To put this race into context, I had a rough week, finding out that my childhood friend Bryan Clauson had passed away during a tragic dirt track racing incident. I have put some of my thoughts into words on how this affected me and my race here. You can read that HERE.
I had originally planned to just do this race and not do 70.3 Asia Pacific Champs. Once I noticed they were back to back weekends I looked at the difference in airfare. It was only $250 more to add the Philippines leg to the trip, which meant I would have a bit more earning potential, although a bit risky to race back to back. I didn't know how big Chungju 70.3 would be until 10 days before, since they had not published the start list or provided it. The Friday before 70.3 Philippines I found out there were only 4 guys on the start list, myself included. This was a bit shocking, and also exciting at the same time.
I had raced the other 3 guys before, had beaten 2 of them and lost to 1. None of us were stellar swimmers and Nick Baldwin was the guy I was worried about as he had beaten me in Dubai, and is a solid all-around athlete. He can ride a bike and ran me down in Dubai. I came into the race with confidence from the Philippines and the week leading into the race and went well in terms of recovery. Mentally I was drained, didn't sleep all that well the first few nights after Bryan's passing, and my mind had been wandering during my workouts. I couldn't stay focused and I was just going through the motions.
The two nights before the race I started to be able to focus on the race and get better sleep. Friday, I had a few intervals during my run workout, and my legs were feeling good and the body seemed to have recovered really well. Saturday's pre race routine felt even better, and I was confident my body was ready to go. Sunday morning was a typical race morning, typical nutrition plan and routine. Nothing out of the ordinary other than a 2 km run to the swim start as it was a point to point swim.
With the field not having any strong swimmers in it, I wasn't quite sure how it was going to play out. I wanted to keep an eye on Nick and if he started to get away I wanted to stick with him. It was a point to point swim, "down stream" in a river. They had mentioned there "might be" a current more towards the middle, but we were told we could swim either to the left or right of the buoys. At the start I managed to get out front and a group of 3 formed behind me. I moved out towards the middle of the river to see if there was actually a current. The group stayed more towards the "wall/shore" and I wasn't moving ahead of them, so I just stayed out there and we eventually came back together. I put in a few surges to see what would happen and the group stayed together. I knew Nick was on my feet as I could see his sleeves the few times he pulled up beside me. I didn't really want to be doing all the work, but at the same time I wanted to get out on the bike in the lead and be in control of the race. For the first time, and possibly the last time in a race, I was first out.
Well, so much for that plan of being in control of the race. I led out of the water and then got left behind in T1. Nick opened up a 40 sec gap and I slowly closed that gap over the first 25 km. The course was a "lollipop" with 3 loops, which included two short climbs of 3.5 & 4 minutes. The descents were not too technical, other than a really rough and sharp turn at the bottom of the one, which pretty much brought you to a stop before starting the next climb.
Once I caught Nick, we rode together for the rest of the first loop and then up the first climb on the second loop, I opened up a small gap and then on the descent I took some risks and then the gap continued to open up. There was a small out and back section, and on the last lap, I didn't see Nick during this and I knew at that point I had at least a 4 minute gap. It turns out Nick ended up getting a slow leak flat and he ended up changing it. This left me coming into T2 with a 8:13 gap.
I got out on the run and settled into a rhythm and just focused on staying cool and getting fluids in. We were really fortunate that we had some cloud cover as it could have been a lot worse than it was. It was still quite humid and hot, just not nearly as bad as it could have been. Out at the first turn at 2 miles, I was able to get a split to Nick and it was roughly 8 minutes. At that point I was really confident in how I was running and feeling, so I just concentrated on clicking the miles away. By the 2nd of 4 laps the gap had stayed close to the same and I was still feeling good. By the 3rd lap it opened up a bit more and I just needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The legs were still feeling good, and I was just trying to keep my mind in it. The last 2 km was really emotional, I tried to keep it together, but as the finish line got closer it got tough. Thinking about BC, his family, and then all of the people that have been along for this journey. I cried, I celebrated, and even today it still has yet to set in that I actually managed to get a win on the professional circuit.
I can't thank Aaron, Dave and his family for being there on this special day. They were out on the course cheering everyone on, and just having friends out there to see throughout the day was a huge help. Being able to share this day with friends was amazing. It is a day that I will never forget.
Great to have RWB Teammate Dave at the finish line!
To look back and think that a little over 8 years ago I would stand a top a podium is something that never crossed my mind. What all started with then Army Colonel Brad Becker (now Major General) putting on a triathlon at Osan Air Base has led to so much more. That one small race which I used to get in shape and lose some weight, has forever changed my life. It has led me to the love of my life, my soul mate, best friend, and mother to our son Asher. Without the support of Hila, none of this would be possible. The support of my family has been unbelievable. To leave a successful and stable career in the Air Force to chase a dream, they may have thought I was crazy, but they have been behind me 100%. I can't thank them enough for that support.
The list is way too long to list everyone else individually that has played a part in this, but you know who you are, and I will never forget where I came from and who was part of that journey. From those original rides in Osan on my $200 Korean steel bike with an untrue rear wheel that people feared to ride behind, to the many training partners that logged countless hours with me, to those that have followed along on this journey and have continued to support me along the way, THANK YOU. Lastly, to the long list of sponsors that have supported me on this journey, thank you. Former and current, this road wouldn't have been nearly as easy without your support.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Financials of a Pro Triathlete Year 4