Challenge New Albany was my first Challenge Family event… it was also a first year race that HFP racing teamed with Challenge Family to produce the event. When I saw that Shanmon Kurek and his team at HFP were managing the event, I knew it would be well managed. The race started at 6:30… so just a little earlier than most other 70.3 races, but the wake up call still wasn’t bad at 4:15. My wife and I arrived at Alum Creek park and I got set up in the first of two transition. The bike was a point to point bike so I had dropped of my gear bag in T2 the day before. The water temperature was 75ish degrees. No wetsuits since the wetsuit line for pros at USAT sanctioned races is 68 degrees (WTC follows their own rules). I was happy that we went by the 68 degree rule, because I think anything over 72 or 73 degrees is way too warm for a wetsuit.
This race had a few fast swimmers, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay with the very front pack, so I decided to try and stick with the second pack of swimmers. Over the last month or so, I’ve been working on changing my stroke with the Lakeside Seahawks and it has made a noticeable difference. Instead of barely hanging on to the second group of swimmers, or being spit out the back, I exited the water with people in it that beat me out of the water earlier in the year consistently. In fact, I actually lead them out of the water with another guy. I exited the water knowing I had already set myself up for a good bike ride.
Out on the bike I was feeling great. The group of swimmers I came out with broke up on the bike as I and another guy were pushing the pace. 15 miles into the ride, the group of 8 had splintered into a group of 3 in the front (that included me), and group of 2 a minute or so back, and a few stragglers behind them. I was working my way through the group of 3 slowly as the lead guy was slowly pulling away because I didn’t want him to get away from me. Since the rules are different for pros in drafting in USAT races compared to WTC races, I had literally all day to make my pass. However, you have to be outside of the draft box, which in the pro meeting was explained to us as a 2 meter by 10 meter area. I understood this as being 1 meter on both sides of the rider and 10 meters back. I was about 1.5 meters to the right of the guy as I was making my pass until the race official came up to me and told me to stand down for a penalty. Apparently the race official interpreted the rule for drafting as 2 meters on both sides of the rider and 10 meters back. I served my time and with every “whoosh” of aero wheels I became a little more discouraged. I finally had a good swim and was killing the bike course and had splintered the group. And I hadn’t even gotten to my strongest event yet… the run. And then the penalty.
While I was waiting for the longest two minutes, I did drink a bunch of fluid figuring it would help me as opposed to just waiting. I remounted my bike after loosing about 5 or 6 positions on the bike determined to catch the group I had lost. I rode hard for the rest of the ride. I passed the group of two that passed me about a minute into my penalty about 10 miles up the road. I caught a few more people that I think beat me out of the swim before the end of the bike. After the race was over, I was told by my wife the two guys that I was with on the bike when I got the penalty were only a minute ahead of me exiting T2. That means I rode solo for 40ish miles and was still able to make ground on them. I wonder if I had been able to ride with them how much further ahead I could have gotten from them.
The run course was essentially on a walking/running path around a horse farm, golf course, and neighborhood that the half distance racers had to complete twice. The course had a lot of sharp corners at the bottom of hills and then a short and steep (think climbing stairs) for about 5-10 yards to go up with no momentum after taking the corner. I definetily slowed down the run course a little, but I think it was a fair and honest course. It was also a very scenic course. Plenty of aid stations… my only thing I would change about the run would be having ice on the course. I know it wasn’t hot, but even on days in the 70’s, the ice can help keep the body temperature down a bit and increase the speed I can run. On the first lap, I was on pacing about 5:50 per mile, which would be about a 1:16 run. I still hadn’t passed any runners yet, which really surprised me, but when you’re racing against people that are fast already, it can take a long time to catch them, even if you’re running under 6 minute miles. I finally passed another pro… but then another one passed me. His name is Adam… and he ran a 1:12 in Racine 70.3 the weekend before, so when I saw him behind me at one of the out and backs, I figured he would catch me eventually. With about 1.5 miles left to go, I passed John Kenny from the US Pro Tri time and cruised in the rest of the way for the 8th place finish. I was happy and mad myself at the same time. I knew that mistake on the bike cost me a big chunk of change (I think I could have finished 5th if I didn’t get the penalty)! On the other hand, I had a PR by about a minute at the 70.3 distance for the second race in a row… and I didn’t even taper for this race. I had 28 hours of training from Thursday 7/17/14 to Tuesday 7/22/14, and one of those days (Monday) was a day off!
Why did I not taper for this race? Simple answer… hometown race, Ironman Louisville, is about 4 weeks out. I’m going to go ahead and say it… I’m going for a win this year at Louisville. The training that I’ve been doing over the last couple weeks is showing tremendous improvement from last year. I did the calculations on what I think I can do, and it puts me between an 8:30 and 8:40 finishing time. If things go well, I should be closer to the 8:30 mark than the 8:40 mark… and that time has won it in years past. So, I decided I’m going for it. Why not? It’s my dream to win my hometown race!
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