Wednesday, November 21, 2007

2007 Tri Season

O.K., here are my reflections for the 2007 Triathlon season, my first as a professional triathlete.

The first thing I noticed was that I put a lot of miles on my car this year: trips from Maine to Philadelphia, West Virginia, New York (twice), New Hampshire. I drove about 2300 miles a month and changed my oil about every six weeks. I flew to two races, both in Florida. Even though I drive a small, fuel efficient car (a Scion Xa—my students call it "The ManMobile;" I am a tall guy in a tiny car), I did my part to make the world a warmer place. This morning I offset my carbon emissions at Native Energy. Check it out and think about doing your part. We spend so much money each year on gear, on races, on hotels. Offsetting my carbon footprint for the year only cost me $11 a month. Natch.

O.K. So I kicked things off this year with a sentimental favorite, the Ironbear Triathlon in Brunswick, Maine. The Ironbear was my first ever triathlon, in 2003. I won it in 2005, and then broke my crankset there in 2006 and finished in the 60s after one-legging the second half of the bike course. A race is always better with a rival, and Mike Caizzo, the other pro triathlete who trains in Maine, is a guy I'm always chasing. This particular day belonged to me, though, as I beat Mike out of the water and put enough time into him on the bike to stay away on the run. For my pains I took home a fuel belt, which I passed on to one of my students, back in Putney.

My first real race was the Florida 70.3 Ironman, in Orlando. Orlando is a pretty gross place, and Disneyworld is an absurd place to hold a big triathlon. The roads are so confusing I couldn't figure out how to drive the course the night before. This was my first big pro race, and I was nervous. But after a slow swim, I put in an acceptable bike split (2:12 or so) before my legs seized up on the run (1:28). I finished in 4:13:29, good enough for 19th place out of the 31 starters. This sounds better than it actually was, since 6 or 7 other pros dropped out. I left Florida a bit disappointed, wondering if turning pro had been a good idea.

Things turned up a bit in June, after taking 2nd place behind Jarrod Shoemaker at the Mooseman Triathlon. Sure, there were only a few pros there, but I came in ahead of Janda Ricci-Munn, and Ethan Brown, neither slouches. Along the way, I set the fastest bike split by more than two minutes, on my Aegis Trident. Late June brought my first top ten finish at the Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon, out of a field of 21 pros. Seeing that I was the last pro out of the water (male or female), I began to think that I actually belonged at this level. Again, my bike split saved me, as I only got beat by Craig Alexander, David Thompson, and Andrew Yoder.

In July, Dereck Treadwell and I headed to West Virginia for the Medexpress Mountaineer Triathlons. I was doing the half-iron, while Dereck was signed up for the Olympic Distance. My run time came down from the Florida half, but I still only posted a 1:25 on my way to taking 5th, the last money spot. Sadly, I'd gotten stopped while driving the course the night before, and $175 of my $250 prize went to the Morgantown PD. Three weeks later, I posted another 10th at the NYC Triathlon, in a field that included Greg Bennet, Hunter Kemper, Craig Walton, and Peter Robertson. The big surprise at this race was my run split: 34:35 over a pretty hilly 10K. I contend that the run workouts I'd been doing with Tread helped transform me from a mediocre runner to a slightly-better-than-mediocre runner. Here are a few pictures from the race:

That's me, 4th from the right. The first five guys, from the left, are Greg Bennet, Hunter Kemper, Craig Walton, Victor Plata, and Peter Robertson. I think you can see the expression on my face, which looks like "What the hell am I doing here?" No, I didn't beat a lot of guys (10th out of 15 pro starters), but I did crack the top 10 in a pretty serious field. I even ran away from Derek Otsukis, who is lined up right next to me.

Here's a photo of me crossing the finish line.

After NYC, I took about a month off from racing triathlons. My sister got married, and I spent a bunch of time on my road-bike. I really focused on the swim during this period, which ended up not paying off at all, as I turned in my slowest 70.3 swim of the year, at Timberman in late August. Again, just like Philadelphia, I overcame that terrible swim (29:38!) with a passable bike (2:22:20) and a good (for me) run (1:22:59). I came in 10th overall (I started getting sick of this number), and 9th out of the 18 pros. Seems that steady middle of the pack finishes were my thing, this year.

After Timberman, it was back to school and work, and my training time dropped dramatically. I was able to nab a podium finish at the Westchester Triathlon, taking third after being in second throughout almost the entire bike and run (got caught 400 M from the line by Paul Fritzsche, who came in 2nd at Ironman Wisconsin this year). Then it was on to Clearwater 70.3 World Champs, one of the flattest, ugliest courses I've ever raced. After the swim (which was great: I recommend it) we all headed out for a soulless 56 miles on the bike, and an aesthetically bankrupt run (Clearwater gets my vote for the best Stripmallathlon in the country—maybe Ironman Arizona could beat it out). The field was full of ITU guys who could really run and swim, and the flatness took away some of my advantage on the bike. Still, I finished in 3:59:49, breaking 4 hours, which has always been a goal for me. I came in 22nd out of the 48 pro starters, and 24th overall. Janda Ricci-Munn paid me back for beating him, back in June, as he won the 30-34 World Championship and came in 19th overall. Janda will be racing in the pro field next year, and I hope to feed off his steadily positive energy.

So that's it! For the next month I'll be beating myself up on the Cyclocross scene, trying to get ready for racing the A field at Nationals, against guys like Barry Wicks, Ryan Trebon, and Tim Johnson. My goal: don't get lapped.

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