A month before this race I had serious doubts of even racing. My training was struggling, and mentally I did not know if I would be able to compete with the best in the world. But my training three weeks leading into the race made a huge jump, and my speed in all three legs finally made a turn for the positive that I was looking for and I at least felt like I could compete.
I had no expectations going into Worlds. I almost did not even bring my Podium Braveheart T-shirt because top 5 overall seemed impossible with all of the surgeries and hospital visits over the months leading up to the race. I felt as if top 20 would be a good result that I would be happy with. But I figured I my as well bring my podium T just in case I had one of those magical days.
The days leading into the race I ran into guys that I have raced against and even they were surprised to even see me there.
Last year at Worlds it poured rain and was just a miserable time and race. All I wanted this year was dry roads and the opportunity to see what my heart could do and see how much I could make myself hurt.
I woke up and the weather was perfect, cool but dry and barely any clouds. I did my normal warm up and things felt good, my body was ready to toe that line and go to war.
I did not go to the athlete briefing because that is not my style, so I was not aware that the swim was not a wading start, but a mob run in start from the beach. These starts at a normal 70.3 are physical, but at Worlds is a whole different ball game and I knew it was going to be brutal.
For the first 500 yards or so everyone was beating the tar out of each other, but things clear up pretty well about half way through. My age group was also the first age group wave, so we did not have any slower swimmers in front of us that we had to swim over.
In a race at this level, I never know what position I am in the swim. I came out of the water in 27 minutes which I was happy with considering how physical the first five 7 or 8 minutes were. The body felt good and headed out on the bike (what ended up being in 39th place).
A friend of mine (Conrad) is a super strong swimmer and I caught him only seven minutes into the bike and was super pumped. (I had no idea of this at the time, but he forgot his bike shoes and road the entire bike with no shoes, yep, all 56 miles with just socks on) But I did not know this and was pumped to catch him so quick!
The bike has a large out and back for the 1st 60K (of the 90K) so I was able to see large sections in front of me and how the ride was developing. My legs felt great, I caught a group of 10 riders like it was nothing - it only built my confidence. Each time I passed someone I never worried about them coming with me, my whole mindset was ride down the next rider or riders that I saw.
Starting to approach a third of the way into the ride was a U-turn where all to the riders would be riding at me so I would have an idea of where I was at.
As I got closer to the turn around I still did not see any age groupers and my confidence grew more and more with each pedal as I approached the turn around. As I saw the lead group coming at me I realized, HOLY COW, the turn around is right there, I am in contact with what I am pretty sure is the lead group. I hit the turn around and just started pounding. I could feel and sense that I was gaining on that group.
Just before a large climb I caught the group of five to six riders (all drafting off each other) and some days I might think I should jump in with these guys and start to conserve energy for the run, but not this day. I never even hesitated. I came right up on the group and mowed right by them all, we were now at the base of that hill.
I knew I had to make a move here, I did not want those guys to come with me cresting that hill. So I instantly stood, I stood and pounded the pedals up that entire beast and gapped that entire group. This is when I first told myself I am in the running for this, I am in contention.
I still did not know for sure what place I was in. I was thinking top 5, but for sure top 10. My confidence at this point was killer, mentally and physically - I was battling like I never had before. I knew that around mile 45 of the 56 I would see Randi (my wife) and just kept thinking she is going to be so surprised what position I am in.
I hit that large group of spectators and battled the last miles with one other rider. As we approached the last couple of miles I asked him if he had any idea where we were at, he said 3rd. HOLY SHIT, what?! I came into transition in 3rd, I was 39th out of the water and caught 36 people, at worlds!.....that is what riders call a 'No Gear Day'!
Now going into the run my confidence was so high at this point I knew I was going to feel good on the run. I had caught up the female Pro Heather Jackson just at the end of the bike and she is a beast of a runner. So Heather, the guy who road in with me and myself all headed out of the run together.
