This past week was an exciting one for me as it was full of life first’s, and great racing. Last Tuesday I caught an early morning flight to begin my trip from Denver to Beijing. Best part of that flight was that it was my first trip on the other side of the velvet rope up in business class. Now for the flight from Denver to Toronto, it was cool but it was just a way to get some grub on the flight. However, from Toronto to Beijing it was life changing having my own lay flat chair, in my own pod, with as much food and drink as I wanted. Life goal, check!
Once in Beijing I had a few days to get acclimated to the time zone, which I would say I did semi well, and a chance to see some of the sights in between workouts. My group got to go check out the Summer Palace, where the Emperor used to spend his summers, and I gotta hand it to the guy, he set up a pretty killer pad. IMG did a fantastic job of taking care of everything for the athletes, form all of our meals and rides, to making sure we had everything we needed.
The Chinese people seem to really be getting into the sport of triathlon as the Beijing International race has grown from about 500 people in 2011, to now an 1800 person field. They love to race and they are super enthusiastic fans. We did an autograph signing at the host hotel one afternoon with all the athletes and the line never cleared, we just eventually got whisked away from the table to get to dinner. Now as much as I would love to think it was all of us that drew the crowd, having Alistair Brownlee at the end of the line certainly helped.
Race morning came, and I gotta say it was probably the first time in my career that I woke up before my alarm and wasn’t in the least bit annoyed. The silver lining to jet lag I suppose. After a standard breakfast I was just about to head out the door when I finally decided to pull the blinds and check the weather. Luckily I did as I was greeted by cooler temperatures and rain and had to grab what little cool weather gear I brought on my way out.
I got in a good warm up, and after riding part of the course decided I definitely needed to let some air out of the tires. The beginning part of the course is on a wide open free way, which is great but the few u-turns have a ton of white paint and the worst way to start a bike leg is by kissing the pavement. After getting transition set up I got to check out the worlds longest red carpet; the 700m run up from the water. I was thinking that it was going to be a hard run, and unfortunately when you have this many ITU guys in the race every run is break neck.
I got in a good swim warm up and after introductions was standing on the pontoon in between Joe Maloy, and Brownlee. Not a bad place to be if you can get a quick swim start, so at the gun I tried to harness some of my former 1:38 200 free speed and get on some feet. I tucked in behind the fish, also known as Josh Amberger and Brownlee and did what I had to to stay there.
After a blazing 1500m tour of the lake it was onto that red carpet for a little jog. By jog I mean flat out sprint in bare feet for 700m doing everything in my power to stay in contact with Joe and Alistair. To be honest I was actually really pleased when I hit my rack only a few seconds back, and after the first 500m I was in my shoes and on the gas. Obviously for me the strategy of drilling the bike is always the same, but when there are multiple guys in the field that can run sub 30:30, it becomes even more paramount. By the first u-turn on the free way I had gotten everything stretched out, and by the second, it was just me and Alistair. Which at the time I thought was a good start, but after 56 minutes and change it was still just Alistair and I, and although pleased with my ride, I knew that meant I was going to need a miracle to come away with the W.
Now don’t get me wrong, I actually have a fair bit of confidence in my run, but when you leave T2 stride for stride with the reigning two time Olympic gold medalist, a bit of reality is a good thing. It meant that when I was down 10 seconds after 1K I didn’t even panic, and when it was 45 by 3k I was actually really pleased that I could still see him. I felt like I was running well, and I always like running stairs so I was looking forward to the 700 or so that occupy the middle part of the course.
I felt like I handled the stairs well, and went up and down about as fast as anyone in the race, similar to Alcatraz in June. However, just like Alcatraz this run finishes with a mostly flat 3k, and just like Alcatraz Joe was hot on my tail. I made it to about 8.5K before he finally caught me and then he broke me going up a final set of switchbacks to the finish chute. I stayed on the podium at one of the fastest non draft races I have ever heard of, and frankly was pretty pleased with the effort. It was one of those races looking back, that I really can’t find a place where I could have found 20 more seconds to beat Joe. In the end Alistair only beat me by about 1:20, which I think is about half of what most people would have guessed if I told them we would start the run together so I will take that.
As I said earlier, IMG did a fantastic job of taking care of us while we were over there, and they finished that off by taking a few of us to the Great Wall of China before we headed to the airport. It was absolutely amazing, and no doubt one of the coolest things I will see in my life. The size and scope are mind blowing, and the attention to detail of something that is that many centuries old is incredible.
Back to work this week getting things in high gear for the last race of the season at The Island House Triathlon.
As always thank you to all my amazing sponsors and supporters!