Monday, April 26, 2010

So Close?

Yesterday I raced in the Ishigaki World Cup. The ITU has posted a short article and video here.


My big goal for this race was to finish within the 5% time cut-off and to therefore earn ITU points. My stretch goal was to also finish in the top twenty places and to therefore earn partial travel reimbursement from USA Triathlon. An even bigger stretch goal was to finish in the top ten, as this would get me a paycheck and would also get me closer to qualifying for USAT funding. A smaller goal was to make it out of the water with any reasonable swim group and to therefore not ride alone.

I didn’t really accomplish any of these, other than my swim being almost decent.

I exited the water in 26th place of 38 guys, at 17:52. I was 13 seconds behind a six-man chase pack and 20-30 seconds ahead of what would become the next chase pack. I had a quick T1 but couldn’t chase down the group ahead of me. The bike course included a U-turn at 1k so I could see the next chase group forming behind me. So I made a smart decision to ease off just a bit, get my shoes on and grab a drink before the pack caught me. The alternative would have been to continue working hard in order to get caught a bit later, and to be more tired.

The chase group was really cooking. Michael Poole (NZL) was driving the pace. I had to work a bit just to catch onto the tail of the line. The first few corners were a bit discouraging – a few of the guys in the middle of the line were slowing down and the six-man group was having a small accordion effect. This was causing me to have to sprint out of each corner in order to keep up, and there were 10 corners on each of the 7 laps. Early in the second lap I hit a patch of sand while taking one of these corners and I lost my nerve just a little and grabbed a little too much brake … and I was gone. I couldn’t close that gap. Dropped. Ouch.

The rest of the bike leg was a fight just to not get lapped. I rode one lap with Tim George (AUS) but I was just too cooked to keep up … I rode the rest solo. The main group did ease off a bit on the last three laps and I found that my gap was staying about the same, but I was already a few minutes behind by then. Adding another level to my frustration, the chase group that dropped me did eventually catch back onto the main field at the beginning of the last lap! If I had stayed with that chase group, then I should have been able to stay within the time cut-off. 29 guys finished the bike in that group. Two DNF’ed and 26 of the other 27 stayed within the time cut-off. Ouch.

My run was painful. I didn’t have much to run for, other than pride, and my pride was pretty much shattered at this point! But luckily the large and enthusiastic crowd gave me a lot of support, even as I limped to a 38-minute 10k.

If I had stayed with that group then I should have scored points. I was right there … although at the time, I didn’t think my group would catch the main field. I was wrong. I fought hard to stay on but could I have fought harder? Do I just need to train harder/more/smarter? Being stronger on the bike never hurts your chances, right? But a bit more swim strength or even navigation skills could have gotten me into the next chase pack, which caught the main field much sooner.

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