Sloppy. Wet. Muddy. Just like I like it. It rained quite a bit the night before the race, throughout the night the rain woke me up as it hit the tiled roof. Race morning, I woke up at 6:30 am, that’s 12:30 am back on the East coast. I went into Rife and Josiah’s room and tapped Rife on the foot. The World Championship was broken down into three races, with about a two hour break in between each race. Rife and I would be racing at 9:45, while Dan’s race was scheduled for 2:00 pm. Cody and Josiah wouldn’t race until 6:00 pm. Rife, Aaron and I packed our things and headed to the race course.
Due to the parking circumstances, we parked a little over a kilometer from the race course. Rife and I grabbed our bags and rode our bikes to the course while Aaron hooved it with the camera gear and snacks. As we neared the venue, we could hear the music and the announcer speaking loudly in Spanish. I looked over at Rife and said, “Now it feels real that we are at an international race.” Actually getting to the transition area was a chore because most of the venue was blocked off as part of the race, similar to navigating through a maze. We had to ride all the way around “the ring.” The ring is a large circular building structure, with multiple levels; meeting rooms and other facilities dedicated to sports research.
Since there were multiple races and multiple wave starts within each race, I decided to forgo my usual pre-race ritual and head straight for transition. It’s a good thing I did, because getting into transition was chaotic. There were hundreds of racers all trying to get into the single entrance with one official checking the names off the list. I got to my assigned rack and set up my transition as normal, with the exception of the little blue box. I was still a bit confused of its purpose and the ITU rules surrounding it. What was supposed to be in the box? What wasn’t supposed to be in the box? When was it supposed to be in the box?
The purpose of the day before was to get affiliated with the course along with a mandatory race briefing. It was a very humbling experience being surrounded by both the best Professional and Amateur Off Road Triathletes in the world. They discussed the race venue, the schedule, and some of the ITU rules. Most of the rules were the same as typical American Triathlons. One of the differences, however, was the usage of a small blue box which they explained very briefly.
Standing over this little blue box in transition, I attempted to recall what the rules stated, knowing that improper use would result in a time penalty. I put both my bike shoes, my run shoes and my hat in the box. I placed my wetsuit, swim cap and goggles over the handle bars of my bike. I grabbed my transition bag and took it to the bag holding area, which was also mandatory. I was not allowed to re-enter transition since the juniors’ race was about to start. I began to panic because I needed to recover my swim gear from transition in preparation for my own race. Glenn Cook, racked right beside my spot, was still standing next to the rack. I yelled over to Glenn and he was gracious enough to bring over my gear. Boy, did he save my arse.
With no time for a pre-race warm-up, they lined us up by numerical order and wave start near the floating dock. We all walked down towards the dock and lined up for our swim. The swim consisted of a thousand-meter out and back with an in-water start. Wetsuits required, some people had complained that the water was too cold, but I thought it was the perfect temperature. With an “on your mark” and a horn blast we were off. It took me a couple of minutes to get into a groove, considering I had no time for a warm-up prior to the start. The other racers were swimming in all directions, having trouble staying on course. I managed to find a low-traffic area just left of the main pack. I knew this would be fine for now, but not so when l we reached the buoys because it would be a left hand turn. This meant that the other racers would be coming from my right and towards me on the turn. Just as I suspected, we rounded the buoy it became a pool of flailing appendages. I managed to find my way around the buoys, taking minimal damage. The rest of the swim to the exit ramp was fairly uneventful other than the fact that I seemed to find a steady pace. As I swam towards shore I was thinking to myself that the Synergy wetsuit was the best suit I owned so far. Other suits that in which I have raced all seemed a bit more restrictive in movement. This suit seemed a bit more pliable (full product review coming soon).
Coming into transition, I had no problems getting my wetsuit off and all the way down to my waist by the time I reached my rack . I donned my bike shoes , helmet and running bib from the blue box. Then, I put my wetsuit in the box on top of my running shoes and hat before grabbing my bike.
The bike course consisted of two laps with a distance of approximately 10k each. The first short section was a few small technical climbs. It became congested because it was slick form the pervious night’s rain and it was more technical than some athletes were accustomed to. I found myself running my bike up the hill past several athletes. Once it opened up to double track, I seized the opportunity to pass several other people.
The first half of the course was a mix of double-track and short single track sections with only two climbs of any significance. The second of the two climbs was at the farthest point of the bike course. Its’ downhill consisted of very slick, greasy switchbacks. The return portion to transition primarily followed the edge of the lake. It had sections of sandy, rocky areas. The rest was a muddy, grassy, swamp-like landscape. On the first lap, our wave caught up to the para-athletes. This caused a little bit of congestion, but one that we didn’t mind, as these guys were amazing athletes. I had passed numerous para-athletes with single arms, single legs, and one blind athlete riding with a guide on a tandem mountain bike.
