Another spring has come, and with it my annual trip down to St Pete, FL for the one and only St Anthony’s triathlon. For me St A’s usually marks the beginning of the non drafting schedule and a chance to truly see how the winter training went and what I need to work on to get ready for the meat of the season. It also doubles as my favorite place to travel to during the year because of the amazing people that both run the race, and make up the triathlon community in the area. I have made many friends and countless acquaintances in my 9 years of doing the race and look forward every year to seeing them all and making new ones. The Mad Dog tri team is easily the most impressive triathlon team in the country, not only for the fact that they have 3,000 some members but also that every year for this race they offer home stays and airport transfers to every pro on the start list. Their triathlon community and sense of camaraderie are exactly what is so great about our sport, and why people continue to embrace the healthy active lifestyle that triathlon helps promote. I digress, but I want to really give a shout out to them and thank them for all the years of amazing trips to this outstanding race. If you haven’t been to St A’s, get it on the list!
Anyway, 2017 was another chance to race the best, and this year was chalk full of young, fast talent. It was the first race of the year, but also the first time I have sat through a pro meeting and realized I WAS the old guy in the room. There are so many up and coming youngsters that have the speed and drive to be successful at this sport, and while it gives me great motivation to stay on top of my game, it makes me think that the sport is in good hands going forward.
As with many years at St A’s the weather played a part in the race by shortening the swim and adding a few extra runs. Although I never like to see the distances changed, it is definitely better to have a back up plan like Susan and her team did as opposed to canceling the swim all together. They changed the swim to a 900m swim, with a 600m or so run into T1. Definitely not the news I was hoping for as I was looking forward to a rough swim but its the same for everyone so you just make the most of it. I got a good start and was able to run my way in to the water and get to the can in first. From there I tried to stay on the gas and split up the field as much as possible but when you are the leader into the chop you have to be smart about your energy expenditure since everyone behind you gets a free ride. I felt strong the whole swim and was able to get out of the water in the lead and did my best to run hard but smart over the 600 or so meters to T1. I got made it to the bikes first but with a group, and after a slow transition found myself just behind Eric coming to the mount line.
After a good flying mount and getting into the shoes quickly I powered over the cobbles and laid the hammer down. This race has two out and backs, and they are really the only place where you get a good look at the time gaps. This means if you are chasing you can see your deficit but if you are leading you can also see the gap. My goal is always to try and make that gap at the first u-turn as large as possible and this year with the second half of the out and back being not a head wind I was really hoping to hurt some people. I was feeling strong on the ride, but by the last u-turn I could see that the gap was growing but not what I was looking for. Getting to see Jason West run everyday in training I know exactly what kind of a 10k he can have, and with that in mind I really tried to hammer the final 5k and get into T2 with a larger gap.
As it turned out I had about 1:40 to Eric and about 2:30 to Jason, which sounds pretty good unless you have seen these guys run. With that in mind I tried to get out hard and nail the first 5k but also staying within myself so that even after a hard ride I would be able to stay on the gas over the second half of the bike when the boys would be closing in. At this point in my career I have been the hunted enough to know the combination of fear and motivation that come from it. I have learned to harness it and try and use it to my advantage knowing that the gap only needs to be a hair to win the race. Once I rounded the last turn with about 1k to go I knew I had 30 or so seconds so the pressure was on them. I tried to focus on my stride, keep my legs ticking over and just do what I had been doing. I have never had the fastest run split at any race, and I may retire at some point with that still being the case. But contrary to popular belief sometimes, its not how well you run, but how well you did all 3 that determines the winner and once again at St A’s I was able to have the best overall race and come aways with the victory.
That makes it three in a row, and four total wins at St Anthony’s. I heard the announcer say that was the most by a male athlete, which is a great accomplishment considering who has done that race over the 37 or so years in its history. Its one of my favorites, and it will probably always be where I am on the last week in April. Now I have about 5 weeks to build off this win and figure out how to finally take the W at Escape from Alcatraz!
If you are curious what my nutrition plan is for an olympic distance race check it out here .
facebookIf you want to see how I rode the 40k in under 53 again this year check it out here .