Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Clearwater 70.3 World Champs Race Report.

After Muskoka my season was done.  I thought.  Then I got an e-mail from Ryan saying that he had been offered a spot in Clearwater.  Do I want to go?  Why the hell not!  

I can honestly say that I did not train a ton between Muskoka and Clearwater.  The reputation of the 70.3 world champs being a fast/flat course allowed me to take it a little easier.  A few long rides, a few long runs.  Basically no quality swimming.  Still felt OK heading down.

Drove down to Chatham on Wednesday night.  Got there hung out with Mindy and Ryan for a bit and hit the sack as we had a real early (2:45) wake up call to head to Detroit airport for our 6:00am flight.  Made it.  

We landed in Clearwater and caught our shuttle to the Chart House Suites (very geneoursely donated by Matt Miller and the Cdifferent foundation.  Huge windows looking out on the harbour, and the record breaking cold weather!  Florida is supposed to be warm.  Not 59 degrees.  We had news that it would warm up for the weekend so we shrugged it off.

Meeting up with Matt and Aaron, we caught a ride down to the expo area.  We picked up Ryan's tandem (now named Big Flaming Al, long story. . . ) and registered.  This was the first hints of what was too come.  Everybody seemed real interested in the tandem, and what we were doing.  
Did a trip around the expo.  Stopped and talked to the Blais's (of whom Ryan does a lot of fundraising for) and a few other booths.  After this (and posing for a number of pics with interested people!) we rode the bike back to the hotel.  

That night was the banquet.  For the World Champs they situated the whole shindig on the beach.  Which normally would have been great, but it was fricking freezing.  We shivered through dinner (which IS better in the VIP section!) and listened to the presentation.   Of which, Ryan was talked about.  This was the first encounter of hanging out with many of the tri elite!  Lots of pros everywhere.  It was cool!

We then gladly headed home for some sleep. 

The next day we took out the bike for an easy spin to make sure all was well then got ready for the press junkit.  This was surreal.  First stop was the NBC interview where upon entering the hilton we met Kevin Mckinnon who was very nice, and hung out for a bit until we were hearded into the interview area.  Also Greg Welch stopped by and said hi too.

Ryan went through the interview like and old pro.  He is very well spoken, and I believe presented himself really well.  The interview took 15-20min.  We were then handed a transponder to mount on Ryan's belt so that they could find us during the race, and film us on the go.  It was then directly into the the photographer for some pics.  Some of just Ryan, and some of both of us and the bike.

Once that was out of the way we wandered back to the expo (had more picture's taken) and stopped at the K-swiss booth.  Ryan talked with the main dude, and might have hooked himself up with a bit of a sponsorship.

From here we rushed over to the pro press conference where Ryan was to be introduced to the press.  He sat on a panel with passed champions Terrenzo Bezzone and Joanna Zeiger among others.  That was kinda cool to see.  We were then sent into the VIP area at the finishing line to have lunch with these guys.  Nothing like sharing a sandwhich with giants like Terrenzo, and Matty Reid.  It was really kind of surreal to be hanging out with these people in this sort of relaxed setting.   They were all really nice, and great to meet.  

After that it was time to head home and try and process what happened that day and maybe get some dinner.  Matt took all of us to a hotel for dinner of pasta, and garlic (it seemed).  Then to bed to try and sleep before we had to wake up and race!

Race Morning.

We got up around 4am.  Ate some breakfast and got ready.  Caught a ride down to transition with Aaron's manager.  This is where it really got surreal.  Walking into transition we were greated and identified over the loudspeaker.  Immediately Ryan was interviewed by the MC and the camera's were on us.  They filmed us for a while when we were getting ready.  Things seemed good and we decided to head down to the swim start.  The swim had been moved off of the gulf to the inland bays due to the remnants of hurricane IDA.  The swell was high, and there was a bit of a rip.  

We were scheduled to start in the pro women's wave which went off first.  The men went 8min. later.  This was also interesting.  Hanging on the start line with these guys is interesting.  There was a definite buzz among the pro's and an intensity.  Terrenzo stopped beside us for a bit and joked around.  

