Using only half a lung – 2018 ITU Santo Domingo

March 6th, 2019
El Presidente

El Presidente

At last year’s race in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, I made a silly mistake and put my cycling shoes on the opposite pedals. It was a total surprise when I reached down to put my foot into my shoe, and my foot would not fit. It’s no fun cycling the entire race on top of your shoes. This year, history did not repeat itself. On the other hand, I had a horrifically slow T2. I’ll explain later.

The other problem I had was a chest injury that I sustained the week before, during my monthly Army Reserve training. Someone accidentally hit me in the chest with their elbow.  At first, I thought I had a broken rib, but an X-ray confirmed that it was only a chest contusion. Whether it is a torn intercostal or bruise, it hurt to do just about anything, even breathe.

Swim start

Swim start

The swim was an in-water start, even though last year it was a beach start.  The Dominican naval base, where our swim took place, put down a layer of rocks along the beach to help with erosion. When called down to the beach to select my start position, I chose a spot to the far left with some solid swimmers.  After we entered the water to position between two kayaks, the far right swimmers pushed forward past the start line, gaining at least one body-length advantage.  Many of the athletes on my side started shouting, trying to get the attention of the race starter. He did not hear or see what was going on. Soon we heard: “take your mark.” A second later, the gun went off.

There are rocks hiding in the water

There are rocks hiding in the water

My swim start was not very aggressive. I did not try to outsprint anyone and immediately tucked in behind some feet. Since I had taken an NSAID, my chest was not as painful, allowing me to build into my swim. I strategically stayed onto any feet I could find to the first turn buoy. I was successful and kept with the same rhythm to the next and last buoy. As we turned around the last buoy to head back to shore, I took a good look ahead and saw that a gap had opened 20m ahead between some swimmers. Because I don’t have the fitness (rehabbing from knee surgery and chest injury) to start passing athletes and close those kinds of gaps, I held my position. When we reached the shore, besides having to deal with rocks under our feet, I also had to deal with an abrupt chest pain resulting from picking myself up from the water to start running. Any kind of thoracic flexion or extension causes piercing pain.

Old Churches

Cathedral of Santa Maria

After slowly gaining balance as I stood up, I then rushed to my bike. I did not lose any time in T1 and jumped on my bike. Usually, I press hard and time trial the first 4km, no matter who is around me; however,  a couple of athletes slowly passed me within the first 400m. Therefore, I got behind them and took advantage of their draft. I did not do much in the first 10km to help the athletes close the gap between small bike packs and single athletes ahead. Eventually, we were a pack of at least fifteen athletes.

Old building at night

Old building at night

Halfway through, I pulled my gel off my bike to take in some calories. I soon heard a frantic athlete groan and then “crash!” An athlete to my 10 o’clock, took a hard fall. I dropped my gel before I could even raise it to my mouth, clinched and braced for impact. I lucked out as the athlete’s helmet only grazed the side of my wheel.After that, I was full of extra adrenaline. I moved to the front of the bike packed to stay out of future trouble and started to do my fair share of work. I even managed a short 30-sec breakaway on the last lap to try and get some distance on the group going into T2.  It was not successful, partly because of my poor bike handling on some of the corners.

Independence Park

Independence Park

 

Now to explain this horrifically slow T2 I mentioned at the beginning. First, I was not aggressive in the last 400m to hold my placing at the front of the bike pack. I drifted back to mid-pack as more forceful athletes squeezed their way to be first before the dismount line. Secondly, when I entered T2, I ran down the wrong side of transition toward my bike. The problem arose when I finally reached my rack position. Like having to wait for a train to pass on a railroad crossing, I had a long line of athletes block my ability to cross between them and rack my bike. Finally, after I was clear to rack my bike, I took way too long to put on my shoes. I had practice putting on my racing flats but not without socks. My feet would just not slide into the shoes. To add to my frustration, bending over to put my shoes on was very painful.  I was last to exit transition by about five seconds. Every second counts in this sport.

Island sunset

Island sunset

The temperature was high and the humidity increased the difficulty factor. I usually run well in hot climates and this race was no exception.  Because of the extra slow transition, I initially had to close the gap to get back to the pack of athletes I came off the bike with.  This process took half a lap. My injury prevented me from pushing hard in training so my legs felt heavy and my leg turnover was slow. Once we finished the first lap, my legs started to feel better, but my chest pain increased as the NSAID started to wear off. I soon passed one athlete after the next. I had no idea what my position was and just imagined I was PAC-man gobbling up power-ups.  Of all the athletes I had my sights on, I caught all of them except two. Never leave it to the last kilometer on the run to catch athletes, since most of them also know they are nearing the finish and pick up the pace just enough to hold you off.

DCIM100GOPRO

Bike familiarization

I finished 24th and felt pleased about my finish. Even though I was top 30, good enough for some ITU points, I did not get any points because of the 5 percent rule (Athletes must finish within five percent of the winners time). I only needed to run 4 seconds faster. My T2 was at least five seconds slower than anyone who came off the bike with me. After the race, I did not venture out too much in Santo Domingo because of my chest pain. I did find a pool but did not swim for long with stabbing chest pains every time I took a stroke.

Overall, the trip was fun. Additionally, I had the pleasure of stopping in Fort Lauderdale on my way to the Dominican Republic. There, I had the opportunity to catch up with a friend, Tony Salvetti, from years ago when I did my first ITU race in Clermont, FL. He is doing well, working hard to chase his dreams and passions, too.

I am a true believer in eating and promoting a plant-based diet for maximum nutrition, performance, and recovery. Furthermore, I encourage the pursuit of living life and searching & holding onto quality relationships—be true to yourself and live life with others. Revel in the journey, not just in the destination. I’m pleased to be apart of the club team US Military Endurance Sports. 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!