The seventh and final race of the 2013 Lifetime Fitness Triathlon Series was the most unique experience of the series. I came into the weekend feeling secure about finishing top three in the series, but knowing that I could move up into second or first if I earned three points more than Hunter Kemper or Cameron Dye.
At the final each finishing place is worth 2 points less than the place ahead, and each prime (fastest swim, bike, or run) is worth one point and a tie is settled by the finishing place in the final. Thus, if I had the fastest bike and finished one place ahead of Hunter or Cameron AND that person didnâ€™t get a prime, then I would tie that personâ€™s score and beat them in the series. I was hoping to beat both of them and to do it with the fastest bike split.
The morning of the race was beautiful, but right as the race started a thick fog moved in. We were swimming in a harbor and were never far from shore, but in the middle of the first leg of the race I couldnâ€™t see anything. I remember spotting, but seeing only white with the silhouettes of arms in front of me. Even though I was near the front of the swim group I couldnâ€™t see the lead paddle boarder, and I had no idea where the buoys were until we were right on them. I just had to trust that the person ahead could see a paddle board and wouldnâ€™t get lost.
We came out as a big lead group and within a few miles on the bike it was the usual suspects, plus a couple young guys. Joe Maloy and Eric Lagerstrom were riding really strong. Cameron had the lead, and much like in Dallas he wasnâ€™t up for being passed. We were riding really hard, but every time we hit a turnaround those young guys were still with us and Stuart Hayes was right on their wheels. In that moment at a turnaround where I could see Cameronâ€™s face I could tell he was as shocked as me that people were hanging with us.
The fog was thick throughout the race and there were times on the bike that, much like in the swim, I couldnâ€™t see beyond a few meters. It was eerie, riding over rolling hills with no clue of our surroundings. The air was cold too, and the thick fog condensed onto my bike and legs at such a quick rate that water was running down my P5 frame.
I entered T2 side-by-side with Cameron, but managed to claim the fastest bike split. In the last 10km we had put a sizeable gap between us and the young guys plus Stuart. I did a quick pep talk to myself, â€œyouâ€™re a running Ben, itâ€™s your race to loseâ€.
Exiting T2 we heard the time gap of just over 3 minutes. This was an equalizer format race, which meant that the women started 10 minutes ahead of us and if I beat her to the finish line there was an extra $50,000. That made for a 95,000 difference in prize money between winning the race and catching Alicia versus finishing behind Cameron and Hunter and finishing 3rd in the series.
I thought about the money for a second, but then refocused â€“ â€œyouâ€™re a runnerâ€. Cameron took the lead and I decided to run on his shoulder until I got my legs under me. I felt pretty good, and my mantra seemed to be translating to reality.
But then reality set in. Rather than sitting on Cameronâ€™s shoulder I started falling back. He slowly drifted away a few meters at a time and by a mile in I was running on my own.
The run course went out and back North from transition, then out and back South, twice around. This meant we saw spectators a bunch. Normally this is good, but today I felt like I was letting them down. Half way through the first lap I was running in second. The next time we passed I was third and on the final pass before the finish I had faded to 5th. Stuart ran to the lead and won the race, Eric ran to second, and Joe finished fourth behind Cameron. Hunter finished sixth behind me.
For the series this meant that Alicia won the equalizer and the womenâ€™s race, Cameron won the menâ€™s series, and Stuart passed me to finish second. Thus, even though I managed to stay ahead of Hunter and earn a prime over him, that ended up allowing me to stay in third rather than moving up. Looking back I donâ€™t know why I discounted Stuartâ€™s ability to move up in the series, but I should have known a crafty guy like he is would be a serious threat.
I finished third in the series for the second year in a row, but Iâ€™m much more proud of that result this year. In 2012 I was devoted to Triathlon. I spend the majority of the year living at the Olympic Training Center and had all the services and resources an athlete could ask for. This year Iâ€™m a student, I live on my own. I shop for groceries and cook and walk my dog. I pay for my massage and physical therapy and doctor visits. This year I did just as well as last year, in some ways better (I won three races this year, up from one in 2012) but I did it from the real world. I learned a ton about myself this year â€“ about what I need for recovery, about how to train with a busy schedule, about stress management and life balance. Finishing third in the Lifetime series is no small feat, and to be able to do that with everything else I added to my life this year is awesome. Yes, I wanted to win the race and walk home with $108,000 (if I didnâ€™t want that then I shouldnâ€™t be racing), but I was beaten by great athletes and I beat great athletes. Iâ€™m happy that I get to be a factor in the race.
Next weekend I race the Miami 70.3, followed by the UWC Bahamas Triathlon November 10th.