CRAZY. ASS. FANS.
That’s what you are. This one is for you. Thank you so much for all of the encouragement and support over the last year. I am remarkably stoked to write something with a happy ending for the first time in a long time. I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit of a cryer, so if $h!t gets weird, it’s tears in my keyboard.
I wanted to put all of your tweets, messages, comments, quotes, encouragement, stories, drawings and put them into a gigantic collage and say, “This is what I thought about.” Because honestly, it is. They kept me going through the ups and downs of the last year. But, my artistic skills suck, powerpoint isn’t good at collages, and a computer screen is too small to fit all the awesome stuff you said. Plus, I know the craziest ass of you want to hear how the race went, so here it goes.
Swim – Jackie Chan
The start of the swim was your normal washing-machine-on-high-speed-affair. Even though it’d been a year, I felt surprisingly calm and mentally/physically ready for it. But clearly, I wasn’t. Two minutes into I felt like I was on the wrong end of a Jackie Chan movie, getting my ass handed to me. It was very physical, and I kind of freaked out. I had my first ever mini panic attack. I had trouble breathing, I slowed down, and got dropped. I swam the last half of the swim completely solo, just trying to stay calm. Pissed and tired, I worried my race was over, coming out of the water 2+ minutes behind Callum Milward and Andrew Starykowicz and 30 seconds behind Leon Griffin, the guys I was keying off of.
Run 1 – IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!
That’s what my body said to me as I ran the hardest I’ve run in a year for two very hilly miles. I could see Leon in front of me and instinctively tried to close the gap. It hurt really bad, everywhere. But on the bright side, it kept me from thinking solely about my foot. I closed within 10 seconds of Leon and jumped on my Shiv. Here we go.
Bike – So Very Tired
I could see Andrew just 10 seconds up when I started the bike and had a decision to make, do I try to ride with the fastest cyclist in the triathlon history? I made the decision about 37 seconds later when, pedaling as hard as I could, he pulled away from me, even with a dropped seat post. For the next 15 miles I honestly struggled to stay with Leon and Callum as we watched Andrew eventually pedal out of sight. My legs were wrecked, from just a two mile run. That wasn’t good. I was happy that I was already in the top 5, but given how I felt, still doubtful I could make it through the race.
The Racer’s Mindset
Around mile 30, my legs started to feel a bit better. We took the middle section relatively easy and I got in a lot of water, OSMO, and a Picky Bar. Thinking back, it was during this few miles that, somewhat unconsciously, my racer’s mentality kicked in. Given the leadup and uncertainty going into this race, I could have been content to be conservative, stay put, and go for a podium. For a few moments though, all thoughts of the past faded away, and my mind instinctively started thinking about how to win. And I realized that if I wanted to win, I had to make a move, and I had to do it now. So I went.
I rode the last 20 miles without looking back. From what I can tell on Strava, I rode this section almost 2 minutes faster than I have in previous years. It was risky, it hurt, and there was a lot of doubt, but I just did it. I had Justin Timberlake in my head so it was all good. I came into T2 about 2.5 minutes behind Andrew with an unknown gap to Callum and Leon.
Run – A Promise to Lauren
When I decided to race, a decision I made finally on the Sunday before, I promised Lauren that if my foot hurt on the run, I would pull out. She made me repeat that promise again as the last thing I said to her before I left that morning. So when I came into T2, I took a deep breath, put on my trainers, not my racers, and told myself I was headed out for a long run. I disassociated myself from the race. I had to be completely conscious of what my body was going through. I couldn’t let the race push me through another setback. I promised.
And, not surprisingly, I felt pretty terrible. Almost every step. My body clearly wasn’t prepared for this effort and continually told me so. I started cramping about 10 minutes in, my hamstring, then my quad. When I did, I slowed way down and hobbled through it, worried that if I stopped I might not be able to start. I walked through aid stations and the steepest parts of the hills. It was ugly. But my foot held steady, and that’s all that mattered. That’s all I would let myself think about. Long Run.
Actually, I Do Want to Win
I passed Andrew about mile 6, and moved into the lead. And within the next few minutes the emotional wall started to crumble. I was so happy to be racing so well considering the doubt I had going into the race, but I was also so fearful of losing it all. What I let myself realize for the first time was that I really, really wanted to win. I think I knew it deep down all along, but I didn’t let myself think about it as a possibility, because it would to be too difficult to have and then to lose. It did matter to me to be the first “4peat” winner, but more importantly, it mattered to me to prove to myself that I was back, that my career wasn’t over, and that after a year of setbacks, disappointments, and doubt, I could once again return to the sport I love.
So instead of being excited, I got scared. I was only 4 miles away from this amazing possibility, but every couple of minutes I’d cramp and come close to walking. I still worried about my foot. I had no idea how close Leon or Callum were. It was 100% fear.
Thoughts of Encouragement
But like I said above, I got through it a step at a time by combating each negative thought with words of encouragement from you guys, my coach, my sponsors, and my friends. And as I got closer, and the chance of winning grew, I thought mostly about Jude and Lauren. I thought about how much my life had changed since the last time I raced and how badly I wanted to win this race for them, to show something for the support and happiness they’d brought me over the tough last year. That’s what got me through, all the way up the last hill, and down the hill that broke my foot a year before.
