Next up was the road race. It was my first road race outside of two time trials. It was the first time rubbing elbows with the rest of the racers. I was somewhat concerned what the pace would be like, but I had a strategy in mind that eventually played out to be pretty successful.
It wasn't until 2006 when I committed to racing in my first triathlon that I really understood how large my kidneys were getting. I had installed clip-on aero bars on my handlebars to try to get in a better position, but found that each pedal stroke was kicking my enlarged kidneys, so I eventually removed them from my bike.
The goal then was to not finish dead last. My first triathlon had a few positives, I completed my swim in a solid time. It was humorous to me to see so many fit athletes pulling themselves down the lane lines because of not even being able to doggy paddle. I am not expecting them to be Michael Phelps or even Ned Overend, but at the least, be able to muddle through a 300 yard swim, kind of like my 10+ minute 500y Free at the Transplant Games. My adrenaline spiked as I came out of the pool and I popped in the stairwell. I was able to calm down and get over to the transition, muddle through the bike, then remember how much my legs did not want to work during the run until I could hear the crowd and announcer at the finish line.
As I approached, the pain and stiffness faded away, my stride started to lengthen as if I had trained well for the event, and I sped up toward the finish. I just remember completing this and being being psyched and looking to do another one.
At the Azalea Festival Tri and the Xterra in Richmond, VA, I did what I set out to do. I didn't finish last...just next to last.
Back to the starting line, the Road Race started everyone at once which I felt was a little sketchy. I put myself in the second row on the outside. My goal for the first lap was to keep the leaders in my sights as I put myself into 10th or so in line. The first few corners were a bit dicey, but once we headed away from campus, I was able to move a little closer to the front. We were primarily being led out by Ian Vande Veld, who comes from a strong cycling family and transplant or not, Ian holds that tradition too. My new friend Zach, was rotating pulls and helped keep the pace up.
As we headed back out in the country on the second lap, I moved in front for my turn in the wind. I worked hard to keep the pace moving along, but still trying not to go too anaerobic. As we crossed the finish line going into the third lap, I kicked up the pace to 28 MPH to spread out the field a little and give me precious seconds of recovery as I slowed my pace to fall back in line with the rest of the group.
The next lap and a half, I stayed near the front, taking shorter pulls, but still working on recovery so I would have fresh legs for the final climb (a whopping 20 feet or so.) and the sprint to the finish. The race had 3 corners left in roughly a KM and a half and my strategy was to attack right after we rounded the first of 3 corners. Then a large group came from the back, attacking the front of the group. They came around 1/2 a KM before my attack was going to happen. I had to jump to catch back on to them and was able to reel in the group. Austin MacGruder (sp?) and Ian Vande Veld took off ahead of the group. I wasn't concerned about them because they weren't in my Age Group. I did see Scott Floyd and Zach Brooks ahead of me still, so I was really pushing at the finish. I took the inside line on the 2nd corner because it was much more gradual. I was somewhat surprised that the group had been taking it so far outside. I really allowed me to make up ground on the pack. We hit the final turn, a hard 90 and it was a sprint for the finish. There were 5 or 6 of us and I was somewhere in the middle. I had lost track of Zach, but I saw Scott in front where I drove my pedals as hard as I could turn them. Terry Box, a 60 year old recipient from Team Utah/Idaho pulled ahead of Scott for third, I had almost caught Scott when we crossed the finish line to finish fourth and fifth. Zach finished 8th overall, but was within one second of Scott and I.
Scott Floyd, the Bronze medalist in the Time Trial won Gold in the road race with a time of 34 minutes, I finished second and won Silver with a time of 34 minutes, and Zach Brooks finished third with a time of 34 minutes, 1 second.
My cousin Bob was there at the finish line and remarked to me how exciting the race was and how awesome it was to see so many recipients and families cheering everyone on. Also, how friendly the competitors are, at higher levels, people seem to be so jaded against their rivals. The riders had all talked about it too, that you can turn it on for the race if you are disciplined. Unless someone is dirty, they were the better racer on that day.
Swimming and Track and Field to come.