Haven’t recorded one of these in a while. Sorry, it’s a bit long.
I fully intended to get a blog up right after Samorin, but unfortunately came down with a bad cold on the travel home, and it persisted for almost three weeks. To add insult to injury, I must have picked up a bug from somewhere a little over a week before Mont Tremblant, as I had fever, aches, chills, etc. for a good 48 hours. A week before Tremblant I was unsure if I would even be able to start the race, but then things started to turnaround on the Monday so I decided to give it a go. But back to Samorin first.
Samorin was Challenge’s version of the 70.3 World Championship. The major difference was that they were going to implement a 20 meter draft zone, which is something that has become both my life and career mission to see happen in all championship races. I had never done a Challenge race before, but there was absolutely no way I would be missing this one. I must say, I was very impressed with Challenge. Everything was top notch; they treated us very well, and it truly felt like we were part of a family. Multiple times Erin and I would be eating dinner and the CEO of Challenge would come over and chat with us and make sure we were doing alright and had everything we needed. Moving forward, I will be incorporating a lot more Challenge races into my schedule.
The race took place at a facility called X-Bionic Sphere. It was probably the most amazing place I have ever been to. 50m outdoor pool, 25m indoor pool with water slides, outdoor track, massive gym, multiple restaurants, hundreds of miles of bike paths right next door, beautiful rooms- it had everything. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy it much, as none of our bags showed up until about 24 hours before the race, so I basically just sat around in my XXL white t-shirt, combing my hair. In the end, this probably worked to my advantage though, as it forced me to rest.
The swim took place in the Danube. I lined up right next to Sebastien Kienle. The gun went and a gap opened up on Sebastien almost immediately. I worked very hard for the next 200m chanting “bridge the gap, bridge the gap” in my head. Then, I looked over to my right and noticed a cap that had the number 2 on it. I knew Kienle wore number 2, so then I realized that I hadn’t been dropped at all, I was actually swimming right next to him. I knew then that I had made the second pack. The rest of the swim was very easy. In fact, I would say it was probably one of the easiest swims I have ever done in a 70.3. I felt like I could have done back stroke and still kept up. But this is the beauty of making the pack. When I emerged form the water, Erin yelled at me that I was 3:15 down to Richard Varga, and 2:30 down to Alistair Brownlee. Most would say Richard is the best swimmer in triathlon, so I was happy to hear this number. Brownlee was 3:15 ahead of me just one month prior in St. George, so I was happy to hear this as well.
Out onto the bike, I figured I could ride fairly steady because with a 20 meter draft zone, I wouldn’t be disadvantaged by the “legal drafting” that occurs in other competitive races with a 10m draft zone. I rode quite poorly in St. George, so my only real goal was to improve upon that performance. I pushed 380w for the first 30 minutes, and averaged 370w for the first 80 minutes. At that point, I believe predominantly due to the course being dead flat with very few corners, my glutes decided to shut off. I had done some preparation for this style of riding, but obviously not enough. For the final 36 minutes I averaged 310w i.e. lower than my Ironman race pace.
Sebastien and I both swam together and rode the entire bike together. We came off the bike with about a 45 second deficit to Alistair Brownlee. I could tell that he was just as motivated as I was to avenge the performance in St. George, so I knew I was going to be in for a very painful next 21 kilometers. In all honesty, I would say my run legs felt some of the worst they have ever felt coming off the bike. I think most would say a bike course like Samorin is quite easy, but I would say it is actually harder than most bike courses because there is absolutely no change in muscle recruitment patterns, and thus it fries your legs a lot more than usual. We took the time back from Brownlee very quickly. Around 2km we entered the lead.
Kienle sounded fantastic. He showed no sign of pain or weakness whatsoever. I was absolutely dying. The negative thoughts started to come around 5km. Things like “second is good, this is a really good field.” Multiple gaps opened up and I had conceded the victory in my head. But, once there was significant space between us, I would focus more on myself and my own internal sensations, and would find another gear to bridge back up. As we went through an aid station around 10km Kienle let out some weakness. He started panting and even let out a few moans. The tables turned right then and there. I knew then that he was suffering just as much as I was, but was just hiding it well. I also realized at that point that he was throwing surges out, and that was why the gaps were opening. I then knew that if I just weathered the surge, he would slow down and I would get a break from the perceived exertion.
