Thursday, June 11, 2015

Experiments in Cooperation

I put way too much thought into my racing. That's quite clear, and it often hurts me. I still remember my first draft-legal race at Clermont 2012, I was thinking about collective action. Until I got dropped. The two races here, Rev3 Rush and the Armed Forces Triathlon Championships, were more about game theory, which is a peculiar little passion I have
The first weekend was Rev3 Rush, which was a bit less of a production than last year. This was a good last bit of hard work a week out from Armed Forces Championships, nothing more. It was kinda sorta designated as an Elite Development Race, but that actually had nothing to do with my decision to race it. In the prelims and semifinals, it was more or less an all-out swim, an easing off on the bike to avoid lapping out a junior, then a cruise in for the run because the advancement rules were pretty soft. A couple of us managed to get a gap to start the bike in the semifinals, and while initially I thought it would be prudent to sit up and save the legs, I decided to cry wolf a bit. Everybody knew we weren't giving 100%, but nobody was totally sure how much the other guys were going. So we kept the gap open, just barely easing off to avoid lapping out a competitor. I decided to try to stay in touch for a couple hundred meters as an opener when the strong runners came by, but then backed off, feigning a bit of a "blow up" even.
Starting the double super-sprint finals, I was genuinely nervous. I knew I was far from the strongest runner in the field, but my experience in triathlon relative to most of the other guys had been showing in T1 each time, usually getting out onto the course with room to spare. That worked again in the finals, with Davis Frease and I hitting the gas for the first lap and a half, creating enough of a separation to stick even though 4-5 of us exited Swim1 within a few seconds of each other. Eventually, Davis started burning a couple matches getting back onto my wheel, and I had to leave him, going solo for the rest of Bike1. I expected not to build any more gap, and that I would just get crushed on Run1. Instead, I led for a while off the bike, taking 3/4 of a lap for Caleb Edmonds and Sean Daugherty to pass me, and then almost the full first lap for Walter Schafer to pass me. I just tried to keep Walter in sight before I hit the last 150m or so, when I started to put on cap and goggles for Swim2, which is really more of a drown. I managed to pull back time on Walter in Swim2, exiting the water in third, not too far back of Caleb and Sean. By that point, everybody was solo for Bike2, with me gradually pulling up to Sean and Caleb and away from Walter. I hit T5 just back of Sean and Caleb with a sizeable lead on Walter, with pretty much the whole crowd of remaining spectators and volunteers cheering for me. The breakaway is always the crowd favorite, though I'm far from Thomas Voeckler. I held on for dear life on the run, collapsing at the finish. It took a while for it to set in that I'd finished 3rd in an Elite Development Race, thus qualifying me for my elite license. It's a bit crazy, and a thought I'll expand on more in another post, probably in relation to my first pro race at XTERRA East Championships.

The very next weekend was Armed Forces Triathlon Championships, this year to be held in conjunction with Leon's Triathlon in Hammond, IN, just outside of Chicago. The venue change led to some differences, some bad and some good. I'm confident it can get better once we get over some of the hurdles of a first-year event of this type. As other years, I raced for team Navy, as the Coast Guard doesn't have its own sports program.
I got out in the first few hundred meters of the swim pretty well, finding the feet of Barrett LeHardy of Army. Barrett gapped me a little bit at the first buoy, leading me to plow my own water for the next 700m before a sandbar near the exit let me duck dive and make up ground. With a quick T1 and a huge dig in the first 2 minutes of the bike, I made it into the first chase pack, with myself, Davis (from the weekend prior, also team Navy), Barrett, and Cody Bohachek of Air Force. Initially Cody and Barrett seemed to want to ride up to the 2-man breakaway up the road, but Davis and I were trying to slow it down, as both men in the break were ours. Right near the end of the third of four laps, the next chase group with no Navy teammates caught us, led by a strong Canadian train working for their best runner. That big group stayed together for the rest of the ride, pulling away a bit more from the next chase, with the occasional attack that Davis and I took turns chasing.
I made it out onto the run course near the beginning of our group, but there was little zooming by going on. I gradually got passed by some of the guys in our group with slower transitions, I picked off one or two athletes who took out the first 400m way too hot. I just kept focused, trying to hold off as many as I could from the next bike group.
I hit the only turnaround on the course just past mile 5, where I noticed Coach Mace, racing for Air Force, was moving up through the field from two packs down from me. I tried to think about how many Air Force versus Navy guys were in front of me, and I knew it was close. I also knew that I couldn't let Mace beat me, regardless of the scoring, so I took off on my finishing kick from about 1500m out, at a pace I can hardly sustain for 800m. After I realized that was a mistake, I took another glance back and realized I just might still be ok, but I could barely see coming into the finish chute. I do remember thinking I wished it had been wider, but I was glad there weren't decorative potted plants along the sides like some races.
As it shook out, we ended up tied with Air Force with the cross country-style scoring, losing in the tiebreaker. I was a bit bummed about that, as we'd won the previous two years when I was here. I can say, though, that this was the first time I really felt like I contributed, where previous years I was little more than a placeholder in the main group. I scored for the first time, finishing as the 5th Navy male, had my best individual finish at 14th, and did so after working hard to control the bike as much as possible. There's plenty of 20/20 hindsight to be had, like perhaps Davis and I should have ridden up to the break to make it 4 Navy, 1 AF, 1 Army in the breakaway. Even if Barrett and Cody both outran our two guys in the break, with enough of a time gap, we could've effectively guaranteed 4 guys in the top 10. That had its own risks, though, because if Davis and I falter on the run, we've just ruined our breakaway's chances. If we don't make it the whole way up to the breakaway, then we've just chased down our own teammates. Regardless, there was a lot of strategy in the race, which made it very different from an individual draft-legal triathlon.
AFTC photo gallery from a family member from team AF
Triathlete Magazine AFTC photo gallery
AFTC run Strava file
AFTC ride Strava file
Rush finals Strava file
Rush semis Strava file
Rush prelims Strava file

A local brewer in the Hammond area was nice enough to give welcome gifts to Team Navy. It made packing my bike back up better. I don't have any other pictures, though. See the gallery links above.
The main thought in my mind was "am I going to be able to drive home 2 hours?"

Shout-out to Jobu with his 404 training wheels. If he used box rims like everybody else, I'd have been S.O.L. when my 808 front decided to get recalled.

So hot. So humid. Supersprints don't lend themselves to glasses or headbands, though.

I couldn't do this without her. It meant so much for Meredith to be there, I just stood there leaning on her for so long after I finished.

Leading off the bike in the semis. I led onto the run course in all 3 rounds at Rush.

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