So tomorrow will be my first ever draft legal race. For those of you who don't know what that means, here's my explanation (those of you who do, can skip the next paragraph):
Draft legal racing means that you can….draft on the bike (ta-da!). Most races in the US (Ironman, 70.3, almost all age group races) are non-drafting, meaning you ride the entire bike course by yourself. Drafting on the bike changes the dynamics of the race, effectively emphasizing the swim. What tends to happen is that strong swimmers will finish the swim near each other, group up on the bike, and take off. This leaves slow swimmers (like me) alone to either with little chance to catch the group. It can happen, but most times it does not.
Draft legal is the style used by the ITU (International Triathlon Union) and therefore, in the Olympics. The Olympics have always been my highest athletic dream. Originally, I was going to play basketball in the Olympics. When I stopped growing 9 inches too soon, I thought I would run in the Olympics. I would love to, in an ideal world, compete in ITU events for an Olympic spot.
However, the drafting dynamics of the race make it much harder for me to be competitive. As much as I have improved my swimming, I am not in the same universe as the guys who compete in these events. The fastest guys will beat me by 2-3 minutes over a 1500m swim. For me to finish well, there has to be (1) a bunch of guys who are as slow as I am in the swim, (2) these slow guys and myself have to be strong cyclists, (3) we have to work hard, and work together on the bike to catch the lead group, and (4) if I'm not completely dead by then, I need to have enough left to run a very fast 10k (I should also say that the best ITU racers are amazing runners, sub 30 min 10ks are not uncommon).
So why am I doing a draft legal race? Because you never know. It's possible that in the right race, that crazy combination of things could happen. Or, who knows, I could have a ridiculous swim, or everyone's tire could flat except mine, etc. I guess its the same reason I've decided to take this year off from a "real job" and compete, because you won't know until you try.
All in all, I'm actually pretty excited about racing tomorrow. Don't get me wrong, I fully expect to get dropped on the swim, blast myself on the bike and then struggle to finish the run, but I'm excited for the challenge and the venture into the unknown. If you're awake at 10:45 London time and have access to British television, it'll be live on channel 4.