The Bottom line: First race of the year. First race as a pro. Olympic distance course (doesn't favor me thanks to my current swim handicap). No real taper to speak of. And oh yeah... the competition: Chris McCormack (reining IronMan World Champ), Chris Lieto (top 5 Hawaii guy and super cyclist), Australian Richie Cunninham (top international 70.3/Olympic distance athlete), Greg Ramaly (top US pro), Eric Limkemenn (super swimmer, US pro rookie of the year), Paul Fritzsche (2nd place at 2007 IM Wisconsin) and the young, super talented Andrew Yoder - Just to name a few.
Let's just say that I was wondering what the hell I was doing in the same room with these guys at the pro meeting on Saturday. I felt like I was in WAY over my head.
The Short of It: Once the dust had settled on Sunday, I had finished 6th place overall, laying down the 4th fastest bike split and 2nd fastest run split of the day.
My only regret from this past weekend: Not starting my kick earlier. After passing a few other athletes out on the run course (one of whom I coach - up and comer Nick Dufresne who is fast on his way to becoming a top pro), I had reeled Limkemann in to within just 20 yards with a 1/4 mile to go. I decided to wait until we hit the final rise about 200 meters from the finish line before launching an all out assault and trying to kick by him. He must have sensed my strategy however, because he attacked that final rise and drove hard to the finish line. By the time I responded, his gap was too much to bridge and he ended up beating me by 3 seconds.
Although I had accomplished everything (and more) that I had hoped to at this race, I'll be the first to admit that it really stung to watch him standing up there on the podium with Lieto, Yoder, McCormack and Cunningham. Standing next to those guys would have been a dream come true. No matter, Eric beat me fair and square, so that's the way it goes.
Anyway, it was a GREAT weekend and a huge confidence builder. I actually feel as though I belong in the Pro field now and can't wait to mix it up with the top athletes again in 3 weeks time. Rest assured that the med team will be carrying me off on a stretcher post race though, as I am going to make sure that I've squeezed every drop of effort out of my body by the time I cross the finish line. Eagleman will serve as the US Pro Long Course Championship - top 4 Americans will receive a stipend/all expense paid trip to Holland for the ITU Long Course World Championship.
Lastly, after talking with a lot of the pros, I'm realizing how much work I still have left in front of me. The only way that I'll be able to make that final jump from good domestic pro to world class pro is by leaving school and concentrating full time on prepping to race. I need to free up a lot more time and energy for my swimming in particular (see you soon John Ogden!).
Fortunately for me though, I'm swimming in the new blueseventy Helix with TST. I set a 2 min. 1500 meter swim PR yesterday and owe much of this fact to the Helix. This was my first open water swim of the year and I could not get over how flexible the new suit was! With the new Helix, there is zero, and I mean ZERO restriction in the shoulder/lat region. I almost felt as though I was cheating by wearing that suit!!!
Oh yeah... speaking of blueseventy, check out their new BLOG
I still can't believe that blueseventy is my wetsuit/speedsuit/goggle sponsor! It's very flattering to have the best wetsuit manufacturer in the world standing behind you. Their support means the world to me and I plan on returning the favor by working my ass off this year and really improving my swim. Knocking a couple more minutes off my swim times = podium and paychecks.
Final props go out to sponsors Craft-USA for their incredible Elite Tri kit (the most comfortable I've ever worn) and PowerBar for their nutritional products which keep me going strong on race day.