Vivvaaaaa Las Vegas, Viva , ViVa LAS VEGAAAAS (In an Elvis style).
Prior to my trip to Vegas for the WChamps I had never been to the US before so was really looking forward to experiencing the masses amounts of food and advantageous shopping that legend had us believe the US had to offer:)
To be honest Vegas wouldn't have been my first choice of American towns or Cities to visit but having said I do believe that the lights of Vegas should be experienced by all. I surprise myself when I think that I hadnt made it to the US before, back in the 90's I used to follow the NBA avidly and have always wanted to watch a live game, Bulls v's Celtics or the Spurs back or nowadays the Lakers vs Heat.
One of the cooler features on a bars wall
My first trip to the US however was very different to what I would have expected only a few years ago. No massive feed fests (except a strategic carb load), no hanging out in Irish Bars watching the Celtics (Sausage and Mash was the closest I got to that) and no unrestricted bargain shopping (unless you class a pair of Livestrong Oakleys - well I had to really!!)
My original goal at Vegas was to Podium and just have a good solid race. I felt that if this happened that a podium place would be achievable. After some research on the course and location I still felt that a good performance would equal a good result but knew a massive influence on that would be the weather or more accurately the temperature which at the time of landing was 42 degrees, a smidgeon higher than the 15 degrees I left in the UK!
Due to the availability of flights I managed to get out to Vegas 10 days before the race and im really glad that I did. The first day in Vegas literally took my breath away and im not talking the scenery (which apart from the Pyramid, eifal tower and fairy-tale castle was stunning); every breath dried the mouth and nose and felt as though I was in some sort of moisture less sauna.
I didn't feel like it but I made sure that I started my acclimatization that night.. a 15min run at 5pm(pretty much the hottest part of the day). I planned to increase this daily up to the day before the race when I had planned to just do the swim reckie approximately at the time I would be racing (to test sighting and location of the sun).
Apart from specific exercises I looked to keep active in the days leading up to the race and spend as little time in the air conditioned hotel room as I could so walked quite a lot in the afternoons. This included a rather long unplanned 90 minute walk to the local swimming pool (I had planned it would be about 40minutes but everything in the states is so big even the car parks take 40 minutes to walk across - no wonder everybody drives everywhere!!!)
I could go on about the 50m Pool ($2 entry), the greenery vs the desert and the weird introduced wildlife (well it used to be a desert so pretty much all is introduced) but instead Ill get on with the race........
Race morning was thankfully much cooler than the previous days so there was a bit of a buzz round transition as all the athletes who were originally worried saw some relieve in the temperature. Now don't get me wrong it was still about 30 degrees but that made a massive difference!
I was off in the 6th wave after the Pro's, 40-45 women, 50-55 men and the PC Athletes at 7:45am, with my agegroup split into two waves. I managed to fall in off the boardwalk in a moment of can I get in, yes?, no...oh crap im in anyway and then achieved a good position near the front of the start line (The PC athletes had different colored swim hats in the wave before us which looked similar to our blue hats - this seemed to cause a massive amount of stress to an athlete in our wave who thought they were cheating. A bit of 'lost in translation' and he finally worked out what we were trying to tell him.
I had planned to try and smash the swim by getting off the front and then settling into a pace with other athletes but this didn't really work as although I managed to get away to start with we soon ran into the back of the wave that was in front of us and it was a case of picking your way round groups of swimmers and sometimes straight into the back of swimmers doing breaststroke..which TBH I wasn't really expecting at a WChamps.
This held our wave up quite a bit and caused more issues on the long run to T1 as there was quite a bit of congestion in the narrow run through with wheelchairs and two earlier waves. I would expect that the second 30-34AG waves had less of an issue with this and would have preferred to be in one big wave but this was obviously not possible due to the size of waves.
