My number one goal going into Clearwater this year was to redeem myself after my dumbass mistake the previous year where I picked up the wrong transition bag. I felt like I was in the best shape of my life then, so I carried that disappointment throughout the whole year. That wasn’t helped by the fact that I had a chronic tooth infection earlier in the year that really affected most of my season. In mid July, I finally figured out what was wrong and after 2 root canals, I immediately started to recover and feel good again. Unfortunately I lost a lot of fitness by then. It took me a long time to get back to where I thought I should be. I managed to get my fitness back after a few months and finished off the season with some good races: 2nd in Augusta 70.3 and 3rd in Austin 70.3.
I was nervous going into Clearwater, because I still felt under-trained. Apart from last year, I’ve had a lot of success there and I really know how to race that course, so I was still confident I could pull off a good race. I was happy that the swim was back in the ocean. It didn’t work out as well as I planned though: I face-planted twice in the first 20 meters. I was really frusterated for the rest of the swim as I missed the main front group and got stuck in no-mans-land between the front guys and the next group. The last couple hundred meters of the swim I really thought my race was over.
I hit transition really hard to try and make up as much time as a could. Leaving transition, I saw Matty Reed just in front of me, which lifted my spirits a bit. Once I got on the bike, I settled in and felt good. I just recently got the new Kestrel 4000 and it was the best in years that I’ve felt on the bike. After 5 miles, Joe Gambles and Michi Raelert came past. This was a big surprise as I thought these two were up in the front group. Joe was on fire on the bike and managed to pull the group back to the front. Once we caught the front group I mentally started to get into the race again. I worked my way up to the front on the bike as I knew from previous years that things start to heat up around 40 miles, which is the bike prime. Coming up to the bike prime, it felt like no one else was interested in going for it apart from Gambles, so I positioned myself behind him. Into the last mile before the prime, my legs were starting to tighten up. Once I saw Joe go for the prime, I was about to go with him and stood up… Then my legs started to cramp so I sat straight back down with my tail between my legs. I knew the pace was going to stay high, so I stayed to the front and worked hard. My predictions were right and the group completely split apart. Joe continued to keep the momemtum and put a gap into the group. TO and Barney came past me and chased, which lifted the pace even more. A few of the big guns from behind managed to close the gap (Raelert, Osplay, Reed). We continued to chase Gambles who was riding like 10 men off the front.
Joe came into transition with about a 90 second lead on the group I was in. Raelert and Osplay were first into transition. They had blinding transitions and got out to an early lead on the run. Reed, TO and I had to chase Raelert from the start. After we went through the first mile in 5:08 and didn’t make any ground on him, I knew this was going to be an insane run. I felt great for the first 7 miles of the run. Then I started paying the price for the speed in the earlier miles. TO pulled ahead and caught Joe. I was digging deep to try and catch Gambles and got it back to about 30 seconds, but he hung on tough for a great 4th spot. This is where I really felt the lack of the early season fitness coming back to haunt me. I struggled the last few miles and finished 5th, which I was extremely pleased with. I’ll get you next time Joe, you little Tazmanian devil. It’s on like donkey kong.
It’s sad that Clearwater is no longer going to be anymore. I’ve had a lot of great races there: 2 3rds, 2 5ths and an 11th, but it sounds like the world champs is moving to a better home. After the awards ceremony, a lot of the pros went out to Shepard’s Bar. Now that’s a story for another day. All I can say is the only person who probably hates the pink flamingo more than me is Julie Dibens.