So some are calling it the biggest win of my career (so far anyway, of course :) ). I’m not sure if it feels as big as some of last years’ triumphs, but maybe it just hasn’t sunk in fully yet. Regardless of the scale of the win within my career, in my mind it will go down as one of the most stand-out wins thus far, and will probably remain that way until the end of my career.
The race is held at Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, Connecticut, and the constant passing of a roller-coaster during all interviews and talks certainly added something unique to the weekend. The ups and downs would prove to be something of a theme for the event for me too. Going into the race my confidence was certainly a down. A niggle in my achilles had meant my training and preparation had not gone quite as smoothly as I would have liked. But the race was on and I was going to do my best and just see how the achilles held up.
The next down was the temperature. I am no fan of cold water. And no fan of non-wetsuit swims either, to be honest. But both is terrible. In fairness, the water wasn’t that cold. If it was warm outside, you could have stayed comfortable in the 21C (69F) water. Problem was the air temp was about 11C(52F). So by the time I got in the water, after 10-15min standing in the cold, I was already shivering. And I wasn’t warming up in water that cold. Perhaps wetsuit rulings should take into account the air temp too…
I came out of the water a good 2mins behind the main group, and over 3mins behind the leader. My achilles was also really tight after the cold water. Work to do on the bike. My legs didn’t feel particularly good at first, and after passing a few guys I was pretty much solo for a long time, with no indication that I was even making up time on the leaders. In fact at about mile 20 I had my lowest ‘down’ of the day. Some days you win, some days you lose… and some days you wonder why you got out of bed! That was what I was thinking. Seems silly now, knowing that I won, but such is the nature of long-distance triathlon. But I channeled the frustration and by mile 30 I could see a big group in the distance. A group that big could only mean that everyone was together, so I perked up a bit. First ‘up’. I caught the group at about 36miles and it was indeed everyone, except a flying Starkowitz off the front. Now I was where I wanted to be. More ‘up’.
Then I made my move. Due the the stagger rule, the guys were riding on the left and right, so I just went straight up the middle. Fellow-saffa Dan Hugo had just pulled away from the group so I had someone to chase. A few of the guys reacted but the damage had been done to the group. And I could tell a few of the guys were hurting courtesy of me. Big ‘up’. I kept pushing until the end of the ride, and came in 2nd, 4mins down on Starkowitz and about 30secs up on all the chasers.
My achilles hurt at the start of the run, but to be honest, $20, 000 equals a lot of pain tolerance, and the tightness went away long before the pain tolerance did. I was running well and reeling in the leader quickly, but making no gains on the chasers. With four miles to go I was in a world of hurt and was switching between miles-to-go and kilometers-to-go in my head in an effort to choose the one that sounded shorter – 4miles sounds shorter than 6.4km… but then when you run two miles and take 3km off the total, km’s sounds better… Well, it made sense while I was running anyway…
Soon enough I was in the final mile, and luckily I had seen the part of the course before, because that final hill was brutal! At the bottom of the hill someone shouted “You’ve got this! He’s still more than 40secs behind!”. At the top of the hill, with 500m to go, someone shouted, “Go! He’s only 20secs behind!”. OMG. Down the last stretch I was all arms and legs flailing, determined not to lose it on the line. I managed to grab an SA flag from a well-positioned South African ex-pat, but didn’t dare raise it above my head until about 10 meters from the line. As I raised the flag and tape, Torenzo Bozzone rounded the final corner, and a few seconds later Joe Gambles was also at the line. Too close for comfort, in my opinion. But there is a thread on the TBB forum (here) which is quite apt, seeing as I won by 12 secs…
So, unlike most roller-coasters, it started all down and ended in a huge up! I am really happy. First win of 2011 and already it has been a great season, and it has hardly even gotten rolling yet!
Onwards and upwards!
Also a HUGE thank you to my Home-stay family, the Heller’s. It is far easier to concentrate on a race when you have a group of people rallying around your every need leading up to it! Thanks guys! See you next year.
At the same time I should congratulate team-mates Bek Keat and Caroline Steffen for their same-day wins on the other corners of the globe! Go teamTBB! That’s how you start the summer!