Skipping forward to race morning, the convenient thing about traveling west for a race is that waking up at an otherwise-obscene hour isn't quite as difficult. I was fortunate enough to have some great encouragement from our excellent hosts when I woke up on race morning.
|A reminder from Ricky Bobby is always nice to give your guests who go to bed at 7:30 on a Saturday night.|
Meanwhile, I gradually made my way up through the field, briefly dropping back into 6th while I finished getting into my still-life-changing S-works shoes, then gradually climbing back up to 5th, then a couple back and forths with one or two athletes before ultimately settling into 3rd and 2nd. I did manage to accidentally throw down a massive surge that forced me to briefly take the lead after entering another athlete's draft zone, so I had my minute or so of glory around mile 13-14. It shook out with 4 of us riding in the front with a sizable gap to 5th and beyond, but that quickly changed on the last section of the course, as Ryan Bailey and Stephen Wright, who had the two fastest splits in the amateur race, came by us with a couple miles to go, and as one of the other guys had dropped off the back a bit. The course was erratic enough with slight hills, tight turns, and multiple sections of multiple laps that I was trying to keep an eye on power, but I wasn't a slave to it by any stretch. As it turned out, I accidentally rode harder than I was supposed to, although my run didn't seem to suffer.
I got off the bike in 5th, but I could see all 4 guys still in transition just starting to head out as I was entering, so I knew I was reasonably close. I exited with confidence that I was going to run down the two guys to come top 3 in the race. I could ever so slightly tell that two were coming back to me, but I could also tell it was going to take a while unless I did something stupid. I've done something stupid in a lot of races and paid for it, so today was not the day to do that. I also did my best not to worry about who was behind me at each of the turnaround points, or whether they were gaining any time. Right as I was within only a few yards of Stephen, a couple of guys started to come around, knocking me back as far as 8th at one point. After catching Stephen then the other guy I'd been reeling in, I was into 6th again, just barely holding on, hoping maybe some of the other guys up the road would crack.
|Headed up the ramps of the pier for the last time. That run course was pancake flat, except every couple minutes you had to scale a vertical wall or leap off a cliff during the transition between The Strand and Pacific Ave.|
In the past, I'd become pretty myopic and focused on qualifying for a pro license, but I really learned that doing so can be a bit counterproductive, teetering into the destructive territory. I had the race of my life, but it just so happens that 5 other guys, 3 more than I would have liked, showed up on the day and were faster. From talking to everybody there, I don't know if any of the guys in front of me were displeased with their result. I did absolutely everything under my control and had the best race I could, so I'm pleased with that. I can see that I still have a pretty significant amount of work to do, coming about 2:50 behind 3rd, and with splits that would have me fighting for last place in a pro field. The closer I get, the farther I realize I was. I used to find that strange little truism to be deflating, but after a race like this, it's somewhat inspiring, because I finally feel like I've broken through a bit of a plateau of underperformance. It's been a heck of a year with Mace's guidance, one that's really helped me achieve consistency more than anything, which was definitely the key to this race.
Afterward, I was lucky enough to play around a bit in San Diego, further advancing my "I will be very bummed if I don't move here" impression of the place.