In my first triathlon at Iowa’s Best Dam Race back in 2012, I remember showing up to transition and thinking wow, there are some heavy hitters here. This guy has a carbon bike, that guy has clip onshoes, and why on God’s Earth is this woman’s helmet shaped like a she’s going to space. The same can be said about my experience at worlds. When I arrived at the site, my eyes were saucers seeing the pro men and women at the event; how they prepped for the race, putting their transition in a particular order. It was my first race with big names at it couldn’t have been a better experience.
After Madison in June, I took a break from running after tearing some tendons in my upper glute leading up to the race. I was quite butt hurt about not running, and was out of commision until about 6 weeks before worlds thanks to dry needling at Rochester’s ActivePT . Coming back from an injury is always scary when trusting the injury, but I had some major help from Nate Dicks Sports. Like the De Vince he is, I was more than ready when it came to race day at world championships. I cannot stress enough how amazing it was to see my run transform in such a short amount of time under Nate’s guidance.
With the Women’s racing Saturday & Men’s on Sunday, we arrived in Chattanooga Friday afternoon to catch the athlete check in and get my bike dialed in after the always nail biting flying experience. Arriving at the village was crazy. Dorky triathletes in compression socks everywhere talking about past events and watts, I was truly home. On an unrelated note, what are the chances the Ironman store was the entrance and exit to the village for packet pickup. I couldn’t believe it! 😉
With the race being one of the biggest races among the triathlon community of the year, many of the sports top individuals were on site. Dani Vsetecka and I had the privilege of receiving a race preview from none other than Coach Matt Dixon. He spoke about using the current on the swim, not getting wrapped up on the massive climb during the bike, and maintaining form on the run by effort as opposed to pace due to the hills. All great things, all noted, and all made me more anxious to get racing.
After a day of hanging out and cheering for the women, it was finally go time. We got to transition around 6:30 on race morning, set up shop, and were ready for business. I think I spent more time drooling over the pro’s bikes then getting my setup ready.
The swim was a rolling start of 10 racers at a time, leaping from a dock into the Tennessee River with a 3 foot run in. The volunteers held their arms in front of the pending wave of athletes, then once they lifted, we took off! Need for Speed style. The guy next to me lost his goggles on the dive in and was left scrambling in the water trying to find them before the next wave jumped in. Phew, glad it wasn’t me! Once the pack gained uniform, it was fun moving through the current with the rest of the guys bumping, kicking, and elbowing, as we surged through.
The swim course was a giant rectangle with the long end going up stream. With the upriver swim, the community was buzzing beforehand in anticipating how fast the current would be moving against us. In my opinion, aside from being pushed downstream while going across the river, I couldn’t tell there was a current going upstream. I had a killer swim and could not have been happier. This was unexpected as more than half of the sets at masters as of late have been IM stroke work. Something to be said of getting the ‘feel’ of the water? Overall my best leg of the day aside from feeling like a hot tamale in my wetsuit with the higher water temps.
Going into the bike, I really wanted to hammer (in a controlled manner) up the climb and find a smooth rhythm during the latter parts of the bike. After clipping in to my pedals out of transition, I was off! Nothing like the freedom of starting out the bike after the swim looking at bubble, sky , bubbles, sky, bubbles, sky, for 34 minutes
On the first part of the bike, the pros, which started at 7:30, were oncoming while passing through the backend of the course as we were heading out. It was like a front row seat seeing Kanute hammering on the front while the motorcade followed behind caring TV cameras and mechanical support. How nice would that be! After about 2 miles, I finally reached the base of the climb.
The uphill section started out steep and grinding. I thought okay, it will downgrade a bit here, but nope! This climb went up, up and up for the next 5ish miles. The other racers seemed uniformly engage in one pace going up. More people to pass I thought. Jesse Thomas brought up the physics of going relatively faster than others on the uphill that will be more beneficial than going faster on the down hills. Example would be if I was to go 7 MPH on the uphill and you were to go 9, it would be 28%ish faster. An average speed of 39 mph on the downhill, one would need to go 50 mph to make up the same time. I find there is to be a tad more risk going 50mph down a hill compared to 9 up. But that’s just me!
