When you race around the world every year you get to see some awesome places and meet some great people. Of all the places I have raced I never thought that Philly would become one of my favorite stops every year, but after 5 trips it is absolutely a race I look forward to every year. It’s home to two of my biggest supporters in Nathan Performance and Fuji Bikes, and I always love the trip because it gives me a chance to see the behind the scenes people from these amazing companies. Philly is also in my humble opinion the last of a dying breed of tough, honest, international distance non drafting courses left today. With the turmoil in at Columbia and the end of the Rev3 Knoxville race, Philly is now really the only race on the calendar that offers a truly challenging bike course. Lastly, I love the City of Brotherly love because the people are just so damn nice. As far as this Colorado kid is concerned Philly gives the otherwise unimpressive East Coast a good name.
On to the race.
This year we were greeted race morning with some refreshingly cool weather and a light breeze. A far cry from some of the scorchers Philly has had over the years. I rolled out of bed at the amazingly early hour of 4am to make sure I had time to get in my oatmeal and First Endurance breakfast, and get out the door by 4:45. One of the unique things about Philly is that it is my one time every year to ride a school bus, as it takes us from transition up the river to the boathouse where we start the race. Nothing like the smell of school bus in the morning to bring back memories of cramped naps, mean bus drivers, and loud kids.
After a good warm up I was feeling solid, and the field had a number of good swimmers in Potts and Kenny, so I made sure to get a good jump at the gun and get some clear water before settling in on Andy’s feet for the ride. He kept the pace honest and strung the guys out pretty quickly and it was a pretty uneventful ride down the Schuylkill. We hit land and were having a nice little stroll through T1, when Andy decided to bust out his best slide tackle rounding a wet grassy corner and took himself and me to the ground momentarily. After no card was awarded we grabbed the bikes and hit the road.
As I mentioned earlier this is one of my favorite bike courses because it involves 2 loops of a course that has 5 solid lil climbs and descents, with good leg pounding flats in between. I hit the first climb guns a blazing and tried to make a dent in chasers as soon as I could. Any time you can be the first one up a hill, it also means you are the first one that starts to head down, which means the speed difference between you and the chasers can get really big. I did my best to hammer the flats in between the climbs and keep on the gas all the way up the hills. By the end of the first lap I didn’t know what my lead was but the few times you have a chance to see other parts of the course I knew I was in the clear and riding well.
By the time I hit T2 I was just shy of 3 mins up on Andy, Mark, and Rudy. I however, didn’t know the split until after a couple miles so after a rather sub par transition I hammered out of transition and tried to crush the first couple miles. The longer you can make a big lead last, the more likely guys are to ease up the chase and so I tried to keep as much of it as I could for the first 5k. At about half way, you run through the transition area again and I was able to get some splits and some much needed cheers that were enough to get me through the last half of the run feeling pretty strong. I never run with a watch but its always nice to know the gap to 2nd isn’t closing much, and that you feel good enough to do something about it if it does.
Winning Philly the first time was awesome because its a big classic race. Repeating there last year was cool because there are just lots of things that can happen to make a repeat tough. So to go there with the goal of 3rd title, and be able to come away with it successfully is huge. I am really proud of the effort I put in in preparation, and happy that my race plan came to fruition.
Now its time to get back to the grind for a couple tough weeks of work in prep for another solid race up in Minneapolis, the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon.