“ Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting.” – Napoleon Hill
While I was in Houston this summer, I started looking at races to get myself back into the sport but jumping into an ITU or any professional field was not realistic. I had begun to gain strength in my knee and body in general, thanks to some serious help from Houston Flex. However, I was not back to the same form I was before my injury and it will take some more time before I get to the level necessary to compete at the pointy end of the sport. It was recommended that I try the Detroit Elite Development Race. This race was a sprint (750m, 20k, ~5k though this one was 3.0mi) distance draft legal race with an amateur field. This meant it would not tear my body down the same way a full olympic distance race would, I could gain more draft legal experience (which I need), and I could ease back into competition. Although I hesitated to enter in this race already holding my elite (pro) license I earned in 2012, I did not take away any slots for amateurs looking to earn their elite license and I was assured this was not that unusual for an athlete returning from an injury.
Before going into the race I did this past weekend, I need to preface this post with my experience this summer down in Houston. I had a great work and cultural experience down in the great state of Texas. The food down there is unreal and the trucks are certainly bigger. However I did have some trouble training. Heat training does not even start to explain the heat and humidity. Many times did I experience above 90 °F with over 70% humidity in which you really push your body to the limits of acclimation and often end up needing to find cold liquids to consume continuously. The hardest part was the swimming. Outdoor pools there are hot, as in I experience heat exhaustion in the pool anytime I put in more than 45min of easy swimming in. Combine that with having to wait a few weeks for my ribs to heal after a run in with a car in May, and then some good old road rash my last two weeks there… I went into Detroit with about 3 days of swimming in the last month. I had a few weeks of base built up for cycling and running but not very much intensity work. This certainly showed.
Luckily travel and logistics for this race went fairly smooth. I drove straight up from Houston the Monday before the race, and had been bouncing from my parents house in the Chicago Suburbs and Purdue University where I am finishing my chemical engineering degree this semester. I had a traveling companion to Detroit, Jarret Oldham (current Vice President of Purdue Triathlon), which made it easier and definitely more fun. We were further helped by Michael Groaning who put us up in the GM building, which is the nicest thing in all of Detroit – and I swear came straight out of a Star Wars movie.
The race itself went as well as it could have. I was one of the few ready for the horn to start our beach run entry into the water, which occurred immediately after the last person put a toe on the line. The current took most of the field very far wide of the first buoy except me and few others who accidentally lined up perfectly. Although I could tell my endurance wasn’t where I wanted it to be, I got out of the water comfortably in 3rd and was able to assess the situation as I ran through T1. Being a draft legal race, it is important to determine who you want to ride with, who you do not want to ride with (leave behind), and execute a plan to make that happen.
The bike course hurt and showed a lack of bike fitness. I worked with two athletes (Michael Pelechaty – someone I raced with a bit in our collegiate conference a few years ago) to try and pull back Ian Boggs but only managed to get a solid gap between us and a chase pack. The course itself was faster, very easy turns.
My run went fantastic. Although I only have built up to around 20mi/week of pure base work – I felt very smooth and in control the whole 3 mile run. My split was somewhere around 15:45 for somewhere around 3 miles (official splits didn’t work so I went off another athletes watch) – so not good enough for an ITU race but certainly much better than I was expecting. I ended up taking second overall to Ian Boggs who got out of the water 20s ahead of me and I never saw again until the finish line.
This race showed me a few things. First, I have work to do. That I knew going into it. Second, I have much less work than I thought to get back into form. It seems that putting in the miles is allowing my body to bounce back quicker than I would have thought. Lastly, it showed me that my knee is strong and healthy – for the first time since May 2013. I am continuing to baby it but have put it through its paces and it has held up well. I even took mine and Jarret’s sore legs to do two crit races (short cycling loop races) the following day and was able to squeeze out some power from my legs.
The next few weeks my plans are to do some cycling races to “race into shape” and gain valuable experience. Nothing teaches you to corner (and stay upright in hazardous situations) faster than a race with 4 corners at full speed every 2 minutes. After that I will be competing in my last conference championship for Purdue Triathlon the second week of September and re-evaluate how I am progressing. There are a few interesting races left in the 2014 season that I would like to take a crack at if I am healthy and in good form for.
Next post will be after Labor Day weekend to update how things are going.
Thanks to everyone who has supported me. My dwindling list of companies who support me through a bad year – I thank you tremendously for having faith in me. My family who puts up with me, Michael Groaning for the time he has donated to helping me “figure things out”, and my friends who send me encouragement. .