I was very excited to get the season going this past weekend down in sunny Florida after suffering through this terrible State College winter. It was also going to be my first draft-legal event, so I was excited to learn a lot about a new style of racing.
The logistics of the weekend were far from perfect. Leave Thursday, drive 12 hours, stop at a sketchy hotel, wake up and drive another 7 hours, race the next day. It was a lot, but it was a fun road trip coming down with a bunch of my teammates from Penn State. It made it feel much shorter than it was.
I woke up on race day after a great night of sleep. It was a little different having a 2:30pm start time. I'm used to getting up at 4am and racing by 7am. I liked not having to get up so early, but I had a lot of time for anxiety to build, so I tried to keep myself busy. Everything was ready to go, and I was ready to rock.
I arrived at the race site with plenty of time. I was rocking a new kit from Kiwami that was sleek, fast, and damn sexy.
Although it was only probably high 70's it felt a little hot to me coming out of the teens in State College. I was hoping to get a good selection out on the dock for the start, but having a later number all the decent spots were taken. Being a little guy, I tend to get beat up quite a bit and try to stay towards the outside. Diving in shoulder to shoulder with 60 guys was such a rush. I think we all dove forward only a couple inches as the dock just flew backwards when we all jumped at the gun. I got a good jump, but started getting pummeled and just lost it a bit. I need to get a lot better at just being mean. I got stuck in a pack not moving very fast. I way underperformed in water. I think just some more experience will help with that. Being behind meant chasing on the bike. I got out there and there was a group of about 5, but none of them seemed too strong, so I figured my best shot was to take off on my own. Trying to catch a peloton by yourself is no easy task, but I was feeling really confident in my bike strength. After spending about a lap by myself, I pulled the main group in and got into the pack. The next two laps were nice and easy sitting in the pack even with averaging about 27 mph. There were still a couple breaks far up the road though, so they were out of reach. I moved up before T2 to get into good position. Going in and out of T2 with about 40 guys was a mad house! The first mile of the run was probably about 4:40. Soon most of the pack began to die off a bit. I ended up finishing 17th with a 15:35 5k. It was a decent run, but not quite what I was looking for. I know I should be around that 15 flat range, but first race of the year I'll take it.
What I took away from this race is that I need to be better in the water, and it isn't that I am slow, just not aggressive and mean enough at the start. Time to head back to State College and have my teammates beat on me in the water. Nathan Benderson Park was a beautiful race venue, and I am excited to head back to race again next year. I have to thank my sponsors The Sport Factory, Made2Win, Scott Shoes, Kiwami who help me every step of the way and help make my dreams come true. Now, 4 weeks until Collegiate National Championships, the race I've wanted to win for a long long time.