This year I was able to race in another one of my favorite races, Race the River Triathlon. It is a sprint in Couer d Alene as well. This year it would be the host of the PNW Region’s Sprint Championships. I have raced this race in 2008 and 2009 and won it both times. But 2011 would mark a return to my first Sprint race in 2 years. I was a tad nervous, but I figured it would all come back. Since I was the last one to win the race returning, I would be donning the “stripe,” otherwise known as #1. This is a great compliment in any race, but it also is a bit of a target and burden.
One aspect that I was not too sure about being back was my fitness. It’s easy to reflect back on what you once had and have delusions that you still have the same fitness. Based on my limited training (about 5 weeks) since our precious Owen was born, I figured I had a solid base carrying over from Oceanside, but my speed (which is essential for Sprints) was pretty limited. The field at Race the River was maxed out at 850, and some of the elite athletes were rolling off some big events. Brian Hadley was 4th professional at IM Cda, Derek Garcia who qualified for Kona at St. George, was just coming off a near victory over Brian…missing by a mere 2 seconds the week prior in a sprint event. Both have been having great seasons so far. Then there was a smattering of others that could easily pull off a great race as well. But I felt I had a small advantage since I was familiar with the course and the bike was pretty technical. And, you gotta do your ‘first race’ eventually.
The race itself was a bit of chaotic for me. I arrived about 1.5 hours before that start and I felt like I had never set up a transition area before. I was just moving stuff around not really thinking about what I needed. It was weird… I have done a ton of these races. Must be the old age. It’s just a part of not doing a race in over a year. I think this goes to show you that if you only race once or twice a year, your transitions will never be all that fast…relatively.
The race started with a ½ mile down river swim. I think the total swim time, with about 1 minute of running to T1, was about 9 minutes. I was feeling out of sync, but we were moving FAST. The problem with current aided swims is it allows weaker swimmers to stay close since relative time in the water is less. My shoulder was feeling a little stiff, and achy, but nothing too terrible; just not comfortable.
I ended up 2nd out of the water, quickly transitioned, and was in the lead on the bike in about 10 yards. I never felt I settled in to the bike, but I rode the 3 laps hard. I had 5 seconds, then 15, and then a 30 second lead on my nearest competitor. I had a quick T2 and started the run.
I cannot say I felt very good from the start of the run. But I plodded along. Derek Garcia caught me at about 2 miles of the 3.1 mile run. Then, shortly after, Brian Hadley passed me at 2.5 miles. They really did not make much distance after they went by. But I was in 4th gear and just cruisin’. I just did not feel like I had a 5th gear. Derek went on to win, with Brian close behind and me about 30 seconds off the winning time in 3rd. Brian and Derek really battled hard against one another and it was an amazing finish.
I cannot complain really. Got to keep perspective and look at the positives. I knew going in that I did not have the races or the training that is needed to challenge for the win in a race like this. As I reflected back on the race though, I was really happy to be able to be ‘in’ the race. But my next race would be Cda Triathlon…2x the distance…in 3 weeks. I love the Oly distance, but questioned if I would be fit for it? I knew the competition would be deeper, and the course tougher.
Hats off to Derek, Brian, and Nate Birdsall. They have been racing strong all year in a variety of distances and showed today their level of fitness and speed. Just glad they were still at the finish line when I crossed.
Here is an amazing video by Dave Erickson (www.swimbikerunvideos.com). He has a ton more on there as well.
A big thank you the Christine and Curt and all their volunteer staff that made this event another great one. The first year I did this race I thought, “Yes, this is what a race should be like.” Four years later, I am still saying the same thing. Check them out at www.racetheriver.com and sign up early…it WILL fill.