Last weekend I ventured down to the Big Easy to kick-off my 2011 race season at the 3rd annual New Orleans 70.3. It has been about ten years since I've visited this eccletic city and I was really looking forward to the entire race weekend. A HUGE thanks to my home stay family, the Edwards. Barry, Susie, Paul & Cody were terrific welcoming me into their home. Barry was born and raised in the area and knew exactly how to get around town and through the various levy construction projects without any hiccups. Without him I would have been driving in circles! He was good company on my workouts leading up to race day and giving me a great course preview as well as showing me some of the areas hit hard my Katrina. Susie made sure I was well fed with some incredibly delicious meals - buffalo burgers, salmon, buffalo tacos, big breakfasts, etc. Barry also hooked me up with his secret post workout smoothies. They went above & beyond the call of duty!
Race day brought three things which I have not experienced in over ten years of racing triathlons - a cancelled swim, a flat and a penalty. I was not totally surprised the swim was cancelled as it was briefly mentioned in our meeting as a slight possibility. The winds were pretty strong and with Lake Ponchatrain being quite shallow (average depth only 15 feet) it can create some serious chop in the water. Apparently there was a small craft advisory and the race organizers felt it would be a dangerous situation for both athletes and water safety personnel. After a good amount of time the organizers called the professional athletes for a brief meeting in transition. They took a vote on our preferred method of starting the race: A) having us start as a group outside transtion and race to our bikes & B) cycling time trial format sending us off in numerical order every 30 seconds. Obviously option B was the best way to get 'er going.
Bike (2:33) - About three miles into the ride my rear tire blew, unlocking my skewer and sent me fishtailing towards the first u-turn. I was able to keep myself upright to the appreciation of some spectators who shouted, "Nice save!" Not sure what caused the tire to blow and I suspect it was from one of the bumps I hit. Getting out my spare tubular I saw the razor blade I always carry was no where to be seen...must have lost it on one of those bumps. As I struggled to remove the glued tubular tire from my wheel, one of the spectators said he had a pair of scissors in his car. He ran and got them for me to use to help remove the bad tire. Technically I suppose this could be considered outside assistance, but at this point the ten guys who left the gate after me and five of the pro women had zoomed past. I was losing major time on the side of the road getting this thing fixed. I was able to get on my spare and successfully inflate it with my CO2. Back on and into the head wind I went. It took a good five miles for me to get my legs going and as the ride unfolded I was feeling really good. It was a strong head wind for most of the first half of the ride, but with all the wind I've ridden through in Boulder this spring it wasn't weighing on me physically or mentally. Shortly after the 20 mile mark I made a pass and then was shown a red card by one of the officials. Seriously, for drafting?? It was a judgement call and I wasn't going to waste any energy questioning the official. I nodded my head while being told I would need to report to the next penalty tent at the 28 mile mark. Sweet, another four minutes sitting on the side of the road! As I served my time, I was able to keep my mind clear of negativity, but admittedly it was disaapointing to have the flat and then a pentaly. Two things which I have been able to steer clear of throughout my career. At this point I was simply racing to get some good data from the bike. Heading back there was a strong tail wind and my legs continued to feel good as I caught a few athletes who passed me while I was in the penalty tent.
Rn (1:17) Heading out of transition I was in last place within the professional men and felt like I was on a training run. I worked hard to push myself towards a fast run split and it was a bit of a challenge being so far removed from the guys. I enjoyed the run course which winds it way through historic City Park and some amazing oak trees which provided a good amount of shade. Without any athletes or specators in good parts of the course it felt a bit quiet at times. Approaching the finish and running through the French Quarter I got a chuckle as I recalled the last time I was in this area during Mardi Gras many years prior. Crossing the line in 3:52 I was grateful simply to get through a somewhat surreal day of racing!
Overall, I had a fantastic race weekend...steallar home stay, great food, opportunity to speak at the FCA-E IronPrayer, catching up with friends, making new friends & speaking at two local high schools the day after the race.
Thank you to my sponsors for their continued support and Happy Easter!!
Keep it smooth,