Being escorted through the streets of downtown Washington D.C. near the White House and the Capitol building is an experience often exclusive to the president of the United States. I’m not the president, but I did have quite a similar opportunity at the DC Triathlon.
I decided to compete in the DC Triathlon less than two weeks before the actual race as it was the only qualifier I’d be able to do for the new Hyvee US Championship race in Des Moines, Iowa on September 4. I had originally planned on doing the Las Vegas 70.3 World Championship on September 11, but after the brutally hot race at Eagleman 70.3 last week, I decided to focus mainly on Olympics for the next few years (with an occasional Kona!). The DC Tri was put on by the same race directors as the Nation’s Triathlon (which I won in 2009), so I was hoping to duplicate my success. The swim was the same course in the Potomac, however the bikes and runs differed.
Swim (18:34): The swim featured a unique time trial start, where 8 athletes would start every 10 seconds. I wasn’t much of a fan because this prevents you from knowing exactly where you stand within your competition. I started in the first wave, which went off at 6:05 AM. Frank Sarosdy, a fellow elite amateur whom I’ve raced several times, started with me. After starting the race, I found Frank’s feet as I knew he is a solid swimmer. I surfed his wave for a bit as I tried to warm myself up into the swim. About 5 minutes into the swim I decided to pick up the pace and move slightly ahead of Frank. A couple minutes later, another swimmer emerged to the left of us gaining ground, so Frank and I both simultaneously shifted left and got on this other swimmer’s feet. We swam with him for a couple more minutes until we hit the 700m mark which was the turnaround point, and the cause of some confusion. At the buoy, I assumed we would make a 90 degree turn to another buoy that was further out in the river, and so did this other swimmer, so we turned and headed that way. I noticed Frank behind me making a 180 degree turn and swimming back towards the start. A kayaker came in front of me and I stopped and he told me to turn the other way. Frustrated, I quickly shifted directions and sped up to catch back up to Frank. I was able to catch him about 45 seconds later, and then moved passed him on the way back. I was feeling smooth and comfortable so just wanted to take control and lead us back. When I exited the water, I saw that I had opened a 30 second gap on second place.
Bike (58:48): I sprinted to transition, grabbed my bike, and started out on the bike course. As soon as I mounted, I had not one, not two, not three, but four vehicles escorting me! The lead vehicle was a police car, followed by three police motorcycles. I’ve had escorts before being a leader, but not this many! I started off the bike, and immediately found myself to be a bit sluggish. I was having trouble gaining speed and accelerating. The course featured many technical turns and some u-turns, placing an emphasis on quick accelerations. I checked to see if my brake pad was rubbing as I was confused as to why I was moving slowly. A few miles in I started to feel better and eventually was holding 30+mph on some of the straightaways. I fortunately didn’t have to pay much attention to where I was going as my entourage was roaring ahead of me leading the way. The bike course was very viewer friendly and there were many opportunities for spectators to see. Even better, my parents always knew when I was coming by listening for the police vehicles! On some of the turnarounds, I was able to see my competition and noticed I was quickly expanding my lead. After completing the first loop, I started the second with athletes who were just starting their first. Usually the lead vehicles will drop off at this point, but they stayed in front! I was having a blast. The second loop I was feeling extremely strong and comfortable, flying by athletes in later waves and noticing an increasing gap to second place. My parents were cheering on from the sidelines, and random people were shouting my name from the streets!
Run (34:47): I started the run still feeling strong, however I quickly noticed the air was very thick. Being that I have had breathing problems in the past in humid weather, I was a bit concerned. I had a lead bicyclist at this point as well, and I would motivate myself by trying to catch him. This may have hurt me a bit as I took my two first miles out in 5:13 and 5:20. I slowed to 5:30 for the third, and then started to struggle during the 4th and 5th miles. During this time, at one of the turnarond points, I saw Patrick Parish, a former Duke track teammate of mine, coming the opposite way looking very strong. I knew he started after me, so I wasn’t sure how large of a lead I actually had, and if I could hold him off. After hitting pedestrian 5:40s miles, at mile 5 I saw I had a much larger lead than I had expected, motivating me. I picked up the pace for the final mile, which took place around the Capitol building! I came down the final stretch of the race in front of the Capitol with the crowd cheering, crossing the tape in a great time of 1:54:50. I soon realized that I had a hefty 3 minute lead and had performed much better than I anticipated after doing a half-Ironman just seven days earlier!
I was very pleased with my performance given my limited rest, and am even more excited for next weekend when I take on my hometown Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon. I’m hoping to have a killer race!