I wanted to file a quick race report and thank everyone for your continued words of support. Since I qualified for this race life has been crazy busy and I had to question my sanity for staying the course to get ready for this race, so for everyone that supported this effort, I owe you guys big time. Racing here in Spain, in the medieval city of Vitoria-Gasteiz (dating back to the eleventh century), with the rabid fans at such an incredible venue, and finishing the race, it was all worth it.
Standing at the start line with the other 100+ athletes in my wave, all my issues were behind me. Too much work, back issue, reduced training times, didn't matter, I was excited and ready to race as best I could. The first leg of the 4k swim was straight out for 1500m, so staying on someone's toes was not a problem. After that, with legs of 700, 300, 300, and 1200 meters, with no sighting buoys between them, with a small chop on the return, staying on course or staying in a draft became the usual challenge. Someone reported that it was actually 4500m and not just an already long 4k swim, so my 1:13 swim split was solid, and I was thankful for the long Sunday swims in Carp and my guide-dog Matt!
The bike course offered no technical challenges, other than holding a steady effort that would allow you to run a 30k afterwards. A couple of short little ring climbs with lots of fans yelling Go, Go, Go or Faster, Faster, Faster, in Spanish of course, helped with the hard parts, while I just tried to even split the two laps, absolutely fearful that going too hard too early and the run would be a walk. Luckily the day remained overcast throughout the bike, with a bit more wind than I expected, which I guess was better than the 80+ and muggy weather in the preceding week. I averaged 20.7 after one lap and I think 20.3 at the end, holding something in reserve.
I grabbed a bottle of some unknown race drink by mistake with like 30k to go, realizing it 10 minutes down the road, so I felt like I came up a bit short on hydration coming into T2. Entering downtown and then old town Vitoria, it was obvious that there would be fans out on the run course, but I was absolutely unprepared for the Boston Marathon finish line sized crowd as I entered for the first of eight times the Plaza de Espana, passing the finish line for the first time.
Crazy loud might not even describe it, as their man Eneko Llanos was currently leading the pro men, with Macca in hot pursuit, as the following pros made their way past me. Talk about excitement and how not to pace out a 30k! Trying to stay focused and calm, I proceeded to try and catch up on my hydration while watching my pace, which was good, around 5:00/k. With laps of 7.5k to contend with, heading out of the old town and in to relative quiet, but never silent, running, returning to the Plaza it was still erupting with loud and unbelievably supportive fans.
The only downside of the day came into play during lap two, when my tummy decided it wasn't going to be a happy day and it wasn't liking my usual choice of nutrition and fluid. You know when this happens that you hope it quickly passes and you can return to normal service, but for me that took two more laps, 15k of running until the bloated stomach, I wish I could throw up feeling, finally went away. All I could do was hydrate, take on no more calories, not a good idea for a long race, and then continue to run hard when I could, and then walk until some fan or fellow Team USA member came along to spur me on, or I found the resolve to suffer again. But for those two laps, thinking about the incredible old city I was in, the probably tens of thousands of fans (dwindling as the laps wound down), chants of go US, hoped for finish time coming and going, I resolved that I was going to finish. Some young girl from Canada was suffering along with me (and actually many people mentioned GI issues), so we pushed and motivated each other when we could.
Ultimately with 5k to go I decided that walking was no longer an option and regained some lost time, engaged the fans, the city, and finally the finish line. No crying, no coulda, shoulda, woulda's, not pissed that I left 15-20 minutes out on the course and maybe a top 10 AG place, I was thrilled. I had just finished racing in the ITU World Long Course Triathlon Championship, my overall place mattered little, how cool is that?
And to answer the question that many have been asking, no, my wife has not embraced the art of pointing at odd looking and unnamed small bits of food sitting on a counter in some bar in an alley where the cobblestones were quite possibly set in place before European man set sail for the new world, a.k.a. tapas. We are however working our way through glasses of the local cervezas, crianza wines, and sangria; via Espana!