Often the weather can have an effect on the outcome of a sporting event. When it snows the football becomes hard to handle, or if there is a rain delay a starting pitcher may have to be put on the shelf to prevent damage to their arm. Triathlon is no different, and often it is rain that is the issue. However, usually rain just means wet roads, or colder conditions. In Des Moines, this past weekend, rain changed the entire complexion of the race, and in doing so, my end result.
I arrived in DSM on Thursday to some pretty crazy weather, and by the time we woke up on Friday morning the news was saying that the area had received a record amount of 3.5 inches of rain in the past 24 hours. Having gone through the floods in Boulder, a year ago, I know first hand how much water can damage but driving around Friday morning I didn’t see any major issues and assumed that nothing was terribly wrong. That all changed when I saw one of the other athletes at lunch on Friday and she mentioned that the water works park section of the course was flooded under a couple feet of water, and that the workers she had spoken to said it wasn’t going to recede anytime soon.
Now after my last two races, where I got a flat tire, and it took me out of contention for the Triple Crown, followed by taking a wrong turn in Chicago and thus coughing up the lead in the Lifetime Series I couldn’t help but laugh. I mean, why would anything ever just go the way it was supposed to. Lately, it has been a Murphy’s Law kind of a season. I was optimistic that somehow the course would be salvaged since it was still only Friday, but we found out later that evening that the race director had decided to cut the AG race to a sprint, and that our race would be the full length but that the bike was now going to be a 4 loop, L shaped course with no hills, and 2 U turns per lap. If that doesn’t seem like a big deal to the racers, then I am afraid you don’t understand the dynamics of a triathlon.
There are basically two camps in mens races. Those of us that want the bike to be really tough and fair and keep the drafting to minimum through the use of tough terrain and few turns. We’ll call these guys the cyclists. Then there are the runners. The guys that want lots of U-turns, no hills, and basically just wan the bike to be an exercise in group riding, with a few strong riders pulling the rest of the group around. Now you might think, “but wait, this is a non-drafting race?” Yes, it in fact is a non drafting race, but because of the strength of the mens fields, and the well intentioned but poorly executed drafting and stagger rules, any race that sets up with multiple loops and no challenging terrain becomes a pack ride. I personally would love to see some of the power files of the gentlemen that kept to the back of that bunch for the whole 40k. Alas, they played the game the way the rules are written, can’t fault them for that I guess.
As soon as the announcement was made I did my best to remain positive and upbeat about my great preparation and chance for the elusive big race win, but deep down I was really struggling knowing that my biggest asset, my ability to hammer the top runners on the bike and create massive leads, was just taken away. I am sure the runners were doing the opposite, and getting stoked on their improved odds of having a pack ride and getting the chance to decide the money on the run. I did what I could Saturday and felt really good and ready going into race morning.
When Sunday came around the weather couldn’t have been better, and after some good warm ups I was standing on the start line truly ready to put out a great effort. I think you are only able to have that feeling a couple times of year. When you know you had great training, and a good taper going into it and that you are truly ready for something special. HyVee was one of those days and as the excitement and nerves revved up, I was ready to throw down.
On the gun I had a good run into the water and immediately got some separation. I found clean water as I headed to first buoy and slowly positioned myself a little to the left to grab the feet of the lead swimmer which I assumed would be Amberger. After the first can, I settled into a good rhythm and enjoyed one of those swims where you are just going along for the ride. We weren’t going fast enough to really create gaps, but we strung it out enough that as we exited it was a big long line of 20 or so, and I made sure I got to the bikes first.
After a good T1, I was on my way, hammering from the first revolution of the pedals and even by the time I exited the park and hit the big road I had a gap. I did what I do best and smashed a tough pace early and by the time we hit the first lap I was up 20 or so seconds. I was gaining 20-30 sec’s a lap, but every time I made a u-turn I got to see the peleton coming down the road at me, and in the back of my mind I kept wondering would any lead be enough. When the same 2 or 3 guys are always at the front, you know that the guys in the middle and back are just along for the ride, as was the case here I knew there would be some very fast run splits.
I gave it my best shot. I threw down the best ride of my life on a flat course like that and put 1:25 on a group of 15 or so guys that although legal, were in a large peleton chomping at the bit to get running. I stayed in the lead until about mile 3, and then slowly was run down by the guys that were able to do a little less on the bike. I never really faded, I was just running on tired legs after fighting the wind for the whole 40k and ended up 12th.
People sometimes ask me why I don’t just sit in the group then, if it makes that big of a difference, and to that the reply is simple. I race to win. I know that I cannot out run Hunter, Rudi, and Brad in a straight up 10k. I need a head start, and thats why I ride so hard. If I had sat in I could have gotten 7th or 8th maybe, and my run split would certainly have been better, but there would be no chance of a win, and thats what I wanted.
I can’t take anything away from Hunter, and those guys, and hopefully if you are still reading this you realize that. I respect those guys abilities very highly, I just don’t have the same abilities. If the course didn’t change the results would have been different, both for myself and some of the other stronger riders. Unfortunately, though the course did change, and thats racing. I gave it my best, and can sleep soundly at night knowing that.
Am I frustrated, of course. Do I wish desperately that I didn’t have to wait another 362 days to get another crack at the “big race,” HELL YES!
Do I think I got cheated out of an opportunity for glory, and some life changing money, yep. Does dwelling on it help at all? Unfortunately not. A wise man once told me control the controllable’s. I don’t think weather falls in that category. Up next is the Lifetime Series finale in Oceanside, with maybe a stop in Galveston or LA before then.
On to the next one…