I always find it difficult to write about races that really did not go as I would have preferred. I sit around and try to think of writing a race report in a way that doesn't sound like I'm making excuses, but it never works out. Ultimately I will read my draft and toss it aside. Having said that, I will try to explain the race as I remember it without really trying to read (too much) into why things did not work out. The Swim: In the 24 hours before the race the east winds had picked up and we had a nice chop/surf on race morning. I prefer nice, flat water as I tend to have a lower swim turnover than some of my other colleagues. I had a less-than-ideal start, but eventually I felt better and started to swim with a nice rhythm. Unfortunately the group I was originally with gapped me when we turned east into the swells on the first loop and I ended up exiting the water about one minute behind them.
The Bike: I felt good for nearly the entire bike (its impossible to feel perfect the whole way, but this is probably as good as it gets for me in the pro race). There were times that were more heated than others, but I never felt weak, bonked, wrecked, etc. It was one of my better rides and after exiting the water in the 16th place, I came off the bike in 6th with 5th only a minute or so ahead of me. I also set a new 180K PR which was 4:32 (fastest of the day was 4:28 which was done by the eventual winner).
The Run: I was optimistic about how the day was going as I set out on the run. I know this run course very well and its easy for me to break it up mentally. I moved into fifth place around the 2nd mile of the run and kept rolling along at a pace of 6:30-35/mile. I set out to hold better than 2:54 marathon pace and everything was working out nicely. I was under the impression that places 1-4 were further up the road, but by mile 4 I had moved into 4th and I could see 3rd place was shortly up the road.
Things were going very well and I remember consciously thinking "be calm." I just wanted to keep rolling along at my pace as everything seemed to be coming together nicely. I was within 20 seconds of 3rd place when eventual 3rd place finisher, Massimo Cigana, caught me and ran by. No worries. He caught 3rd place quickly and they began to pull away together.
Even though they were pulling away, it was not because I was slowing down. I kept seeing 6:30/mile splits and as their gap grew I felt their was a good chance they would blow each other up. At any rate, I was still on pace to have a great race (for me) regardless of how they performed. However, just as I was reaching the turnaround I started to feel really lousy and by the end of Mile 14 I had gone from running to slowly jogging. I assumed I was experiencing some sort of bonk so I pounded sugar at the next aid station. These episodes are not common for me, but like most athletes, I have bonked while racing.
I kept this up for a couple more aid stations, but then it became clear that this was something more than blood sugar; I was just straight up slowing down. Regardless of having a good day until then, it was clear I was going to have to do everything I could to try and consolidate any spot in the money I was still in. However, soon enough I was pushed out of the top 8 and the last 7-8 miles of the day was really just some personal time as I tried to get to the finish line.
I finished the day in 8:48 and 11th place.
That is basically everything as I remember it. I can speculate about why I slowed down, but I cannot come to any definitive conclusion other than the undisputed one: just wasn't my day.
2009 has been all over the place for me and I am ready to put all my lessons of this season to use in 2010.
The season starts early next year: Challenge Wanaka (NZ) in January. See you all then,