At around 15km I started to feel a gap opening. I knew it was now or never. We went through an aid station and I didn’t slow down. I felt the elastic starting to snap. I vowed to not look back and kept chanting “keep the pace rich, keep the pace rich.” When I got to the turnaround at about 17km I saw that I had opened a gap of about 200m. I knew this was not enough though, and kept the pace hot. There was another turnaround at around 20km. I saw at this point that I was about 400m ahead, but I still felt like Kienle could somehow close the gap, so I needed to keep pressing. As we were going by each other, Kienle reached over the fence to give me a high five. He didn’t need to say anything, I knew exactly what this gesture meant: “You got me. Great battle. I am not pressing. Enjoy that finish line.”
What a great gesture this was, as I would have blown through that finish line with fear driving my every movement. Sebastien is a great champion, and I have learned so much from him over the years. This was another great lesson on humility and the spirit of competition, that I will add to my arsenal. The finish line was amazing. The grand stands were packed with people and the announcer was hyping everyone up. I got a good tear in my eye and a shiver down my spine. I still stand 100% by what I said after finishing. It wouldn’t have mattered if I won or if Kienle had won, I still would have had the same positive feeling at the finish line. There is nothing better than a good battle right to the last minute, where you have no idea who is going to win. It was an honour to experience this alongside Sebastien. If you didn’t have the opportunity to watch the race, I encourage you to set some time aside and watch the replay. Challenge did an excellent job with the live coverage and you can find the video here:
I have to say, I am very impressed with Challenge. They offer an amazing product, that from what I can tell, was equally as good for the pros as it was for the AG field. I also commend them for their effort to make their World Championship fair. This race proved to me that there is absolutely no reason why we can’t and shouldn’t have a 20 meter draft zone for all championship races. Our careers, reputations, hearts and souls are on the line here, and it takes absolutely nothing extra to implement this rule. This was a very deep field, with some of the best short course and long course talent in the world, and it was implemented smoothly and efficiently. I am honoured to have taken part in this first World Championship for Challenge, and I am excited for next year.
In the interest of reading time, I will do a separate post on Mont Tremblant 70.3, and then go into the details of the rest of my season, and the rationale behind this.
St. George has provided many great experiences over the years. Back in 2014, it is where I saw for the first time what world class 70.3 racing looked like. In that race, I finished 18th, nearly 10 minutes behind Jan Frodeno, losing time in all three disciplines. Immediately after the race I was very discouraged and contemplated giving up triathlon. A few days went by and I realized I had made many mistakes with regards to equipment, training, pacing, nutrition, etc. I also realized that my attitude and orientation to triathlon had taken a wrong turn, and vowed from that race onwards that I would do triathlon solely to find out what is possible. I also vowed to always give my absolute best on race day, regardless of the cards I am dealt.
This year was sure to provide equally as valuable experience. St. George always has a stacked field. It usually is the prelude to the 70.3 World Championship. There was one unique thing about this year that was sure to make it a race for the ages: Alistair Brownlee. Alistair is arguably the greatest one day racer of all time. He has won every single race he has wanted to win, including the last two Olympic Gold medals. He is largely responsible for pushing short course racing to a point where if you can’t swim sub 17 minutes for 1500m AND run sub 30 minutes for 10km after riding a hard 40km bike, you will have no chance at winning a major race. Along with being massively talented at swimming, biking and running, he also possesses that quality that you cannot teach; he has pushed himself on multiple occasions to the point where he could no longer function at the finish line, and had to be wheeled away for medical attention. St. George was going to be Alistair’s first 70.3 against a quality field. The whole world would be watching and waiting for him to usher in the new era.
Before the race even started Alistair already was positively impacting my training. In the weeks between Oceanside and St. George I was doing the best swimming of my life. I also posted a lifetime best 1 hour power on the bike of over 410w. What benefitted most was my running. I knew to have any shot at winning I was going to have to take my running up a notch. In the three weeks after Oceanside I did multiple run workouts that were approaching the workouts I was doing back in 2013, when I was doing a lot more pure running races, and posted all of my best times. In my run workout six days prior to St. George I was able to do multiple 2km repeats on 3 minutes recovery, and average 2:57-2:58/km.
With hindsight, Alistair actually may have entered my mind a little too much. Admittedly, this race is the first time in years where I actually had a little bit of fear of a competitor. I knew that if given the opportunity, Alistair would rip your legs clean off your body, with no remorse shown whatsoever. I think fear is good, and can be very motivating, but looking back at my training, I probably trained a little too hard in the weeks leading into the race, and definitely pushed the race-week training too hard, particularly on the swim and bike.
