Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Raleigh 70.3 and U.S. 2015

2015 has brought some big changes to my triathlon career, after having a couple of good results at the half distance early on in the year I was given the opportunity to travel to the US to race. It was such a dramatic and sudden step but as they say "a ship in harbour is safe but that is not what ships are built for". I jumped at this opportunity and immediately looked for races to do that would work around a stint in Boulder for a couple of months with some friends.
Not long after making the decision flights were booked and I was leaving the country with mum on the 22nd May, just before winter hits. I was lucky to have a few weeks of perfect Autumn weather before heading off, however a few days before, I rode in 4°C (39ºF) poring rain, it was time.
First race lined up was Raleigh 70.3 in North Carolina on the 31st May. After a 23hr transit from Syd-LAX-RDU I was on US soil for the first time and Apex, NC had turned on the weather, clear sky's and a balmy 28°C (82°F). To my luck the weather remained like this for my whole stay, it was hot but much more enjoyable than cold wet condition back home.
This was only the 3rd time Raleigh hosted a 70.3 and I was hoping for a quite Pro field but when the list came out it was stacked. This made me a little more nervous but I was too keen to get my first race done.
The race was set out a bit different to what I am use to, the swim and T1 was at Jordan lake about 40mins out from Raleigh, the bike course started at the lake and weaved through the undulating back streets to Raleigh city center where T2 was and the 2 lap run course which was all uphill with a couple of spikes on the way out and the opposite on the way back. Having two different transition meant a 3am alarm to drive to Raleigh, leave the car, setup T2 and get the shuttle out to the lake for T1 setup and swim start at 7am.
Pros only allowed a 5min warm up before we were waist deep ready for the start. Bit of an awkward start being waist deep but a little dive and I was up to speed leading the way on the right side, watching James Sear lead from the left side. After 100m both lines had come together and another athlete had come up the inside on my right, I jumped straight on his feet and was battling with two other guys for his feet. We were 3 a breast behind this guy with a motoring kick all getting dragged along. This jostling for 2nd position continued for the first 2/3rds of the swim until we turned the final can to start heading back to shore and I picked up the pace coming around the first guy and on his other side Matt Chrabot also moved up. Chrabot and I dragged raced each other all the way to the exit ramp but I just got the upper hand in the last few meters to exit the water first. Stoked on my Xterra Speedsuit, first time I have used it and the suits slices thriugh the water. It was a small group of 4-5 I exited the water with, having an advantage of just over a minute on the chase group and several minutes on others. 
Sear had a lightning fast transition to exit first and I closely followed in 2nd. The pace was already on, no time to sit up, feet in shoes and I was off. Sear led the way for the first few miles but I had settled and made an attack coming to the front to lead the way. I pushed on the front for the next 15miles with a short lead by Chrabot in there. I hit Old US 1, fast stretch of short rolling hills, moving along around 30+miles/h. Out of no where Drietz passes me at least another 5mile/h quicker, he was just rolling over those hills at that speed. Chrabot immediately responds to try and chase him down but he was long gone. I had lost site of Drietz and Chrabot was edging away on the fast flats. Around mile 35 I was 4mins down on Chrabot but it wasn't long until I hit the last 15mile of hills to try and make up some ground, into T2 I had reduced the deficit to 2mins from Chrabot. Was really happy to find out I had the 3rd fastest ride of the day in 2hrs 10min, massive thanks to 3D bike fit for dialing in my position two days before leaving. 
It was super hot now and the hardest part of the race to come, the run. The first 3.5miles was all up hill, 30°C (86°F) and hardly any shade. I felt good coming off but as soon as I hit the sun and the hill it shattered me, I just had to focus on keeping composed and taking on nutrition at the aid stations, thanks to all the volunteers at every station, they do a great job and provide so much support. By the time I hit the turn around I was in 4th and I couldn't utilize the downhill like I should to pick up the pace, even splitting the first 7mile. The next 3.5miles was the worst, back up the hill and I was hurting, had too keep reminding myself I have downhill all the way home to get me to the top. I had lost another three positions by the final turn and another closely followed, passing me 2.5miles out from the finish. Had a look behind to see no one within sight I decided to ease off a bit for the last couple of miles so I wasn't completely wrecked when I was finished. Came over the line in a happy 8th position with a 4:01:45 overall time.
 Pleasing result overall, little disappointed I lost so much ground on the run after having come off the bike in 3rd position but still trying to work it out but stoked with that result for my first race in the US, next stop Virginia for Challenge Williamsburg on the 14th of June.
Massive thanks to Fred and Lisa Arnold and everyone from Inside Out Sport for allowing me to train with them and showing me around the Triangle. Thanks to Cary Family YMCA for having me at their pool and huge thanks to all my sponsors and parents for making this trip happen.

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