In sports and in life there are few things that leave you feeling quite as empty and disappointed as a missed opportunity. When you have worked your tail off, gotten prepared, done everything you could have to be successful and then just missed it. That is pretty much the story of HyVee Triathlon 2012 for me.
Heading into the race I had put together the best 4 week training block of my career and had never been more confident about a race. Even after my crash in Chicago last week I was still excited to race and felt great about how things had shaped up. I had talked at length with Coach Neal about my race strategy even down to what I was going to eat and we were confident it was a good plan.
Getting to Des Moines is super easy and after a short flight, and my bike being sherpa’d by my parents who were driving, we settled into the hotel. If there is anything I can say about the HyVee Triathlon it is that they run the most professional first class race ever. They provide all the pro’s with accomodations, airport transfers, any help you need, and they pay everyone. Even those of us that it turns out have a bad day. They legitamize the sport, and like any other professional sport in the world they pay all the participants. Can you imagine if NBA players had to play “well” to actually get paid. Not to mention the atmosphere they create in Des Moines is unlike anything in the States, and closer to some of the big ITU races in Europe. Ok enough about that, its a great race, watch it, do it, whatever.
Back to my race. I also love coming to Iowa because as a Hawkeye I have a soft spot for the place, but also a bunch of good college buddies live there and getting to see them is great. Spending Saturday afternoon relaxing on a couch at a friends house watching the Hawk’s game was the perfect way to relax on and keep my mind on other things. The game was awful, but catching up was great.
Once Sunday rolled around, I followed my plan to a T. Ate when I said I would, drank what I thought was a lot, and relaxed and warmed up as usual. On my way over to the race site it was super hot, but felt like I was prepared and ready to go. After a good warm up they got us ready in the tent and marched up down to the dock. Again super professional! When the horn went off I had a good start and got out quickly. I knew Josh was probably the fastest guy in the water so as soon as I could I jumped over on his feet and just stayed there. That put me in 2nd after one lap and although we went out hard feeling pretty good. After a quick exit and dive back in I was again right in the mix, but Gomez and a couple others had upped the ante the second time around and we really started to hammer. Again I was working hard, really not liking the hot water, but felt like I was in good control. After some position shifts I exited in 2nd again, a bit behind Gomez and at the front of a long line of all the big contenders. That’s where the engine began to sputter a bit…
As we ran up a long side walk to T1, I was boiling. I was taking down my swim skin, ripping off my cap but exited an 80 something lake into 90 degree humid air sucks, and by the time I got mounted on the bike all I wanted to do was kill my whole water bottle. Usually I have to force myself to drink early on the bike but here it was necessity. The trouble was that as I started the ride my legs felt super weird and heavy. Not sure if it was the hot water, lack of hydration, not enough to eat but I was really struggling to find any power. I tried as best I could to stay positive, I was still with the leaders and just hoped ot feel better soon. Problems really started up the first climb when in a place I would normally stand up and mash my way to the front, I was sliding backwards and struggling to stay in contact. As my heart rate rose, my power dropped and what is usually my strength was turning into my worst nightmare. The bike is MY time. I own the bike and to be struggling to hang on to guys that I can normally put 90 seconds into was tough. Especially since I kept looking at my SRM and seeing numbers 50 watts lower than usual. Needless to say my original plan of a kamikaze-off-the-front bike to gobble up the primes had turned into a don’t-drop-me-please-sufferfest.
By the time we got to the run I was in bad shape. I had drunk two bottles but was annoyingly thirsty and my legs were barely moving. I did my best to try and run but it quickly turned into a survival jog to the finish. Huge thanks to all the Hawkeye fans out there that yelled for me. Certainly not the performance I had hoped for but their cheers kept me moving. As the laps went by I was feeling worse and worse and when I finished I think the most telling comment was when Sarah Haskin’s husband Nate told me I looked white, like way whiter than usual. Not good for the whitest guy anyone knows.
After pounding fluids and sitting a bit I came back to life enough to catch up with friends and reassure my wife I wasn’t dying. Problem is that is when I really got to start reflecting on the race, how miserable it was, and how badly I had missed a golden opportunity. That night I went out with my old college buddies which helped a bit, but the next day I still woke up disappointed. That feeling that you have let everyone who loves you, and has traveled to see you down with a bad performance. Your coach who has worked tirelessly getting you ready, and most frustratingly yourself who put in all the work. But after a couple days of that the pity party is OVER!
My family still loves me, my coach didn’t kick me out of the squad this morning at practice, and I know I still have two big races left to cap off what is still my best season ever. In missed opportunities there is always great opportunities to learn. I know I still need to work on my nutrition for afternoon races since I don’t have much practice with them. I need to still work on racing in the heat. If nothing else I can take away the positive fact that even averaging a full 50 watts less than usual I was still in the lead group. What I know I don’t need to work on is my fitness, or training, and I have no doubts I am super fit and primed for a big race. Now that race will just have to wait another month until LA where I can hopefully defend a title for the first time ever.
Des Moines, I still love ya, and HyVee will still be the biggest race on my calendar next year. 2013 HyVee Triathlon…third time is a charm, right?