Jen and I had a great drive on Thursday up to Rochester, MN where we stayed with college friends Liz and Chris Coon. Liz is in medical residency at the Mayo clinic in Rochester and Chris is studying for the bar exam in Minnesota since they moved from IA a couple months ago. They were awesome hosts and it was great meeting their new grayhound dogs. After a good night's rest on Thursday I went for a short run with Chris before Jen and I drove the rest of the way to Minneapolis to pick up the race packet and check out the course. At packet pick-up I was able to meet US Olympic triathlete Andy Potts who was really nice. He warned me of the rough roads out on the course and signed a poster for me. I continued the tradition by sleeping terrible the night before the race. I'm guessing this one was 3.5 hours as I woke up numerous times and just laid there looking at the hotel ceiling thinking about the race. I ended up getting up just before the 4:00 a.m. wakeup call. We were packed and ready to head to the course by 4:45 to prepare for the 7:08 start time.
Upon arriving at the course I got in a good warm-up run and then put on the new Blueseventy Helix wetsuit. The suit arrived at the house about 1 hour before our departure on Thursday. It felt just awesome and I was hoping for a much better swim than at Hy-Vee. There were 58 guys entered in the Elite Amateur division and I was really hoping to drop time from my 2:04:38 time that I went at Hy-Vee two weeks ago. Little did I know that the bike course was a 41k instead of the 40k that is standard with Olympic Distance races. That would add about 1:30 to my final time.
Swim- When the start horn sounded we ran to the water and I dove in doing a few dolphin dives until the water was deep enough to swim. I wanted to change my swim strategy a bit by swimming the first couple hundred yards really hard to get in a good spot. It was a little rough with 58 of us competing to get into a good spot. After the initial 200 yards I settled into a good rhythm and tried to stay with the group. Just before the first bouey I was hit by a kayak paddle and I popped my head up to hear a volunteer telling me I had to swim around the bouey. Apparently I had gotten a little off course and had to swim back to the bouey and go around it. It wasn't too far to get back with the group. From the first bouey to the 2nd was a LONG swim. I'm guessing this was 800 yards or so. I was in a decent rhythm when I spotted the first Elite Amateur woman swimming by me. I knew they started 2 minutes back. I got right on her hip and kept with her for the next couple hundred yards and it made me realize I have the ability to swim faster but I must not swim very straight when I'm on my own. Once I couldn't hang with her I jumped in next to another one of the Elite Amateur women and stayed with her for another couple hundred yards. Eventually I exited the swim and I glanced at my watch to see 22 something which was almost 3 minutes faster than my swim at Hy-Vee. When I entered transition I saw something I haven't seen much of this year...other bikes still on the rack. This photo is the evidence that I'm telling the truth on this one. I quickly grabbed my bike and headed out to make up ground on the field. My official swim time was 22:50 and my ranking was 38th of the 58 elite amateurs.
Bike- Out on the bike I got passed by a guy early who was just flying. I haven't been passed all year on the bike. It's not that I've ridden faster than everyone but most races the guys who are riding faster than me are already ahead of me when they start riding. I knew this was my chance to jump in behind someone going fast and try to hang with them. It isn't legal to ride within 3 bike lengths as that is called drafting but more than 3 lengths is perfectly legal. They call this staggered riding. Mentally there is a big advantage to staggered riding. I tried to hang back about 4 bike lengths but within 4 miles I couldn't hang any longer. Although I let that rider get away it did get me out to a very fast start. I was riding by a lot of guys who had gotten out of the water earlier than I did. The bike course was very flat and fast but there were lots of sharp turns. Around the first one I went too wide and thought I wasn't going to make the turn. I leaned sharp at the end and my pedal scraped up against the curb. I thought I was going down but managed to somehow make it through the turn. I continued passing riders through the 15 mile mark when I got behind a guy who was riding really well. I passed him but then he passed me back and I decided I would be better off to position myself 4 bike lengths back for the remainder of the race and rest my legs a bit for the run. When I got to 24.4 miles I pulled my feet out of the shoes not knowing the course was actually 41k. I had to ride almost a mile with my feet on top of the shoes before I was able to do the running dismount. It worked out well as I passed the rider I'd been trailing in transition. I was out on the run feeling very well knowing there were lots of guys to catch. My total bike time was 1:01:30 for a 25.0 mph average speed. My overall ranking was 12 out of 1100 riders.
Run- I felt great out on the run. I was in a good rhythm when just after the mile I got passed by a couple professional guys who were on their 2nd loop of the 2 loop course. They started 8 minutes ahead of us and the guys who passed me weren't running that much faster than I was...about 10 sec./mile I would guess. I knew I was moving up in the run as I was passing guys from the Elite Amatuer race. When we got through the first loop I knew I could negative split my second loop. I was feeling good and wanted to run the last 5k really fast. I timed my 4th mile and saw 5:36. That was faster pace than I've run any races so far this year. I passed a couple more guys from the Elite Amateur race in the last couple miles and finished strong with a final time of 2:02:28. This was a new personal best by 2:20 which I was really excited about especially considering the extra 1000 meters on the bike. My run time was a new personal best of 35:38 (5:44 average). It ranked 7th out of the 1100 competitors. I'm hoping to drop that time to under 35:00 by my big peak race in Chicago on August 30th.
I waited for the results and saw that I ended up 12 in the Elite Amateur race which was also 12th overall including the 1100 amateurs. This was my best race ever. Complete results for the Elite Amateurs with splits can be found at http://www.peaktiming.com/2009LTF/categoryresults.asp?EventId=7&DivId=2&CatId=1. Many of the guys who raced at Hy-Vee also raced in Minneapolis and most of them were slower in Minneapolis so I was excited to have such a nice time drop. I was able to beat a few guys who I'd never beaten before and some who beat me just two weeks ago at Hy-Vee. I placed 3rd in my age division out of the Elite Amateurs. It was the first time I placed top 3 in my age group for an Elite Amateur race. I also closed the gap between myself and the 3rd place finisher. The top 3 qualified to race professionally if they choose to do so. My swim time is where I closed most of the gap although I still have a long way to go. I realized after Hy-Vee that I'm probably not in position to qualify to race professionally right now. I need another year of committment to the sport and to continue to develop my swimming. I also know that the 1/2 Ironman will be a race that is more to my advantage since the swim isn't much longer but the bike and run are both more than double the length. I'm excited to report that I was fortunate enough to be gifted a complimentary entry into the Spirit of Racine 1/2 Ironman next weekend. My massage therapist, Laurel Darren was given the entry and gifted it to me...how cool is that! I'm super excited to make my debut at this distance next weekend. I'll up the training a little bit this week but still won't put in a huge week. I want to thank my sponsors, Kaminski Pain and Performance Care, Zipp, and Healthy Habits for helping to make this race happen. I felt great after a visit to Dr. Kaminski on Thursday and the bike also got a super tune-up provided by Healthy Habits that same day. I am also very thankful to Jen for making the long trip with me to the Twin Cities. We had a great weekend...especailly competing in a game on the way up to see who could sing the lines of random songs on the radio first...she beat me on that one! It was great seeing Payton when we returned home. She was so excited that she wouldn't put my swim cap down so we took this picture together. She cracks me up!
On a sad note...my grandma passed away on Saturday morning. I was glad to be able to see her Wednesday night for the last time. The roots of my work ethic come from my grandparents who taught me to work extremely hard for things. When we wanted to put in a swimming pool in our back yard growing up that was fine but we had to dig for it and build the foundation ourselves. They taught me that a tremendous work ethic can lead to endless possiblities. Thanks for reading. DREAM BIG!