My 1st instinct was to run with Heather, but something just told me 'NO!', this is your day and your race. There was a good climb really quick into the run and I glided over it with ease, crested the top and strided out just perfect.
Soon I realized that Heather and that guy were no longer with me, I gapped them from the get go and I felt great. The run felt effortless. At this point I knew I was in either 2nd or 3rd place.
The run is a two loop out and back enabling me see where I was at. As I approached the turn around I only see one guy who looked to be an Amateur and could tell that I was gaining on him. I hit the turn around and felt great, like I could hold that pace all day.
As I came in contact with that runner I did not want him to go with me and a montra that my pops taught me as a young runner popped in my head "Make a move and do something with it". I caught that guy just at the base of a hill and made a huge surge as I passed him, letting him know there is no way he can run with me. It hurt, but had to be done.
I settled back into pace and came back into the village completing lap1of 2. I knew Randi was going to be going nuts and she was, I could feel her excitement through me and I passed her just feeling great.
Now at this point I think I am in the lead, but I don't know for sure. Nobody is out there telling you what place you are in. No matter, I was for sure top 2 and feeling great. I started the 2nd lap and settled right back in to the great pace I have carried all day. But now, being the my 2nd lap of the run, a lot of the age groupers are on their 1st lap, so it is a constant mob of people and impossible to know who is who or what age group they are in.
I hit turn around with about 3 miles left and now my body is starting to hurt but it does not matter, I am killing it and mentally I fight off any negative demons and just keep pounding. But with about 2 miles to go a guy passes me, 'What?!, damnit', I try to go with but just was not able to. I thought for sure he was in my age group and on his 2nd lap bumping me to 2nd or 3rd. It rattles me for a minute or two but I zone right back in and just kept telling my self, 'you are top 3 for sure, you are top 3 for sure'.
I hit the village with one last hill to climb then a steep downhill into the finish. I see Randi before the climb and ask her where am I at, she says "1st!" (The guy who passed me was on his 1st lap, no idea who he was).
The course splits off 100 yards or so from doing your finish shoot to onto your 2nd lap. So I am sprinting straight through people just about to start their 2nd lap because I am about to finish, just running people over. I don't care I am about WIN Worlds!
I came to the finish and you want to talk about about an out of body experience this was one for sure. Everything that I had been through this year (pneumonia with pleurisy, hit by a car, 2 liters of fluid drained from my lung plural cavity, 6 days in the hospital because the fluid came back, had to re-drain the fluid, and remove an abscess from a bacterial infection to my lung and diaphragm).
I crossed the finish and let out a yell like I had never let out before, just screaming. Then it hit my emotional side and I started to cry. I put my hands to my face and lost it. I kneeled down to the ground and kissed it and thanked God. I did not care, a truly impossible feat was just accomplished. I stand and instantly look for Randi, rush over to her and just break down as we hug and embrace over what I just accomplished. I go over to the results just to make sure, and I had in fact won, I was World Champion for the 30-34 age group and was in complete disbelief.
Going to the awards ceremony it still did not seem real. How in the world did I pull this off? Just over 2 months ago doctors were saying that my race season was most likely over and here I was at the awards banquet with the best triathletes in the world. When I was called up to receive my award, I also have a jacket put on me only for the Winners of each age group for being a world champion. This was a special moment, accepting the 1st place over all trophy was special, but nothing can compare to the feeling of crossing that finish line and have every possible emotion run through you.
To me I am still the exact same person. I will still get up at 3:30 A.M. to run hill repeats before I meet up at 6 to ride with the best training partners (Lesley Paterson and Brandon Mills) that anyone could ask for. I will still spend way too much time on my blasted sewage pipe roller (foam rollers are for wuses). I will still think that repeats up Palomar Mountain is a great way to spend a Saturday. The only difference is that now, by the grace of Jesus and the support from one amazing women and wife Randi, I can call myself 'World Champion'.