Every year there are two major events that happen the last weekend in April; the NFL draft, and St Anthony’s Triathlon. Both mark the beginning of something major, one the start of football in America, and the other the unofficial beginning of triathlon in the northern hemisphere. While you could argue that for 99% of the population only one of these things really matters for those of us in the multisport world, St Anthony’s is the first major spring classic of the year and one of the best triathlons in the world. It also happens to be one of my favorite races on the calendar and one that I will hopefully do until my racing days come to an end. Enough reminiscing, on to the 2012 version of St A’s, in what turned out to be one of the most competitive non-drafting olympic distance fields ever assembled.
For me this also marked the beginning of a new era, the era of the family man, as this was the first time that I not only traveled to a race with my beautiful wife but also with our charmer of a son. The first leg of the trip to Tampa was relatively painless with only a couple fits out of the little man and more nice old ladies on the plane than heartless business men. A smooth flight kept everyone happy, and then when we landed as always we were treated to the best professional hospitality in the pro game. Kathy, who now seems very much like a long last grandmother, was at the airport to pick us up and take us to our hotel. As an aside Carolyn and Kathy, the pro home stay and travel people for St Anthony’s are some of the most accommodating and helpful people we see all year. I realize the age groupers don’t necessarily get to utilize their services, but regardless I feel like the pro’s should thank them at every opportunity!
Anyway, once at the hotel I met up with Steve of Kestrel Bicycles and we, along with Sarah, Sara, and Matty made a trip down to Sarasota to Tempo Cyclery for a lil Q&A. The shop was super nice and the people had some refreshingly original questions. Not that I will ever mind giving my two cents of the standard training and eating questions, but when someone throws a curve ball it keeps things interesting. After the visit it was back to the hotel and time to test out Liam’s adaptation abilities. Luckily for us he is much like his parents and the transition to the east coast and a new crib was no big deal and he slept like a champ. The next morning it was breakfast and then off for an easy ride around the run course to loosen up the legs. One thing I have really started to notice is that I seem to have the best luck when I have really light days when I travel but then solid ride/runs the next day with some good efforts to wake the body back up. After a short swim it was off to the pro meeting, couple hours lounging in the room and then down the street for a couple slices of Hawaiian.
The night before the race was one of those nights where even though Liam was sleeping like a champ I was laying wide awake in bed for hours. I have never really figured it out but some times its just hard to sleep the night before the race. It makes the week leading up all that much more important. Rise and shine came at 4:15 and after a couple packets of oatmeal from the coffee maker and a big bottle of First Endurance EFS it was on the bike for a lil warm up. Couple spins around the baseball stadium and then over to transition to set up. Lil jog around and time to head over to the swim start to check out the new course. After a little warm up, a jog on the beach for the national anthem, and a jog back in the water it was time to get going.
Philip and the crew at St A’s did a nice job with the new swim course and after a solid in water start I got out in to some clean water and was able to find Josh Amberger’s feet. I knew going in he was the best swimmer and my plan had been to stay with him and see if we could get a gap. About half way through I lost a couple seconds on him in the waves but got out and had a good run through transition to the bike. I could hear the announcer calling out a few names so I knew it was more than the two of us which was gonna make a good transition and fast start all that much more important. Once on the bike, got my feet in my shoes and we started cranking. I caught Josh quickly and then it was Ben Collins and I at the front for the rest of the ride. I knew I wanted to stay in the lead and I knew Ben was riding well so I was hoping we could get away. I didn’t however expect Josh to sit in the 3rd spot and stay with us the whole way. He rode well and took advantage of the legal draft that the stagger rule provides. The giant group of 12 of the best guys in the sport were chasing hard but I knew we had at least 90 seconds, and was hoping it would be enough. The only thing I am gonna say about the drafting rules is that they mean well, but with a stagger rule in effect, and a group of 12 guys, only the guys in the first 2 spots are working hard. Everyone else is just sitting in.
I love the bike course at St A’s because it has lots of straights but it also has a lot of turns. I have always tried to use the turns to help pull away from the group as one man can corner much faster than 5 or more. Ben and I were working together keeping the pace honest and got back to T2 in the group of 3 we had with a solid lead. After a fast transition I was first out on the run and after getting the headband in place tried to settle into a good rhythm. Ben and I were running shoulder to shoulder when Josh came tearing by us about a half mile in. I was feeling really good so I decided to go with him and we quickly dropped Ben. This however, was my biggest mistake of the day. By putting in that little surge and spiking my heart rate I had put myself in a bit of trouble. About 2 miles I realized I was having a lot of trouble settling back into a rhythm and had now lost Josh and Ben was coming back up on me. I tried to stay relaxed but by the time we reached the turn around I was in 3rd and fading fast.
Turn arounds on an out and back course can be one of two things. Either its, “Hey I have a big lead and this looks great,” or its” OH S%#^ here they come.” In this case it was more of the second. I saw Filip and TO running well and not far back but more importantly a good contingent of the chasers wasn’t that far back either. GUT CHECK TIME. I felt terrible. I was cramping, I didn’t drink enough on the bike, I was hurting and I was slowing down. But I knew that if one of that group caught me probably all 10 would catch me so I tried to dig a bit deeper and put in a hard 4th and 5th miles. Once you reach that 1mi to go line you can pretty much find a way but I knew it was getting there that would be tough. By the time I reached the 6mi mark I was toasted but luckily had done enough to keep the group at bay and come down the shoot in 5th.
Now I will certainly not say I was happy with 5th, I came to win and I hadn’t done that. I am also realistic, and knowing the quality of the field I had told Natalie the night before that a top 5 would be a good day, and I had done that. I had racked up some much needed points for Hy-Vee and made a couple bucks. I had done the race my way, learned another lesson to carry forward, and come across the line successfully. Wasn’t my greatest race, but how many greatest races can you really have. Its about being consistently good, and I think I did that pretty well.
It was a great trip with the family and it was awesome to come across the line and see Nat and Liam. This weekend its off to Knoxville, TN for another one of my favorite races Rev3 Knoxville. Its another good field and will be a very fast race, but hey to be the best you gotta beat the best right?