It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.
My first big race of the year took place in the cool, fresh pines of Show Low, Arizona. Temperatures were expected to be in the 80s on race day. Mix that with altitude, rolling hills, and a little trail running, I knew I was in for a challenging day.
My friend, Stephen, his wife and son stayed with me at the cabin in Pinetop. Gavin provided all the entertainment, as Stephen was happy in my Normies.
Although this was a low-key race, some big names were present. I remember the announcer saying, “this isn’t the World Championship” and “everyone needs to be nice to each other.” With the names of Pedro Gomes, Brian Folts, Stephen Hannaman, and David Tindall, I made this my mini World Championship. Most importantly, I wanted to make Tindall’s day a living hell… full of misery and pain.
Being at 6,500 feet elevation, I paid close attention to ease into my effort and focus on my breathing the first few minutes. I’ve experienced that suffocation feeling in past races and it’s something I never want to experience again. Before the gun went off, I warmed up for 10 minutes with a few sprint efforts to get that feeling out of the way.
As we entered the water, I hear Folts and Rink whispering and gossiping about the Seahawks Super Bowl loss and cracking Asian jokes. I walked by, confident, kissing my biceps.
Meanwhile, the dark horse, Stephen Hannaman, was sitting on a rock off to the side and away from all the pre-race shenanigans. I’ve trained with him and knew he was in very good shape and a definite contender in this race.
Starting in the front, I kept a close eye on Folts. I knew I was fully capable of swimming in a pack with him. David Tindall and I swam side-by-side for the first several minutes as I slowly eased into my effort. I felt like I could pick up the pace, so I surged ahead and hopped on the Folts train. For the rest of the swim I stuck to his feet like glue. He swam steady and straight, a perfect drafting buddy. Thanks Brian.
Folts and I got out of the water at the same time, 4th and 5th out of the water.
Swim time: 31:33 (I think it was a little long.)
T1: 2:11 – This was a disaster.
- I put all my nutrition in my helmet pre-race, thinking I could stash them quickly in my pockets. It didn’t work. I got flustered as I struggled to get my gels and bars in my small back pockets. I watched Folts slip away.
- My aero helmet’s magnetic visor wouldn’t stay on. I messed around with this way too long. Eventually, I ditched the visor and rode without it.
- The rubber bands on my shoes broke, and my shoes came off the pedals as I ran to the mount line. Oy vey!
By mile five, I rode myself into third with David Tindall and a Tri Sports guy close behind. As we turned on Sawmill (~mile 15), I see a cute pink bike, upside-down on the side of the road. It was Folts with a rear wheel blowout! I now knew I was riding in 2nd.
Around mile 20, David Tindall and I began pacing with each other. I felt like I was riding pretty conservatively as I paid close attention to never spike my power and rode well within my power range.
At mile 30, I was starting to run out of fluids in my last remaining bottle and needed water at the next station. I rode up to the volunteer way too fast and dropped the bottle handoff. I had about a quarter bottle of water left and it was starting to get warm. Although I didn’t feel it at the time, I think this moment of the race really left me in a deficit as I especially paid for it on the run. I had to ration my fluid intake the next 20 kilometers as I sipped on my remaining few ounces of water until the next aid station.
Around mile 40, I look back and saw Stephen slowly gaining on me. He looked strong as he passed me. At this moment, I began strategizing:
- Should I go with him, ride a little harder, and duel it out on the run?
- Should I let him go, ride at my conservative pace, and rely on on a fast run to catch him?
I let him go. I was fully aware of Stephen’s past race results. Until this race, he has struggled in long course triathlon runs.
At this point, I put a sizable gap on David and was riding all by myself for the rest of the ride.
I finally got water at the last aid station around mile 44. I poured one bottle all over myself to cool off and grabbed another one to drink. As I turned onto Fool Hollow Lake road, I figured Stephen was about 2-3 minutes ahead of me.
Back to Fool Hollow park, I had much faster transition (1:24). I saw only two bikes in transition so I knew I was currently in 3rd place.
I got a quick split out of transition. I was approximately three minutes down on Stephen. I’ve proved from past races that I could run down my competition, and I was very confident in my abilities to chase Stephen down.
Two kilometers in, I did a physical check. I was running much slower than I was anticipating, and my effort level seemed way too high for the pace. I knew I was dehydrated and hot, so I made sure to grab as many cups of ice, sponges, and water at each aid station.
5K – I was caught by a guy in a Tri Sports kit. I tried holding on, but he slowly pulled away. This was probably the lowest point of my race. I don’t like being passed, especially on the run. My mind started playing games with me. Thoughts of my past Kona performance crept in my head. I wasn’t giving in this time, and I was going to fight to the very end. I felt sick, light-headed, and overheated, but giving up isn’t my style. I continued running as fast as I could (not fast).
Still in 4th, I continued grinding away. The race ain’t over until you cross the finish line, I constantly reminded myself. At the halfway point, I saw Stephen at one of the out-and-back sections and his lead grew to another minute, with the Tri Sports guy close behind him. I began racing for myself at this point. I hurt. I felt like crap. But… I wasn’t giving in. Anything can happen in long course racing.
As I approached the out-and-back section again at mile 10, I was astonished that I had gained some significant ground on the Tri Sports guy. I looked at his face when we passed and he looked gassed. With 5k left, my only objective was to catch Tri Sports.
Mile 11, I slowly closing the gap as he was in clear sight now. Third place was now within reach. I got this!
Mile 12, I got within 20 feet as I eased up a little, took a few deep breaths, and surged past him. I left him little opportunity to hold on as I ran hard until he was out of sight.
As I approached the finish, I gave a little show to the cheering spectators, and David Tindall’s wife.
I crossed the line in 4:43:21… not the time I expected, but I was damn proud of myself for running myself back into third place overall. I could have easily given up during the early stages of the run, but I fought. I proved to myself that even on a not-so-great day, I could still produce a decent result. It was a good lesson learned: never, ever give up even when the cards aren’t in your favor. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.
3rd Overall, 2nd OA Amateur
Walking around in a haze and chugging several cups of Gatorade, I congratulated Stephen, the Deuceman AG champion! I tried my best to catch him, but he was the better man that day.
As Teddy KGB put it:
I was excited to win some prize money at this race. In my six years of triathlon, I’ve earned a measly, but hard-earned, $150.
1st and 2nd amateurs:
Tribe representing at awards!
As always, thanks to my sponsors Tribe Multisport, Glenn, and Julie Allen for your continued support. Tribe rules.