Havana Nights

By Dylan Sorensen | Feb. 19, 2016, 6:17 p.m. (ET)

To start the 2016 ITU racing season, our coach Jarrod Evans decided to take the CRP athletes with elite status to Havana, Cuba. There was a sprint distance continental cup held on Valentine's Day in the Capitol of the island country that US citizens were unable to enter for over 50 years due to a trade embargo. There have been several watershed moments in our country's history that directly relate to Cuba, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to represent the United States of America. To say that I was motivated was an understatement.

I was the last seeded athlete in the race, so I was the last one to choose a starting position. I chose the middle and as soon as I was there, the horn sounded and the event was underway. It was an extremely physical swim for the first 200; it was almost as if I was grabbing more human body than I was water. I was trapped at the back, but made my way from the back to about the middle of the field by around 400 or so. After that, positions didn't change much and I came out of the water in a group that contained the vast majority of the field. After a solid first transition, I was on the bike and pedaling as hard as I could for the first 2-3 minutes until I caught the pack that was assimilating up ahead of me. Once there, I just rode as easily as possible and the majority of the field soon caught up. No one wanted to put in a sustained effort, so the bike leg ended up being a really easy group ride with several failed attacks. There were a group of three that had come out of the water in front of us with a bit of a gap and they worked well together to build up a 90ish second lead heading on to the run leg. With about 3km to go in the bike my rear tire went completely flat and due to this, I entered T2 at the very back of my pack and with heavy legs. After quickly racking my bike, taking off my helmet, and putting my shoes on I had to run hard for about a half mile to catch back up to the front of my group. I rested behind them for another half mile or so, then surged and tried to catch the top 3 athletes. I ended up falling 10-15 seconds short of 3rd place. 

Last year I battled with sickness, crashes, learning how to swim, and earning my elite status. Entering this year I had never made a swim pack and I had also never finished within the allotted time relative to the race winner necessary to garner points, so this was a great step forward. A nice consolation was having the fastest run split of the race. I come from a running background, so that's a fun goal to try to hit in every race in which I participate. On the flip side, I have invested a lot of time in swimming and wasn't happy with how the swim went. I thought that I should've come out of the water 15-20 seconds ahead of where I did, but I am definitely happy that I was in the mix and able to race well. Experience gained, lessons learned, and more motivation for the next race!

I am thrilled to be able to participate in the sport of triathlon. I could not be doing what I am doing without the support of my family, USA Triathlon, and Team Psycho. Thank you for believing in my abilities and know that I am doing my best to make you proud!