Normally I would not be pleased with much of anything about a 7th place finish. The old line if you ain’t first your last, isn’t really the truth, but generally good races land you on the podium. This however wasn’t the case in the super stacked field that assembled in St Pete for this past weekends 30th running of the St Anthony’s Triathlon.
St A’s is a special race to me because it was my first big win as a pro 3 years ago. It is considered a “spring classic” in the sport, on par with Paris- Roubaix in cycling. It always has a top notch field, but with its inclusion in the HyVee qualifying process the fields just keep getting better. This year the race was the biggest, 50 some guys, and most impressive probably in the history of the race. The biggest difference being the addition of a lot of top notch Olympians who were State-side for the San Diego WCS last weekend.
Leading up to the race the weather had been great, but when we woke up on race morning, in typical St A’s fashion the wind was howling. In the past, that meant the swim might be in jeopardy but thanks to a top notch race director’s decision to move the swim course they now have the ability to safely let the pro’s swim the full 1500 and the age groupers a shortened course if need be. I had a good warm up and heading to the swim start was feeling good.
The trouble with large fields and in water starts is that as soon as we get out to the start buoys guys start creeping forward. Here we moved about 30m down course before they finally called us back, but I will still wager we were a solid 10-15m ahead of the start line by the time the gun went off. I got a decent jump and was able to get into the top 3-4 right away, and after some jockeying got into the the 2nd spot at then end of the long straight away where we turn and head out to sea a bit. Before that turn the water had been choppy but not too bad, but as we made that turn it got real gnarly, and we started the up and down washing machine that St A’s has always been known for. It was just one of those swims that seemed like it was taking forever, and you weren’t getting anywhere, but finally we hit the ramp and I exited a bit behind the leader but at the sharp end of the group.
Normally, a rough swim like that would separate people out, but when you throw in a bunch of ITU guys that can swim it simply makes the front group bigger. So as we got on the bikes I knew it was going to be important to put in a strong effort right away and try and gain some separation.
St A’s is a very tight course and it leads itself to groups of guys riding together, but there are a lot of turns and twists so if you go off the front you just hope for an out of sight, out of mind kind of mentality from the pack. With that in mind I hammered out the first 3 miles or so before I caught Josh, and from there tried to keep applying the pressure. I felt strong the whole day, and the new Fuji Norcom is an amazing machine. There is an out an back part of the course about 2/3’s of the way through and it is there that you really get a sense of the gap. As I made the turn and headed back it was 20 some seconds before I met the group, but upon seeing that it was a big pack of 12 or so I knew that I was going to need the run of my life to hold them all off. With nothing to lose I pounded out the last 6 miles and hit T2 with what I later found out was a 60sec advantage.
If you had asked me before the race started I would have said I need 2 mins and the run of my life to beat this whole field. Knowing the course favors the pack, and that there are so many good runners, I knew I would give it my best off the front attempt and see where it went. As it turns out it went until mile 2 of the run, when the ’08 gold medalist caught me, and then it was another half a mile before I was caught by another ITU stud and a 4 time olympian. I felt like I was running pretty well so I tried to stay with each person as they passed as long as possible and even split the run which I think I did. However, in the end I got caught by 2 more Olympians, and a guy that ran 4:01 in the mile in college.
As I said at the beginning I am definitely not happy about getting 7th, but considering it is April and who the guys are that beat me I will take it. I swam well, I rode really strong, and I ran a 33 which for me is a solid day at the office. There are things that can be done better, and I will get more fit, but I have little doubt that if I raced the same field on a tougher bike course the result would be different.
Happy but not satisfied. Ready to head to Knoxville this weekend, and hopefully crack my brides maid past!