That’s not a gang sign, that’s LOVE! – The Clermont ITU Sprint Triathlon Pan Am Cup

March 19th, 2013

Heart to Heather

As my name was called, I began jogging to the water’s edge to line up for the start of the Clermont ITU Sprint Triathlon.  This was the first race of the year and the ideal distance to begin the season since I will be focusing on Olympic distance racing, with a few half Irons.  As I jogged, I noticed Heather standing alongside the path.  We smiled at each other and very nonchalantly, I made a hang gesture to her and in doing so she did the same, folding her fingers into an asymmetric shape of a letter C and then proceeded to place it on her chest.  Bill Burnett, the race director, was standing to the right of her, asked “What was that, some kind of gang sign?” She giggled and said “Oh no!” and paused.  She continued: “No, that is the other half of my heart.” He said “Aww, that’s cute” and smiled.  That not only made Bill’s day, it made mine as well – the perfect way to start the day’s competition.

Heart to Nicholas

This year the swim consisted of a run-in start and one side of the line was gradually deeper than the other. I knowingly took my position on the deepest end since I had a higher starting number and the field had lined up on the shallower end.  This was a slight disadvantage for me but was nothing to complain about, given the fact that I had earned my starting and line up position base on my previous year’s ITU ranking.  There were 48 people toeing the line of the race, and my start number was 44th. When the gun went off, I slowly shuffled my way forward but away from the chaos as the pack bottle necked.  I quickly got onto someone’s feet and fell into a good rhythm.  Eventually the swim group spread out, but everyone was close enough that the string of bodies resembled a train, with one car after the other.  I was toward the back, but at least I was not the caboose.   As I exited the water I tried to make up as much time on the run into transition, just as my coach, Tim Crowley, had advised. But with the thick sand and a high heart rate, it was easier said than done.  I was only able to hold my place, but I was confident that I could make up time on the bike course.

Running Fast

As soon as I got on my bike, I just went, trying to catch whatever bike group was ahead of me.  Alas, I did not catch any existing bike group, but by the end of the first lap I had made my own bike group that consisted of all the people who did not make the first or second groups. My group was large but did not work efficiently, which caused us to lose time to the leaders by the end of the fourth lap. I even tried to drop my group on the last lap because of this inefficiently. After the third lap, I surged ahead of everyone, putting a good 200 meters on them.  Unfortunately, my lead did not hold as I was caught at the last turn around before heading into transition.  It was a tactical move that would have worked well if executed at another time; however it felt good to know I had the fitness to do this and it’s something I could implement in upcoming races.

Happy Birthday to Me!

My T2 was much smoother than my T1, which allowed me to get ahead of my group and attack the run as I always do.  It was a two lap run course and, as planned, I descended my pace on the second lap to finish respectfully in 24th place, about mid-field.  Overall, I was proud of my performance and grateful to have Heather waiting for me at the finish line to congratulate me with a big hug and wish me a Happy Birthday!  She had even made and carried around a sweet, Happy Birthday poster, which I was hoping the other competitors would pick up on. Possibly giving me a little slack in honor of my 26th, but instead they gave me their best, which of course I am more thankful for.

With my first race in the bag, Team Sterghos was still not done.  Heather competed the following day in the non-draft race, where she improved dramatically from her last sprint race.  I was more proud of her, since she improved on each discipline of her race.  She came out of the water about mid-pack, and she did not do any backstroke while she swam.  She even threw in some dolphin dives at the start of the race, which we practiced leading up to race day.  If you would like to read more about Heather’s race and how much she dominated, please read her race recap:

Heather is not the only one I want to thank for such a great season starter.  First and foremost, I’d like to thank the U.S. Army and my unit, HHB/1-44 ADA BN, and all the exceptional leaders who support me, now and over the years.  I’d like to thank my coaches, Tim Crowley and Louis Tharp who have believed in me, shared their knowledge and skills to help me get to where I am today. Thanks to Amrita Health Foods for their exceptional plant-based nutritional bars for optional performance and recovery and their mission to help the world become a healthier place.  To Serotta bikes, for their support since I was on the West Point Triathlon Team back in 2009 and for handcrafting me a bike that I consider to be a work of art. And to all my other supporters, your belief in me is paramount to my success so far!  Stay tuned for my next race, the Sarasota ITU Triathlon Pan Am Cup.