Cred to Brian Comiskey.
For the next 8 miles I did nothing but enjoy the moment. I was getting time updates quite frequently by spectators on the course and so I knew the deficit was coming down. By the turnaround point I was only 40 seconds down. Finally, right around mile 9, I pulled up next to Dreitz. I put out a little surge and he came with me. I was impressed that even this late into the race he still was not willing to concede the victory. On one of the hills though a gap started to open, and I knew it was time to snap the elastic. I pushed the hill hard and by the top I could no longer hear him. At the final turnaround I got a good look at Tim Reed and he looked great. I really wanted the fastest run split, so I continued to push the pace on the final two miles. Below is the data file from the run (thanks to Nick Immell for this suggestion!). I must say, this is the best paced run I have ever done.
Crossing the finish line in the lead was deeply satisfying. This race in 2015 definitely goes down as one of the most memorable and formative races of my career. The lead up to this race was less than ideal, so when I crossed the line with a good performance, it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
I have to give a big shout out to Andreas Dreitz. That is some of the gutsiest racing I have ever seen. The dude is just 27 and is still improving rapidly. I have a feeling this is only the first of many good battles over the coming years.
A lot went into this performance. I want to sincerely thank all of my sponsors for believing in me and giving me the tools I need to perform my best. There is no way this would be possible without you.
I also want to thank everyone for the words of encouragement before, during and after the race. You guys help give this endeavour meaning, and I am very grateful for that.
Finally, I have to give a huge shout out to Erin. Not only does she cart me around, keep me on task and focused, as well as calm my nerves when they are spiralling out of control, but she does some of the best race coverage around.
I will be heading back to Galveston 70.3 this weekend so stay tuned for some exciting updates around that race. Thanks for reading and following along!