The start.  

We headed off strong behind the women.  We wanted to make sure we stayed out of the way as much as possible.  Things were going well for the first 300m.  Then all of the sudden out of the pack in front of us came a buoy.  It was about the size of a head so i didn't see it coming through the other swimmers infront of us.  Before I could do anything Ryan had swam to the opposite side as me and the tether got caught on the buoy.  I took a few seconds to try and unhook us, but it was no use so I slipped the tether off and had Ryan pull it through.  Then I put the tether back on and we were off to the races.  Unfortunately we lost the group we were behind which meant no draft for us.  Having feet to follow really helps Ryan swim straighter.  

We managed to make it to the home stretch before the male pros came flying by us.  Most of them cleared us before we hit the swim exit.  We stayed to the right so as not to get in there way.  Out of the swim we headed to transition and the volunteers helped us remove our wetsuits.  Ryan got a little tangled in the tether so it took a little bit to get going, but not a big deal.  I believe our swim split was in the 33min. range.

Got changed, and picked up the bike.  Once again the camera's were on us.  We got on the bike and started out to the causeway.  We were rolling along nicely.  There was no one around us.  Either direction.  It stayed that way most of the bike.  The course was flat and fast.  Clipping along we passed Aaron and Matt on the out and back section.  They were hanging on behind the front pack.  It was impressive to see them there.  They are rockstars!

On our way back we started to see the AG guys coming.  Definetely saw the fabled drafting packs of clearwater.  But we won't get into that.  

Headed out over one of the causeways was pretty weird.  3 lanes and two wide shoulders all shut down for us.  There were no other cyclist's either so we were all alone on this massive highways.  It was odd.  Funnily I was looking around and on the bay I could see dolphins.  I said "hey dolphins!"  Ryan replied with "Keep your eyes on the road".  I came back with " there are 5 empty lanes here.  You could steer the bike and not hit a bloody thing, so relax!"   It was fun!

The 20km or so were tough because the bike is extremely tough on the posterior.  Not much give in the frame so it is a little harsh of a ride.  Feeling good though.  We held a real steady pace throughout and set ourselves up for a good run.  The bike was a blazing 2:16 split at 40.2 kph.

A relatively quick transition and we were on the run.  The crowds were fantastic.  Cheering us every step of the way.  We must've had our pictures taken a thousand times.  

The first loop of the run was uneventful.  We had a goal pace and tried to stick to it.  Ryan has a tendancy to head out fast, and I tried to hold him back a bit so that we could have a steady run.  At the end of the first loop the camera's caught us and followed in front of us for a while.  Try and look tough, try and look tough.  That was our mantra while on film!  Coming into the turn around the announcer was calling us on and the crowds once again went wild.  That was just a taste of what was too come.  

The course headed out over a causeway, and in through the residential neighbourhoods.  It was neat on the first lap when the pro men flew by us.  We could see that Raelert had a big lead and was looking strong.  It was really cool to watch Matt Reed fly by.  He is a beast! 

The second lap got tougher.  Much of the course was on concrete and that took it's toll on my knees and both of our bodies.  We held a steady pace but it was hurting.  Ryan had a goal of coming in under 4:45.  We weren't sure if we were going to get there or not.  We pushed hard at the end at it looked like we would succeed.  Coming into the finishing chute was awesome.  There were a ton of people there and they were going nuts.  It was a wall of sound.  They were cheering so loudly for us it gave me goosebumps.  Still do thinking about it.  What an experience.  

Got to the line, and we both did a blazeman role.  4:43.  Fast!  Ryan came in second which was fantastic.

Camera's were flashing.  Bob Blais was there to great us which was nice.  Made our way through the throngs and collapsed on the grass for a bit.

That night we went to the awards banquet.  This was again held on the beach.  Much warmer though.  Ryan (and I) were brought on stage for his award.  A great end to an awesome experience.

Thanks to Matt Miller and Cdifferent for helping us to get down to the event.  Thanks to the WTC for the invitation.  Thanks to Ryan for letting me tag along! :>>

I look forward to guiding Ryan again next year.  Placid here we come!

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