As I rounded the corner into the finish chute, I saw Lauren and Jude and started crying. It was so bizarre. Lauren told me a few weeks ago – when it was still an outside chance I’d be able to race – that she had a dream that I crossed the Wildflower finish line crying. She said she didn’t know what place I was in, or how I did, but that I was just so happy to finish. And really, that’s how I felt. So happy to finish. And while I’m sure I still have many ups and downs to come, I felt the emotional weight of the last 12 months of struggle lift from my shoulders. About 20 meters before the finish, I literally felt lighter, and finally let myself celebrate. I crossed the line ecstatic, to “Hey Jude” playing in the background. One of the coolest moments of my life.
Like I said from the outset, this win was for you guys that supported me as much as it was for myself. There’s a lot of doubt that comes with pushing your limits and enduring setbacks. And there’s no way I could have gotten through it without your support. Specifically, I’d like to thank my wife Lauren and son Jude, my mom, dad, Janna, Jeff, Joel, Liz, Waylon, Darren, Courtney, James, Elia and of course, Matt Lieto, for helping me through the last year. You guys made it possible. And like I said many times before, you Crazy Ass Fans. If you’re still reading, you clearly qualify. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement.
I’d like to also say that EVERY SINGLE ONE of my sponsors below supported me 100% during the last year. When I first told them I would be out for 4-5 months, they were bummed for me, but none of them blinked. They were behind me. But what’s more amazing is that even in the face of continued setbacks and another 5-6 months without racing, they stood by my side. I can’t tell you how much of a difference that made. It allowed me to come back on my own terms, in an intelligent way that didn’t compromise my long term health and goals. That is NOT common in our industry and I want to sincerely thank them for doing that. I represent myself, so I have deeply personal relationships with each of the people and companies below. Please know that they are across the board the best in the business and much more than just a product and a logo. I can’t thank them enough.
- Geoff, Don, Kody, Kelly, Mike, Phil, Tony and others at Pearl Izumi. Holy cow I love that new kit. My favorite ever, comfortable and clearly fast. And a fastest run split in a stability shoe (M3), awesome! The continual shoe help of getting my feet dialed and healthy has been invaluable.
- Gavin, Eric, Mark, Chris Y., Adam, Chris R., and Bobby at Specialized. The Shiv and my position was dialed. Thank you guys so much for the multiple Win Tunnel sessions to make that possible.
- Rob, Kurt, and Tbone at ROKA. Dudes, you’re the best. Can’t state more than that. Thanks for being awesome partners and better friends. The Maverick was tops as usual. Here’s to big things going forward.
- Ashley, Steve, Per, Nils, and Brittany at Red Bull. Thanks so much guys. The Red Bull on the run kept the cramping at bay and my energy up. Really appreciate you guys believing I’m capable of big things.
- Patrick, Anna, Betsy, Mike, Mel and Justin at Picky Bars. It meant so much to have you guys there cheering me on, and the naked dudes at Mile 8 with the Picky Bars hats on kept me going at the darkest point in the race.
- Justin, John, Julie and the team at Accenture. So sorry I couldn’t race Oceanside and thank you so much for being so amazing about it and inviting me anyway. You made this day possible by letting me be smart and safe. Really excited to race at our next event!
- Jay, Jen & the team at Rebound. Jay guided me skillfully to enable this run off of two weeks of training – not to mention the last year of support during all the ups and downs. You guys are awesome and a huge part of what makes this possible.
- Jason and Adriann at Jaybird. Thanks so much for the support and the belief when you could have easily decided it was done. You guys are a small awesome company that’s becoming big and awesome. So excited to be part of it.
- Brian, Brooke, Joel and Pete at Rolf Prima – Again, thanks so much for continuing a partnership in the midst of a major injury. You didn’t have to and you did. That meant a lot. Love being with you guys, my first ever sponsor. The wheels were dialed as usual!
- John at Maximum Mobility – Thanks so much for your MANY HOURS of work on my many injuries over the year. The strength and flexibility I’ve gained is invaluable.
- Tim and Mary at PowerTap – Thanks a ton for the products that keep me tracking my progress and allowed me to ride safely when my foot wasn’t ready to go outside.
- Larissa, Alyssa, and the team at Strava. So excited to work with you guys this year, and thank you as well for the patience on my racing. Appreciate the support!
- Also, I’d like to thank Terry, Dixie, Kendra, Anne, Betsy and the whole team at Tri-California, which owns and operates this race. It is one of the most iconic, and important races in triathlon history. It’s still family owned and operated and these guys feel like my family now. Regardless of what happens in my career from here on out, Wildflower will always be a big part of my connection to triathlon, and I love that. Thanks so much you guys.
- Lastly, of course, I’d like to thank my coach Matt Dixon and his wife Kelli for the incredible support over the last year, never wavering from the long term plan and vision, and being smart and judicious about each step of the way with limited information. Here’s to the start of a good year!
I’ll be honest, I’m excited to be done talking about Wildflower for a while. It’s been awesome, but it’s time to move on to the next thing. But if you’re just catching up or if you’d like some more stuff to check out, please see the following:
- My Preview about the race – talks about the last year, my limited training going into it, etc.
- Lauren’s Blog after the race – her perspective, and best thing you can read on the whole experience. Amazingly written, intelligent, and emotional.
- Competitor Radio Interview (Podcast) – In depth interview about the last year, the race, etc.
- The quick post race video interview below sums it all up pretty nicely as well.
That’s if folks! Enjoy your weekend!