St. George is always a tough swim for me. There are usually many great swimmers in the race, so the take-out speed is very fast. Fast take-out speed is still something I am relatively poor at. The spread between my all-out 100m speed and threshold 100m speed is not very large. This is something that unfortunately I do not think can be rushed, and predominantly comes with time and experience. This year’s race played out very similar to last year. The gun went, I got dropped immediately, and swam most of the race with just one or two other guys. The sad part for me is that in Oceanside I came out with or ahead of multiple guys who were all considerably further ahead of me in St. George. I swam very hard in the two days leading into this race, so I think there are some good lessons here with regards to tapering into the swim. I can’t get down on the swim though as this year I was 3:13 down to the front of the race, whereas last year I was 4:30 down to the front. This year was arguably a better group of swimmers than last year, with multiple individuals who are fresh off the ITU circuit, or still racing ITU.
The bike was the most discouraging part for me though. I have heard many stories of Alistair being a monster on the bike, both in racing and in practice. I knew to have any chance at competing for the overall victory I was going to have to post the best bike ride of my life. I figured I was physically and mentally prepared to do this because just one month prior in Oceanside I pushed 360w for 1 hour 50 minutes, with ease. At that point, I made a conscious decision to lap the computer and ride a little easier to the finish, yet still went through 2 hours averaging 357w. Sadly, the moment my feet touched the pedals in St. George, I knew it was going to be a rough day.
For the first 20 minutes I averaged 360w, and it was a massive struggle. I tried everything to muster up some power, but nothing worked and the average just kept dropping. I knew not long after that the race was going to be with Kienle for second. In a race that I needed to post the best power of my career, I actually posted the second worst average power of my professional career: 333w. My prior second worst being my professional debut at Muskoka 70.3 in 2013 where I averaged 335w.
Towards the end of the bike I was really starting to worry about how I would perform on the run. Last year Kienle and I ran pretty much dead even through 10 miles, and I felt a heck of a lot better for the first 2.5 hours of the race that year. Once onto the run course, I was quite surprised to find that my legs felt good. I knew there was no chance to catch Brownlee, but I did want to show that I am in good run form, so I set a good tempo from start to finish. The time was slowly coming down to Alistair, but to be honest, I never really believed I could catch him. You just don’t run down a 3 minute deficit on a guy who has run 28:3x for 10km!
All in all I am happy with the performance on the day. The only thing I am a little disappointed with is that I pride myself on being someone who rises to the occasion, and on this day I was unable to do that. Oh well, more fuel for the fire. I will say, as we look back in the future at the history books of triathlon, this race will be recognized as a monumental day. Alistair is a great all around triathlete who has no weakness whatsoever. His performance on the day was good, but there is not a doubt in my mind that he is capable of much more. He took ITU to a new level and will do the same in long distance triathlon. This race will mark the beginning of the New Era. I am excited for the challenge, and to continue to find out what is possible.
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.
Thought I would bring back the training day videos a little more regularly. Over the course of the season I plan to highlight some of my favourite sessions through these videos. Here’s day 1:
I am feeling inspired this morning after swimming a lifetime best set. First, I should say, I have swam 11 practices with the local swim squad. I am studying under the tutelage of Mike McWha, who for history buffs, was co-captain of University of Michigan along with Andy Potts. I also have David Tilbury Davis overseeing my whole program.
I’ll start with the set, mainly because even I am a bit freaked out by it. The reason I am freaked out is because I have been swimming 1:20/100m for years now. If I did 20×100 on 1:30 I’d probably come in right around 1:20 across the board for all of them. If I did 10×200 on 3:10, I’d probably come in 2:40 across the board for all of them. If I saw a 2:39, or even a 2:38, that was a REALLY GOOD interval!
I have been doing this set for a few months now. David Tilbury Davis wrote it for me as he thinks it’s a good gauge for me, of actual swim improvement, and not just increased effort. The set is 4×200 leaving on 3:00 with a Finis Tempo Trainer set at 72 strokes per minute. Then 100 easy on 2:00. Then 3×200 leaving on 3:00. Then 100 easy on 2:00. Then 2×200 leaving on 3:00 with a Finis Tempo Trainer set at 72 strokes per minute. Then 100 easy on 2:00. Then 200 leaving on 3:00. I should mention, I started doing this set in an 85 degree YMCA pool, so I continue to do it in this pool. One of the beauties of doing a test set in a warm pool, is that it is very difficult to “muscle” an improvement. Most of your improvement will come from increase in propulsion and reduction in drag. The reason for using the Tempo Trainer is the same. You are not allowed to take anymore strokes each time you perform the set, so if you go faster, it is because you are either getting increased propulsion from each stroke, or reducing drag.
