PART BEAR. PART MAN. ALL AMERICAN
Location: Tempe, Arizona
The race at Disney has changed elements of its course each of the last four years, since its inception. The swim has remained the same, the bike has changed from year to year, and there have been three different run courses. In my opinion, this year’s bike course was the best it’s been, and the run was probably the toughest. I was very excited to try out my new blueseventy pointzero3 skinsuit for the race. I received it two days before the race, so I was able to swim in it one time on Saturday. It felt great, and I figured it was going to be a nice little aid for a faster swim. Even if most of the other pros are using the same suit, it still seemed like it would give me an edge! The swim start went off pretty smoothly. I jumped right into a good position with the front of the group, and put my head down for a hard swim. Unfortunately, about 400 meters into the swim, the guy in front of me got dropped from the pack. How many times does this seem to happen to me!! I need to take control of my own swim destiny, and go right to the best feet in the swim. At least then it will be my fault if I lose them! My swimming is in a good place right now, but I am only capable of holding onto the draft of the lead group. When there is a gap, I cannot close it alone. I watched helplessly as the group swam away from me. The remainder of the swim was pretty easy and slow for me. I did not see the point in attempting to leave them to forge my own way. In retrospect, I should have done just that, as our group lost major time out there. Heading out on the bike, I heard a split that we were close to three minutes down. I figured I’d do my best to minimize that gap, but knowing who was up the road, it was a long shot. Within the first ten to fifteen miles, I reeled in a few of the faster swimmers who had been spit out the back of the lead pack. I was surpirsed to see that there were several athletes I did not recognize. Normally I have a pretty good feel for who is in the race; this time was very different. As we rolled through the out-and-back around mile 20, I got a good look at the leaders. There were five of them, and they were all riding pretty tightly together. The gap was growing, and I didn’t figure I could ride a whole lot faster. I kept on the pressure, while most of the dozen or so guys behind me sat in. A couple of guys came through for a token time at the front, with a grand total of about four minutes in the wind. The most frustrating part for me when these guys tried to take their turn was that the pace would immediately drop by a mile or two per hour. When a strong group of five was putting time into us, we could not afford to ride that speed. I finally made a bit of a break just after the 30-mile mark. It amazed me to see how far back the others fell, as soon as I had about twenty or so meters on them. I took advantage of a moderate head wind and some rollers to make the gap stick. Within five to eight minutes, I had a significant lead on my former group. I was very pleased with my ride, and in particular with the latter 25 miles. It felt good to have my first solid bike ride of my 2007 season. Next up was the run, and a shot at the top five. Within 400 meters of transition, I was back in sixth place (having been caught on the bike with two miles to go by a fellow who rode through my old group). My intention was to run hard from the outset, then let the chips fall as would. I was pleased to get a nice pace going right away. Mile one was at 5:21 and the second mile was at 5:40. I felt very comfortable at this pace, and figured it would taper off to a mid 1:16 pace by the end of the run. That was not quite how it played out. Just after the second mile marker, the course made a turn to some rough and uneven grass. I didn’t figure it would slow me too much, but I was very wrong there. My next couple miles were a struggle. The strange thing was that when I got back to the asphalt I was able to get back to 5:40 pace. Why was that grass stealing so much of my energy!? I stayed focused, and continued to chase the leaders. WIth the deficit I faced, it was not likely that I’d see Craig, Simon or Luke again. However, with a swift run, I figured that TJ Tollakson and Bryan Rhodes were within my reach. Sadly, the return to the grass segments brought more of the same suffering. I just couldn’t find my groove on that grass. I reached into my bag of tricks in every attempt to make my way back to fast; however, without that great energy return from the roads, I was a bit whupped. I made every effort to keep the Portuguese and Spaniard from flying by on lap three, but I had very little response to their moves. In the end, I resigned myself that the final money spot would have to suffice: another eighth place finish in a half! It was a good showing, and although it was not my best day, it certainly was a fun race to the end. There were many positives on the day, and one of them was that I was able to squeeze under four hours again: a bit of a consolation prize.