2014 is off to a great start.
Back in January my wife and I welcomed our new baby girl Lucia into the world, and were finally able to settle into our house after all the flood reconstruction. Since then it seems like time has been flying by, as I have tried to get ready for the start of the season, and we have been juggling a new baby and our lil man who is now two and a half. Which without too many details brings us up to this past weekend, when it was finally time to shave off the winter mountain beard and get back to the business of going fast.
I headed down to Miami Beach last weekend for the opener of the Lifetime Fitness Series. Its a race that I have done well at in the past, winning it in 2011, but also the race that I came our of T1 with a flat tire last year. So with an up and down history, and coming off a pretty crazy winter my expectations were minimal and really I just wanted to try and see where I am at fitness wise. Now I am a big believer in not racing unless I think I have a chance to win, but with the field that was on the start list anything can happen.
Race morning the weather was decently warm but there was a pretty good wind kicking things up. If you are reading this then my guess is you know I seem to be a constant source of questionable weather on race day so I have to say both amused and kind of excited about the tougher than normal conditions. After a good warm up and the long mile walk to the race start I finally got to see the water, and it was looking good! By good I mean decent waves, and constant chop, that make for a rough swim and have a tendency to break the race up a little bit.
I got a good jump at the gun and hit the water with no one in front of me, and quickly swam over to the feet of the only ITU guy in the field, Eric Lagerstrom. As the fastest swimmer in the field he was the guy I wanted to try and stay with in the hopes of being able to get a little bit of a gap on the good cyclists like Greg and Ben. In the rough chop it is always hard to tell exactly how far the guy ahead of you is as well as the people behind but having made it more than half way through the swim and not having had my feet touched once I felt like things were going to plan. Eric was swimming well and rounding the last few buoys I put in a surge to try and close the little gap that had opened. I pulled back some of the time and then for once the waves seemed to play to me as I was able to catch a few and roll into the beach even with Eric. After a quick couple dolphin dives and a dash up the sand I had come away with the swim prime and we had what seemed like a pretty good lead on the rest of the field.
As I jumped on my bike I had flashbacks to last year of doing a flying mount onto a flat disc and having my race end in the first 100m of the ride, but this year the disc din’t hit the ground and I took off around the first corner. The legs didn’t feel great after a longer than usual swim and a beach run but I seemed to be riding ok and doing the best I could to use the tail wind to open up an early lead. South Beach is one of those courses where you have basically 2 spots to size up the rest of the field. The first comes after about 25 mins of riding and so I was stoked when I came through that part of the course and someone yelled that I had a 90 sec gap to 2nd. I kept ticking over the pedals and really tried to hammer up and over the causeways in the head wind to keep extending that lead. By the time I got to the 2nd 180 degree turn the gap was over two minutes and I was actually starting to feel a bit better on the bike.
A lead on the bike to me is like blood in the water, and I tried to really extend that lead heading into T2 and put the race to bed before we even hit the beach. I came into T2 feeling strong and with about a two and a half minute lead on Bennett, which is by no means a safe margin but something to feel confident about. After a good transition I hit the run hard and tried to just find my rhythm and keep my cadence up.
The run course changed this year from a simple out and back on the boardwalk to an out in back in both north and south directions. The first out and back was simple and on concrete, and at the first turn around, although I wasn’t feeling great, still had a solid lead. Then the fun really began…
As we approached the transition area to begin our run in the other direction we got put on a “hard packed sand” road. It wasn’t a huge shock to the system but none the less caused for some mild discomfort as we went from running on concrete to the equivalent of lets say wet grass. After about 5 blocks of that we really got the party started by being directed onto the actual south beach of Miami. I’m talking 3-4 inches of the soft white sand that you love on vacation, but 4 miles into a run isn’t exactly a great time, but hey, its a tri on a beach it could certainly be worse.
After 5 blocks of the real soft stuff we were back onto the concrete path for an out and back mile and then back onto the sand to finish off the race. Those last 6 blocks of sand were rough but when you’re winning, let’s be honest, nothing really hurts that bad. Then to top it off as I came into the finish chute, they were bumping “The Man” by Aloe Blacc, which not only made me smile but I did my best Keap/Garnett impression as I came to the line.
The perfect start to the season. A solid race in all three disciplines, and a victory to start the series. Now its back to the grind for three weeks before I head back to the Sunshine state for the spring classic of triathlon, St Anthony’s, one of my favorite races every year!
drops mic….humming “I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man…”