The water temperature was 90 degrees. Water this hot is extremely uncomfortable to swim in and can simply be dangerous (USA Swimming limits open water races to a water temperature of no more than 85 degrees). My plan was to swim well the first 200 meters and then sit in with the first group and cruise in with them. Once the gun fired the swim started off as usual, the first 200 meters were fast, but then we settled into a rather easy pace. I was swimming in third position, right on the feet of Greg Bennett (the eventual winner) and was happy with my position. About 1000 meters into the swim, Bennett took a wrong turn and I followed. We swam only 25-30 meters before figuring out we went the wrong way, but when Greg corrected I lost his feet. However, as we swam back onto course the chase group merged to form one group of 9 athletes. I swam with this group the rest of the swim, exiting in 6th position, about 5 seconds behind Bennett. The warm water made the swim miserable. It was so hot all I was thinking for the final 200 meters was, "I need to get out of this swamp!"
Bike -- 1:04:29
Even though the swim was not fast, the warm water took a lot of energy out of me. The first few miles of the bike were tough, I struggled to calm my heart rate and my power output was lower than normal. Fortunately, I rode with Rich Allen (the eventual 8th place finisher) back up to the group, and by mile 5 mile of the bike, I was with a group of 5 athletes (we were in 3rd to 8th place). I would soon work my way to the front of the group. Over the 30 mile course only Daniel Bretscher and I took turns pulling the group. This was a tactical error on my part. I knew I was not the strongest runner in this group, so I should have either tried to break from the group around 20 miles, or done less work and saved my legs for the run. I'll be smarter next time. Our group came into T2 together, we had a good gap over the next chase group, so these 5 athletes would determine places 3rd-8th.
I had a sub par T2 losing about 10 seconds to the group of athletes I came off the bike with. Over the first mile or so, the gap stayed at 10 seconds but then over the next mile, the gap grew to more than 30 seconds. I was clicking off 5:50-6:00 miles, when I should have been running 5:30s, so I knew I was not running well, but I was still in 8th place and knew I could move up if my legs came around. Around 3 miles into the run, I caught a time check of the runner in 7th: Rich Allen was about 30 seconds up the road. However, I was closing the gap -- by mile 4 I had it down to 10 seconds. About half a mile later, I moved into 7th place. Now, my goal was to stay in 7th and if an athlete up the road overheated, I would jump at the opportunity to take 6th. Mile 5 was a decent mile, but the next 1.2 miles were tough. I was the one overheating, so I focused on my form and tried to ignore the heat and pain. Once I saw the finish chute I was relieved and ran through the finish line in 7th place.
The race was a success, I picked up some crucial points towards qualifying for 70.3 World Championships and was pleased with a top 10 performance. I also learned a lot this race and gained some confidence. I have lots of room for improvement including modifying my race tactics, having better transitions, and putting forth an overall better athletic performance.
Next up is Racine 70.3 on Sunday, July 15th.