John's Race Report:
Got to packet pick up late, they had closed, told me to come back at 5:45 am the next morning. Went to my camp site to find someone had taken my spot. I asked if I could put up a tent in my own spot next to their tent, they agreed. Went for a quick run-pitch black. Been dealing with some knee pain, but it didn't bother me too much on the run. Also, no ill effects from the head cold I had on Wednesday night/Thursday.
Next morning, got to the race site at the anointed time of 5:45am, but there was no one there. I had to wait until 6:30 to get my number and get into transition, which closed at 7:20, so that put some stress on to get my spot set up and warmed up.
Got a quick ride in and a quick jog, then headed down to the water. I spoke with some competitors to see what they knew about the race and was told that I should worry about miles 7-14 on the ride-all up hill. That was accurate.
In the water, it was pretty clear. I went out pretty hard and three people went with me. I slipped in on someone's feet for the first ~300 yards, and then he slowed, but another person went ahead, so again, I fell in a comfortable rhythm on someone's feet. I was feeling the effects of the altitude, so I didn't want to stress myself before a hilly run.
We went through the two laps of the swim course together and I exited the water about 5 seconds behind him. I had a little difficulty unzipping my wetsuit on the run up to transition. The run was pretty much straight up hill, and I passed the lead guy pretty easily. I was able to slip out of my wetsuit, into my helmet and bike shoes, and off I went on the ride.
The ride goes straight up hill out of transition, and the volunteers were yelling at me to "gear down". I stood up and powered up the hill to put a little time between me and the guy I swam with. The course then goes flat, and then steeply down hill. As I was going down the hill, the athletes doing the sprint course were coming back up it. They did not look happy, which told me the hill was long and steep. I pushed the tempo again, hitting 45 mph in aero.
A little after mile 7, the hills started. And then the altitude started to get a hold of me. The hills were rough as they were, but at 3000 feet of elevation, my legs hurt. I took a quick peek back, and with no one in sight, I sat up a little.
And again, as told to me earlier, just after mile 14, the course leveled out a bit. I pushed the tempo the rest of the way, and hit transition to go into the run. Legs hurt, but I was ok.
The course was two loops of rolling hills, and I just tried to stay positive as legs started to hurt a lot. On my way back to the first turnaround, I figured that I had five minutes on the second place athlete. The spectators and sprint athletes noticed that I was in the lead, and cheered me on-it was needed.
One of the perks of the two loop course, is that you get some check ins on your competition. On the way out to the second loop, my lead hadn't changed, and again on the final turn back in, my lead was holding steady. I buried my head, and held pace for the last bit. My rhythm kept on slowing, and I was trying just to hold on.
I was able to finish in 2:14. A lot slower than my olympic pr, but at elevation and a hilly course, I will take it. I found some shade, and waited for the field to finish. I was elated at my first win, but exhausted. This was literally one of the most difficult races I had done.