255 days…….That's how long it had been since I stepped on a start line. That's the longest I have gone without racing. I'm a racer, I like racing, and it's where you can validate your training and the work you put in. It was a long 255 days, but I tried to capitalize on the downtime. It's the first time that I hadn't trained for that long, 10 weeks after the accident in September 2018, was the complete down time that I took. I'll discuss my full recovery process and what that looked like in a future post, so I'll try and keep this short and just focus a bit on the race.
Coming into the race the goals were pretty simple, have FUN & get around the 70.3 mile course feeling strong and staying in the moment. I can say I met all those goals, even though the day was less than ideal for Swim, Bike and Run. The weather forecast showed Thunderstorms every day, but it was just cloudy with minimal rain Friday & Saturday before the race. Then Sunday the weather forecast was finally correct and it brought it all, torrential downpours, thunder and a bit of lightning here and there. I was actually surprised that the race wasn't canceled, so the lightning must have been a bit further out then it seemed.
The main reason I decided to do this race was because it is a river swim that is wetsuit legal and typically has a decent current to help out a bit. Was hoping to minimize my losses as much as possible. In 2017, I was ~2:30 off the lead swimmer and 2 minutes off the front pack. So in theory, this should have been an ideal swim course for me. I swam well, I swam my race and stayed controlled the whole time, rather than trying to go out super hard and stay on feet. I have only been back in the water 8 weeks, so although it's coming back somewhat quickly, I'm still not back to where I was. And even then my swim is always needing to improve. I ended up losing 3:50 to the lead pack, and then lost a bit more time in T1 as it was a long run, and of course being the first race back was a bit clunky getting through T1.
The course is super fast, but due to the rain and standing water pretty much on the whole course it made it a bit slower. My power was always a bit lower that 2 years ago (rode 2:04 in 2017 w/ NP296W & NP was 275 this year). Still rode roughly the same % of FTP this year, power just hasn't come back up to where it previously was before the accident, but it is a work in progress and I'm feeling stronger and stronger on the bike each week.
I rode pretty strong the first half and felt strong the whole ride. Power dropped off slightly throughout the ride but nothing too drastic. I struggled a bit mentally and lost focus around 70k into the bike, really out of my control though. An age group athlete had crashed coming the opposite way on the course and was still laying in the road, and had lost quite a bit of blood by the time I arrived. There were already a few people that stopped and nothing more I could do, so I carried on and only thing I could do was tell the next ambulance I saw to go towards the athlete. It took a bit, but finally I was able to focus back on the race and try to get the image/thoughts out of my head.
I tried to push the last 20k, but the legs just weren't pushing out the power. I lost ~4 mins on the bike, 3 minutes coming in the first 45K and only 1 minute over the last 45k. Considering the lead group had 6 guys in it and I was riding solo, I'm pretty happy with that. It's a good starting point, and something to build from going forwards.
Coming into the race I was really looking forward to the run. I have been running really well in training, and been hitting some of the best times. I'm carrying about an extra 5-8lbs compared to previous race weight, but have been feeling really strong at this weight so haven't been too worried about it. I came out of T1 and the legs really struggled to get moving, but after about 2 miles they started to come alive and I settled into a good rhythm.
I felt strong the whole time, ran pretty even splits on the first and second half, so really happy with that. Probably could have pushed a bit harder, but when you're out in no man’s land with no chance of getting in the money it's hard to find the motivation to really punish yourself. So I stayed focused and just ran what felt uncomfortably comfortable and kept tried to avoid as many puddles as possible, which became quit hard as the day went on.
So at the end of the day really happy with how with how the race went. One race was going to be the "come back" race, and I'm glad this one is behind us and onwards we go from here. Really big thanks to everyone that has supported me through the ups and downs, and as always big thanks to my sponsors/partners who have stuck around over the years: Clever Training, ISM Seat's, Kiwami, Canyon North America, CeramicSpeed, Precision Hydration, blueseventy, iAthlete Club, Sean Crisp & Associates Insurance, and FeedBack Sports.
So why do I travel all the way to China to race when I live in the UK? It's a pretty common question that gets asked, and since I am always an open book and transparent about everything, here it is. It is financially cheaper.
Flight- Used 78,000 miles/points from Chase Sapphire Reserve Card (hands down the best credit card for a frequent traveler that likes flexibility. Currently has a 50K point sign on bonus). Flights to China are usually $800-$1,200
Hotel- Covered by Race
Airport Transfer in China- Covered by Race
Food- Breakfast is included at hotel, spent $120 total
Bus round-trip between home and airport- $40
Travel Stipend- Confidential ;) and it's taxed 20% by Chinese government.
Prize Money= $0 , race only paid 6 deep
Total Expense- $160 + 78,000 miles/points
Total "Profit"- $340
To do a similar trip to Europe would be $250-$600 for airfare and to the US you’re looking at $500-$1,000, and then would have to cover: Hotel, possibly rental car, and I would typically not get travel stipend/support from the race organizers. So at the end of the day I more than likely lose more money going to race in Europe, so when opportunities present themselves in China/Asia, I typically make the trip as I have found success out there in the past. To continue to race as a professional, you have to figure it out financially and run things like a business, so it's a business decision 90% of the time, and 10% of the time I do other races because something draws me to the race for one reason or another.