PART BEAR. PART MAN. ALL AMERICAN
Location: Santa Fe, NM
The Cochiti Lake Triathlon was everything I expected it to be: a fun and challenging return to my roots; an eventful weekend; a great race; a visit with family; and a relaxing weekend with Amanda (and Luna) in New Mexico.
Angie and the folks at Chasing 3 had scheduled a pro panel that evening at an ABQ sporting goods store. Additionally, my friend Jeff had lined up an ESPN Radio interview to help promote the event, and the involvement of his non-profit Endorphin Power Company. We also had serious amounts of New Mexican food to eat, so we packed up the car early Friday morning and made our way to Albuquerque. Luna was fired up to be back on the road, and Amanda and I were looking forward to the short getaway.
Once in NM, Amanda and I dropped right into vacation mode. Having trained quite hard in the days leading into the race, I took advantage of the two-day taper by doing a bit of baby shopping, dog store shopping, and hanging out with Amanda and my mom (and Luna). Training was not the priority those days, as I knew I would be needing the rest come Sunday morning.
After only about 24 hours in Albuquerque, we made the short drive to the Lodge at Ten Thousand Waves, near the Santa Fe ski resort. We were quite pleased to be in a little cabin complete with an enclosed dog patio for Luna. We quickly realized that we were in the lap of luxury for the night, and we settled right in for the evening. Thanks Angie!
Race day arrived bright and early (3:00AM!), as we had a bit of driving to do to get to the race venue. After a large breakfast and strong French Press brew, we made the trip to Cochiti Lake.
Once there I had plenty of time to set up transition, get a long warm up, and make my way to the start line. Luna was pretty fired up to see her dad race again, and Amanda appeared to be equally enthused. My mom joined us that morning, and the three of them teamed up to serve as spectators extraordinaire.
Naturally, I started the swim extremely hard. I knew the competition that day would come from two youngsters, both of home had admitted in the pro panel they were weaker swimmers. I chose to get away immediately, and the plan seemed to work well. The byproduct of starting out so quickly was that I quickly found myself overheating in the warm water (with full wetsuit). I have made that mistake before, but it seems I just don’t learn!
I tried to cool down by throwing in some backstroke about halfway through, and I even stopped to breast-stroke-scoop some water down the front of my wetsuit. Not feeling too lively, but still with the lead, I soldiered on.
Exiting the water with a 30-40 second lead, I did my best to keep a decent effort through T1. My body was feeling the effects of the warm water swim (and effort), and I struggled a bit over the opening climb from the lake. Unfortunately, I made a wrong turn about one mile into the race, and was forced to loop back and get back on course. With the added time, the second place guy, Alex Willis, was able to catch me. I was not thrilled to have the company, so I stomped on the pedals to regain my advantage. By the end of the first loop, I had managed to pull away, and by the time I finished lap two, I extended my lead to about a minute or so.
Leaving T2 I could see Alex cycling down the hill into transition. I knew I’d have to keep a good pace to hold him off. He was the younger, hungrier, and ultimately quicker runner that day, and I hoped the tank was full enough to run well.
It became evident that I was not feeling the flow that morning, as I really struggled up that long climb to the dam. Once on top, I tried to find the rhythm, but was just not feeling any snap in the legs. While I did not look at any mile splits or pace, I could tell I was struggling to get going much faster than IM pace: not good with a speedster chasing from behind.
Approaching the halfway point, Alex came by and I latched onto his pace. It felt good for about 50 meters, at which point I had to drop back down to my pedestrian stroll. It’s rare that I struggle like this on a run, especially when I have company to run with. There was nothing I could do at that point, other than watch as he ran away with the lead.
Finishing the event with a long downhill allowed me to tick the legs over a bit better, and to gain a touch more speed into the finish chute. I was pleased to have given a strong effort across all three sports, and even if my run was lacking, I have to give all the credit to Alex for really pushing a strong pace over the challenging 10k. It’s not easy racing at high altitude, but he sure made it look easy as he crushed that run.
Amanda and my mom, together with Luna were anxiously awaiting my finish. I don’t think either of them were too surprised to see me cross in second, after witnessing my labored lope up the hill at the outset of the run. They cheered and barked.
As far as the event itself, I cannot say enough good things about Chasing 3’s production. They ran a safe, fun, and challenging event, and it is clear that the sport of triathlon in New Mexico owes a great deal of thanks to this crew. Having raced this venue twenty years ago, it’s very cool to have come home after all these years. There is no doubt that Angie’s crew has done a great thing in keeping this event alive and thriving. I’d wholeheartedly encourage all regional athletes looking for a great olympic distance and sprint event to add Cochiti Lake Tri to the 2014 schedule.