Jokes aside, it was a really cool event, made even better by our fun homestay setup in a student house. I traveled down with my Boulder housemate Jimmy Seear a couple days before the event. Immediately walking out of the airport doors, all one can smell is 'farm'. After some jokes we drove & settled into our homestay.
The race is notoriously difficult. I was told that some AG'ers refuse to compete in it and would rather do a full distance instead. While the landscape is very flat, the course is punctuated by massive canyons of erosion that the cycle & run courses dip in and out of. I had my own personal difficulties to deal with during the race, and one mistake led to another. I was dealt a 4 minute drafting penalty which cost me a spot on the podium.
The swim would be my only criticism of the race. It was 3-4 minutes short. I swam 19.58, probably a world record. The temperature was another nail in the metaphorical coffin of favorable opinions, with wetsuits deemed legal in 75.6f/24.2c water. This rule is a disgrace and needs to be changed, for pro's at least.
The bike course looks mundane but is really quite cool. It contrasts between flat open farm roads to the gorgeous canyons I spoke about before. The flat open spaces are mentally straining as one has to deal with average road surfaces, wind and a lack of landmarks.
The run course is one of the most joyfully painful & uncomfortable course I've done. Picturesque, but hard. Lots of steep grinding hills, nice lakeside sections and one long exposed grind up and down the 'energy lab'.
This was never going to be an easy one to win. Guys like Greg Bennett, Terenzo Bozzone and Tim Reed were never going to be pushovers. The key to winning this was to build a lead a on the swim & bike and hold on in the run.
I managed to get an early gap on the swim rather easily, and had only Jimmy Seear come along for the ride. The water was so warm & uncomfortable that I thought about pulling out once I hit transition. The feeling of overheating was so repulsive that I just couldn't imagine getting on my bike & hammering. Lucky the outside air was only 20c at this point, and I felt normal upon taking the wetsuit off when I hit transition first.
On the bike, I felt good straight away, attacking the first couple of steep hills. I was comfortable & jamming the pace, thinking of nothing but establishing a lead. I dropped Jimmy after about 15minutes and was committed to the solo grind off the front, until I hit the first turnaround at 35minutes in. Because of short swim, my lead was less than normal and it seemed like the pack of contenders were closer than what they actually were because I had already slowed to a dead stop u-turning around the extremely narrow road. In the group was Mark Bowstead who was driving the pace, Greg Bennett, Tim Reed & Terenzo. Mistake one. Seeing all these great runners just behind, I immediately I lost the commitment of racing at the front and started to soft pedal (what a pussy!). I dropped my watts 50-60 points, and was caught about 15minutes later. In hindsight, I was probably riding the same pace if not quicker than the pack and this first mistake cost me the win if I could have held it together.
Within five minutes of being caught and settling in behind Bowstead, I was surprised by the technical official with a
in my face. Second mistake. Four minutes penalty, just like that. I'm an honest athlete, & I didn't think I was drafting. It was just an error in judgement between my perception of 10 meters and the officials. Greg Bennett was just behind me at the time & after the race he felt I had been hard done by. But without playing the victim, I kept my cool and kept on pushing hard behind Bowstead. By this point it was just us and Benno out front, so I thought a podium may have been still in sight if Terenzo & Reedy had a rough ride. I ended up taking the penalty at 80km and watched all my main competition fly by and off into the horizon within 2-3minutes. I entered transition by myself & remained strong in my will to chase down some positions. Here is my Quarq power file from the ride http://connect.garmin.com/activity/336280452
The first couple of miles on the run were really rough. I felt uncoordinated & slow, but found my legs once I hit the steep rolling hills. Running down the hills was like a treadmill & it really helped my turnover. I built faster & faster and it turned to a really good feeling. I could see Bowstead in the distance and caught him at 10miles. I could see Terenzo was next but I was running out of real estate in the last two miles. There was no way I was going to catch him so I turned off the gas and cruised in for a fourth place.
Obviously the penalty dashed my shot of a podium finish, but a good progression of form from Boise was evident and I felt strong the whole day. The thing that hurts me the most was just not being able to 'race' the others. So lessons have been learned and another good test of the legs has been banked. This was only my third race finished of the year and I feel it will only keep getting better from here.
Next up is Boulder Peak 5150 on July 14. Thanks all for the support!