To pass the time on the parts of the bike, sometimes the mind wanders. My thoughts as of late have been directed towards my good friend Mitch Brekke. Mitch was struck by a car on a group ride back in July & has since started making a recovery back to normal life. Dani, Peter, and I were able to bring Mitch along for the ride thanks to these amazing decals. I would look down at the bars, smirk, and try to harness the uber biker that is the Hartland Express. Hammer down on healing up, Mitch!!
My strategy in the hilly part seemed to pay off; I passed a good number of people on the way up with only a few Evil Knievel’s going by on the big downhills. During the latter part of the course, the goal was to keep a steady pace around 150 heart rate thinking to save a big effort for the run. All went to plan, however a mental error on my part cost me big.
I reached the later point of the bike leg where the course narrows into town. A group behind me was putting a big push to the finish so I moved over to let them pass. As I moved over we approached a skinny bridge with some older competitors in the right lane. Next thing I know I’m right up on the group with nowhere to go, then an official, low on coffee or something, motorcycles by and calls me out like a general in the army. “2836! 5 Minute penalty for drafting!”. “aw shucks, gosh darnet, that’s unfortunate, I completely agree with your infraction, kind sir” I replied….
Mentally, I was ready for anything, a flat tire, a yard sale crash on the downhill, but a penalty!? I was crushed. I sat in the penalty tent for what seems an eternity. An older guy that also got one was chatting with me, saying it’s the way things are. I think this guy kept me sane. My own personal headspace guru on the course! After serving my time, it was a few pedal strokes into transition 2, and then off to my favorite activity.
I started out the run furious after the penalty. It was like I couldn’t move my legs fast enough with the energy built up. Remaining calm and sticking to the pace was like negotiating with North Korea. I saw my father and yelled to him about the penalty as I passed, he shrugged and said “oh well” with a smile. After that my mind hit a switch to chill out and go back to plan. I put the cruise on steady around 165HR and ran what the course gave me. Just like the physics of the bike, I kept my pace up on the hills and didn’t push crazy hard to on the down. The first of two laps flew by. I’ve had 3 mile runs last longer mentally. Nothing is more fun than running through the cheering spectators on the course and giving high gives when the opportunity presents its self. I’ll run across the street if it means someone gets a high five. High fives for days.
After the first lap I remember seeing a marker for mile 10 and thought this is where I’ll drop the hammer. I couldn’t wait for mile 10 after that. Believe it or not it finally came. At this point I thought there was enough go juice in the tank after drinking a Gatorade cup every 3 miles and a chewing on a few pretzels ($400 entry fee and no peanut butter for dipping, Ironman?). I started passing more and more people. It felt amazing. Finally the finish came and I saw a CU Boulder kit ahead and sighted laser vision on it to make that my last pass. After my collegiate days, I know that team is huge and well trained. It felt amazing to make that pass in the shoot and cross the finish line for the 2017 World Championships 70.3.
Looking back on the race, I felt like my training going in could not have been better. The swim went as great as it has ever been. During the bike I nailed the nutrition by drinking 2 bottles of HEED, 1 Clif bar and a few blocks. However, I felt like I left something on the table despite the penalty. The lesson I’m taking away is to not get wrapped up in the course hype, and ride it as Ted Treise can ride it and not anyone else’s take, regardless of the number of insta followers. No regrets during the run. I had a blast, pace was amazing, and wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was an amazing event to be a part of and I hope anyone who has the opportunity to race worlds should take it. (Maybe not Africa, little spendy).
Moving forward through the year, my plan is to A) Make it through Irma, I am writing this at travel hour 28 since I left Nooga. After 4 cancelled flights and no power, I am thrilled to make it home. Then B) My racing season will hopefully include another 70.3. I am still hungry and cannot wait to rev the engines again; not to mention consuming stupid amounts of muffins and peanut butter during training blocks.
Thank you so much for reading this. I could not be where I am today without the support of my folks. Nate Dicks for keeping my body and mind fine-tuned like a McLaren F1. Ask anyone at the top of the sport, dont waste your time and get a coach who knows what they are doing. Also, The amazing company of Kiwami for supplying me with the best kit on the course (Gomez marveled with envy as he biked by).I love my LD1. The suit is beyond comfortable while keeping me cool and aero. Finally Hammer Nutrition for warding away the bonk monsters. It’s been a hell of a season, and I cannot wait for what’s to come.