On Sunday I completed the coveted, little-known triathlon trifecta. I have already been the star amateur, and the fearless guide to Aaron â€œMegawattâ€ Scheidies. This weekend I came back from a season-wrecking injury to prove that my transition to professional status was no mistake.
Forty kilometers south of Dallas, miles from the nearest street lamp, the beat of 80â€™s pop music sent out a homing signal to the best multisport athletes from around the world. Tour busses probed the black roads bringing hoards of athletes from the nearby metropolis. By 5am the transition area was already brimming with energy. A light drizzle fell upon the thousands of bicycles sitting next to an eerily silent Joe Pool Lake.
I arrived on a bus with 40 other professional triathletes from around the world. My rear wheel had a flat tire, which was creating an unwanted stress in my morning plans. After having my tire fixed I set up transition next to Matt Chrabot. I made sure my equipment was perfectly set up, then started walking toward the swim start. I made it just 10 meters before I realized I had left my chain on the wrong gears. I went back and switched gears, but when I started pedaling the rear tire exploded. Crap â€“ was it luck that I figured this out before the start, or was something irreparably wrong with my rear wheel? Fighting panic, I carried my bike back to the mechanic. He popped off the tire and started inspecting the tube â€“ meanwhile I inspected the tire. There was a gash in the sidewall which was the obvious culprit, and the mechanic happened to have a less-ruined used tire he was willing to give me – Continental 4000, which is by far the best tire for wet and slippery conditions like we were facing â€“ it was a blessing in disguise.
By the time I made my way to the pro tent the rest of my field was already in wetsuits waiting for the sky to provide enough light for them to start a swim warmup. It would be a non-wetsuit swim â€“ 70 degree water temperatures â€“ but with the air temperature it was best to warm up in my Blue Seventy Helix. The flat and green horizon provided very few landmarks to sight off of, so I figured the swim pack may not follow a straight line between buoys.
After the National Anthem and introductions we lined up at the waterâ€™s edge. I tried to be on the left side of the start line, but ended up dead center â€“ not a great place if you lack get-out speed. TYR was offering a $1,000 swim prime, and I wanted it (if not for the money, to prove that last weekâ€™s terrible swim in LA was just a fluke), so when the gun went off I kicked hard to get ahead of the pack. Within 100 meters there were three Vs, the group to my right was falling back, the group to my left staying even and being led by Paulo Miyashiro â€“ a professional open water swimmer and triathlete from Brazil. I started moving left hoping to grab Pauloâ€™s feet, but moments later he surged, dropped his entire swim group and was soon a splash in the distance. After a long struggle trying to catch my South American friend I finally gave in and found Matt Reedâ€™s feet â€“ widely recognized as the best feet in the business â€“ where I stayed until the end of the 1500m swim.
Following Matt Reed out of the first transition we set off on the 40km point-to-point bike leg. Bouncing across cracks, potholes, and wet roads that seemed to be revolted by our presence, we rolled over the hills of South Dallas. (If only my Garmin Edge 705 would warn me of upcoming potholes!) Matt Reed pulled away and I found myself in a pack of Olympians, World Cup Champions, and general badasses. With so many strong men surrounding me I had no choice but to work hard. The 50 degree rain would have to be ignored. Every hill we encountered made my muscles ache, and the cold made it impossible to eat and drink, and my 705 showed that my heart rate was struggling to keep me warm. I wanted to hold back a little for the run, but I had to maintain position. By the time we charged into Downtown Dallas the rain had finally begun to subside. I pulled on my K-Ruus racing flats from K-Swiss and found myself on the heels of Bevan Docherty â€“ one of the great runners in the sport.
â€œStay with him no matter whatâ€ I told myself. Frankly, Iâ€™m sick of being dropped in the first mile of the run. Exploding at the end seemed likely, but I was willing to find out. I felt lighter on my feet than ever before, and by the end of the first mile I was still in the mix. I ran ahead of Matt Chrabot for another three kilometers before he took over fighting the wind. We rounded the turnaround together and I stayed on his heels until the last 2 kilometers. He started pulling away, and I fought to bring him back. I was already having the run of my life, but with 300 meters left I tried to surge and bring Matt back. It was too late â€“ Matt expected it and accelerated down the final meters to the finish line. Matt crossed in sixth, with me following six seconds back for 7th place.
This finish is my best at this level of competition. I had three strong legs, and fought hard until the end. Next up is the Huatulco World Cup, and Iâ€™m definitely excited for a great race there.