What a difference a year makes. Last year was summer of the triathlon and this year was ski & run. With that in mind I knew that I wasn't going to perform my best at this race but still thought I had a shot of making the podium if I had a good race. For a detailed report on the event itself, see my report from last year.
First off, what a difference nice weather makes. Last year was incredibly hot and humid. I needed water at every chance I got, even drinking lake water during my swim! Last year I had six swims before the race. This year I had ZERO. It was clear that I had made a huge mistake thinking I could rely on my fitness for the swim. As the race started I found myself anxious and uncomfortable. I was swimming at the same effort as last year but there were so many people out in front of me. I was expecting to swim around 25 minutes but instead of being top 5 out of the water I was 26th! This left me completely disoriented in terms of how many people I had to catch to get back in striking distance of the podium. I drafted as much as possible on the swim and tried to relax and conserve energy. I got out of the water and had a good transition and was biking down 153 with a fresh mindset. I started hunting down anyone I could but also kept in mind that I didn't want to cramp up like I did last year. The 32 mile bike course is rolling with a few hills. I was able to do well on the hills and improve my speed on the flats as my bike has better gearing than last year. I chased a guy who was in the aquabike and kept catching him on the hills but losing him on the flats. It was ideal to have someone to chase otherwise I'm not sure I would have pushed it.
Coming off the bike I had a lot of work to do. I had another quick transition and was out on the run. I spent the first half mile adjusting my pace and settling in to 6:15 pace. My legs felt relatively good but I was getting twinges of hamstring cramps. I saw Ned Dalzell from the Inferno ahead of me and I spent the next two miles chasing him down. Unfortunately, I also saw all the top guys coming back on the return. Even with the fastest run split they had put so much time on me on the swim that I was stuck running for 5th. I ran fairly evenly with a slightly negative split. It's frustrating to post such a slow swim time and it's another lesson learned. If I do this race next year (which I probably will), I'll be sure to get my six swims in!