ITU Richmond Sprint – Dolphin Diving When No One Would

May 16th, 2017
Happy for a good finish.

Let’s get exited! You’ll be finished before you know it.

I’m usually the last person to turn my test into the teacher or wait for the professor to yell “pencils down!” This time was different and not because it was my final exam (it was), but because I had a plane to catch to Richmond, VA for a race.  I’ve missed a flight before and it is stressful and expensive. This was my second time racing in Richmond. The last time I raced in Richmond was for the 2009 Duathlon National Age-Group Championships. I raced well and earned national champion status and qualified for the Duathlon World Championships occurring later that year. This time in Richmond, I was racing in a different format (ITU sprint triathlon).  I was definitely ready and prepared to better my result from ITU Sarasota a month ago.

Heading toward Union Station

Heading toward Union Station

It was not all business though. I did fly into our nation’s capital a couple days earlier to spend time with Louis Tharp, since he would already be down there for some Global Healthy Living Foundation meetings. In typical fashion, we found a pool to do some swimming and a wholefoods to spend all our money and laugh our asses off.

Higher Court Architecture

Higher Court Architecture

We were going to go down to Richmond together but ITU likes to start races in the afternoon and it would not be until 5 P.M. until he could start his drive back home to New York. Because I am a great guy, I gave him a pass since I would have not wanted to make that drive so late either. Granted, he does have a Bentley, so the drive would not have been that bad, only the time it would have taken.

It's always sad to say goodbye

It’s always sad to say goodbye

After we departed ways, I grabbed a rental car and headed straight to the race site in Richmond.  I met up with the Origin Performance coach, Ian O’Brian and meet his team to do typical race course recon and last-minute shake out training.  Ian would provide some appreciated support over the weekend. After the recon and shakeout, I had some time and hunger to kill before the prerace briefing, so of course I found another Whole Foods with some Trader Joes on the side to grab a late lunch.

Death by PowerPoint

Death by PowerPoint

After lunch and the race briefing, I headed to find my homestay in north Richmond. The couple, Mark and Anne Bare, I stayed with were such great hosts. They made food for us and opened up their garage for bike repairs.  They were also really funny. There was also another athlete staying there, Armando Abaunza, who resides in Florida and represents Panama.

Relaxing homestay

Relaxing homestay

After a good night’s sleep, shake out run, breakfast and last minute bike maintenance, I headed to the race site. The swim start was basically an out and back, with the swim exit located on a different shore of the pond. Since the pond bottom was really soft and shallow, it would be an in water start, holding the side of the pond wall and an option to put one foot on a 2×4 under the water. Additionally, we were wearing wetsuits. It’s not often I get to a choice on my swim start, but I had a few ITU points to throw around this time and my starting number was 21st out of the 50 athletes racing this weekend.

Lowest starting number in a while

Lowest starting number in a while

If you did not know, your starting number is based on your ITU points ranking. The higher your points and lower ranking on the ITU points list, the better the athlete’s starting position. The athlete with the highest points gets race number one. If you read my Sarasota blog, I said I had just missed the points since I placed 21st. However, someone just let me know that the ITU organizing committee just changed their rules to allow athletes to get point up to 30th place instead of 20th. An athlete will still need to be within 5 percent of the winner’s time to qualify for any points though.

Bike trainers available to athletes to use before and after

Bike trainers available to athletes to use before and after

I got off to a good start and did not have to worry about too much body contestation this time.  Granted, I still got hit in the face but at least this time my goggles did not fill up with water. As soon as we were in 300m, we funneled through barriers of a foot bridge.  It’s always critical to get out to a good positon before the first turn buoy in ITU races because it becomes chaos when a lot of people want to make that turn. As soon as we passed under the footbridge, I had done a good swim recon to know that I could dolphin dive if I just swim a little closer to the shore for about 15m.  This allowed me to move three body lengths and make up a little time.  However, as soon as we got to the furthest turn around buoy, about 30m after I finished dolphin diving to head back, I lost the feet of the guy in front of me and let a gap open up. Luckily, this gap did not come back to haunt me.

My weapon of choice for the race...Old Maddy Madone

My weapon of choice for the race…Old Maddy Madone

Exiting the water, I already knew that I needed to bike my butt off to make up this gap.  Missing a bike path in this type of racing can mean the difference between 13th and 31st. Unfortunately, I soon found that my legs were not feeling very powerful and there was no way I could catch the bike pack ahead. Another bout of luck found me and the group that I had led out of the water, did have strong bikers. I was able to hang on for dear life as they pulled many of us along, slowly picking up other stragglers along the way. I was eventually pushed to the back of the bike pack where I stayed the rest of the bike leg. Personally, this is not where I like to ever be since you have to accelerate more through corners and you’re always subject to more chances to go down if someone crashes in front of you.

Swim Recon and sending good vibes

Sending good vibes from the swim start…it’s dirtier than it looks

By the end of the third loop of the four loop bike course, my bike group merged with most of the bikers who were in the swim pack that gaped me. Coming off the bike, I was still at the back of the bike pack and my motivation to have moved to the front before transition was all but gone because of the amount of effort I needed to keep up. The downside of going into transition last, is that you give up about five to ten seconds on the first person who enters.

Drawing upon the rainbow for strength and speed

Drawing upon the rainbow for strength and speed

In typical fashion, I stayed in control and planned to run my second half of the 5k faster.  I held back in the first half mile to ensure that my posture and turnover was in check before moving up through the field.  There were about 15 people ahead of me when we left transition.  After the first 2.5k loop, I had chiseled that down to five people. By the first half of the second/last loop, I had that down to three people. In the last 600m, I had that down to two people and slowly closing in on them too.My mistake is that I did not start my sprint sooner and the two gentlemen ended up staying away, leaving me to finish in 13th and not 31st, thank goodness.

Results!!!!

Results!!!!

Since I started racing ITU in 2010, this is my best placing, besting my first ITU race in Mazatlán for a 16th place, two spots behind Olympian Joe Maloy.  Hard work is finally paying off, and so it should now that I have been able to truly focus on the sport since leaving active duty military service last December.  Now I just have to keep this momentum going as I plan to race the Ottawa ITU Sprint in June.

May your day be brighter than mine! Thanks for reading.

May your day be brighter than mine! Thanks for reading.

I am a true believer of eating and promoting a plant-based diet for maximum nutrition, performance and recovery. Furthermore, I encourage the pursuit of living life and searching and holding onto quality relationships—be true to yourself and live life with others. Revel in the journey, not just in the destinations. I’m pleased to be apart the club team US Military Endurance Sports and race in The Escape Triathlon Series this year. I would only be half the athlete and man if it were not for the wisdom of my coaches and mentors, Tim Crowley and Louis Tharp and all my family, friends and supporters, like Vasa and Sabble Water Optics. Go chase your dreams too!

See, that wasn't so painful.

See, that wasn’t so painful.