The Dallas US Open was the championship of the Race to the Toyota Cup, aka the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon Series. I started off the year strong, with a 2nd place finish at South Beach and a 3rd place finish in Austin, which had me leading the series through Philly in June. With a few less stellar performances in the middle of the summer I sunk to 3rd in the series behind Cameron Dye heading into the championships. It was close, however, with Hunter Kemper leading with 38.5 points, Cameron in 2nd with 36.5 and me with 34 points. With Dallas carrying double points, a win was worth 20, second worth 18, then 16 and so on. The fastest swim, bike, or run was worth an additional point. So basically I needed to finish three places ahead of hunter or two places plus a prime in order to win the series, and one place plus a prime or two places ahead of Cameron Dye. Both goals were totally doable.
After finishing 3rd in LA I reviewed my race with Coach Mike and we came to the conclusion that a) Iâ€™m fit or I wouldnâ€™t have been able to post the 2nd fastest run split at the end of a warm race And b) my head was the only thing holding me back. So, I spent the week between the races relaxing, and getting my head around the fact that Iâ€™m fit and capable and just needed to push myself into the pain cave a little deeper if I wanted any chance at winning this race series.
I showed up to Dallas Friday night and was immediately in the zone. I ate, slept, did my routine pre-race and found the perfect mix of relaxed and excited to race. After a long season of races (Dallas was number 15 this year) preparing my equipment was easy, even with my new Cervelo P5 (which is not an easy bike to travel with).
The weather was cooperating with me too; a cold front moved in for the weekend driving the temperatures down into the 40â€™s on race morning. The swim was non-wetsuit thanks to the warm summer, so everyone on the starting pontoon seemed nervous about the cold. For me, I just thought back to racing in Seattle and figured my feet would be numb when I started the run, but otherwise the weather would be fine.
The swim went well, but not stellar. I found myself knocked back a few times in the first two buoys and never recovered. I came out near the front but with a small gap to the leaders. I caught up in T1 and was passing Cameron Dye to take the lead just a few kilometers into the race. Â The new P5 feels amazing to ride, like no other bike Iâ€™ve been on. Itâ€™s an amazing machine, and itâ€™s regretful that I wasnâ€™t able to give it a clean race at its debut. The first mistake I made was trying to put on arm warmers. That took a lot of concentration and had me slowing down and swerving while I did it. Cameron passed me back as we took a left turn off the highway onto a smaller street. This narrow road was split in the middle with large cones and it was too narrow to keep a full 2m stagger. I stayed as far to the left as I could, almost hitting each of the cones, and tried to get by Cameron. There was a ref right next to us, so I wasnâ€™t going to put myself in a situation where I thought I was breaking any rules, but shortly after that moment, as I was trying to pass Cameron the ref pulled up next to me and told me to stand down for 60 seconds. Now, this is my third penalty this year, so I know better than to argue (it only adds time). I stopped quickly, served my time and got back on the road. Even though we were less than 10 minutes into the bike segment 3 guys passed me during my penalty. I passed them all back pretty quickly once I started, but the blue lights of the lead vehicle in front of Cameron were tough to close on. By the turn around I was 40 seconds behind the lead vehicle (so roughly 39 seconds behind Cam). But on the second half Cameron turned that back into almost a full minute. I started the run about 50 seconds down and felt pretty confident that I could close the gap. I was several minutes ahead of the next cyclist so I was only focused on catching Cameron. I knew that by missing the bike prime it was unlikely that I could beat Cameron in the series, but I was still looking for the race win.
The run was brutal. I donâ€™t think there was a spec of flat pavement, and the first quarter mile was straight up. In the past I have thrived on courses like this, but for the past month Iâ€™ve been training in Chicago, which is quite flat. I felt like I was running well, but after the first lap I was still about 50 seconds back from Cameron and he looked strong. The second lap I pushed even harder, but I never did see Cam up the road. I ended up finishing 40 seconds behind Cam, and a nice gap ahead of Hunter, but I didnâ€™t manage to get any primes. I finished 3rd in the series, with Cameron winning and Hunter holding on to second.
So letâ€™s talk about penalties. 60 seconds faster on the bike and I would have earned the bike prime, and possibly held on for the win. But thatâ€™s a different version of history. I think I was fit and mentally prepared enough to take home the win, but I put myself in a bad place and suffered the results. This is my third penalty of the year, and the 3rd in my career. Looking back at the two drafting penalties (one was technically a staggering penalty) I really didnâ€™t see either of them coming. My own best judgment was that I was riding legally, but it was not the judgment of the ref. With USAT refusing to listen to athlete protests and no appeals process, it doesnâ€™t matter what I think, only what the ref thinks out on the course. All three penalties cost me about $80,000 in prize money alone (if you just subtract the penalty time from my finishing times at those race), so weâ€™re talking expensive mistakes. For reference, thatâ€™s more money than I made in total this year, and the majority of that would have been $61,500 more that I would have made in Dallas had I won the race, the bike prime, and therefore the entire Toyota Cup. Next year I will make a point to never be in a position that leaves it up to judgment. Good judgment, bad judgment, I canâ€™t let myself lose so much to a volunteer referee making snap decisions on the back of a motorcycle. Itâ€™s my responsibility to be within the rules; regardless of whoâ€™s interpretation may be imposed on me.