Monday, July 7, 2008

A Day of Firsts

Yesterday I raced in the Lake Stevens 70.3 Triathlon and while it wasn't the first sprint finish in the short history of half-Ironman I had a lot of my own "firsts:"

  • Deciding to do a pro race the day before -- I'd been hurt a bit and wanted to see my legs hold up for a relatively painless training run ... which took until Saturday.
  • Turning a home race into an away race -- I slept on somebody's floor in Eugene on Friday night, drove to Everett on Saturday for the race meeting then stayed at my parents' house on Saturday night.  Sure my house is only 45 minutes from the start but theirs is right on the course.
  • Getting penalized -- I forgot to put my running bib number on before the bike and Jurgen caught me about 8 miles in.  Luckily it was a short stand-down penalty and didn't cost me much time.
  • Finishing in the top half of a pro field -- 6th out of 15.
  • Finishing in the money at a pro race.  Woohoo!!  (I'd smaller races and in the Tri-California Series points before, but not an individual pro race... splitting hairs, perhaps?)

For those who like details, here is the long version:

Although I'd been nursing a series of leg injuries over the last 6-8 weeks, I was eager to race at Lake Stevens because it is the only "pro" race that we have in the greater Seattle area and I really wanted to race in front of friends and family.  I ran about nine miles on Saturday morning in Eugene with the Brooks crew and my IT band, knee, ankle and achilles all felt fine, so I went ahead and signed up.

I was a little surprised to have a non-wetsuit swim given the cold Spring that we've had in Seattle, and I had to drive back to Redmond on Saturday night to pick up my ITU fastskin suit.  During the swim I tried to mark Tim Marr but Joe Gambles had the same idea and we had to share.  Eventually I got between Tim and Joe but Luke Bell started surging and swerving in the front of the group and I lost contact.  Bryan Rhodes, Bell, Marr and Boyd Conrick exited the water just over two minutes up on me.  I swam alone almost the entire time and exiting a few seconds ahead of Christopher Legh and Joe.  Lots of Aussies -- Tim and I were the only two Americans in the first seven.

I had an ITU-inspired quick T1 (fastest of the day) and got to work on the bike.  Maybe some of my speed came from leaving my bib number behind in T1.  D'oh!

Legh and Gambles caught me about a mile into the bike.  I tried to stay with them for awhile but lost them on the first hill of the new piece of the course.  Then Lars Finager and Ben Hoffman caught me and I tried to stay with them.  Lars pulled up with a mechanical around mile 6 but I kept my sights on Ben until the penalty tent.  Bryan Rhodes was standing there with a stopwatch, serving out a drafting penalty.  Rhodesy is always an upbeat, entertaining guy at the races -- even when dealing with a piece of bad luck.  But I didn't stick around to chat since my bib number penalty was a yellow card which only required me to sign the log book.

I lost sight of Joe except for on the long uphill and was basically alone until the water stop at mile 28, when Rhodesy came around.  I was able to stay with him for the next ten miles, swapping the lead back and forth and staying out of each others' draft zone as we passed bunches of age-groupers.  I lost "contact" with him near Lake Roesiger although I kept him within sight until about mile 50.  He caught up to Boyd Conrick near Roesiger and I wanted to join their little posse but could never quite catch on. 

Near mile 50 I started getting passed by another wave of pros -- first Trevor Wurtele got me on Machias Rd, then John Shelp got me just before OK Mill.  Ben Greenfield (first AG-er at that time) passed me just before we hit Machias again and then Dan Cohen got me on Machias.  Not a happy time.  But as I saw the line of cyclists up ahead of me I thought, "If I can run like I did last year then they are in a heap of trouble.  If I run like I've been hurt since May, then I am in a heap of trouble!"

I hit T2 just behind Cohen, to the cheers of a crowd that knew me personally.  Lots of "way to go, Chris!" and "Go get 'em."  Fantastic!  I put on socks b/c of last year's blistering problems and set to work.  I was 11th Pro at that point and if I could hold 6:00 pace then I should be able to work my way into the money.

I passed Cohen & Shelp about a half mile in.  They're both from Minnesota (eh?) and they ran the whole run together.  I passed Ben Greenfield when he ducked into the woods for a nature break near mile one.  I could see Trevor and Bryan up the road on the longer straightaways and started measuring time gaps.  70 seconds to Trevor at mile 1.5.  Maybe 65 at mile two -- not gaining fast enough.  But I clocked 6:00, 6:12 and 5:55 for the first three miles and just told myself to do more 6:00 and less 6:15s and I should catch them.

Going through town after mile 3 I got a huge lift from the crowd.  When I race in California its "Go Number 38!" but here in Washington it's "Go Chris!" "You've Got 'Em, Chris!" "He's Right There, Chris!" "You're looking strong, Chris!" and I recognize many of the voices!   Big trouble for the out-of-towners!

I saw Bell, Legh and Gambles ending their first out-and-back and the three were joined at the hip.  Quite a race at the top.

Trevor passed Bryan around mile three and I reeled Rhodesy in between miles 4 and 5.  I was now running 8th on the road if I could hang on.  But 7th and 6th were in sight on the longer straights -- Boyd Conrick was just ahead of Trevor.  I was within 45 seconds of Trevor at the turnaround (4.8 miles) and the gap kept shrinking. 

Going through town at the halfway I got another huge lift from the crowd.  I pumped my first in the air and screamed and got an even bigger reaction.

I finally caught Trevor around mile 8.5 on a short uphill after the mile-2 aid station.  I caught Boyd on the gentle downhill of Grade Rd and had to work very hard to keep him from latching on to me.  I could hear his footsteps getting ever so slightly quieter and I told myself that if I could drop him right there then I wouldn't have to sprint at the finish!

I saw the gaps at the turnaround -- about mile 11 -- and saw that I'd put some time on Trevor & Boyd and would likely hold on to 6th.  I also saw that Ben Hoffman was about 1:45 ahead and so I focused on "try to catch Ben" rather than "don't get caught by those guys behind you."  The mental trick carried me to the finish line and it was done.  1:18:34 for a 5:59.84/mile pace.

I just have to say one more time how great it was to have so much support out there.  Not just on the sidelines but the other racers.  I saw at least a dozen familiar faces out on the run and nearly everyone had an encouraging word to say.  I hope that I was able to return the favor most of the time, although I was on the Edge for most of that run.


  • Swim: 28:41.  Fifth Pro.  31st overall, although the AG-ers had wetsuits
  • T1: 0:51. First overall.
  • Bike: 2:29:59. 11th Pro.  15th overall.  Not too shabby.
  • T2: 1:05. 20th overall.  But socks are worth it over 13.1 miles!
  • Run: 1:18:34. 4th overall.  Only Bell, Gambles and Legh outsplit me.

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