Last weekend I went up to Benton Harbor, MI for Steelhead 70.3. I was 2nd here in 2006, before the race had a prize purse, so I was hoping to return and have another solid performance. More importantly, I had finally been having some better bike workouts so I was really looking forward to racing hard.
Race morning arrived and I was ready to kill it. As I was eating breakfast, I flipped on the TV and started scrolling through the channels, stopping when I saw a radar shot. There it was... a large storm moving east across Lake Michigan. There was no guarantee we would get rained on, but it looked pretty likely. On the short drive to the race the rain started and continued on and off until about 5 miles into the bike. Luckily though the rain wasnt coming down too bad, so I was still able to get everything set and ready to go.
Around 6:30 I started my jog down to the start. Looking out over the lake, it appeared we'd be missing the worst of the storms, so that was a relief. I dont mind a little rain but lightning is a whole separate situation...
Soon enough we were lined up on the beach and ready to go. The usual chaos ensued after the gun went off as we raced to the first buoy, about 200m from the start. A bit after navigating that slight right turn, I was in a group next to the buoys but noticed another group to our left, a little further out. After watching them for a bit, it appeared they were gaining a bit of water on us, so I decided to attempt to make the jump to join them.
I got out and around the guy I was following but initially was struggling to make up any time. Not wanting the group to get away, I put my head down, focused, and started closing the gap. Encouraged, I pressed on and finally did make contact. By that time, though, a couple of others had gone off the front of that group. Attempting to catch them wouldve been futile so swam up to the now smaller group of three, to a little break, and took off at my own pace.
Finishing up the swim, I was surrounded by four or five others so I was focused on a fast transition in order to set up a fast bike. I was in and out in decent time but probably shouldve attempted to move up further in the group at the end of the swim to ensure a better position for the start of the bike.
The start of the bike was a bit tricky as the rain had picked up quite a bit and the skies were still pretty dark, making visibility poor. I lost a bit of time in the first few miles so when we got out onto the main highway, 63, I really started pushing it to catch up to the three riders ahead of me. I was slowly closing the gap when Eric Bean and Michael Lovato came flying by. Their pace was too hot but I was able to catch the other three riders.
At this point the rain had stopped but we were off the the freshly paved SR 63 and onto slightly less enjoyable asphalt. I was maintaining contact when all of the sudden I noticed the others starting to pull away. I tried to up the intensity level but knew I wouldnt be able to match that intensity level for the remainder of the race. Soon after, I hit a particularly rough section of road and felt my rear rim hit the pavement. I stopped, checked the tire, and sure enough... slow leak.
The change went relatively quickly but towards the end three pros came racing by. Hoping I could maybe catch them, I took off with a vengeance. I was back into what I felt was a good pace rather quickly and just tried to focus on getting the guys ahead. Soon after, though, I heard a loud hiss, indicative of another flat. Having brought only one tube, this meant game over.
I was near an intersection with a police officer so he, thankfully, called the wheel truck. Unfortunately, it still took 10-15min for them to arrive. Meantime, I watched the rest of the men's field and most (if not all) of the women's field fly by and found a nice little piece of glass which had penetrated my tire.
So needless to say, I was/am pretty upset. But, hey, it happens. I'd love to go find another race this weekend to do but the reality is that I only have so many vacation days and those remaining for the rest of the year have already been allocated. So for now its back to work until Mountain Lakes on the 14th and RocketMan on the 29th.