One of my favorite trips of the year is always to Philadelphia, PA. Not only is it home to two of my biggest supporters in Nathan and Fuji, but it is one of the few tough race courses left in olympic distance racing. It also is one of my favorites because I have won there the last three years and was headed into this years TriRock Philly race looking for the 4peat. Over the years the race has changed hands, from being the Philly Triathlon, to a Lifetime Series race, and now the last few years it has been run by TriRock. Sometimes that can cause issues for a race as new people are constantly coming in and changing things, but all three of these race organizations has done a great job of keeping a fantastic race alive, and I have to give a shout out to TriRock for keeping the prize money in the the pro race when many other races are taking a different approach.
This year’s race was also different in that it was a duathlon. The forecast heading into the weekend hadn’t been great with lots of rain predicted, and if you know anything about the east coast, if it rains the rivers get nasty. So with that in the back of my mind I headed out to Philly a couple days early to do some events with Philly Insurance and Fuji bikes. It has been a really cool part of racing over the last few years to be able to meet great people that love the sport of triathlon!
We learned at the pro meeting on Saturday that the weather had in fact made the river too nasty to swim, so it was going to be a 40k bike and a 10k run, with the pro’s being sent off in a time trial format every 20-30 seconds. Obviously being a good swimmer I never am excited when the swim is canceled but you have to make the most of the situation so I quickly tried to wrap my head about how to best get ready for a duathlon. Looking at the start list I knew there was a handful of solid swimmers, but I also knew that those same guys liked to ride hard so the reality was that the cancellation of the swim shouldn’t do much to the overall standings in the race.
As I went to bed Saturday night, after my usual pre race pizza of course, I was thinking about how much harder the bike could be ridden since there wasn’t going to be a swim leading into it. Chatted with the boss, Neal, about how that changed my strategy and the reality was that it didn’t. I was in the good or bad position of being the first to go in the TT order, and was just going to throw down the gauntlet on the boys right from the gun. I normally ride as hard as I can, and without having the swim the thought was that same type of effort could hopefully equate to the same type of gaps that I can normally get on that course against the strong runners. Unfortunately we awoke on Sunday morning to continuing rain, which was going to make the technical parts of the bike course a bit more treacherous, but really it just meant slightly lower psi in the tires.
I was able to get in a good warm up and felt solid standing at the timing mat waiting for the gun. Sadly, there was no massive start house and people holding our bikes like you see in Le Tour, but once the horn sounded it was game on, and I hammered out of the gate and up the first hill. Since I was going first my goal was to simply put at much time into the next few guys as I could by the first out and back section which is about 10 mins in. The bigger that gap is early on hopefully the more frustrated the chasers get, and they either go too hard and blow up later on, or mentally they crack and I simply sneak away. Now knowing many of the guys chasing me, I didn’t see much chance of mental cracking, so I just tried to stretch what was possible. By the end of the first lap I had extended my lead to a little over a minute, and as we came down the final hill and headed into T2 it was two and half minutes. I felt like that was a sizable gap as I have been running well lately, but I also know how fast Jason West can run, as I train with him everyday and knew I was going to have to really stay strong.
The run this year was 2 loops of the southern out and back, so we didn’t have to fight through transition like in past years but it also meant we didn’t have any of the shade that the northern loop offers. By the turn around half way through the first lap I was feeling strong and the gap was still large. I was having to hold back just a bit as my quads were starting to get a bit tight from the effort I put out on the bike, but I focused on holding my form and staying relaxed. As I did the far turn around on the 2nd loop I saw Jason far sooner than I wanted and knew that he was taking back serious time with every mile we ran. With a mile and a half to go, I knew it was time to really let it rip, so I buckled down a bit and dug for home. With it being a TT start there is no official winner at the finish line, so I ran hard all the way through the finishing tape since I was the first one there but not necessarily the winner.
It is definitely a strange thing to have to finish, and then turn around and while gasping for air watch the finish clock to see how far back 2nd place is. I knew Jason had started 40 seconds back, so as it ticked past the 40 seconds and then a minute I felt good that I had done what I came to do. Although I held off any celebration until after the announcer made it official. Winning a major race once is a really big accomplishment. Having won the same race now four years in row, especially with this year being a duathlon, makes it really special.
Now its time to put in some good work and get ready for the next race at the NYC Triathlon on July 19th.
If you want to check out my nutrition from the race you can at First Endurance
Lastly, a special shout out to my friend in donuts, The Mediocre Triathlete, who through an underground donut railroad was able to get me some amazing fresh donuts right after the race!