Texas 70.3 provided a great opportunity to learn and grow in strength. In all honesty, I did not plan on doing Texas 70.3 a month ago, because my focus was Oceanside 70.3 and I didn’t want to put unnecessary taxation on the body. But, as I spoke about in the Oceanside recap, I got sick and the illness lasted several weeks. As Oceanside was drawing closer and closer I was feeling less and less confident that I would be able to race there. You can’t expect to go up against some of the best guys in the world while feeling under the weather, and I definitely didn’t want to disrespect both my competitors and my body by racing while sick. During that time I signed up for Texas 70.3. As you already know, I ended up feeling better in time for Oceanside. I also felt pretty good in the days following Oceanside so I decided to go through with racing in Texas.
It was a tight turnaround. Fortunately, my bike shop Cycle Culture was able to look at my bike immediately upon returning home from California and remedied the shifting problem that forced me to stay in the big chain ring for many of the hills in Oceanside. As well, due to superstition, I put on a new set of tires, despite the current ones having only 100km or so on them. Additionally, I noticed my seat was angled downward about 5 degrees. I wasn’t sure if that was how I had been riding it, or if it happened during travel. I returned the seat to level and I could feel my muscle recruitment shift a bit from the quads to the glutes. I figured that I had been riding it angled downwards, but that this change was positive, so I kept it for the race.
I got all my packing for the race done fairly early. I checked that I had everything on my list twice. As I was closing my suitcase I said to Erin “I feel like I am forgetting something,” as there was more free space than I remembered when travelling to Oceanside. I took solace in the belief that everything I needed was on the list, so didn’t worry about it too much. Travel went smoothly and by 10 am Friday morning we were in Houston. I did a quick swim at a pool in downtown Houston as I knew there weren’t many swim options in Galveston other than the Ocean.
When we got to the hotel I immediately unpacked my bike. I was almost ready to go for my 40 minute recovery ride and then I realized there were no pedals on the bike. It immediately dawned on me what was missing from the suitcase: My Powertap P1 pedal box! I have a training bike and a racing bike, and I had forgotten the pedals on my training bike! I did my best not to panic. Erin immediately started calling local bike shops asking if they carried Look design pedals (as those were the cleats I had on my shoes). The closest shop that carried them was 25 miles back towards Houston. I knew it was a long shot, but I messaged my contact at Powertap to see if they knew of a dealer in the vicinity that could loan me a set of P1s for the race. Erin and I then went to the race expo in search of a set of Look design pedals. In a worst case scenario I knew that I could just ride off of feel, but this depended on me having pedals on the bike!
Fortunately, a vendor at the race expo had a set of Look design pedals. Almost jokingly I asked him if he had a set of Powertap pedals, and he said yes! I couldn’t believe my luck. I told him my situation and he said that if the pedals hadn’t sold by Saturday night at 5 o’clock he would give them to me, with my word being that I would have him a brand new replacement set sent out in return. This was a little bit reassuring, but not much, as there was no guarantee that the pedals wouldn’t sell by then. Fortunately, my friend Andy Froncioni from Alphamantis was able to get a hold of my contact at Powertap. Powertap immediately took a brand new set of P1 pedals to UPS and over night shipped them from Wisconsin all the way to Galveston Texas. It’s hard to believe, but within 14 hours of realizing I had forgot my pedals, I had a brand new set of pedals in my possession. I can’t thank Powertap enough for their help in this matter. I am proud to be associated with such a great company. Also, I have to say, what an amazing time and place we live in!
Of course, things don’t end there. While unpacking my things I also realized I had forgot my hand bottle for the run. This is very important because I fill it with a super-concentrate of my custom blend from Infinit Nutrition, and then I only take swigs of this with water while out on the course. I didn’t actually forget this, as it was on my packing list. I consciously did not bring one because I needed a new one and I was going to buy one at the race expo. But, while trying to figure out how I was going to get a set of pedals, I completely forgot to buy one at the expo. I didn’t realize I had forgotten to buy one until I was packing my race bag the night before the race- after the expo was closed! Erin and I immediately went to the only local sports shop that was still open and unfortunately they did not have one. Our last resort was Wal-Mart, and fortunately they had one!
I have to back track a bit. On Saturday afternoon I participated in the pro panel. Andreas Dreitz was also on the panel. We chatted for a bit and I could tell he was very hungry. I know from experience, that nothing motivates someone more than being passed in the final miles of a race. He was all smiles that afternoon, but I knew he would be merciless towards me the next morning. When I got back to the hotel room I began preparing myself mentally to suffer even more than I did in Oceanside- I figured Andreas was doing the same.