T1 and T2 were split with T1 being at lake level with a specifically carved run through with switchbacks up the bank to the mount line. The problem with split transitions is that they can give advantages or disadvantages depending on where your bike is. I was quite lucky this time and was about half way down so didn't have too much of an extended run with the bike (Mark Clayton was dealt a rougher hand however) - the pro's had a nice short skip through T1, oh the privileged few :) 28 min swim or so and a bit closer to some guys I had raced in Mallorca so pretty pleased considering the few holdups and weaving around people.
I had been having issues with the height of my saddle and a pretty annoying creak so had borrowed a torq wrench and managed to get it at the perfect height - unfortunately this was just a little higher than I had recently been using in races so the jump mount didn't quite go to plan and I almost ended up back down the bank into transition. 2nd attempt was a bit more successful and I started picking off riders on the way up the hill and into the desert.
The bike course was just what I wanted, challenging and exposed. I was relishing settling in and giving the bike a good smashing.I knew that the run was going to be difficult but had planned to pace to the turnaround at 40k and the push through for 20k then push again on the run in to T2. However things just didnt go to plan and I have only got myself to blame.
After about 5 k I passed a rider I recognized from the 70.3 Mallorca race. He and another rider had spent most of that race sitting on my wheel and I knew he was going to do the same again; this was easy to work out as he said to me that we were 3rd and 4th and hat we should work to catch the next guys - that's pretty much exactly what he said to me in Mallorca with his idea of working being sitting on my wheel. Mentally, I wasnt ready for this, I had no confidence in draft busters nor did I want to race the WChamps as a cheat and use him as he was using me so decided that I didnt want him beating me on the run like last time and set to trying to get rid of him. This continued for 2 hrs, me attacking the hills and trying to sprint away on flats and him catching me as I recovered or trying to stay on my wheel. I used verbal encouragement, aggressive maneuvers and attacked the aid stations.
Basically the bike screwed me, I missed vital aid stations (including the last one) and completely burnt my legs out. In a recent lecture from Dr Auriele Forester from scientific coaching she highlighted that through aggressive variation in pace instead of riding a steady sustained effort test subjects dropped from 21mph average to 18mph average. I worked out that I averaged roughly 36kph or 22.4mph, had I raced at a steady pace I would have ridden on average 25.4 or 40.9kph making my bike time closer to 2hrs and 15 minutes and not the 2:29 that I ended up with - but it's easy to look at it like that.....
After about 2 hrs he had gone, been dropped or had been red carded, TBH I don't really care. I was still in 2nd place in my age in my wave and only had a run left to contend with.
Fortunately the start of the run was down hill, but it didn't last long. It was about 38degrees at this stage and the 3 lap run was a sod. Half a lap up hill and half a lap downhill. The only saving grace was that it was consistent so finding a rhythm was pretty easy and I was on for a good solid 1:20 to 1:25 run split which I would have been content with on that course. I ran with a few pro's for a while but they gradually dropped me, then it happened 1/4 of the way through lap three my body just said that was enough, I felt really really hungry and was losing concentration, and started walking through aid stations, grabbing anything and everything, cups of pretzels, cups of crisps, coke, Powerade, water and even cups of ice (although I dont recommend throwing the ice in your face pretzels over your head and coke in your eyes but I'm pretty sure I did a bit of all of it but it was too late, I had almost got round the whole thing but was probably less than 5k away from the end.
I finished with a sprint (would you believe it) but had to pull up on the line. The pretzels must have made a difference but by then I had probably dropped 20 positions and dreams of a descent placing had evaporated. Was it the change from bars to gels on the bike, was it overcooking and sprint efforts on the bike or a combination of both.
All I know is that Im gonna be there next year and it will be a different story then
- As an ex-National League Basketball player I took up triathlon as a development from cross training. I won my first Sprint distance race and placed second in my first Olympic distance. Since then I have raced the UK Elite Superseries coming 24th in the National Elite Champs, raced Vegas 70.3 WChamps and helped Paratriathlete Iain Dawson to World, European and National Titles. In 2011 I obtained Pro authorisation from the BTF and am pushing my development by stepping up to top level competition in 2012. Aside from this I am a L1 Swim and Tri coach and Professional Lloyds Broker.