I finished 3rd in Syracuse today behind Andrew Yoder and Lionel Sanders.
It played out like this: Barrett Brandon took out the swim, and at 700 meters I took the reins and finished up the 1.2 mile, exiting the water first in 23:14 with Jimmy Seear, Barrett and John Polson right with me.
Andrew Yoder was 10 seconds back out of the water and he was with us on the bike by the time everyone got their feet strapped into the shoes. I thought there was a train of guys, but after the first hill, called “prison hill” because it goes by a prison, it was just Yoder, Seear and myself. I led for a while, Yoder led for a bit, then I led again. Around 5 or 8 miles in Yoder came around me with a mission and dropped both Jimmy and myself real quick. I kind of expected this going into the race. If you look at the race profile, the first 15 miles are all uphill, and that’s where Yoder really shines. I watched him ride at the Columbia Triathlon a couple years ago and I don’t know any other triathlete that can hit the hills like he can.
So Yoder took off and Jimmy and I rode together until mile 28 when Jordon Rapp caught up to us form almost 90 seconds of swim deficit. Jimmy hadn’t taken a pull the entire ride, though I knew this was his third 70.3 in as many weekends. He’s not really the type to sit in and mooch if he’s capable of riding faster so I figured he was just really hurting. Anyway, I was pretty confident that I would have a good run so I wasn’t took concerned with him hitching a ride 12 meters back.
At mile 46 I had been hitching a 12 meter ride off Rapp for quite a while, with Jimmy still right behind me. I passed Jordan and told him that Yoder was probably 5 minutes so we should work the last 10 miles and try to close some of that gap. I went ahead to take a pull but as we crested a hill, probably less than 30 seconds later, Jordan came back by me. I stopped pedaling, but I guess I should have braked to get out of the 12 meter draft zone faster. I thought I got out in time, but the ref didn’t think so. You only have 25 seconds to drop 12 meters back when you’re overtaken. With the downhill, even without pedaling, the ref said I was a few seconds over that and he gave me a red card, meaning I would have to spend four minutes in the penalty tent at mile 56 (right before T2).
Knowing I would be spending four minutes standing around staring at a stop watch, I took off and finished up the last seven or so miles going harder and putting almost 30 seconds on Rapp and Seear. I pulled into the penalty tent with 2:12:00 on my clock, which includes part of the first transition, so I would have been right around 2:12 or slightly under without the penalty. Instead I was 2:16, and started the run 7:30 behind Yoder and 3:30 behind Rapp and Seear and 2:00 behind Cody Beals and Paul Ambrose. So I was sixth with a lot of real estate to foreclose on if I wanted to get myself back into the race.
But you know, shit happens, and life is too short for battles of his word against mine. If the worst thing that happens this week is that a ref calls a penalty on me for something I may have very well been guilty of, that’s still a pretty good week. And I’ll be more careful next time.
And besides, I’ve been running quite well. As I ran out of T2 and someone on the sidelines told me it was 7:30 to Yoder I thought, “Andrew rode really hard, and not many people have run under 1:20 on this course. If I can run a 1:14 and he runs a 1:21, I could still win this thing.”
I took off feeling pretty good after my four minute rest interval. I ran the first six miles in 34 minutes, which was right on pace for my 1:14 goal.
The course in Syracuse is ridiculously hard. The first two miles are okay, other than a cross country section around a grassy knoll. At two miles we turn off the main road and drop down quickly into a neighborhood. The hill is short, but steep enough to fire up the quads. Then there’s the first aid station, and about a quarter mile later the pavement reaches for the sky. The climb is “wicked steep”, in the words of my gracious homestay. It kicks up for a couple hundred meters, then turns and keeps kicking for another half a mile. I finally saw Yoder after the first kicker, and at that point he was still about seven minutes ahead. Jimmy and Jordan were also way up the road, though Jimmy had dropped Jordan. The next two, Cody and Paul, were looking a lot worse and it looked like I was closing ground fast.
I passed Paul Ambrose around mile 5, once we had dropped back down the hill and reached the main road again. Jordan started blowing up on that seconds stretch back to transition and after the first loop I was on his heels, passing him around mile seven to move into fourth. I passed Cody Beals at mile 8 and earned myself one of the lead cyclists that were supporting the top three men and women.
Hitting the hill a second time at mile 9 I had to tell myself to pace the hill. As much as I wanted to keep closing on Jimmy and Andrew I knew that they were a long way off and I would need to have some strength left to get through those last 3 miles down the hill and back to the finish line.
At the top of the hill I could see that Jimmy was still a couple minutes ahead and Andrew was now four minutes, but shortly after they passed me (they were going down, me up) I heard a pitter patter of feet and Lionel Sanders came by me at a pace that I had no chance of matching. He was on his way to running a 1:09:55 half marathon on a course were nobody has run below 1:14 before.
Now back in fourth position, I just kept the pain flowing and hoped that nobody else could catch me. I lost my lead cyclist, but I could see Lionel’s cyclist up the road the whole way back. Then at mile 11 it looked like the orange t-shirt wearing cyclist was getting closer again. I dug deep and realized it was Jimmy coming back to me looking like the three-in-a-row 70.3 challenge was hitting him in the face like a strong Chicago wind. I caught him at mile 12 and he told me to “go get him”, referring to Sanders, who was already a minute ahead of me after two miles (my split for those two miles was 10:40, with the downhill, meaning he ran more like 9:40, or a 4:50 min/mile average pace from mile 10 to mile 12). I ran it in for third, with Jimmy holding off Cody and finishing fourth.
I did run my goal, splitting 1:14:19 for a final time of 3:56:35, 2:42 behind Yoder (3:53:53) and 52 seconds behind Sanders (3:55:43). It was Yoder’s first 70.3 win, and I’m really impressed by his performance. We were riding the same bike, so I guess I have no excuse for being four minutes slower than him on the bike (plus another four for being an idiot and getting myself a penalty).
Overall, a pretty good day. A third podium in three races, and the points should secure my start at both 70.3 Worlds and Hy-Vee 5150 championships.