It was a tight turnaround between Buenos Aires and Oceanside. One of the reasons I signed up for Buenos Aires was because I felt 2.5 months in between Pucon 70.3 and Oceanside 70.3 was too long between races. I got into a really good training groove after Pucon 70.3 and realized the day before leaving for Buenos Aires that I probably didn’t need the race in between. On the way to the airport for Buenos Areas I was actually looking at how much money I would lose if I cancelled my flight. As you already know, I ended up going and I am glad I did.
The major reason I signed up for Buenos Aires was that it is usually a non-wetsuit freshwater swim. This is the worst case scenario for a weak swimmer due to no buoyancy from a wetsuit and no buoyancy from the saltwater. They announced the water temperature at the pro meeting as being around 73 degrees Fahrenheit, and recommended we bring both our wetsuit and speedsuit in the morning. The wetsuit cutoff for pros is 71.9 degrees Fahrenheit. You may not believe me, but I was praying the water warmed up! Fortunately, they announced in the morning that it would be a non-wetsuit swim.
The other reason I signed up for Buenos Aires is that it is a three loop bike course with multiple roundabouts and corners on every lap. Doing all my biking on a stationary trainer has not made me a great technical rider, so in the past I have avoided courses like this. Now, I am trying to improve upon all my weaknesses and am seeking out these kinds of courses to gain experience.
The race was non-wetsuit but very close to the cutoff, and the air temperature was around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I was cold when entering the water, and right before the gun I was actually starting to shake. When the gun went I began executing my plan: 8 out of 10. In a race setting, swimming 8 out of 10 is probably closer to 9.5 out of 10 in reality, and that is about the most effort I can put forth and still hold good form. I got out well and was on some feet. My “swim IQ” was at an all-time high and I was monitoring what was happening further up the pack I was in. About 400m in I realized a gap was opening up. I increased the effort and turnover and worked really hard to bridge the gap. I closed the gap at the turn and then stayed comfortably in the pack for the rest of the swim.
Out onto the bike, Erin informed me that I was 3 minutes down to the front of the race. This ties my best deficit ever, which I achieved at Oceanside 70.3 in 2016 (which is a wetsuit legal, saltwater swim; the most ideal conditions for a weak swimmer). This being a non-wetsuit freshwater swim, I knew that I must have made significant improvements in the water. Next, I executed my “Championship Race Strategy” and rode as hard as I could until I bridged the gap to the front of the race. I caught the main pack at about 20km and then I entered the lead of the race by about 35km. I then rode steady the rest of the ride and did my best to take the corners and roundabouts a little more aggressively than I normally would. I kept the pace honest on the run while soaking in my surroundings the best I could. I found out a few days prior to the race that Jan Frodeno would be making an appearance in Oceanside, so I made sure not to drill myself too hard on the second half of the run, as I figured I would be “going to the well” in under three weeks time.
Unfortunately, due to a combination of the stress of the race and travel, as well as carelessness with regards to washing my hands on the flight home, I came down with a cold the day after returning. As well, we took possession of our new house the day after returning, so the move added even more stress. I did my best to manage training and recovery despite the illness and ended up putting in a decent quality 11 day training block in between the races.
At Oceanside 2015 I bridged the gap to the front of the race on the bike and then Jan Frodeno and I ran side by side for the first 5 kilometers. He dropped me hardcore and then went on to win 70.3 Worlds and Kona a few months later. To this day, that is the most powerful experience of my entire career. I literally had a poster of Jan up on my wall just a year prior. I don’t think a day has gone by since then that I have not reflected on that race and experience. Hearing that Jan would make an appearance in Oceanside was exciting news. I would finally get my rematch. Perfect timing too because I was confident from Buenos Aires that I had improved my swim significantly since then.
Jan doesn’t show up at races to finish second so I knew if I was going to give him a run for his money it was going to require a flawless race, and probably the deepest effort I have ever given. I mentally prepared myself for this effort in all of the training sessions leading into the race. I was confident that I was mentally prepared to either win, or be taken away in a stretcher at the finish line.
I actually surprised myself with the swim. Jan is the gold standard of triathlon swimming; he takes it out hard and is very consistent. When I reached Erin- who was about 1km into the bike course- she informed me that I was 2:16 down to Jan, and under a minute down to Andreas Drietz. I know Drietz is someone to be very afraid of in 2017 because I am sure he is just as pissed off as I am about how 70.3 Worlds 2016 went down. Two years ago in Oceanside I was nearly 4:30 down to the front, so this put me in a significantly different situation than I was used to.
Originally I was going to employ my “Championship Race Strategy” and bridge the gap as hard as I could, but instead I decided to employ a more controlled effort. My feet, hands and legs were numb. It was actually quite difficult to produce power. In a post race interview I commented that I pushed 390w to bridge the gap. That’s about what it felt like. In reality, I only pushed 368w to bridge the gap. This is by far the most speed I have ever got off of that power, so it is a testament to both the improvements I am making on the rollers, as well as my improved position.
I caught a glimpse of Jan at about 12 miles. I was about 30 seconds down. The excitement was building. This was going to be one for the ages. I told Erin at dinner the night before that it is exciting that we are living in a time and place where we get the opportunity to race someone who is a likely candidate for the Greatest Of All Time. I told her that whatever happens, this will likely be one we reflect back on fondly several decades from now with our children and grandchildren. The race was about to start. It was about mile 15 and I was about 10 seconds down on Jan. To my disbelief, he pulled off to the side of the road and raised his hand. I slowed down and asked what is going on. He said “I’ve got a puncture.” I reached back to my flat kit and asked if he had the stuff to change it. He said, “Yeah mate, have a good race.”
Honest to god I almost cried. I had accounted for every possible scenario…surges on the hills, a long slog with 1km to go, an all out sprint with 200m to go…I had not mentally prepared myself for this. I yelled at the top of my lungs several times “f**cking bull sh**t!” It took me several minutes to gain composure over myself. At the end of the day, I am a professional athlete, and I am at work, so I had to carry on. I refocused and let out a 6-700w surge as I went by Igor Amorelli and re-entered the lead.
For the rest of the bike I kept my power steady. I made a deal with myself that if I held 360w AP until 90 minutes, I could relax a bit until the end of the ride. The sun started to come up and I started to feel better, so I ended up pushing 360w until 110 minutes. My average power for the entire ride was 354w, with a normalized power of 366w (less power than I pushed at 70.3 Worlds 2016). On the run course, I kept the pace honest from start to finish. I took in the amazing crowd support and beautiful backdrop to the best of my ability.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very appreciative for having the privilege of winning this race, but that is not how I wanted it to go down. Oh well, the rematch will have to wait. On a more positive note, that was by far and away the best swim of my life. I am certain that what I am doing in training is leading to meaningful improvements in the open water, so I am excited to get back home and continue to put my nose to the grind stone.
Thanks to everyone for reading and following along. The blog has been a bit quite lately, but this is because I was devoting all my energy to training and then trying to get over the cold in time for Oceanside. I will post more regularly moving forward and will have a training day video up very soon.