I’m so well spoken first thing in the morning before a race…
Portland, OR – 2012. 07.08
Stop me if this sounds familiar. I rode really hard over a hilly bike course, dropping the hammer on Jesse Thomas, who proved to be quite resilient to being hit with a hammer. We come into transition together. He runs away. No, I’m not talking about Wildflower, I’m talking about Portland Rev3.
Okay, stop me if this sound familiar. I’m having a good race. Closing in on the run. Suffering but feeling pretty good. I can see a lot of guys are closing, though, as I make the turnaround at approximately 8.5 miles to head back to the finish. One mile to go, I hear the flapping of a bib number behind me. I hear the fast steps of someone who is clearly running fast. Someone is about to catch me. They catch me. I push hard to stay close, make some surges and close down the gap, but ultimately come up short at the line. No, I’m not talking about last year’s race in Portland, I’m talking about 2012.
Looking at the similarities to both two months and also to a year ago, it’s hard not to laugh. Of course I wasn’t laughing in that last mile when I thought – even before Viktor caught me – “I think might end up in medical.” And then, when I decided to push to catch him, “I’m sure I’m going to end up in medical.” Fortunately all I needed was a can of Coke and five minutes one of the wonderful ice bath tubs they had set up (it was hot), and I was fine. Just needed a bit of help bringing my core temperature back under control after pushing hard all day.
Unlike last year, swim was good, both because I remembered my magic rubber suit and also just because I think that I’ve figured out how to have a more reliable swim on race day. I still haven’t figured out to make that next jump up, but in each of the past three races what I’ve done both before and during the race seems to be working in terms of putting me where I should expect to be on race day. A better swim would be nice, but it’s also nice not to have had any really bad swims either. I’m coming out of the water where I should be.
The bike course was brutally hard. At least as hard as Wildflower. Maybe harder. And I vowed I would not make the same “mistake” I made there of taking it easy and letting Jesse catch back up. Unfortunately, this time, he also seemed resolved to not let me slip away. But I kept my foot on the gas the whole day, and he hung in there. He said afterwards, “if it had been anyone else, I would have let him go. But I was pretty sure you weren’t going to mess up the pacing.” He meant it as a compliment, and while it’s hard not to take it as one. I never thought I’d be upset about having a reputation for being smart on the bike. C’est la vie. However, lest he think otherwise, I have some other plans already forged in my mind for what seems like our inevitable next showdown (we swim pretty much the same speed).
On the run, I didn’t have my best run, but I also did about what I think I could have expected given the focus and preparation I had for this race. It’s also nice when running 1:17 becomes a sub-par run. I remember when that seemed so far off in the distance. The bar has been raised, though, certainly, by other athletes as well. You can now expect the winner at a big race to run 1:12. I may have gotten faster, but everyone else has too. I had a couple mishaps – I missed getting calories in at miles 6 and 7 due to miscommunication – but I’d be hard pressed to say that was the real difference maker. I might have gotten caught in the finishing chute instead of at mile 12. Or I might not have gotten caught. There’s no do-over (until next year) and no rewind.
I think that 3rd was the best I could have expected given the emphasis I placed on this race, so it’s hard to be too disappointed with 4th. Of course, I am still disappointed, but for no other reason that I love to race and hate to lose; if that changes, I’ll find a new career. This race had a truly stellar field, and it was always going to require a superior effort to win. I didn’t have that. I got beaten by three guys who were just better on the day. I’m not yet at the level (like Craig Alexander or Macca) where I can win any race that I show up to. Maybe I never will be. But I gave the best effort I had on the day, was in contention, and finished off with a good – but not great – result. Sort of like this race report. Not much remarkable about it. Good (I hope) but certainly not great.