I closed out my 2014 race season with the longest-running triathlon in the US: the XTerra Mission Bay Triathlon. Deemed the “Birthplace of Triathlon,” the Mission Bay race started in 1974. This year’s rendition featured a course change, with a scenic run around the Mission Beach boardwalk and its famous roller coaster highlighting 500m swim – 15k bike – 5k run course.
After Age Group Nationals, I took a few days off from training to rest and get motivated to train for a couple of months. I wasn’t sure what the rest of the season would bring, but I knew I wanted to cash in on my fitness at least one more time. After looking at work commitments and assessing how I felt, I decided to do just this one more event before calling my season complete.
Race morning arrived, and my usual calm, relaxed mood set in. I lost my swim cap at one point, and thought I might have to beg for another, go without, or forfeit my entry. Nothing like a little undue pre-race stress to wreck a good calm. Fortunately, I found it by retracing my steps and had enough time to get warmed up in the water before my wave went off. One advantage (?) of being older is that my wave goes off about an hour in… I have lots of spare time before the race starts.
The swim was another new start, even after five full race seasons over nine years: an ankle-deep in-water start. Better than an in-water start for me, I got a few steps of running before the swim started, so I wasn’t getting mauled by larger swimmers right off the bat. I got out in front pretty quickly and had clean water from the get go. Despite hitting earlier wave traffic less than halfway through the swim, and struggling to sight the buoys with the sun right in the swim line, I managed to weave my way at a decent pace and came out of the water third in the wave. I always feel like if I can come out in that top group, I’m set up to place well.
My transitions were below average: I struggled getting my wetsuit off in T1; I had a disadvantageous transition spot, costing me valuable seconds; I couldn’t seem to get my right running shoe on in T2. Still, the transitions were fast enough to keep me in the hunt in the AG, only costing me a spot or two in the overall standings.
Out of T1 pretty quickly and onto the bike, I elected to run well past the “mount line” since the mounting area was small, crowded, and had two turns about 20 feet apart. I just ran through it all, mounted, and pedaled to the top of the first short hill with my feet on top of my pre-clipped bike shoes. (There is a good picture of this somewhere since one of the bike photographers was at the top of that hill!)
As I finally got going on the bike, I felt pretty good. I never felt like I really pushed the pace all that well, but my speed was OK. About 1/3 of the way through the bike leg, I noticed a rider behind me, following close through a series of turns. As we hit an open stretch, he shot past me like I was standing still. It turned out it was the same guy who treated me the same way at pretty much the same exact location in the first race this year (Spring Sprint race report). Some people are just uber-bikers – It’s what they do!
I lost sight of him pretty quickly as he pulled away from me, but I kept my focus on what I could control, letting the results take care of themselves. Sitting in fourth at this point, I wanted to gain some ground and the best way to do that was to press my pace. I kicked into a higher gear and really moved on the back half of the bike course, eventually catching another AG competitor with less than a mile to go on the bike leg. After a short… uh… “disagreement” with him, I made the pass, gapped him pretty good (he pissed me off!) and went into T2 in third.
After that little tussle, I was disappointed in two things. First, my response was inappropriate. No matter what someone says to you on the race course, the right answer is to rise above and let your performance do the talking. I didn’t need to respond to what he said because I was in the right, but I did anyway, and I regret that. (Fortunately, I was able to catch up with him afterwards and clear the air. He seems like a good guy and is someone I’ve raced against many times here.) Second, I was disappointed that I had so much left for a surge like that at the end of the bike. It means I wasn’t pushing hard enough throughout the rest of the leg.
I still have work to do giving my absolute best effort every time out.
Entering the last leg, I wanted to show myself that I still had a strong run inside me. I was disappointed with my effort at AG Nationals on the run, so I wanted to push this one. I caught another AG competitor about halfway into the run leg; it turned out he beat me by about a minute on the swim, so I’d closed a good gap on him. I could see the uber-biker ahead of me, but he had a pretty good lead. I focused on my effort, raised my pace as I could, and ended up gaining about ten seconds on him for the leg. Not nearly enough to close the entire gap, but I finished closer to him than in the spring, so… progress. My run time was good for second fastest split in the age group and was competitive overall for that day.
I ended up 2nd (out of 70) in the AG, about 40 seconds out of first, but a full minute-plus ahead of third with a total time of 52:44, good for 18th overall out of more than 850 athletes (see the full results here). I was proud of the result as I beat some strong competition, but (as always, it seems!) I feel like I had more. Still, I wasn’t about to let that get me down, not on the last race of my most successful season yet.
And it was just that. I wanted to qualify for the AG World Championships and I wanted to compete for AG wins in the San Diego Triathlon series. For the year, I raced five times – far fewer than I initially thought I would – hitting all the events I really wanted to make. For the San Diego series, I tallied a fourth, a second, and two wins in the Age Group. In the points series, I’ll end up second, despite skipping an early season race and only finishing four of the five events. That guy I had the “disagreement” with will end up winning the Age Group for the series, but I take heart in beating him two out of three times head-to-head this year.
Most importantly, I qualified for the World Championships in Chicago next September 15-20th. I’ll have the opportunity to race as a member of Team USA in the 35-39 Age Group against the top amateur and age group sprint triathletes around. It’ll be fun… daunting, but fun! It gives me a unique goal for 2015 in addition to the local race circuit, and I am happy that I’ll have the chance to train and race another season here in San Diego before returning to sea duty.
Thanks to all for their support this year! In particular, I’d like to thank my coach Dan Frost (now of MP Multisport), and the guys at Fearless Racing for letting me rep their awesome tri kit and other free gear! The team was fun, and I met some great people this season. Here’s hoping 2015 brings better races and even more success than 2014! For now, it’s time to relax a little bit, enjoy some fall beer and the holidays. Once the aches and pains from the season abate, I’ll work on some weaknesses from this year and hit January ready to get back at it again!
Stay tuned here as I’ve got plenty of new content planned in the coming months. The blog is up to over 8,000 hits in just over a year! We’ll keep chugging along for another season, spreading the word about Pancreatic Cancer and trying to add some valuable content for the endurance athletes, CrossFitters, and nutrition buffs out there along the way!