I am finally settled into my temporary home in Australia, putting in my final training block of the 2015 season. One race to go in what has been an epic year of racing -- and travel!
This last part of my season started with a trip to Mallorca, Spain, for the inaugural Ironman Mallorca. Mallorca has long hosted a half-Ironman, so while this was a first-year race, I was sure it would be a top-notch affair.
The island of Mallorca did not disappoint. The sea was calm and clear as a bell. The bike course had a little bit of everything, flat sections with heaps of wind at the start, but the promise of a 10 kilometer climb at the 70 mile mark of the race would not be far from my thoughts on race day. While the promise of a flat marathon course was not so bad, 90-plus-degree air temperatures with high humidity would make for a scorcher of a marathon. Race morning arrived with the normal dose of excitement, nerves, and to be honest, a bit of dread. It is, after all, a 140.6-mile day at the office!
I swam comfortably, exiting the water some 15 seconds behind the lead professional female. Not long into the bike, I took the lead. I knew I'd need a solid bike split to put some needed real estate between me and some of the faster runners in the field. Often times in Ironman racing the race begins when our feet hit the pavement. Nothing like a little 2.4-mile swim, and 112-mile bike as a warm-up to the main event.
The women's race unfolded like an epic battle. I had the lead for the first 5 kilometers but was passed decisively just past 5km. Being a veteran of the sport, however, I knew the day was far from over. Somewhere near 15km, the leader started to falter. I could see the flag of the cyclist who escorts the lead female come closer and closer. I made the pass, putting in a surge to make the former leader feel there was no way she could match pace. It's not only a race, it's a battle of wits, after all.
So the good news was re-taking the lead. But the bad news was closing fast. At about 25km, the fast-footed woman I'd had on my mind since the gun fired that morning came through. Surprisingly, however, I was able to hold pace, and ran off her shoulder for nearly 5km. During an out-and-back section, however, she saw that I was a bit too close for her comfort and she surged. I was unable to match pace.
Still, I crossed the line in 2nd place. Not a victory by race standards, but after three years that were plagued with injury and just some silly bad luck, a 2nd was nearly as good as a win.
There was little time to celebrate, however, because four weeks later, I toed the start line again, this time for the Taiwan 70.3. While half the distance of a full Ironman, a 70.3 demands a much harder pace, so I often say, half the distance, twice the pain!
Taiwan was as fantastic a cultural experience as it was a race experience. I had a bit of time before the race to sight-see, but within a few days of the race, it was all business.
The field was small, but talented and included a three-time previous champion for this particular race. I knew the competition would be tough. I had to rely on a really strong swim and bike leg and found myself with an 11-minute lead off the bike on the 2nd place woman. With temperatures near 90 and high humidity, this was a welcome cushion as I knew I just needed to run strong and not blow up. While I gave back some three minutes during the run leg, the work I'd done on the swim and the bike proved to be enough to cross the line for my first ever 70.3 Championship of my nearly 10-year career as a pro triathlete.
Just goes to show, it's never too late to pursue your dreams!
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