I have spent the last 3 years chasing that statement.
Racing almost every Toyota Cup race in an effort to both succeed at that race, but more importantly stack up enough points to be able to crown myself the Cup Champion at the end of the year. In 2011 I was second by 1 pt, and if something has ever left a bitter taste in my mouth that was it. After all the mishaps at the different races to come up one point shy, even thought I beat the winner at the finale race was tough to swallow.
So this year it was all in. Everything focused towards getting back to Dallas with a shot at gaining the Cup. It certainly wasn’t an easy road, as my four 4th place finishes would illustrate, but by winning the other 3 races I showed not only could I put together a full season with wins at both ends, but I could come up big when the cards were down in the finale!
Ok, on to the race….
This was the third year in a row that I have made the trip to Rockwall for the US Open. The first time my girlfriend Natalie came with me. The second time I came 3 days after my son was born. This year both Natalie and Liam were supposed to come but Liam got sick so we decided it would be best to go alone and make sure I could rest for the race. As tough as it was to leave them home, it was definitely nice to have my parents at the race.
Rockwall and the race organizers do a nice job putting on this race, and although it is a bit of trek from DFW, once you are there you never have to leave the hotel area because it has all your food and things to do. They even through a little VIP party for the sponsors and athletes to kick off the weekend on Friday night, and it was nice to meet some of the people from Rockwall as well as kick it with some of the pro’s.
Saturday was a routine pre race day, with the only real difference being the fact that it was 50 and windy outside almost all day. I had left Boulder Friday morning with a dusting of snow thinking I was heading to some better weather, but with plenty of clouds and wind, after the trip it would have been debatable. After a good breakfast buffet a bunch of us headed out to pre ride the course, or at least part of it. The roads are decent and there aren’t a ton of turns, but just good rolling hills and with the wind a challenging course. After getting the bike route sorted we grabbed the wettie’s and went for a swim in the lake. First time I have ever been to Texas and the water was more comfortable that the air. Post choppy swim it was time for a quick run, lunch, and head to the pro meeting.
The meeting was your standard, do this, don’t do this, go here, watch out for this, until I got up to grab my packet and realized I had somehow not gotten registered for the race. Not sure if it was my mistake or there’s but the organizers were great and got me taken care of. I should have been #1, but I guess #38 wasn’t too bad either, especially after they rearranged the racks race morning to put me close to where I should have been anyway. After the meeting got myself some solid Hawaiian pizza with my parents and then relaxed in the room flipping back and forth between football games. The Hawkeyes had the weekend off, so it was easy to just relax and not care who won or lost.
Race morning I woke up and headed straight to the window to see what the weather was doing. Pulled back the shades and…wow check out those flags blowing around. Checked the phone, 47 degrees. Perfect weather for a race! I actually wasn’t too worried about it as I felt like I had done a good job of laying out a cold weather plan, and hey, I train in the cold all winter in Boulder right?
Got in my normal oatmeal and First Endurance EFS breakfast and gathered my warm clothes. I knew warming up the trick was gonna be to stay warm without sweating a ton, because if you soak all your clothes then you freeze when you stop moving. After a nice bike warm up I racked my stuff and hit the port-o-potty, throwing my gloves in the grass next to it on my way in. I only mention this because I hope that whoever took my gloves from said grass had an awesome day and stayed really warm because you took my only pair of gloves!
After a jog, it was into the hotel to change into a wetsuit, which I have to thank Eric Wynn for loaner! Then it was on down to the water for warm up. The trick with swim warm ups is that you are warm in the water but if you get cold when you get out before the race starts they are a waste. Hence, the wetsuit and jacket I took down to the water since I knew we were gonna be non-wetsuit for the actual race. My plan went well and by the time we stepped up to start I was chilled but not freezing, and since I was the top seed I got the best position on the dock.
When the horn went off I dove in, couple good dolphin kicks, and hammered out a 200 or so. I looked around and was in good position at the front and settled into a good rhythm. I led out to the first turn and part of the way to the second, but having done the course the day before I knew the last third of the course was the worst swimming into the chop, so when Dylan came around a bit I had no problem letting up a little ot get on his feet. I knew that as long as I didn’t let Hunter or Ben get the swim prime, and the extra point, I was perfectly happy to sit on Dylan’s feet and take the ride in.
Once out, I had a solid run up to transition getting there right with Hunter, and after a bit of a struggle to get my speed suit off I was on my merry way. The course starts up a steep drive way and then right into a couple rolling hills so you have to be in the right gear to start, and lucky for me the little chain ring was just the thing and I was away and into my shoes without incident. Once on the bikes the theory is always the same and I went straight to the front and started to hammer the pedals. Although today I had a bit of company in Ben who was riding really well and who I know is a strong cyclist. We battled next to each other for about 3 miles before I heard a moto come up next to us and yell something. I realized they weren’t yelling at me so I kept going but also noticed that Ben was now heading to the side of the road for a stand down penalty. I never heard exactly what it was, but I have to assume some sort of drafting or stagger issue. It was a tough break for him as he was riding really well, but I also knew he would be hunting when he got back on so I tried to crush and get away as far as I could.
The bike course is an out and back and on the way out I was watching my watts a little and could tell I was riding well, but when we got to the turn around I didn’t have the lead I was hoping for and more surprising was that Ben had fought his way back up to second place already. I knew that meant I had to find a little something extra so I put my head down and went for it. I try hard to never think about the run when I am on my bike. I need to ride as hard as I possibly can and worry about the run when I get there, especially at the last race of the year. All in, nothing to lose. By the time we got back to T2 I had about a minute on Ben, but we had put another 3 minutes into the rest of the field. Knowing that the run was two loops of a hilly secluded run I felt confident that if I just ran hard I could stay out of sight and away from the runners.
The run starts just like the ride with a steep driveway out of the hotel parking lot and then takes a quick dip into a gated community. Then its a couple shape turns and through a dismantled fence and into another gated community. Then it is up and down. Up and down. Up and down around a lake in this neighborhood. I can’t see my pursuers and they can’t see me. Just the way I like it. At the half way point I could tell I still had a sizeable lead over Ben in second and with none of the other guys in sight I headed out for the last lap. The whole second lap I was thinking about continuing to push, but also not cramping up on a hill, or tripping on a downhill. Making sure I stayed steady all the way to the finish. My 10k split was definitely not impressive, but the important part was that I had given basically nothing back to Ben and only half of my lead to the better runners, and I was able to coast into the line, enjoying seeing both my parents, and waving to the crowd. The photo of the finish is just a little “Beast Mode” shot as the magnitude of my win and all the hard work that went into came in perspective.
Ben, Hunter, Bevan, and Chris are some of the absolute best triathletes in the world. Hats off to them for a great race, and a great season. I got a little redemption winning the series by 2 points after losing last year by 1. There are so many people I need to thank that I will make that an entire post soon.
For now, if you have a dream, follow it. If you set a goal, do everything in your power to achieve it. I can attest that if you are willing to dream, and put in the work, with some great support and a little luck you can do ANYTHING!
Now its time for a break, enjoy my family, go to Iowa City for a football game, and hit Vegas with my beautiful wife.
Then its time to get back to work…