Race morning went smoothly. I got a good warmup jog in, and a few hundred meters of swimming in before the gun. This was probably one of the biggest start lists I have ever participated in. There were nearly 60 guys on the start list. As well, we all gathered into a very small strip of water before the gun. I didn’t give any thought to this beforehand i.e. strategic lining up on the start line due to the large number of people. When the gun went, it was chaos. I was immediately boxed in with nowhere to go. Guys in front, beside and behind. I got dunked. A guy grabbed my shoulder and threw me backwards. I got kicked in the face and my goggle suction cupped to my eye so hard it hurt. It really wasn’t until the first turn buoy, about 400 meters out, that I finally started to be able to swim a decent stroke. By that point, the swimmers I had hoped to swim with were gone. I would swim the remainder of the swim solo. Well not completely solo, there were guys around me, but we were all swimming our own lines. I know this is nothing in comparison to the ITU starts where they have 60+ guys on the line, all of similar ability, but it certainly gave me a taste of that world. It is actually quite scary! I have some new found respect for those guys.
On paper, the swim was not great. I am happy that I was able to keep my cool during that whole experience and not panic too much. My swim coach Gerry Rodrigues assured me that the next phase of training will begin to work towards improving in some of these more open water specific areas. I came out of the water with nearly a 3 minute and 40 second deficit to the leaders. It wasn’t what I was hoping to hear, but I knew it was nearly 40 seconds closer than I was the previous year, so I knew I was still part of the game. I also had Erin tell me how far back I was to Andreas, as he was who I feared most in the race: about 2 minutes.
Out onto the bike my intention was to push more power than I did in Oceanside. Unfortunately, my legs didn’t feel nearly as good this time round as they did in Oceanside. I pushed about 365w for the first half, but it was very laborious. In Oceanside I pushed a similar amount of power and it felt quite controlled. Fortunately, by this time, I had rode through most of the field and was now in 3rd place, only 20 seconds or so down from Andreas. I figured the double had taken its toll on him. When he saw how close I was I felt him lift the pace. I wondered if perhaps he was employing a different strategy this time round i.e. ease off a bit on the bike and go toe to toe on the run. After another couple of kilometers I caught him and went for the pass. I didn’t surge as I knew he was too strong of a biker to drop. I also didn’t look back as I did not want to show weakness or worry. On a bend I finally caught a glimpse behind me and he was no longer there. It was bitter sweet. As I have said in the past, there is nothing I love more than a good race right to the finish. But, I reminded myself, the race wasn’t over yet. I had no idea how my run legs would feel, and Andrew Starykowicz was nearly two minutes up the road on me. One thing that really popped out at me over the next 30 minutes or so, was how badly my glutes were starting to hurt. I realized then that changing my seat angle just a few days before the race was probably not the best idea.
Out onto the run course, my intention was to race similar to how I did in Oceanside i.e. very controlled for the first half of the run. The run did not feel nearly as good as it did in Oceanside. Unfortunately, there wasn’t really a time where it didn’t hurt. Around mile 3 I made the pass and entered the lead. I did not feel great and my fears now were of the run-specialists who were coming up behind me. I kept steady and tried to increase the perceived exertion level each lap. Fortunately, it seemed I had built a big enough gap on the bike to hold off the strong runners. I allowed myself to relax mentally a bit while still striving to hold my pace steady. Unfortunately, I may have allowed myself to relax a little too much, as I literally had to run straight through the finish line to the port-a-john afterwards. That was a little bit embarrassing, but oh well, that’s racing!
Photo Cred: David Tilbury-Davis
All in all it was a good race. Lots of lessons were learned. The biggest one being that I will likely not do two races only one week apart, again! It is just too taxing on the body. With the reduced number of prize purses, more and more pros are showing up to races. The days of being able to win a race at 90% capacity are over. If you want to do well you need to be fit, healthy, hungry and rested. I can just feel that the toll of this race was significantly more than Oceanside. I would like to compete for many years to come, so in the future I will give a bit more care to adequate rest.
I need to give a huge shout-out to my sponsors. Everyone stepped up big time for this one. Powertap sending me the pedals; Garneau, Skechers and Infinit donating prizes for some fun contest we had on Facebook; Freshii fueling me with high quality calories both before and after the race; Cycle Culture for getting my bike in working order on such short notice; as well as HED, CompuTrainer and CeramicSpeed for giving me the tools I need to perform my best. These last two races are a byproduct of your support.
If you’ve made it this far in this chapter book I also need to thank you for following along and taking an interest in my career. It means a lot!