For the set today, I found 3:00 to be too easy for the first round, so left on 2:55. For round one I went: 2:36, 2:35, 2:34, 2:35. For round two, without the Tempo Trainer and leaving on 3:00, I went: 2:33, 2:33, 2:33. For round three I went: 2:35, 2:34. And then for round four without the Tempo Trainer I swam a lifetime best 200 of 2:32. It’s an interesting experience improving when you have been stagnant for a very long time. Every interval I am actually amazed at what the clock has to say. I think a piece of me was unsure if I’d ever really improve any more at swimming. Even last year, if I swam an all-out 200, I might JUST break 2:35.
So where do I think the improvement is coming from? One of the things Mike keeps saying to me is to “get over the arm and drive the body forward…don’t push the arm back THROUGH the water.” That is a very difficult concept to wrap your head around. Quite frankly, I’ve intellectually understood what that means but I had never really seen it applied very well for any continuous length of time. Now that I am swimming alongside good swimmers every day, I get a first hand look at what “getting over the arm and driving the body forward through the water, as opposed to pushing the arm back THROUGH the water” looks like, as the swimmers in the lanes next to me lap me quite regularly. It’s actually quite amazing to watch how far FORWARD the athletes move with each arm stroke. There is very little SLIPPAGE with each stroke. It’s almost like there is an invisible ladder under the water that the athletes are climbing.
With Mike continuing to drill this comment into my head, and watching the other athletes lap me, climbing the “invisible ladder,” I set out to figure out where the heck the “invisible ladder” is. Over the last few weeks I have definitely started to get a slightly better sense of this invisible ladder, and how to hold onto it. I can feel that I am driving my body forward, as opposed to pushing my hand back through water, slightly better than I had been several weeks ago.
I don’t think anyone can describe to you how to climb the invisible ladder. It’s like trying to describe to someone how to use your arms or legs. How do I use my arm? I don’t know, I just do! I think learning to climb the invisible ladder is done in a similar fashion, but WATCHING other people climb the invisible ladder is both motivating, and instructional. This is one reason why I don’t think I will ever go back to swimming by myself. I think some coaches would argue that the basis of climbing the invisible ladder is a good “early vertical forearm” and pushing water straight back as opposed to left or right or down. Though I won’t dispute this, I do believe it is very possible to have a good early vertical forearm and push water straight back, yet still not drive the body forward and climb the invisible ladder. I think it’s far more complex than that, and has more to do with HOW force is applied on the water. I think this is why you can find a fast swimmer who exemplifies every style of swim stroke.
So, what are you waiting for? Join a swim club and learn to climb the invisible ladder! I am starting to believe that it is possible to improve, however stagnant you may feel.
I’m back and starting to recover from the race and travel to Pucon. On the way back home, we were delayed several times and it ended up taking over 28 hours to get back to Windsor. It actually was quicker for us to get to Brisbane Australia, then Pucon Chile! It was all worth it though. The race was amazing, the people were amazing and the place was beautiful. If you’ve never been to this race or part of the world before, I highly recommend you go! You will not regret it!
First things first, I was blown away by how much community support the race received, as well as how much there was to do. The three days leading into the race was filled with all sorts of events for people of all ages and ability levels. It was amazing to see hundreds of young kids flying around on their road bikes on a criterium style bike course, during the kid’s triathlon. For every event, the course was completely closed to traffic, and the streets were lined with cheering people.
Secondly, I was blown away by how much media interest there was in the event. If you were in North America, you probably didn’t even know the race occurred. On the other hand, it was shown live in just about every country in South America! I’m talking real deal live coverage; the best live coverage I have ever seen for a triathlon. You can get a sense of what the coverage looked like here:
I am used to press conferences at North American races where there might be two or three media outlets and at best 50 people. At the press conference for this race, there were probably 50 media outlets, and standing room only in a large banquet hall. Long story short, triathlon is alive and well in South America!
