A few weeks ago I finished my first big block of racing for 2019. I raced 3 races with three weeks between each, jumping back and forth from Mexico to the USA. It all started with Ironman 70.3 Campeche on March 17.
I added Campeche at the last minute, after Challenge Baja was canceled. I had done Campeche last year and had a rough race so I was not sure if it was the right choice to start this racing block. But once I signed up, I was all-in, no second thoughts. I was going in the race much fitter than last year and in the right headspace.
They chose to start the race off at 1:00 pm, in 36c heat. This was a huge shock to my system coming from a Canadian winter. I had a decent swim in the rough Ocean. Coming off of just pool swimming I felt like I was just being tossed around. I came out in about 6th place and went to work on the bike. I was feeling good about half way through the bike but then the heat and sun got me I went from holding 260-70 watts to barely holding 200 watts. I got off the bike having lost a lot of places, in 10th place. I had come into this race telling myself no matter what happens you run as fast as you can. I took on water and ice to cool down my body and I started reeling people in as I got my run legs going. I moved up from 10th place to 7th , and came away with the 4th fastest run of the day. It was not a great day but better than I had done the year before.
After Campeche I flew up to Oceanside where I stayed with Kevin Portmann. This was a great setup, living only 10min away from the race site. With the cooler conditions I was feeling great and motivated to race.
Oceanside 70.3 is always an amazing race to be part of with some top pros racing there every year. It is one of the classics on the Ironman 70.3 calendar, and this was the first year that the race was in the open ocean with a beach start.
The race started with a savage charge into the water as all the pro men ran down the beach. I was able to clear the break efficiently and only get swamped by one wave. The race was blown apart right away with swimmers all over the place. After about 400m into the swim I was able to find a group of people. I settled in and just coasted in their draft until the end of the swim. It was bit of a risk to save some energy. I came out of the water in 15th place and was a little worried that I was to far back.
I was able to clear transition very quickly and create a gap on the group of athletes I had been swimming with. I was feeling great, and pushed some great watts early on, feeling like I had to keep controlling my effort to make sure I was going to have some good power later on in the ride. About 15km into the bike I caught the 3rd big group of men. Sam Long and I started to take turns on the front and we started to overtake riders who had been popped from the second group up the road. As we approached 40km into the bike we hit our first big climb. There, Sam Long and I made a big push up and over the climb. I was able to stay with the group up the hill but as we descended I lost sight of them. Over the next 5km I had to put in a huge surge to bridge the gap, and drop any one who had survived the climb with me. During the next 20km Sam Long and myself slowly pulled away from the rest of the group. Eventually Sam also pulled away from me. I was able to keep the pressure on the bike and come into T-2 in 7th place.
Things were going well. I new that I was now in my element and I had guys in my sights. I started running and it just felt like I was floating! I had found the flow and knew this was going to be a good day. I ticked away the km and by half way I had moved up into 4th place with about a 90second gap to 3rd place. I felt great till the last 5km when the real hurt started. I gutted it out for these last few km as I fought to hold onto 4th place. I crossed the finish line with only seconds to spare but I had defended my 4th place, with the third fastest run I have seen so far.
This was a great race for me and I am very happy to see this kind of performance at such a high level race. I know that this will be a great starting point for 2019.
I flew back to Canada to get ready for Challenge Cancun, only three weeks after Oceanside. Again I was going from a cooler climate to a nice hot race. Like Campeche I prepared with hot baths and time in the steam room. I was hungry for the podium.
Challenge Cancun did an amazing job, putting all the international athletes up in an all-inclusive resort. The few days I was there before the race I was able to continue practicing my ocean swimming in the beautiful Caribbean Sea.
This race included another ocean swim, but in the calmest water that I had raced in this year. I scouted out the beach running in, and discovered that on the far right side you could run much farther than on the left. So I went as far right as I could and prepared for the day. I felt pretty good in the swim and after a little fight with the other guys at the start, I moved to the front of the main group with only three athletes in front of me. At the half way point Elliot Bach started to move up beside me. I chose to fall back onto his feet instead of fighting with him to lead the group. It is a hard call sometimes to give up a place in the swim. Sometimes, if you fight with another person, you end up slowing yourself down more than if you let them pass and get on their feet.
As we came out of the water I stormed the beach and was able to get to transition in 3rd place with a good group of guys right behind me. Elliot had a very strong transition and I had to put down a good opening surge to regroup with him. But just as I was settling down into my 70.3 pace I hit a rough section of road and lost one of my bottles, and half my nutrition. I made a decision to keep racing with what I had and try to spread out the remaining amount of nutrition I had over the bike. Andy Potts and Ben Hoffman were up the road from our strong group of 5 men that included Cody Beals, Elliot Bach and myself. We each took turns leading the group but were still loosing time to the leaders. As we approached the last 20km of the bike the pace lifted, as we started to look at each other knowing that this was going to come down to the run. I made sure I was not leading the group as we entered the final km of the bike.
We all came flying into transition but I was able to leapfrog part of the group and exit transition in 3rd place. I quickly settled into a strong pace that I knew on a good day I could hold. I went through the first 5km in 17:30 (3:30pace). I had put a small gap on Cody Beals and was planning to keep that pace going. But then the wheels fell off, probably a mix of the heat and losing some nutrition. I was determined not to let a little bad luck get in the way of me racing with everything I had that day. Cody slowly pulled back the gap by 7km into the run. Then I put in another charge to try and get myself going again and opened up as small gap to Cody. As we approached the 10km mark he overtook me again and I was not able to respond. After that I turned myself inside-out just to finish the run without walking. In the end it was a 4th place finish. Some days you just have to race with the hand you are dealt.
Over all 7th, 4th and 4th is not the worst way to start the 2019 season. I know that this is not a perfect reflection of what I have been doing in training and I look forward to getting the chance to showcase my skills in some cooler races that are on home soil, with Ironman 70.3 Victoria and 70.3 Mont Tremblant coming up next. These will be the perfect places for me to show the world what I have.