My goal this year at the Boulder Peak Triathlon was to qualify outright for the Hy-Vee 5150 Championship held in DesMoines Iowa. Last year I acquired a spot via roll down and found the Hy-Vee triathlon to be one of the best triathlons I have ever participated in. I raced my way to 4th place and received a free entry into this year's championship but felt that if I didn't qualify proper I would be an imposter. I placed 8th at the Peak this year and earned my spot legitimately.
Last year I was amazed at all the effort that goes into the Hy-Vee Championship and this year was no different. Not only is there the age group championship, comprised of racers who qualified at 5150 events all over the country, but there is an age group elite championship, a citizens race open to anyone and everyone, and a pro's race which attracts the cream of the crop through the insane prize money up for grabs. This year's pro field included the Olympic gold and silver medalists in the men's race and the silver medalists and fourth place in the women's race not to mention several other big names including the infamous Macca.
The weather at 6:57, when my wave started, was absolutely perfect... overcast and mild. Standing in the transition it was obvious that there were many more people in the race this year.
Rivals- This season I met 3 guys from Kompetitive Edge who are amazing athletes and happen to be in my age group. Jason, whom I tend to trade places with often, Eric who always catches me on the run, and the Andrew who is out of my league at this point in time. Andrew and Eric also qualified at the Peak and decided to make the trek to DesMoines this year giving me something to train for and a reason to push myself. Over the course of a long season you can start to lose focus so I love to have friendly competition as it gives me a reason to train. Anytime I am doing a hard session and start to falter I find strength in asking myself, "What are they doing right now?". Eric had beat me by a little over a minute at the Peak and I had made it my mission to get that time back at this race, no easy task as he is a formidable opponent.
Swim-Dove into the water and started jockeying for position swimming hard to the first turn buoy. Got to the first buoy and made the turn and kept sighting but was having a hell of a time seeing the next buoy. I saw a lot of orange sighting buoys but no turn buoy. Kept swimming in the direction I thought the buoy was and at one point looked up to see a lot of people in wet suits wading through the water, I guess the lake was low???? Finally I had to stop swimming for a moment and pull down my goggles so I could find the next yellow buoy. Made the next two turns and was heading back but now the sun had come out making it hard to see with my yellow tinted goggles. So again, I just kept swimming in what I guessed was the general direction at this point I was out of my groove and probably wasn't swimming as hard as I should have been. I had to stop once more and pull down my goggles to get my bearings and I could see the green buoys denoting we were almost there, I put my head down and started swimming like crazy happy to get this leg behind me. As I came up out of the water I glanced down at my watch I saw 27 minutes... not as bad as I would have thought. I ran through the long transition and as I approached my bike I could see Eric grabbing his bike and leaving transition just before me (so far so good)
Bike- My goal on the bike was to go as hard as I could manage and not ever lose focus (last year I kept day dreaming). I passed Eric shortly after we left Gray's Lake and know I wanted to get as much time on him as possible. The course had quite a bit of turns and some of the roads were in need of a repair... lots of big cracks and uneven surfaces making high speed turns a little precarious. I found an ally in someone from the 40-44 age group and liked his pace so I made it my duty to keep up with him. The couple of times we doubled back I could actually see how far behind my Eric was, my goal was to put 3 minutes into him and hang on to the run, but I could see I hadn't done enough but I was having a great ride. 1:00:08
Run-After a quick transition I headed out on the run, everything was feeling pretty tight, a product of the cooler weather, so I was mindful not to open up my stride too much. I hit the first turn-a-round and started heading back and as I reached the 1 mile mark I passed Eric going the other way... damn!!! I picked up the pace as much as I could and just kept running passing some people in my wave along the way. Every time I heard breathing behind me I expected it to be Eric, the first few times it wasn't... and then it was. Eric was breathing hard and was working, we exchanged encouragements and I stayed with him for a while until eventually I had to let him edge ahead of me. At 4 miles Eric was still in sight, probably about 15 yards ahead, I made it my mission to catch him. I would dig deep and start to gain ground and, as if by some spidey sense, he would accelerate without even looking back, this happened several times. We passed the 5 mile mark and I knew the last 1200 meters were up hill so I planned to make my move there, we turned for the last downhill section and Eric was gone... I watched him slip further and further away, apparently he had plans of his own. I started the long ascent to to finish line and never saw anyone else in my wave. I finished strong in a time of 2:07:22, a 9 minute improvement over last year while running a 37:38 10k, a time not far off of my stand alone 10k time, finishing 12 out of 37.
Wrap up-In the end I had a great race and the fact that I placed 8 places lower despite improving my time by 9 minutes speaks to the level of competition this year. This race also gave my direction going into next year and showed me what I need to work on next in this never-ending pursuit of perfection.
Congratulations to Andrew who took 2nd in our wave and 3rd overall... amazing job.
Congrats to Eric for a strong top 10 finish... I look forward to next season!