I was most excited for the swim. I have been swimming with a club for the first time in my life and had attended 10 practices leading into this race. Without a doubt I have improved in the pool, in this short amount of time, so I was interested to see what would happen on race day. In all honesty, I am actually a bit disappointed in my swim. Old habits crept back in the first 400-600m and I swam quite panicked and rushed. I actually got dropped from the group who I eventually came out of the water with. The swim was basically a 950m loop that you then got out of the water and ran 80m on the beach to then do another 950m loop. On the run on the beach I could see that I was about 20m down on a group of swimmers that I had never come out of the water with before. By the turnaround on the final loop I had gained composure over myself, started swimming a more efficient stroke, and bridged the gap on the group in front of me.
I made a tactical error though and inserted myself in the middle of the group. I had two swimmers in front and one swimmer on my left and right with nowhere to go. The pace was very easy, but there was nothing I could do. By no means do I think I could have dropped this group, but with a better tactical decision upon joining the group I think I could have pushed the pace the final 475m. These are experiences I have never had in my career, which I think is a good sign that the swim is improving. My deficit to the front of the race was about 3 minutes, and as I said above, I have never come out before with athletes like Jesse Thomas and Mario De Elias. They are usually a minute or two ahead of me.
Out onto the bike I was dismayed to find that I was not getting any power readings. When I got to the race in the morning I turned on my bike computer and was amazed that it immediately picked up my power meter, without waking it up. I also thought it was weird that when I calibrated the meter, it showed a calibration number that was in a much different range than I was used to. I didn’t think much of it at the time though. I knew then that I had connected to someone else’s power meter. Unfortunately, the computer won’t connect to my power meter while riding, so I knew that I would be riding this bike based on feel. I have learned this lesson before (to check that my computer is connected to MY power meter) but I don’t have it written down on my pre-race checklist, so forgot. In the future, I will be sure to add this to the checklist!
Everything was going smoothly on the bike. As I neared the turnaround I could see that I was still about 2 minutes down to the front of the race. I was impressed with how hard Felipe Van De Wyngard and Felipe Baraza were riding. I like when guys lay it out there on the line and race to the best of their ability, and I could tell that they were doing just that. When I made the turn I suddenly started to hear a loud thud coming from somewhere on my bike. When I accelerated it accelerated, and when I decelerated it decelerated. I thought perhaps I had a flat tire, but both front and back still had good pressure. I checked to see if my bottle cages were loose and they were all good. I couldn’t figure out what it was, so I decided to block it out. I never caught the front of the race on the bike, but I did catch a glimpse of Felipe Ven De Wyngard in T2. I was about 15 seconds down.
After the race Oscar Galindez (six time Pucon 70.3 champion) tweeted at me that my back tire exploded about 5 minutes after returning my bike to transition. My theory now is that the latex tube in the back tire bubbled, causing the tire to bubble and rub somewhere on my bike. Luck was on my side on this day that it didn’t explode sooner!
By about the 2 kilometer point I entered the lead of the race. It is without a doubt the hardest run course I have ever done. Steep ascents and descents, on a three loop course. I decided to not use a watch for this one and just run off of feel. It was actually quite refreshing to do a run without any concept of time. It allowed me to take in the course and the many cheering spectators. I came up one steep hill and saw the Villarica volcano off in the distance. I thought to myself “You are in South America; swimming, biking and running for a living, with a volcano as the backdrop. This is fricken’ amazing!”
Almost the entire 7km course was lined with people. You couldn’t help but want to push yourself. I ran hard from start to finish. Many times throughout the run I thought to myself that this race needs to be a 70.3 World Championship. It would make for an honest and fair race, and would be an experience that no one would ever forget. The finish line was amazing. It is the loudest and most crowded finish line I have ever crossed.
The post-race press conference was an interesting experience. There had to have been 20 or 30 microphones all jumbled together on the table. I felt like I was at a post UFC press conference, or one of the “big 4 sports” in North America. They asked me the first question (which had to be translated to English) and realized I didn’t speak a word of Spanish, and then never asked me another question. I vowed then that if I ever came back to Pucon I would buy a Rossetta Stone and at least learn some basic Spanish.
I can’t think of a single negative thing to say about this race, the organization or the community. It was world class on every level. I really hope to do a World Championship here at some point in my career. I want to give a big thanks to everyone for reading and following along. I know a lot of people in North America didn’t get to experience much coverage, but wanted to. Erin fully intended on periscoping the race, but for some reason periscope wouldn’t work on a 3G cellphone network. Next up, I will put my nose to the grind stone and swim with the local club hardcore until Oceanside 70.3. I intend on giving regular updates with the progression in the meantime.