This past weekend I competed in the Elkhart Lake Triathlon. This race was not a "Pro' race by USAT. To be a Pro race you need a prize purse of $5,000. This had a prize purse of $1050. I ended up choosing this race for a couple reasons. First, it was a race I could drive up on Friday after work and then race Saturday morning and be in my own bed on Saturday night. I could use it as a training race and if things went well, I could earn a little money while I was at it. Also, I did this race several years ago and it was the second Olympic distance race I did.
Doing a training race simply means you don't back down in your training the week leading up to the race. You may take it easier the day before, but your main focus is not this race, but other races down the line. Of course this means you are not 100% and racing tired. Also, it gives you a chance to try something you have not tried in most races. In this one I was working on my nutrition. What could I take in and where during the race. The plan was one Gel pack on the bike about half way and one at mile 2 on the run. Normally I don't take any thing in other than water and Gatorade.
Dana came with me to the race. She was racing the sprint. We arrived Friday afternoon and I was able to get a couple short workouts in. We checked in and I checked the start list for the Elite wave. I was surprised to find at least 4 pro's on the start line (there may have been more, but 4 that I knew of). All of them are solid triathlete's. Top 5 get a prize purse so I knew if I wanted any money I would need to be up there. We got a bite to eat then we were in bed by 8:30. We had a little mishap in the middle of the night. Dana rolled over and smacked me in the face and I woke up with with a sore, fat lip (its Thursday, this happened Friday night and my lip is still swollen). Needless to say I did not sleep the best.
Saturday morning it was my usual breakfast, but I just did not feel like I could eat, so I did not have quite as much as I normally do. Then off to the race site to go through my pre-race routine. The sprints in this race went off first. This was great as I could see Dana off and wish her good luck. Then it was our turn. Our turn to sit around and wait. We were supposed to go off at 7:45, but I don't think we went off till 8am. This mostly left me anxious and I wanted to get started. I am usually sipping on my water bottle right before the race, but because of the delay I no longer had it and I had dry mouth at the start. There was no water around so there is nothing I could do. I just focused on the race at hand.
Soon we were lined up and ready to go. The lined us up in the water about mid shin and shot of the gun and we were off. It was a cluster and we had some good swimmers in the group. I took a line straight line to the second buoy while others took kind of a strange line to a sighting buoy. This allowed me to swim comfortably and without a crowd. We all ended up at the the 2nd turn buoy together and since other wanted to set the pace I just jumped right in and followed them. There was a pack of about 5 of us. I swam in the 3rd position most of the race. Toward the end two swimmers put in an effort to be out of the water first (there was a $100 bonus for the fastest swim, bike, and run). Since they were doing all the work I did not try to sprint past them. It just did not seem right to me. Also, I wanted to focus on the over all race. Of course I was also feeling a bit tired at this point, so maybe the first two reasons are just an excuse.
I came out of water in 4th and it was a long run to transition. When I say long, it took at least a minute plus just to get to the transition area and it was a windy run as well. At times I was hoping I was still going the right way. I had a quick transition and moved into 3rd and then I was quick getting onto my bike and actually moved up to first.
Elkhart Lake is a long bike (45K instead of 40K- about 3.1 miles longer than most Olympics) with some smaller hills and on this day it was hot and extremely windy. On the first small climb one rider passed me and I was in second. We rode like this for some time until Thomas Gerlach came flying by me. When he went by I remember saying to myself "h*ly Shi*t!" I could not believe how fast he was moving. After the race he would tell me he thought it was funny if he put in a really strong effort when he went by me. I laughed, but I remember during the race I did not think it was really funny.
On the way out we were fighting the wind. The way the wind was blowing, we were actually fighting the wind for most of the race, either head on or from the side. When we turned to come back I could feel the wind actually blowing the back part of my aero helmet where I thought it was going to twist on my head. With the temp rising, this made for a tough day on the bike. I focused on staying smooth on the bike. About half way through the bike I was passed by two bikers, but I also passed one, so when T2 arrived I was in 4th position.
I had another quick transition and I was soon on the hunt. I could see 3rd place in front of me and I focused on him. About mile 1.5 I moved into 3rd place. As I passed the guy in 3rd I patted him on the back, gave him some encouragement and told him to run with me. We would go after 2nd together. He tried to match my pace, but fell off.
Elkahart Lake is a tough run. They have two good climbs in it and on a hot day, it make is even tougher. After I moved into 3rd I had the first climb. I focused on quick feet to get up the hill and stayed relaxed. I saw Tom coming down the hill on the way back down and I reached my hand and gave a quick high five. The great thing about triathlons is, even though we are competing against each other, even on the race course, there always seems to be encouragement. I feel we are more focused on the effort and having a great race. Don't get me wrong, we all want to be beat each other, but most triathletes doing it with great sportsmanship.
After the turn to go back down the hill I knew I was about a minute down to 2nd. I was not sure if I could catch him, but I was going to try. I could see 2nd in front of me. Almost taunting me. I could not tell if I was making ground, but I was sure trying. Soon it was the next big climb. Same strategy as before, quick feet and staying relaxed. I could still see 2nd, I was making ground but not enough. I hit the top of the hill and charge down the other side. With the turns in the road I could not see him. Closer to the finish I heard someone yell that I was about 30 sec down. With less then a mile to go I knew that it was probably to much to make up. 3rd place was secure as 4th was not in sight. All I had to do was jog in it. So what did I do, I went harder. I figured I would give it one last chance to try to get up to 2nd. I was not successful, I ended up 3rd, but it was a good thing I put in that effort as to my surprise, I finished with the fasted run on the day. If I was to guess before the race I would have guessed maybe the fastest swim (I was 4th) or maybe the fastest bike (6th), but never the fastest run. If I did not make that last effort I don't think it would have happened. It is a good thing I did as that gave me a $100 bonus.
I was hopping to win the race, but considering who showed up I was happy with my 3rd place finish. My run split was not my best, but I looked at some splits of runners who I know are a lot faster than me and I know they had some tough days, so I was happy in comparison. The bike I was disappointed in, but we are working on that and its getting better. As long as its getting better, then I am making gains in the right direction and I can't complain about that.
After the race I was happy to find out Dana finished 4th in her age-group. All in all. It was a good day for both of us. I really could not ask for anything more.