After Guatape I flew straight to Seattle. It’s always hard going home during the season, or anytime really. Whenever I travel someplace for an extended period of time I try to get into a training routine as quickly as possible. (The routine makes training take less time, you have a time for each workout set, you know where to run and where to swim and you have a typical bike course, so the day goes more smoothly and you miss fewer workouts than if you’re constantly looking for lap swim, looking for a new run route and trying to find a group to ride with.) But in Seattle there are so many variables that get in the way of being able to jump into a routine that I end up having to adjust my schedule for each individual day. First, I’m only home a couple times this year, so I need to see the dentist, see my friends, spend time with my 18 month old nephew, spend time with my mom, my dad, my friends, visit my favorite bike shops… And then there’s the issue of transportation. My parents have two cars, mine is in Colorado, so if they’re gone all day I’m stuck at home, which isn’t exactly close to anything. (My parents moved out of the city right before I went to college. I hate the suburbs.) The bike trail is closed for reconstruction by my house as well, which means there are no soft surfaces to run on from my parent’s house – I need a car to get to the state park. What I’m getting at is that visiting home is a cluster*&^% of compounding logistical problems that make it really hard to settle into any kind of routine. So I don’t, and it always ends up being a great time.
My first day in Seattle was the quietest. Just my parents and myself. My sister and brother-in-law (BIL) were working and the nephew was in daycare (they all live in the same house), so I was able to sleep in, do some light training and then head to swim practice with Cascade Swim Club. It was great. Then next day was also quiet, except the nephew was at home with my mom, and I had to finish training super early because my massage therapist refuses to make an appointment after 3pm (he’s good enough that I don’t really care, but he’s also busy enough that I won’t tell you his name unless you promise not to schedule while I’m in town). It was the Thursday before the Monroe Pan American Cup that all hell broke loose. My aunt and uncle came into town with my two cousins, and Tommy Zaferes arrived and was staying with my family for the Monroe race. Rory and Mojdeh also came over to see me, as they just moved to Seattle from Boulder and it had been over a month since I’d been able to visit them. So just to clarify, I was trying to rest and prepare for an ITU continental cup with seven adults, two teenagers, and an 18 month old child living under the same roof and two very close friends making frequent visits, and everyone seeming bummed when I skipped out on the party for a swim/bike/run. It was awesome.
The first day with everyone in the house my cousin, Boomer, came with Tommy and me to the state park for a run. I thought it would be a learning experience for a 17-year-old surfer from Hawaii to try to hang with us, even for an easy run, and it was. Boomer was shocked when we told him that in the entire triathlon we don’t ever stop, walk, or otherwise take a breather. My other cousin, Caitie, was smarter and stayed home.
The day before Monroe the beautiful clear weather Seattle had experienced my first few days back changed and became grey rainy crud. It finally felt like home. Tommy and I did a course preview and attended the prerace meeting where, I have to admit, I was a little surprised to see that Hunter Kemper was actually present. Hunter’s been having such a great season, I thought he’d stick to world cups and the Lifetime series. It was good to see him though, as I feel like I learn a little from every race I do with him. He just exudes experience. Everyone in the field watches Hunter when he races, and Hunter – even as a marked man – is always in the right place at the right time.
Everyone competing in Monroe seemed to agree that for a first year race it was done incredibly well. The course, while boring, was safe and quite spectator friendly. The swim was in a small lake that could have been confused for a flooded drainage ditch (only with clean water), the bike ride took us out and back on the main road along side the lake and featured three 180s and two 90 degree turns on every pancake flat lap, the run – also flat – was four laps on a paved path around the lake that totaled 10.4 kilometers. It was not a course for breakaways. The one unknown going into the race was the quality of the swim field. There were more people I would classify as “super swimmers” in Monroe than any other race I’ve done. Zaferes, McClarty, McCartney, Darling, and Bird are all people who routinely win swim primes over the slightly slower – though often better on land – swimmers like Potts, Dye, and Kemper. Even with a wetsuit we all knew it would be tough to keep up with those guys.
