For the month of August I was based out of Seattle before heading back to Riverside in early September after our annual political science conference. Seattle is a beautiful destination in the summer, usually not too hot or too cold. Thus, before Lake Stevens, I had begun to get my training mojo back a bit and felt quite good going into the race. I had taken two one-on-one swimming lessons during the summer, and had finally begun to notice some improvements in my swim after a sort of plateau for 2013-2014. Lake Stevens was my first M-Dot race back in 2011, and I was curious to see how my times would compare to my earlier attempt despite a significantly harder bike course. The other interesting aspect to the race was the professional field had been cut for the first time in 2015, as WTC reallocated its professional prize purses to fewer races. Looking at previous results, I thought a top-5 overall was a realistic possibility, and of course there is always something exciting about being towards the top of the field.
I came into T-2 feeling taxed but ready for the run. The weather was heating up but it was not really hot. I overheard that I was in 5th place, and was pretty sure I was second in my age group. I put on my compression socks but that took a little extra time because they are so tight. I didn’t really care that I was losing a bit of time (although I should have because some guy beat me by six seconds), but will have to change my setup for Kona. I started running and the fans got behind me for the first ½ mile, which is always a nice boost. I was running strong, putting numbers in the low 6:20s for the first four miles. During this time, I passed one guy and he was the only guy I passed all day (well, I passed other people on the second loop). About four miles in, there’s a long incline that you go up, go down, then turnaround and go up and down the other way. This dropped my average pace down to 6:26, which gradually increased over the rest of the run, with a final pace of 6:30, my old marathon pace.
My second loop was about one minute slower than the first, which isn’t too bad. By the time I hit the second loop a lot of other runners were out on the course and it simply became a passing game. It feels good to be the guy passing, as opposed to the guy getting passed, which was my experience at 70.3 Worlds last year. I took a few gels on the course, but mostly lived off of Gatorade and Coke. The kid volunteers loved it when I came smashing through grabbing everything, splashing everything about, blowing snot rockets, and generally, not giving a fuck. I also had my Base salt, which I’d pop every 20 minutes or so to ward off any potential cramping, since once that happens it’s hard to bounce back. On the last out and back I was eager to see where my place was relative to the four guys ahead of me. There had been some movement up front, as I had made up ground on a few of them, but also lost ground on a few of them. One of them ran a 1:21, and the other a 1:22. I came in at 1:25, a pretty consistent result for me. While I’m still waiting to get down to a 1:21, as I think that’s possible given my standalone PR of 1:15, I was very pleased with the result given the fact that I hadn’t been running quite as much this summer (travels). The last mile is basically downhill and a straightaway along the lake. It’s really quite beautiful. I started feeling some cramping in my right Achilles/calf, so shifted my gate a bit the last half mile, but managed to keep up a fast pace.
In the end I came in fourth overall out of 1,025 starters. As my former coach Aaron Scheidies once said, “I’m on my way to becoming really pretty good.” As I stated after the race, this was my best all around race (good placings in all of the disciplines), but not the most excruciating. There was never a point in the race where I was cooked and had to dig really deeply – everything was controlled. While I feel a bit cheated, as it’s fun to tell the excruciating stories, I think it means I’ve really dialed into my body and have learned to race right at the edge without burning too many matches. I qualified for the 2016 70.3 World Championships in Australia, as an automatic qualifier (as opposed to roll-down), which means I got a coin and a hat. I now wear the (trucker) hat ironically and carry the coin with me.
Up next is Kona in early October, followed by Ironman Arizona in November. I am not at all looking forward to competing in two ironmans so close to one another but I’ve been registered to do IMAZ since last November, and was unsure whether I would make it to Kona. Without a doubt, these will both bring a fat dose of humble pie. I will probably take some time off triathlon after that, and may not do a full next year so I can concentrate more intensely on my research, although not having an ironman to look forward to/focus on will be weird, since it’s basically been my non-work guiding force for the past four years.