This past weekend I made a pretty quick decision to extend my season one more week to go race the Cartagena Continental Cup in Colombia. One more result was going to put me onto the National Team, and with how well I was racing and my current fitness level, I felt like I would be able to get the result I needed. It was a little bit risky as it wasn’t the cheapest trip, but Neal, Grant, and I were confident that I would be able to get the job done.
I flew out on Thursday and it was a pretty long day of travel—a bus ride to the airport, 3 flights, and then a cab to the hotel. I’m starting to get used to the travel a lot more. It isn’t fun, but I’ll put up with it if it means I can do what I love for a living. Cartagena was really cool. Great beaches, beautiful historic buildings, and delicious local food all make it a pretty sweet place for a little vacation. The down side was that I knew I was going to have to deal with the same heat that put me in a pretty dangerous spot last weekend. Unfortunately, the heat actually turned out to be worse.
Leading up to the race I felt relaxed and focused. I went through pretty typical warm-up, just trying not to do too much and overheat myself before the race even started. The swim began and I felt like I got out pretty well and was in good position. At the start of the second lap I went to the front of the group as there was a little split in the field. I didn’t even realize there was a group of about 4 or 5 that got away at some point. I tried to bridge the gap, but it was already a little too big. I kept the pace high and we got out of the water and onto the bike.
We were a little further behind than I thought—a little over a minute. There was no choice but to get on with the chase. I was confident I could chase them back. I went to the front and started pulling the group along pretty hard. I felt like I was doing a majority of the work, but a few guys were giving a little help which was much appreciated. As the laps went on, we started pulling the time back faster and faster. When we got to about 20 seconds down, the small group up front decided to sit up except for one guy. I felt like it was the smart decision to just let him go. It was incredibly hot, and I felt like sitting into the group and allowing my body temperature to lower a little bit before the run would give me the best opportunity for success. As expected, when the race comes together, nobody does any work anymore. I was still confident that even if we let the leader go, I could still run him back, and I also figured he would overheat on the run by already being so hot at the end of the bike. The focus switched to nutrition and smart positioning for the rest of the ride.
At the start of the run, I knew that for a second week in a row, the challenge wasn’t really to go fast. It was about managing your effort level and pacing yourself to survive the heat. I got to the front and a couple guys were trying to go with me. I caught the leader who was off the front at about 1500m into the run. I started to get some distance, and I knew that once that elastic snapped, I would be free to fly. Pretty early into the run, the heat started to overwhelm everyone, me included. I knew I wasn’t running fast, and I had to keep telling myself to slow down. It got to a point where I felt like I was on a base run, but my lead kept growing on the field. With about a lap in a half to go, I knew I just needed to get myself to the finish line. Every aid station I had to dump and entire bottle of water all over me and try to sip on a little bit of ice cold water. It gave relief for maybe 10 seconds, but without it, I would have been done for. It was a long straight road to the finish line, and you could see it from at least 800m away. Those final 800m felt like an eternity. The race is never over until you cross the line, and you can’t lose focus for any second. I got to the finish line and tried to enjoy this one, but I really wasn’t in too good of shape just like last week. I went straight to the med tent, and I’m happy to say the recovery process was a lot quicker than last weekend, and no vomit this time.
I felt that this race showed more about my ability to stay smart than about my ability to go fast. In a normal race, you may have 10 matches to burn. In a race like this, you may only have 3 or 4 until you overheat and are unable to recover. This means picking and choosing your moments perfectly and capitalizing on them. I made the right decision to calm down and let my body come down on the bike, and I managed my effort on the run so that I wouldn’t take my body overboard. I am just so thrilled and thankful that I was able to get this win. I couldn’t think of any possible way to end my season on a better note. I’m going to take some time to reflect on this year, and make some goals for next year. In the meantime, I look forward to sitting on the couch and watching movies for a while. Time to recharge, and then start making a push to be even better next year!