Yesterday I raced the Racine 70.3. This race was going to be a very interesting experience because I raced Muncie 70.3 just seven days prior, and so was unsure how my body was going to react when asking it to perform at a high level twice in such a short period of time. In the week leading into the race I decided to take it easy just a little bit more than I did going into Muncie 70.3. At the very least I thought this would leave me feeling more rested for when I start my final preparations for the 70.3 World Championship on Wednesday July 23rd. As the week progressed I started to feel physically better than I did in the days leading into Muncie. I didn’t have any performance expectations going into the race, but I had a feeling that I would be able to produce something very similar to Muncie.
I was fortunate enough to do this race with my mom and my friend Sadie, as well as have both my girlfriend and her parents there for support. Erin, Sadie, Chewy (my dog) and I started our journey to Racine on Thursday night. We decided to drive from Hamilton to Windsor and then spend Thursday night at Erin’s parent’s house. We left early Friday morning in hopes of bypassing Chicago rush hour. Thanks to Erin’s superior driving we made it to the hotel unscathed in around eight hours. It was nice to not have to travel on Saturday.
We awoke Sunday morning to low wind, warm air and glassy water. The water temperature was about 61 degrees, so it was wetsuit legal. I was feeling confident in my swimming after Muncie, so I was looking to hop on some feet and hopefully catch a draft as soon as the gun went. Unfortunately, the field was just too strong. I missed the feet of the second pack and found myself swimming solo the entire swim. But, I knew my stroke was in a good place, so I made sure to do what I could do and put out a good effort. I exited the swim three minutes and thirty seconds back from the leaders. It is not my best swim, but I will take it for swimming by myself.
On the bike I knew I was going to have to step up my game. This race had the most competitive field I have been in since St. George. I knew that Andrew Starkyowicz would be feeling very hungry after last week. I also knew there were about eight to ten guys who could all swim together and then would likely form a pack and bike together. This meant I was going to have to put forth a bit more effort on the bike, in an attempt to keep the amount of time I lost to Starkyowicz to a minimum, and try my best to give up very little time to the lead chase pack.
I decided very early on that I was going to try and push 350w for as long as I could. I managed to average this for about half of the ride. I knew Starkyowicz’s bike time from the year previous was about 2:02:50 and I knew I was on pace for about 2:05, so I knew I was biking decently well. The course has a lot of corners, and I am not the most technically sound rider, so I was sure I would give up a bit of time here. By about 40 miles I had entered eighth place. I continued to push and I soon saw up in the distance a fairly large pack of cyclists. I couldn’t believe it. Could this possibly be the lead chase pack!? As they neared a corner up in the distance I was able to do a head count. There were six riders! It was the lead chase pack!! This meant that if I caught and passed them I would be in second place! This is something I was not expecting to occur against such a deep field.
I continued to hold my power output, which by this time had dropped to 348w. Around mile 45-48 I finally caught them. I pulled up behind but did not dare pass because we were on a slight downhill and I didn’t want to chance not being able to overtake them all and be charged with a drafting penalty. At this point I thought about sitting in and taking a break for the final 8-10 miles, but I learned a lesson about this at Raleigh 70.3 (I sat up for 5k on the bike and then lost by 40 seconds, things could have potentially been different) and so when we hit a decent sized uphill section I decided to make the pass. Admittedly, it took about a 20-30s 500w+ surge, but by the end I had entered second place. I will say, it was a very cool feeling to be leading the lead chase pack, especially with so many athletes who I respect and follow in the group. I then went back to trying to hold 348w, but due to having to wait a bit to make the pass, my average had dropped to 346w. I ended up coming off the bike in second having road 2:05:17 and averaging 348w normalized, with a VI of 1.01.
I was given a huge surprise when Erin told me I was eight minutes back from Starkyowicz. I actually laughed a little bit, I was in such disbelief. Last week he out biked me by 2 minutes and 1 second. I pushed more wattage this week, so I figured at the very least the bike-deficit would have been about the same. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Starkyowicz had upped his game this week as well, but by more than I had mine.
Eight minutes is a lot of time to make up. Things were not looking good to take the win. That being said, I went out with the mindset that I went out with in Syracuse 70.3: Let’s see what happens. It took me a bit to find my rhythm, I believe because I pushed quite a bit more wattage than I had been training to do. I caught a glimpse of Starkyowicz as I was approaching mile 3 and he had already made the first turnaround and was at about mile 4. My only thought was: He is a long way ahead! I kept pushing though because I knew I was making up time. It felt like an eternity before I reached the point where he was when I had caught a glimpse of him. I think the second half was a bit easier than the first half because I could feel my leg speed increase. I just focused on staying relaxed and keeping the turnover high.
I caught a second glimpse of him when I was around mile 6 and he must have been around mile 6.75. This time around it did not feel like an eternity to reach the point where I had saw him. This was motivating and was the first time where I thought that I might be able to win the race. I continued to push and people on the sidelines were starting to yell that if I kept the pace where it was, I would catch him. This was very motivating. I saw him again as we approached the third and final turnaround. This time he was about a quarter mile or so ahead. It still seemed like a lot of ground to make up in such a short distance (3 miles). This was where the strongest urge to slow down came. I started thinking, “he’s too far ahead; second is good. It will still be the biggest pay check of your life.” But, there was no way I was listening to this voice. I worked too hard to get to this point; I was not giving up until I crossed the finish line!
Even at mile 11 he still seemed too far ahead to catch. At mile 11.5 someone told me I was only 18 seconds back. It was at this time that I finally allowed myself to envision crossing the finish line in first. By mile 12 I was about 15 meters back. At mile 12.25 I caught him. I have prepared myself for this moment in practice on many occasions. I include final sprints at the end of my workouts all the time, in the event that I find myself in this situation. Thus, I made sure that when I made the pass, I went hard. I didn’t allow myself to look back for about half a mile. When I did, I knew I was going to get to break the tape.
Going through the banner was an awesome experience. I worked very hard for this one. Out of Muskoka, Muncie, and now Racine, I feel this one was by far the most hard-earned. It reminded me why I love racing. That feeling of not knowing who is going to win, while operating at full capacity; that is the coolest feeling in the world.
Afterwards we waited for Sadie and my mom to finish. They both had awesome races. My mom having PB’d by nearly an hour over her last 70.3 (which was also her first) in Muskoka. And Sadie coming back strong after a hard bike crash that left her unable to train much, and finishing second in her age-group. This was the largest pay check of my life, so I decided we should class it up and go to the local pub for a burger (not Burger King as usual). It was delicious, though as I am writing this I have an unsatiated Whopper craving.
We then went back to the race site for the awards presentation. We then hurried back to the car to start our journey home from Racine to Hamilton. It was going to be a tough one. Erin had to work at 7:45 a.m. so we had no choice but to drive it straight. Erin took the first shift and then I drove from Windsor to Hamilton while she slept in the back. Her effort behind the wheel dwarfed my effort earlier that day. It ended up taking us 12 hours, but we made it home in one piece at 5:15 am.
This race was probably the most fun I have had in a long time. I am so thankful to be able to do this full-time. And so I must send out a very sincere thanks to Cycle Culture, Dr. Richard Kniaziew, Louis Garneau, Saucony, eLoad, CompuTrainer, Nineteen Wetsuits, Embrace Open Water Swimming, C3-Kinetico, and Multisport Canada for allowing me to do what I love. Additionally, once again, Erin and her parents were amazing as support crew. There is no way this would have been possible without your help.
Thanks for reading and following along!!