By the time I reached the second lap the field had thinned out quite a bit allowing me to ride portions of the course that would otherwise be congested. However, not having someone in front of me to reel in or someone behind me to push I found myself slowing my pace a bit. American, David Southhall, caught up with me and passed. I settled in behind him and we raced the remainder of the second lap together, trudging through the mud and component clogging muck. Along the swampy areas, you could hear the frogs croaking. It was funny how they sounded different than the frogs you would normally hear in swampy areas back home. “They must be croaking in Spanish,” I thought. I chuckled to myself and kept on riding. As we neared transition, we reached a section of double track where I took the opportunity to pass David. I also caught up with Glenn Cook and passed him shortly before entering transition. Getting to my bike rack I noticed that my wet suit was gone and that someone had placed my running shoes and hat right outside my box. Now that is service. I also noticed that there were no bikes in my area, which led me to believe that I was the first in my age group to reach transition. Running out of transition I put two and two together and realized that was not the case. The same folks who had removed my wetsuit, had also removed the other racers bikes. Darn.
The run course was relatively flat, two laps, with a total distance of 6k. Approximately the first-half of the course was rocky and muddy, with the second half being a gravel path through the inside of “the ring”. I tried my best to run with a negative split, gradually increasing my pace. I passed several people on the run, but couldn’t make out the age groups due to the caked-on mud. Our bib numbers were indicative of our age groups as well, but couldn’t remember where the numbering started and stopped. Also compounding the problem was the fact that it was a two-lap run. I didn’t know who was on there first or second lap so I just tried to pass as many people as I could. I finished the race with my typical sprint at the end.
Final results were 19th place and 3rd American in my division. My goal was to be in the top 20 with a stretch goal of top 10. Certainly happy with the results considering the field of competitors. There’s still more work to do in training.
Dan Kimball’s race (my perspective)
Since Dan was racing several hours after I had finished, I took the liberty to head back to the house with Rife and Aaron to get cleaned up. Getting back in time for Dan’s race start proved much more difficult than I had anticipated. Given the parking situation, Aaron and I decided to venture out onto the bike course to catch up with Dan rather than heading back to transition. Our estimate of time and their location paid off as we met up with Dan just as we stumbled upon the trail. We caught a quick picture of him on his first bike lap.
He was looking strong and had about a 3 minute lead on the next American. I would later find out that when the above picture was taken, he was squarely in 3rd place. I would also find out that he had the beginnings of a rear flat tire. Take a closer look of the picture above. Aaron and I moved to another section of the trail where we could see them on the return trip back towards transition to start their second lap. Dan was steadily passing folks in both his age group and that of the 30-34 group.
Again, Aaron and I chose to move to another portion of the bike course for some different pics. Due to the battery in my good camera going belly-up, I had to switch to my smaller, pocket camera for the remainder of the pics. We decided to move to the farthest end of the course that consisted of a greasy, switchback downhill. We caught a few pictures of Rob Jackson who was behind Dan on the first lap.
I began to wonder what had happened to Dan, especially considering the amount of lead that he had on the rest of the team. I looked at Aaron and stated that something must have gone wrong. We waited what seemed to be an eternity and finally gave up on seeing him on that section of the trail. Just as we had walked about 30 meters away, we turn around to see Dan about half-way down the hill and motioning for the racer behind him to pass. “That’s odd,” I thought, “I bet he flatted.” After sprinting back to a previous section of the course, our fears were confirmed.
As Dan approached me, he was saying, all while grinning from ear to ear, “Check out my rear tire!”.
In the short amount of time that I had, I snapped two decent pictures of his rear tire:
As you can see, it is completely flat. Seems Dan flatted at about the 8km point in the race. After several attempts to fix it, complete with teammates tossing him extra co2 and foam, he couldn’t get the tire to hold air anymore. He rode the remaining 12km of the bike course on the flat. I couldn’t help but think about what I would do in a similar situation. I’m not sure I would have continued to ride the bike. At best, I think I would have ended up running with the bike. Regardless of riding or running, I don’t think I would have been grinning and chuckling as Dan was in his situation. After completing the bike course, he went on to the run.
Even with exhausted legs from hammering the bike on a flat, Dan steadily picked off rivals on the run course. Each time he passed by, I could still see a grin and he was still joking with me. At the end of his run, he grinned again and threw up two thumbs-ups. Had he not had the unfortunate circumstance of flatting, he would have definitely been on the podium, if not winning the division.
My hat’s certainly off to Dan for not only completing the race given the circumstances on the bike, but doing so with such a winning attitude and being a true ambassador of our nation to the other countries. It truly shows our diversity and willingness to take on what to some may seem as insurmountable challenges with the greatest of professionalism and sportsmanship.