This was a special race for me because two years ago this was my first ever triathlon and the event that marked a fundamental shift in the course of my life. It was great to come back and race well! Originally I was signed up for the Olympic distance but decided to transfer to the Sprint because I'm just getting past a calf injury and didn't want to risk re-injuring it ahead of the Lake Murray race this upcoming weekend. In the end I made the podium (2nd), had a blast, apparently broke the previous course record, and didn't re-injure the calf. So I'm very glad I made the switch.
Here's what Setup Events had to say about our race:
"For the Sprint the Top 4 men and Top 2 women broke the previous course record. Anthony Wallace of Savannah, GA led from the gun posting the day's fastest swim split and Top 3 bike and run splits to take the men's title. Nicholas Brunson of Lexington, SC was second on the day and Jeff Brandenburg of Columbia, SC was third."
That is the condensed version ... here is how my race played out from my perspective:
My wife and son and I arrived at the site with plenty of time to pickup the packet, setup transition and get marked. Before I knew it the RD was ordering everyone out of transition and down to the water for the start. I hadn't yet done a warm up swim or even put on my wetsuit. So I quickly put on my suit and went down to the water. As I was getting in the RD was ordering everyone out of the water, but I was able to sneak in maybe 200 meters. The athletes racing the Olympic distance went off first and then it was our turn.
The swim start here is from the beach and so there is a few steps of running and then 2 dives and you're off swimming. The first few hundred meters were nerve racking with trying to balance pacing myself without getting hypoxic with not losing too much time to the lead swimmers. I was sighting on every 12th stroke and was drifting each way quite a bit as I tried correct my line to the first turn buoy. I must have been over-correcting. By 300 meters out I was on the edge, trying to relax, and trying to find some kind of rhythm. The first 90 degree turn is at 350 meters then there is 50 meters until the other 90 degree turn that points you back to shore. It wasn't until rounding this second turn buoy (approx 400 meters) that I found my rhythm, felt powerful, and began enjoying the swim. With on 350 meters left to work with there was only so much I could do in such a short distance. Getting out of the water I had 10:45 as the split. There is a long run to transition included in the swim time which gave me 11:42 (1 min 1 sec behind the leader). I was ranked 7th overall, 3rd Open.
Brooks Keys beat me out of the water by 14 seconds and was out of his wetsuit when I arrived at my bike. I could tell it was taking him a while to get through transition which gave confidence that I could get back some time from him. My transition felt quick and looking at the numbers, I took back 6 seconds from Brooks.
For this race I put my cycling shoes on in T1 but still managed a flying mount on the bike. Brooks was just ahead and I was determined to get him quick and come past him really strong. I was able to get past him before the railroad tracks and turns that take you out onto the main loop. The loop starts fairly flat and then goes uphill for several miles. I just tried to find a good rhythm and churned up and up. Once on top of the ridge line it is kind of rolling before it turns back downhill. On the rolling section I could see the leader up the road but it didn't seem like I was reeling him in any. I just kept the throttle on and tried to put as much time between Brooks and myself as possible. I know that Brooks is a really good runner and if I was going to beat him, it was going to be on the bike. The other thing I was thinking was that it would be nice to have the fastest bike split of the day. Unfortunately JB took fastest bike split, edging me out by 28 seconds. Bike split: 31:56 - ranked 2nd overall, 1st Open.
I came into T2 and I saw the leader's bike on the rack. My wife let me know that I was in second place. This transition felt quick also and I was soon off to the run.
After T2 the leader had me by 49 seconds. The run actually has 3 turn arounds, the first of which is only a few hundred yards into the run. The next turn around is somewhere near 1.5 miles and his lead was down to 47 seconds, so we're pretty much running the same pace. That's a lot of ground to make up in 1.6 miles but it "felt" like I was gaining on him. Here I also got the chance to see how much time I had on Brooks. It was well over a minute. This gave me confidence that 2nd place was in the bag. Then ... oh, wait ... who's that coming? It's JB and he's running strong. Let's see ... he started how many minutes back? Crap ... who knows?? ... this is too complicated. Up the hill and back into the park area and I hear the RD say some things about me to the crowd which was something new. Heading out along the levy the leader is in sight. At the turn around the gap is still about the same. At this point there is only maybe 1/8th of a mile left and I knew there was no chance of catching him and also there was no chance of me being caught by anyone else. Cruised it on in for a time of 18:27. Ranked 3rd overall, 3rd Open
So the final result was 2nd place with a time of 1:05:02. Brooks crossed about a minute and a half later and then we started watching the clock ... waiting to see how soon JB would arrive. When he did arrive, Brooks was not happy to learn that he'd been taken off the podium from behind by JB ... again. We then gave JB crap for not racing Open ... again.