Saturday I started off my season with a draft-legal sprint race in Clermont Florida. It’s a race that Jarrod Shoemaker helped to organize, and it was a fairly well run event. This is my first time to Clermont, and I’m surprised that it is not the pancake flat expanse of nothingness that I normally associate with Florida. That said, the course was an out-and-back on a completely flat section of state park, so it was really fast.
The swim was a bit unusual in that 75 men were lined up on a very small section of beach, then funneled out into the shallow water for 7.5 minutes of “swimming” where one spectator with a stop watch only recorded about 4 minutes of actual swimming in what should have been a 750 meter course. That’s because the water was about knee deep for the first (and last) 100 meters or so, and never did drop off. At the buoy people were standing and pushing off to change direction (maybe chest deep), and the leaders of the swim were the taller athletes with long legs. I was 10th out of the water, which was a bit frustrating. I spent the whole 4 minutes of swimming catching the dolphin diving giraffes only to take the lead as we stood up to high-knee it back out. Still, 10th out and first American from the water is good enough to make it into a break with a good transition.
I haven’t practiced my transitions since my last race of the year, but Saturday they were spot on. I came out and started rotating with three other men while the crowd yelled “Jarrod’s not with you, push it!” That lasted about half of the first of four laps before the long string of single riders came together like an accordion into a pack of about 40-45 riders – including Shoemaker. Chris Foster came to the front and set a strong pace that mostly kept people from attacking. I still tried, though I was hoping Chris would come with me, but he was content with setting the pace in front. The only chance for a successful break at this race would have been for someone to block while a couple of people with firepower made their move. My attempts failed, and I resigned to sitting near the front, out of danger – and helping set the pace.
Into T2 I made sure I was in the front. It was kind of nice, actually, I seemed to get some respect from other athletes because when I started moving toward the front people just kind of parted ways. In a WCS race, that wouldn’t have happened. I could have sat in front and set the pace for 38k in a WCS race and still had guys from the back of the pack trying to box me out of T2. It took me 23 seconds to switch into my K-Swiss, which made me the fastest man through transition. I took off at my best clip. It was about a kilometer into the race when Jarrod and a few other runners came by me, and it took me deep into the red to try to match their pace. We were flying! I managed to yo-yo off the back for the rest of the first of a two lap run, before I started overtaking some of the guys that were blowing up harder than me. Eventually I was running in a pack of three Mexicans and Manuel Huerta, though when I passed Manny it must have reminded him he was racing because he put in a surge that I couldn’t match. I ran on his heels the rest of the second lap and finished in 13th place with a 5k run split of 14:51.
Now, the leaders came in with runs of 13:50-ish, so we know the course was short, but I didn’t start my Garmin until a little ways into the run, so I don’t have an exact measurement. I do know that for the 2.5 miles that I did record of the run, I averaged right at 5 minute pace – according to the GPS. Assuming my first 1k was faster than the last 4, I was probably running a legitimate 15:20. Extrapolate that to the leaders, and they were running a legitimate sub 14:30 5k (being conservative). Blazing fast. Especially for the first race of the season.
Thirteenth certainly wasn’t my goal for this race, but I’m really happy with where I am at for Mach fitness. Had the swim involved more swimming I think a breakaway would have been a very real scenario with Fleischmann Dye Mejia and a few others. As far as a foot race goes, this race was probably as fast as any – with plenty of college running talent in the mix, as well as a bunch of guys who normally don’t have the gills to be in the mix after T1. I’m just happy the first race is out of the way, time to focus on Miami International in two weeks!