Troika has been on the top of my list to do for the last 2 seasons. My first year I think I just plain ran out of money to sign up. Last year I was still battling IT band problems and I had Kona to think about. This year things seemed to come together nicely. I've been smarter with my injuries, and not let them put a complete stop to my training and racing for any long periods of time this season.
Race morning was interesting.... Morgan had to work the night before the race from 11:00 pm to 7:00 am. This left me to take care of Amelia over night and tend to any middle of the night awakenings. Luckily there was only one at about 3 am and I wanted to get up around 4 anyway. So I just started my day at 3. She went back to sleep and my sister in law arrived at 4:45 so I could make the drive out to Medical Lake.
When I got to the venue I saw all the familiar faces that make it out to every race. (I love being a part of such a strong local contingent of triathletes.)
Before the race I already had the podium all figured out. At least thats what I thought. Sam Piccici (not sure if I spelled that right, I know it starts with a P then you just throw "i"s and "c"s everywhere) was there and he was coming off of a crazy fast 9:30 at IMCDA. Ben Greenfield was a late entry and he's always a threat to win. Troy Nelson has been getting faster and faster every time he races, so I thought that would be the podium in that very order. This would leave Jon Moen and I to battle it out for 4th and 5th. You always figure someone from elsewhere will show up and beat everyone so I had that guy in the back of my mind as well.
The swim- (40:07)
There were rumors that this swim is always a bit long. This year it really lived up to the hype. During the swim I felt pretty good for the first half. I was pretty much in the thick of the middle of the pack. I decided to go ahead and draft for much of the swim and in retrospect I think that was a mistake.
The way back into the beach there didn't seem to be enough buoys and I couldn't tell if I should aim for the one closest to the beach or if I was missing one off to the left. I decided to swim with a group of 4 guys and we all swam very wide. In the end my navigation was very poor and I think that partially accounted for my slow swim time with respect to others. The good news is, everyone was slow. About 4-6 minutes slow in fact. No one swam under 33:00. Ben who swam a 27:xx last year only managed a 33:xx this year. So if you take 6 minutes off my time I think I would have been around 34:xx. Not exactly where I want to be, but I have not been staying in the pool long enough lately. I only have myself to blame. I put myself in a 6 minute hole to the top swimmers and about 4 minutes to Jon and Troy. Not a good start.
I took off on the bike and made the decision to try and push at least to the turn around so I could make up some of the damage from the swim. I don't wear a watch to swim so I didn't yet know how slow I was in the water. When I got up by the turn I started counting spots and taking splits. Ben was in 1st, Sam pretty close behind in 2nd and they both had about 7 minutes on me. I ended up counting 16 in front of me. From there I just rode hard and tried to catch as many people as possible. My Planet X exocet and wheels again did me well. By the time we went back by Medical Lake things were getting spread out and I passed Greg Gallagher to move into 9th. Normally Greg would be a contender to get onto the podium but he told me before the race that he had won the entry the week before and he was just training through it.
I saw my parents out on Espanola and they gave me a split of 6:30 to the leader and told me I was in 5th. I knew that wasn't right, but hopefully the split was somewhat accurate. It was nice to see them out there though. It gets pretty lonely in these smaller races. I was hammering the bike and not really worrying about pace up until I hit the 40k mark and realized I had rode it in 1:00:24. This was a 4 minute PR for that distance. I realized I better back off a bit. So I did.
From there I didn't see any other racers for the next 45 minutes to an hour. It was a strange feeling. At about the 45 mile mark I caught and passed a guy and could see one more up about 30 seconds. I passed him when we turned past the river in 7 mile. This is where I started to get suspicious that the bike would be long too. At mile 52 I knew we weren't even going to be close to 56 miles. The 56 mile mark was behind the college which I knew to be 4 miles from the finish because it's basically the 4 mile mark for Bloomsday. I was really ready to be done. Mentally it sucked. Physically it probably wasn't a big deal. It gave me a chance to pee one more time and I let the guy pass me back so I could follow him into the finish, as I had no idea where to go. So we ended up going 60 miles. I came off the bike in 7th.
I passed the one guy in T1 and never saw him again until I was coming back. It was weird running through park with everyone in normal clothes and me all by myself clad in spandex. But I digress.
At the three mile mark I started to really wonder where everyone was. I had lost track of my placing in my head (my parents number started to creep into my mind). I knew Sam, Ben, and Jon Moen were ahead. Somehow I didn't see Troy on the bike. In my mind I thought best case I was 5th. I was steadily ticking off 6:47 miles on my garmin. Pre-race I wanted to run 6:30's, but this was all I had for that day. I was starting to get frustrated that no one was in site. I felt like there were points at miles 4 and 5 that I could see way up the road (I was thinking I could see 3 minutes up the road) but no one was in site. Thankfully, Roger and Jesse Thompson were out there cheering us on and Roger told me I was 6th, about 6 minutes back from Ben and 3 minutes from everyone else. You have no idea how much this helped. I tried to pick it up a little and by the time I made the turn around I was 2:30 back and gaining on many of them. Ben was too far ahead for me to catch at that point and when I saw Troy he was running FAST. I thought he had a legit shot at catching Ben. Everyone else was in striking distance. Unfortunately my stomach started to rebel. It was all I could do to hold everything in. The last thing I wanted to do was be immortalized on slowtwitch.com as poopman #2. Some poor schmuck from Ironman Florida had shat his pants last year and from that moment on he has been known as poopman by thousands of triathletes.
My pace took a little hit with that distraction but I will say I was able to keep it together for the remainder of the race and I will not be taking "poopmans" place anytime soon.
Back to the race... I was able to catch a younger guy who I was concerned was in my age group. He was the only one I thought might be, as he was the only one I didn't know and he looked about my age. As I caught an passed him I noticed his calf said 21 so I felt pretty confident I would win my AG. This put me in 5th and to my surprise I could see Sam not moving too well and not too far ahead. When I passed him I could tell he was not doing well. He was pretty much running the same pace he ran at Ironman. He's a much faster runner than he showed that day. Everyone has bad days though, and all I could do was move on. So now I had Jon ahead of me, and that was all that stood between me and a podium finish. I got a split from a friend on the course of 1:45 to Jon with about 2.5 miles left. At that point I knew I was done passing people and I really wasn't feeling that great anyway. I went into cruise mode and made sure no one was coming up behind and just finished out the race. I probably lost a minute over the last 2 miles but I really didn't care. The chance at a PR went out the window with the longer swim and bike.
It's easy to be mad and complain about them screwing up the distances but in the end everyone covered the same distance so it doesn't matter. I will do this race again, but maybe not next year. Another race where I was never passed after T1, which again be chalked up to poor swimming more so than strong biking and running.
Final finish time 4:42:15, 4th overall, 1st m25-29