A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to take part in the US Pro Championships out in beautiful St. George, Utah. If you have an opportunity to visit this part of the country I would highly recommend it. On this particular weekend the skies were blue and the sun was hot. After talking to the locals it was about 10-15 degrees warmer than usual. Fortunately, we started early enough that the heat wasn't too much of a factor. I had my eyes on this race for a couple years now - especially hearing personally how great of a race it is from the 2012 St. George Ironman champion Ben Hoffman - and knew I wanted to give it a shot.
I was lucky enough to have gone out to St George back in January for a training trip (and an Optometry meeting learning about the latest and greatest contacts) so I would know what to expect course wise. As the race date drew closer the Pro start list was published and boy was it a competitive one! There were Olympians, World Champions and multiple Ironman/70.3 champions participating. I would say it was one of, if not the most competitive race outside the World Championships. This would give me an opportunity to see where I stood among the best in the world.
Chelsea and I ended up getting into Las Vegas the Wednesday beforehand so we would have some time to relax before the chaos of the race. We were very fortunate to stay with my great friend, Bill- we spent countless hours studying, riding bikes and everything in between while earning our Doctorate in Optometry at Ohio State. Bill is now an Optometrist in the Air Force and taking advantage of the outdoor wonders that the west has to offer.
After spending Thursday in Las Vegas - putting the bike together, getting an easy swim and run in and just relaxing, we were ready to drive the 90 mins northeast up to St. George to get in for the Pro meeting. After checking in and getting my race packet, I was happy to have run into Ben "The Hoff" Hoffman. I had not seen him since Tucson, two winters before where we trained together. After catching up a while we went up to the meeting to see a room filled with the best triathletes in the world. It made for a fun meeting- always some humor thrown in to lighten the mood- especially by the Aussies.
After the meeting, Chelsea and I got my gear ready for the am, dropped off my bike in T2 and went to dinner for an early bedtime. We did however have some time for a little photo shoot as Chelsea wanted some pictures of my new race kit...
When morning came around I was excited to race and see how I stacked up to the rest of this world-class field. After getting transition one ready, we got to transition two to get the bike set up. There was excitement yet anxiousness in the air.
After a nice warm up swim of about 10 mins we were ready to start the race. I knew this race was going to go out quickly (and for me they always do as I struggle to keep on the feet of others) with the likes of Andy Potts, Jan Fredeno, Clayton Fettell and Ternenzo Bozzone. The gun went off and the 54 Pros in the race were unleashed. I felt pretty good and was moving along nicely. My goal was to get on some feet of the faster swimmers and do my best to stay there. I found a nice group and was able to stay on for the first 1k or so. At that point I felt a surge in the group and really had to work to stay on. In the end I was really happy as I was able to hold the break. I was hoping to swim around 27-28 mins and I came out of the water just as the clock was ticking over 28 mins for a swim of 28:05.
As I headed out on the bike I knew I had some time to make up and other competitors to catch. I knew after Texas 70.3 that I needed to dial back my power output for this race if I wanted to have a good run. I had an average power at Texas of 334 watts and my run suffered. I was able to get into a rhythm after a few miles and started to roll. I gradually began to catch others and put my sights on the next person. In a bigger field such as this one, it is nice having carrots to catch. After climbing up the infamous Snow Canyon (which is a 4 mile, 1,000 foot ascent) that steepens as you get closer to the top, I had a nice long downhill into the finish. My goal was to break 2:20 on the bike and I came in right at 2:19:07.
I ended up passing someone in T2 and got out on the run course. The first 2.5-3 miles was uphill...a gradual grade at first then increasingly steeper toward the top of Red Hills Parkway. I wanted to stay within myself to the top of the climb then start to pick up the tempo. I was feeling good but didn't want to get too ahead of myself by putting too much into the hill. After seeing Bill and Chelsea at the 4 mile mark they let me know someone was 1 min in front. I gradually caught up to him (while at the same time seeing my friends and Ohio State TriBucks, Brian and Nicole, cheering for me) around mile 7. After that, I didn't see anyone in sight. Chelsea informed me over the next mile that the next closest guy was 7 minutes in front of me! Ouch....there was no way I was going to be able to close that gap so I told myself to run smoothly and try to focus on good form and even enjoy the scenery. The best thing about climbing the 3 mile hill in the beginning was that it was a nice 3 mile decent into town to the finish. I ended up running 1:19:10 for the half marathon and a total time of 4:10:07. 10th Overall American! and 30th Pro finisher.
Overall, I am fairly pleased with my race. Even if I had gone 5 minutes faster my place would have been the same. I just need to keep working on bridging the gap to the next group. After talking with Coach Doug, we have decided to skip Raleigh 70.3 and focus on Syracuse 70.3 the weekend of June 21-22. Thanks again to all my sponsors especially CooperVision- a world leader in contact lens technology. Being a practicing Doctor of Optometry and outdoor enthusiast, I am excited to have formed a relationship with them and am excited for the future!