The swim started off fast. Tommy helped me improve my beach starts by having me practice over and over the day before the race, so I was able to get a pretty good leap off the line. I broke out and was almost instantly in third behind Zaferes and McClarty. I stayed right there with only Bird passing me in the first lap. McCartney got ahead at some point and Tommy and I lost those guys feet and led in a large pack about 20 seconds down from the three leaders. Tommy had a terrible transition and lost the lead group, Hunter was right next to me out of the water and with his help we instantly caught the super swimmers within a kilometer from T1. The lead pack became 12 guys with a small lead over the next pack of five that was mainly guys who struggled getting off their wetsuits. 12 to 5 is not really an even race and our lead grew significantly without any of us really pushing that hard. There were a few feeble attempts to get away, but on that course it would have taken a superhero, or someone that nobody cared about (perhaps a wooden leg?) to get away. I followed Hunter’s lead. He and I have talked a little about working together, so I asked if he wanted to try anything, but he confirmed that it was smartest just to wait. I still spent my share of energy at the front. I hate leaches. So I felt good about taking the lead into T2 next to Hunter. We racked and I popped on my KRuuz way faster than Kemper (take that old man!) so I had the edge on the field starting the run. Rory was there wearing his “I [heart] BC” t-shirt that my buddy Tai made for us, and as I started the run with Hunter he was yelling “GO BEN, STAY WITH HIM, STAY WITH HIM, STAY WITH HIM!!!!” I tried to stay with Hunter as he came by me, I tried as hard as I could to run as fast as he was. I’m sure I was going well beyond any speed I’ve maintained in a workout, and I could only hang for 400 meters. After that I just tried to keep the gap from growing too rapidly, and in doing so I put about 10 seconds onto a group of four runners by the second kilometer. I was now being hunted by a pack and I was out in the wind by myself. I kept running, for once I was actually in the race, I had put down the start speed I didn’t think I had and it put me in position to do what I love: RACE!!! At the end of the first lap that group of six lost three people to the penalty board (Personally I think the ITU should stop changing the sport through the advent of new penalty-worthy rules and let the sport change through allowance of tactics like what the Brits did at the Euro Championships this year.) but I was gaining ground on them ever so slowly. On the second lap I had 20 seconds, on the third it was 25, but the group was only two. On the fourth lap Andrew Russell dropped the rest of them and closed the gap on me to just under 20 seconds. All the while, we all lost over two minutes to Kemper. I finished second with Andrew behind me for third.
At the finish I was greeted by a massive group of friends and family and an asthma attack that almost caused me to pass out. I’m not sure how I made it through the final lap without being able to breath, but I was certainly glad the EMTs were at the finish line to hold me up and give me oxygen until I could breath normally. I’ve never had an asthma attack like that before, but now that I have I feel like I’m officially past the point of no return on the nerd spectrum. Seriously, I wear glasses, I’m good at math and science and now I need an inhaler? Where’s my calculator watch? Oh wait; I have one with GPS instead.
The award ceremony was also a highlight thanks to all the supporters present. When I stood up on the podium a large segment of the crowd started chanting, “COLLINS, COLLINS, COLLINS…” When Hunter stood up there was polite clapping, and after it quieted down he turned to my fan section and asked, “where’s my cheer for first?” To which they responded, “COLLINS, COLLINS, COLLINS!” He can run two minutes faster, but he can’t win the hometown crowd.
Tomorrow I race the Edmonton World Cup. I’m here with my parents, and I’m hoping I can convince all of Paula Findlay’s hometown friends to come cheer for me. I wonder if they have t-shirts to show their support? Maybe they could call themselves the “PF-gang”.
Click the thumbnails below for more pics from Monroe. A HUGE thanks to my BIL, Matthew Lamb, for being my star photographer at the event. All the photos are from him.