Although Clermont officially opened up the season for me, the KC Tri is really the “season opener” in my mind as it begins the rollout of the month to month of races remaining in the season.

morning-fog

Each year, I get ready to give it a go, estimating my finish time based on training times and thinking where I should place depending on who shows up.

Each year, this race, for whatever reason, hurts. This year was no exception.

Narrowly avoiding the coldest race to date (which was KC Tri 2014) the temperature rose fairly quickly after sunrise and the clouds cleared long enough to get things moving on the thermometer. Warm-up session¬†in, standing in my wetsuit beginning to absorb the sun’s rays with some welcome warmth; the under 34 crowd surrounded me as we toed the water waiting for the gun.

Without much hesitation we were off once again into Longview Lake on a double looped course. Unfortunately I wasn’t warm enough in the arms to really get out hard and get on some quick feet so I lost a few of the fast guys out of the gate. Which also led me to getting passed momentarily by a few guys one of whom kicked me in the face before I passed him only 10-15 seconds later. It never ceases to amaze me the lack of pacing ability in the swim start, but that’s triathlon.

Swimming blinded straight into the sun I could only hope our gaggle of flailing arms were headed towards the buoys. The first orange buoy was somewhat easy to spot, the yellow turn buoy was a shade different than the rays pouring off the sun at best. Once around the turn, I found some similarly paced feet and sat in. No repeat of Clermont for this swim, we’re staying on those feet this time.

 

Out of the water, under the arch and onto lap two.

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This time we headed into traffic as we swam through the other waves that had started after us. Despite the 750m double looped course being convenient for not strong swimmers (a short breather on dry land before heading back out), it really makes for a headache going through traffic (and I imagine a headache for those getting swarmed by faster swimmers coming from previous waves).

I’d lose my feet then find them again. Sun blinding me as I wrestled with blue caps, green caps, searching for that one damn red cap I needed to keep on. Around the yellow turn buoy again and finally; there he is. Stuck back on those feet I’d be with him the whole way in. Arms moving well, effort really pretty reasonable.

Headed into t1 my foot speed got the better of him and he didn’t begin taking off his wetsuit until he reached his rack. One down, how many IMG_5350more to go?

My original plan had been to put on arm warmers in t1 – lose the 15-20 seconds doing so – and stay plenty warm on the bike. I found my rack, put on my glasses then attempted to put on my first arm warmer. Drat, the water was making it next to impossible for it to slide on. “Screw it.” I tossed them aside and slapped on my helmet, “It’s warm enough.” I thought.

Running out of t1 I found another competitor who had exited the water before me, but wasn’t moving quick enough. Navigated around him past the mount line and off I went.

 

It was definitely a bit cold getting going. Wet uniform, mid to low 50’s, but luckily very little wind. Much of the bike is a blur to me now. Pedals turning, trying to keep moving without blowing up. A lot of things mashed together. I watched slowly as Kevin (Denny) was putting time into me (which was no surprise). Part of my main point for the day was to see how much if any I’d closed the gap on him in the last two years. We’ve both improved on the bike, but him much more so.

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I made a decision not to take any gels in on the bike again this year. I seemed to be having some digestion issues with breakfast and didn’t want to risk throwing up on the run. I knew I was getting some calories in with the HEED in my bottle and left it at that.

FinaIMG_5420lly rounding out my time on the bike, slower than I had wanted it was about time to get to what I do best, the run.

Rack the bike, helmet off, shoes on, go. The familiar chant subconsciously ringing through my mind.

 

Rounding the arch and making the sharp left onto the run course, I see Coach Ryan stationed and cheering me on. Time to get moving, start out a little slow then let the legs loose as we go along.

Boy, did the legs hurt. My back hurt, my legs hurt, it was now a game of pain management. Not just a matter of normal pain management in a running race, but a whole body hurt where you have to try and keep as smooth as possible, as swift as possible, without blowing up or cracking under the pressure.

At these times I try not to get negative. I’ve thought in the past at these moments “Why the hell am I doing IMG_5432this?” This year it was finally a little more neutral “Don’t worry about where you finish, put in the work and the results will be what they’ll be.” Despite this run hurting more than previous years it seemed to be a sustainable pain. Yes, it hurt a lot, no, I wasn’t anywhere near going to stop. I just don’t have it in me to quit.

Coming around the first lap Coach Ryan holds his hand out for a “mid five.” He got a little heavy on the touch there which pulled me off balance momentarily, but nothing too much to worry about.

Somehow finding the asphalt again after being on the slippery gravel trail lets me pick up the pace. Feeling smooth again the legs don’t seem to hurt as much any more and its time to start increasing the pace. Each mile, 3, 4, 5 I put down a little more speed and ramp the breathing up one more notch. “Stay calm.” I have to remind myself. I’m a bit dehydrated at this point and could start gagging with my terrible sinuses draining down my throat as thick as GU (lovely image, right?).

Last straightaway to go, I’m passing sprint distance athletes and headed for the finish. No kick is in me this year, the legs are pretty worn today.

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“Jesse Funk coming across the line, he’s one of our Olympic distance finishers, looks like Top 5.”

“Bollocks.” I thought. Not where I wanted to be at all.

2:06:12. A new course PR and a new lifetime PR. Sure didn’t feel that way.

Every course is different, some suiting certain athletes, others favoring different people. KC Tri never seems to really suit me, it always poses a challenge and it is almost always my most painful performance of the year. Maybe that’s part of why I keep coming back, to see if I can finally beat this thing into submission.

I try to make sense of the time since I thought I should have been faster. There’s not much to say about it, my only consolation being the last time I went 2:06 was 2013 Nationals. What did I do at the KC Tri that year? 2:18. I’ve definitely improved, but still have a long way to go.

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5th overall, 3rd in the age group, 2nd in the age group on the podium with Kevin Denny removed as the overall winner.

 

Although it pains me to do it, a power meter is on its way to me. Luckily the first business is doing well enough now that I can get one, it’s still hard to part with the capital to invest in it.

Time to start acting like the “big boys” that are destroying me on the bike leg (I had the slowest bike leg of the top 10, being 0.6mph ¬†slower than the next closest competitor and 2.6 mph slower than Kevin – the eventual winner of the day).

4 weeks to go. Eagleman 70.3, here we come.

 

 

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