I flew out to Burlington the Wednesday before the race and made it there late that night after a bit of a delay out of New York. I settled into the Burlington Hostel the next morning and was pleased to see that my bike hadn’t taken too much of a beating while flying. I have to thank Cameron Afkhami for recommending this hostel that both he and Rudy Kahsar had stayed at last year. It was a great spot and worked out really well for the few days that I was in Vermont. I went through my normal routine the few days before the race and was fortunate enough to be able to drive the bike course with a few other guys I met at the hostel who were also racing. It’s always a bit tough judging what a bike course will truly be like when you’re sitting in a car, but it certainly seemed like a fast course but also one that could really sneak up on you in the latter half of the course if you went too hard too soon and I knew that would be the point at which more significant gaps could form.
My wave was set to go off last at 9:20am on race day, which meant that I had quite a bit of time in the morning to hang out after getting my transition all set. It was great to be able to head back to the hostel for a bit to relax before heading back down to the mayhem at the start. I knew there would be some fast swimmers in the wave-so I was ready for quick start and just hoped I could hop onto some feet after the first few hundred meters. It was pretty congested at the start and by the first turn buoy I could see a small group that had formed a gap-one that I was unable to close. I never seemed to get into any sort of groove on the swim and was struggling the whole way as I tried to limit my losses. I seemed to end up in a bit of no-man’s land on the swim in between groups. Getting out of the water, I knew I had many guys ahead of me in my wave but was unsure of any time gaps. I quickly headed out on my bike and hit it pretty hard right from the start. I knew I had to ride very aggressively with hopes of getting to the front of my wave and distancing myself from some of the faster runners who had started earlier.
It took me a bit to get my legs to come around, but after a couple miles I felt that I was moving pretty well. Due to starting in the last wave, traffic on the bike course was a bit crazy as I was weaving amongst the masses. I began to ride up on some of the earlier men’s waves and had to press quite hard to get around a few guys who were moving quite well on the gradual downhill sections in the first half of the course. Once I got around a few, I was re-passed by a few guys at which point I would have to sit up to give them the legal distance. For a couple miles I was unable to get rid of them, so I decided to wait until the turn-around point where the course turns back and gradually climbs up to the highway. Once we made the 180-degree turn, I went fairly hard for a couple minutes and was able to get some distance. The rolling hills on the second half of the course along with the wind that had kicked up definitely played more to my strengths. Rolling into T2, I still had no idea if I was leading or what any time gaps were. I later would find out that Brian was seconds behind me heading into T2 and went around me in transition when I made the mistake of running down the wrong bike rack.
I tried to stay fairly controlled running up the first big hill that smacks you right in the face after you leave transition. Once you get to the top though the road flattens out and it is a gradual downhill for the next 2 miles or so with one little hill. I felt quite good for most the run and tried to really push the first few miles. The only word I heard on course about the gap to Brian was from another racer I went by around mile 3 who yelled something like “there’s one more guy up there-go get ‘em”. I pushed on, and my legs really started loading up the last couple miles yet I didn’t suffer the collapse that I have had in some of my other races this summer where I’ve really fallen off the pace in the last few miles. When I crossed the line, the tank was pretty empty and I was spent but happy with the effort I gave. It wasn’t until later that I found out that Brian was the one ahead of me the whole time. Unfortunately, my clumsy transition had cost me the chance to start the run right with Brian.
At the end of the day, I’m a very competitive person and of course would have liked to win, but I’m still happy with 2nd. I came to Nationals because I wanted to race against the best amateurs in the nation and compete in the most competitive amateur race in the United States. The depth of the field here is impressive. Congrats to Brian Duffy on a great race and a well deserved win.
I’m back in Boulder now with one more week to recharge and get ready to race again at the Hy-Vee Triathlon on September 2, in what will most likely be my last amateur race before jumping up to the professional ranks. It will be another chance to go head to head with many of the top guys who raced in Burlington.
Thanks to everyone for their continued support-including Hincapie Sportswear, Blueseventy and Specialized, which helped carry me to the fastest bike split at Nationals.