STOKED! that's all I can say about last Sunday. Coming into this race, the pro start list was so stacked that I thought placing anywhere 15th would be a good day. Sometimes pros sign up but don't show up because of various reasons and at the Pro meeting is where you get to see who showed up to the party. As far as I could tell, no one wanted to be a square (be there or be square), and everybody showed up!
I came into this race having done a heavy block of work right after Boulder 70.3. I also started working with Nicholas Thompson from Tridot. Nicholas was someone that I looked up to when I was in college, a local legend, and a consistent top 10 guy on the 70.3 circuit over the last 5 years. Nick has been instrumental in tweaking my training and my mentality of the last couple of weeks to be ready for Vineman 70.3. Combined with Tridot's science based training program, I really felt I did the right amount of intensity, and felt amazing days before the race. Though always nervous because of the competition, I had a quiet confidence that kept me calm. I was actually excited to start the race and see what I can do.
SWIM: 26:57 (40 SECOND IMPROVEMENT!)
I had a plan of swimming with my buddy Dylan from UCLA. He's a strong swimmer and I knew he was going to swim in the low 26s. I started next to him but he was like a torpedo at the start. He pulled away from me and I never got a taste of his draft. As the first and second group got away from me, I knew I was stuck in a group that would probably end up swimming 27s high. I sighted ahead and saw a group of 4-5 guys in front. That was the train I needed to get on, and I told myself, I need to swim as hard as I can before that train leaves my "Drafting station" forever. So I booked it like crazy. I focused on my breathing, exhaling and not holding my breath underwater, and really focus on catching the water with my high elbows and pulling through. After about 2-3 minutes of hard work, I latched on to the back of the wagon and hitched a ride. This group was a bit sporadic as they would drift left and right, and surge and slow. I almost lost the draft a couple times, but managed to hang on with surges of my own. All the work I've been doing in the pool with Tim Sheeper and tubing work have paid off I told myself. I'm able to respond to these surges and stay with the group.
On the way back, the group dramatically slowed and was still surging left and right. I didn't want to risk attempting overtaking the group because sometimes I end up losing ground on the group b/c of lack of draft. So I told myself to just be patient and stay with the group. We got out of the water and I realized I was in good company, with Chris Baird who's a killer on the bike and even more deadly on the run (He has the run course record 1:11). I knew I had to hang on to Chris Baird if I want to have any shot at placing in the top 15.
BIKE 2:11:05 (4 min + improvement from last year)
Chris set a blistering pace right out of the gate and luckily I was able to stay with him. As my heart rate came down to 157-158, and my power was around 270s-280s, I knew I was in good shape. I told myself to be patient and not push hard until half way, 1:20 into the bike. We caught a ton of guys, and ended up forming a group of 6-7 guys, including Olympian Matt Reed and my friend Dylan.
It was maybe the dynamics of the group, but there was a lot of surging in group riding. Because it's hard to keep the 12m draft legal distance consistent with changes in grades, (usually the rider in front of you will come closer to you when he hits a hill, and you have to slow down, and then speed up again). I kept things in control as much as I can and kept my heart rate low.
After the second aid station, at the time it was Chris leading the group, with Dylan, me, and Matt Reed. Normally this is where I fade in the past but I was feeling good this time around. We also weren't catching anymore guys up front. I thought if we're gonna have any chance in the front coming off for the run I gotta do something even if it fails. It was time to make a move. I surged and started pushing hard for a good 10 min. I passed Chris and went to the front of the group and drilled it. Only Chris was able to come with me, and we took turns in the front a couple times. We rode hard back into town and finished in 2:11s, my fastest 70.3 bike ride ever on a challenging course.
RUN: 1:21:20 (10 SECOND IMPROVEMENT)
The run wasn't as dramatic as the bike. I ran alone for the whole 13.1 miles, only passing Luke Bell who was having a bad day. The first 4 miles I was running 5:55s per mile and was feeling awesome. But as the rollers came my pace slowed to 6:00 flat, then to 6:05, then 6:09 progressively. However For the first time in about a year and a half, I feel like my half ironman marathon legs are back. I didn't feel like I was going to pass out or fall over. Though I faded toward the end, I still felt like I was in control. I was just loving it on the run. Until I saw Matt Reed at the mile 8 turn around and almost shat my pants. Matt Reed ran a ninja 1:15 at Wildflower and for the whole run, he doesn't mess around. I was scared that he was gonna roar past me. But I picked up my pace, held my form, and ran like a I stole something all the way back into town. A lady on the side of the road was kind enough to say "You're looking strong! no one in sight". Only then I was able to relax and cruise back into Windsor high school at the finish.
As I approached the finish line, I knew I was gonna PR with the time on the clock. I was so happy. I couldn't help but think about all the tough times I've been through the last 12 months, and how lucky I am to place 10th again and have a good race. I took in the moment as much as I can before I came crashing down from my failed gymnastic move shown above.
FINISH 4:03:43, 70.3 PR
There have been more tough times in the past 12 months than good times for sure. There have been times when I literally got off my bike, unclipped, and threw it into the bushes on the side of the road because I was feeling so bad and so down. I've been told to "just race as an age grouper because you ain't making any money being a pro, there's no point". There was November and December where I couldn't run more than 200m without pain in my IT band. There was that DNF at Oceanside when I was flu-ridden. Every other weekend I was tempted to quit and not commit myself to compete at such a high level. But they always say in endurance sports, you win once and maybe lose 100 times to get that one win, and it's true. On last Sunday, I felt truly happy and just glad I stuck with it all these months. I didn't win Vineman 70.3 2015, but it was a victory for me to get 10th again this year in a deeper, world-caliber field. So I'll take it.
I know I didn't make any money at this race. I probably won't make any money this year. But I'm chasing my dream and money isn't everything to me. If I do the right thing, train right, eat right, recover right and compete with the best in the world, the results will come, and the money will come. I'm not in the sport for money. I'm in the sport to race and compete with the best professional triathletes in the world. That's why I signed up to be a pro.
The support from the friends and family have been incredible. Thanks to everyone who's dropped a message the last couple of months. I really appreciate it.
-Shout out to Loc Le from SF State University Tri Club who showed me around transition and gave me very kind and encouraging words. I admire and respect his enthusiasm for triathlon, and SF bay area's triathlon community is lucky to have him around for sure. Also shout out to Courtney who had a great race with a 1 hour + PR, amazing!
-Shout out to Yau, for always checking up on how i'm doing through the last couple of tough months. Really appreciate it and great job on the race!
-Shout out to my homestay host Kurt: i really appreciate you letting me stay at the comfort of your home!
-Shout out to my UCLA alumni teammates Liz, Dylan, Ella, and Emma, it was fun racing and hanging out with you guys!
-Shout out to Pedro at p-fits.com for your bike fit. I can't say enough about that fit. You have a big piece in shaving 4 minutes off my bike time!
-Shout out to my sponsors, Bizlink Tech, Accell Cables, Polar, Wattie Ink, and Tridot
-Shout out to my coach Nicholas Thompson- your guidance and advice have been so valuable. I appreciate you believing in me. Upwards and onwards!
-Shout out to my dad- he left a message right before my swim start. Though I didn't get it in time, it meant a lot to me post race, knowing that he's on the other side of the world and still paying attention to my race. thank you dad! My mom and sister as well, for their constant support. Mom's cooking is always better than my own cooking that's for sure.
Great job to everyone who raced. I have Timberman 70.3 in a month in New Hampshire. hashtag #eastcoast
happy racing, and thanks for reading!