After the accident I took some time off of training to repair the body and had put in a good block of work leading into Chi-Town. My expectations were high as I felt like my cycling was at an all time high and my swimming and running had returned most of the way to the pre-wreck form. But in all honesty I knew in the back of my mind that I wasn't resting much for this race and that it was really a dry run for this coming weeks big money show down at Hy-Vee.
That said, I came to race. I felt a bit sluggish the couple days before and the morning of but did my best to get in a good warm up. The temperatures were much better this year and I just excited to be back racing. Unfortunately, about 200m into the swim I knew something wasn't quite right. I consider myself a top level swimmer, and even amongst other good swimmers I think I have a lot of speed. So at 200m in when I realized I was still in the front row moving down the harbor wall not getting any separation I had a bit of a sinking feeling. The water was super choppy, which is never really great for a long swim stroke and in this case I felt like I was getting beat around in a washing machine. I did my best to keep my head in the game, focus on the feet in front of me and try and work forward in the group. Although it felt like I was losing minutes to the lead and must be in 30th place I came out around 7th only about 15 sec down, and after the long run to T1 I was right in the mix.
Then it happened again. About 2 mi into the bike I just had the feeling that my legs weren't gonna have it today. I was putting in the normal effort but wasn't gaining any ground and in fact was slowly being dropped by the leaders. Now its not like I was getting dropped by scrubs, guys like Charbot, Bennett, Starky, and Matthews can definitely ride, but so can I and this was not how this was supposed to be playing out. Again I tried to keep my head in it, get in my fluids and plug away but with the big wind it was really shortening the bike and cutting my time to make up ground. With a big head/tail wind the problem is that you can really only make up ground in the head wind, because the other way everyone is spinning their biggest gear and going roughly the same speed. By the time we got back to T2 I felt like I was miles behind and doing my best to remain in 6th.
Threw on the shoes and away we went, at first feeling solid but slowly realizing I was way behind the guys in front, solidly ahead of most of the guys behind, and already starting to think about the next race. Now...that is unacceptable! I know that. This is my job, every race needs to be my absolute best and up until that point I had given it. In some races in the past I have sort of cashed it in and settled for where I was in the race. It is something I desperately need to work on, and something that I have been working on. However, on this day my inner demons got the better of me and all I could think about on the run was the hot spots on my feet, and the next race. I finished 9th. It's not awful, but its certainly not good, and its not what I expect from myself. When I toe the line I am there to win, and Chicago was no different, but I let my mind get the better of my body and my effort just wasn't good enough.
In racing as in life you get better by realizing your mistakes, learning from them, and moving forward. At Chicago I wasn't very rested, coming off and injury, having an off day and I let my mind sabotage what was left of the race. I know that was not the best I can do, and heading into Hy-Vee I am all the more fired up to get it right. I am excited to be going back to Iowa where I spent some of the best years of my life and see some of the people that were there for them. I am excited to be racing in the best non-drafting olympic men's field the world has ever seen, and I am excited about my abilities to throw down a big race. There are 30 guys racing, and 15 at least have a legit chance to win this race. I am one of those 30, and plan on making damn sure my mind does not get in the way of my body making that happen.
Hy-Vee Elite Cup Championship
Des Moines, IA
4pm Sunday Sept. 4th 2011
Better get ya popcorn ready...