Raleigh has officially become one of my favorite races. The atmosphere at the race is very energetic, the city gives it 100% support in it, and the event is run extremely well. The water is clean (much cleaner than the Ohio River!), and the roads are in great condition. Not to mention, the family that host me and my wife both years were very accommodating and already invited us back next year.
We arrived on Friday evening, and found out there were hosting another professional athlete as well, named Matt Chrabot. I will be the first to admit, I don’t know a lot of names of even the fastest athletes in the sport, so I wasn’t really sure who he was. But after talking to him for like 10 minutes, I realized he was a pretty big deal. Just google his name and look up his results in the ITU circuit and be… ummm… amazed! Anyways, I figured he would be either 1st or 2nd in the race on Sunday, but I still felt confident in my ability to race well.
Race morning is extra early in Raleigh. Mostly because of the 40 minute bus ride that all athletes and spectators must take out to the lake from downtown. My alarm went off at 3:45 AM! I had something small to eat, and grabbed more food to eat later on the bus ride. My wife, Leslie, and I were out the door around 4:30. We dropped my stuff off in T2, and hopped on the bus out to Jordan Lake.
The lake temperature was 75.6 degrees… conveniently just under the wetsuit line for athletes. I brought both my speed suit and wetsuit from TYR just to be safe. I used my sleeveless TYR CAT 5 Hurricane wetsuit this year. I felt great in it while warming up. The last few minutes before the race, we lined up in the chest deep water and waited for the gun. I got behind some people I thought if I got on their feet, I could hang on. When the gun went off, I found myself in the lead pack and tried to settle into the pace. But, just 600 meters into the race, I could tell I was above my sustainable effort and just hanging on to the group was a struggle. I slowly fell back and waited for the next group of people to catch me. With the water temperature being so close to the wetsuit limit, I started feeling over heated in my suit. I found it difficult to maintain a good pace after that… guess I’ll know next time to use the swim skin with water temperatures close to the cut off for wetsuits.
Once on the bike and out on the main road, I saw a group of two or 3 guys up the road about a mile or so. I picked up the effort to catch them, but with the wind already blowing right in my face, I knew that catching them would next to impossible. I settled into my pace. I passed a guy about 10 miles in to the race. Then, a group of people caught me. I went with the group. We took turns at the front for the next 20 miles or so. I knew I was a stronger rider than these guys, but with the strong winds I couldn’t get away. When in the front, I was pushing 300+ watts, but when 2nd or 3rd in line, my watts would drop to 250-ish, even at 10 meters back! The last 15 miles I lead the group the whole time and pulled them into T2 in downtown Raleigh.
I made haste in T2 and was out on the run much quicker than the rest of the group I pulled in along with me. The run is my strongest leg of the race, so in my excitement and hurriedness, I accidentally left my Garmin on my bike. I realized it about 30 meters after leaving my bike, but I decided to leave it there instead of wasting time going back to get it. I only like to have it on the run to gauge my pace by having it auto-lap every mile. But, I figured I would just run by feel this time.
I left T2 in 10th place. I caught 9th place by the 2nd mile and couldn’t see anyone else. Since the course was an out and back, I could see the competition as the headed back on their first return to downtown. From what I could see based on people’s gait, I assumed I could catch 1 or 2 more pros and maybe finish 7th. At this point I knew that 5th place was more than likely out of the question. But I wasn’t going to give up. Keep running hard! At the 7th mile marker, I could tell that I was making significant ground on 8th place. I was thinking I’d catch him around the time we hit the final turn around. I was a little off on my prediction. I needed an extra mile. I passed 8th place with about 2 miles to go. When I passed him, I surged a little bit to drive the nail in a little bit and discourage him enough to make him not to try to hang with me. I kept the pace high thinking I could possibly catch 7th place, but was unsuccessful in doing so. I crossed the line about the same time as last year, but the bike times we significantly slower than last year. The fastest bike time this year was just under 2:13… most times the fastest split for a 56 mile ride is 2:03-2:06 depending on the course.
I crossed the line in 8th place, beating everyone that beat me last year (except Greg Bennent, since he didn’t show up this year), and just 2 minutes behind Timo Bratch who placed 9th in Kona last year!
Even though I didn’t walk home with any money this year, I felt I accomplished a lot: beating everyone from last year (one guy beat me by 6 minutes last year). I ran a 1:16 half-marathon off the bike (third fastest run of the day), which is a PR for me by 3 minutes, and finished relatively close to Timo Bratch.
Thanks again to all my sponsors for helping me break through old limits. The Argon bike and Enve wheels handled the winds and hills on Raleigh magnificently, and my trusty Cobb Saddle was once again comfortable. Rotor/Q-rings for helping to give me an advantage with the elliptical chain rings to produce more power. And my Champion System kit was awesome. I never felt hot in the race or had any chaffing.
Thanks again to Vibra health Care for supporting me and being such a great sponsor and believing in a new pro to help promote them.
I also used Energy Bits leading up to the race to help me get the nutrients I needed and recover from all the hard training to be ready for race day (MIKE502BITS to save 20%, www.energybits.com).
I exclusively used Infinit’s Go Far and NAPALM during the whole race for calories (no solid food at all), and supplemented extra sodium with salt stick. (MAVERICK to save 10%, www.infinitnutrition.com)