I was really excited coming into the Sarasota ITU race this past weekend because I felt like I would have a much better day than my season debut at Clermont ITU. I hadn’t been able to ride my bike outside for about three months due to the rough State College winter, and my first day outside was just two days before the race in Clermont. For Sarasota’s preparation, I had a whole week out in the sun training, with the hopes of transferring my great fitness into a great race performance.
To begin the race, I ended up with a pretty decent start position just three positions from the end. I was hoping that would help me avoid the in-water melee that is an ITU swim start. This turned out to be true, as I wasn’t touched until the first turn buoy about 200 meters out. I also was starting on the left side, which meant that I would have inside position at each turn. Positioning is so critical in these races, so I knew I was in a decent position. I was swimming with a large pack and just held strong for the rest of the swim.
T1 went very smooth for me and I was able to get out and start hitting it hard to bridge up as far as I could. A large group of us formed, and we could see two groups ahead being led by the lead motorcycle. It’s always a good sign when you can see the leaders. It means that you aren’t far behind, and it helps keep the group motivated because they can see what they are chasing after. On the second lap, I just barely avoided a pretty nasty crash. I couldn’t see what happened, but I just saw some bikes flying into the air and guys swinging across the road taking out some more. I swung way out and into the grass and barely got around just in time to surge back up to the group. With about a half of a lap left, we caught the lead group and the front of the race became about 25 strong. Finally, I’d be able to start the run in the hunt.
It was a mad house coming into T2 with so many people. I always try to hurry but be smooth. I got out and started to get ahead of the pack and into my stride. The first lap of the run I really wasn’t feeling the best. I was running around 10th for a while, but near the end of the first lap, my legs started to come around. I caught a group and moved by into about 5th position. I could see the podium not that far ahead and tried to stay patient. By the turnaround on the second loop I had moved into 4th and was just a couple strides behind 3rd. I’m not the kind of guy to let things come down to a 200m sprint, so with about 1k left I started to surge as hard as I could. I got around into 3rd and kept giving everything I had all the way to the line. Crossing that line in a podium position was an incredible feeling. It was a step forward for me that I felt I could always see but never seemed to happen for me. It really shows what all the hard work over the winter can do.
Looking ahead, I can’t wait for what is next. I graduate this May and will be moving out to Boulder, CO to work with the Apex group led by Neal Henderson and Grant Holicky. It has been great working with them remotely so far this season, and I look forward to being out there. I think this season will be a big one for me. It is only March and I feel like I’m nowhere close to where I will be come August and later this season. Hopefully it will be filled with some more champagne showers, because I’m not sure if there’s anything that tastes better than that.