Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Pittsburgh Race Report"

Today's race was another positive step toward the 70.3 Championships in Las Vegas.  The International (Olympic) distance (1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, and 10 km run) has evolved for me over the past four years.  Four years ago, when I first started triathlon, the International distance was my "Super Bowl."  It was a challenge to finish.  After a couple years of training for the 70.3 distance (half-ironman), the goal now is to go as fast and as hard as possible.

Race Morning

My swim time today was consistently average.  I came out of the water in a little over 26 minutes and made it to T1 by 27:35 ranking 50th overall.  Obviously, I have some more work to do on my swim, but isn't that the fun of doing something, the chance to improve.

Running to T1

After dealing with some foggy glasses and a crowded bike rack in T1, I was on the bike and ready to "crush it."  Coming out of the water, Laura informed me I was in 7th place in my age group, and at the top of the hill turnaround (about 10 miles into the bike), I counted 14 riders total in front of me.  I put the gas pedal to the floor going back down to Heinz Field registering 40 mph a few times, and then tried to beat my first lap split on the second lap.  When I saw my sister, Jess, and her fiance, Adam, just before the final turn to the bike dismount, I put in a few last hard revolutions and dismounted with a top ranked bike split of 58:39.  Yes!  I was shooting for the fastest bike split.

Bike dismount

Coming out of T2, I felt my swim and bike had put me in a competitive place going into the run.  I started with a faster pace than usual knowing I only had to go about 6 miles instead of the half-iron 13.1.  As I passed the sprint triathlon turnaround, the volunteer informed me I was in 5th place about five minutes back.  I knew my friend and Pittsburgh Triathlon Club President, Chad Holderbaum, was in first place, and it would be impossible to close a five minute gap.  However, I didn't know how far ahead the 4th place runner was so I kept my quick pace.  At the run turnaround, I saw that the 4th place runner had me by about 400-500 meters.  I also noticed that I only had about 200 m on the 6th place runner.  NO WAY WAS I GOING TO FINISH 6th.  Nobody says, "Top 6."  It's always "Top 5."  I kept my pace hoping to see the guy in front of me and believing I was holding off the guy behind me.  As I approached the final water station, about a mile from the finish, I couldn't see 4th place so I glanced behind me to see where 6th place was.  HE'S RIGHT BEHIND ME!!!  In fact, Bret Miller (I met and talked to he and his dad, also a race participant, after the race) said to me when he caught my glance, "YES, IT'S ME AND I'M COMING FOR YOU!"  I replied, "YEP, HERE WE GO!"

Running scared from Brett

Sometimes when I train, I wonder how much I would have left, if a race came down to a sprint (or at least as much as one can possibly sprint after six or thirteen or however many miles).  Would my football background, where speed is everything, help me?  Would my legs be able to move fast enough?  Would my lungs hold up?  Would I be willing to hurt enough to finish ahead of my rival?  Well, this was that moment.  Bret looked to be a slender 6'3 and obviously had intentions of finishing top five himself.  I immediately quickened my pace to try and put distance between me and Bret.  It didn't.  He was no more than 15 meters behind me.  I could here him breathing.  I pushed harder.  His breathing became labored, and I knew I had to go harder.  The harder I went, the more he would hurt and eventually realize it wasn't going to happen for him.  I couldn't allow him the thoughts of catching me.  With about 200 m to the finish and without slowing, I glanced behind me.  TOP FIVE!  Of course, it ends up that Bret was a nice guy, who had grown up in Pittsburgh and now lives in the San Francisco area.  While triathletes compete against each other, we share the suffering that bonds us.  So my final overall time of 2:08:07 was good enough for an overall finish of 5th place and an age group finish of 1st.  Yes, a podium finish and as I said, another positive step toward the 70.3 Championship in Las Vegas.

Podium finish

Congratulations to all that raced today.  There were many other fantastic performances by Chad (1st place overall), Jill Schapiro (PTC V.P. & 3rd place in her age group for the sprint triathlon) and my friends Christy and Matt Crummy.  Christy finished 1st in her age group and Matt PR'd.

Thanks to all my family that came to the race to support me, especially Laura and Luke.


  1. Whoa - didn't realize how close you had it there at the end!!!! I would never bet against you in a final sprint though - not because of any skill or strength you physically have, but moreso your mental fortitude!!!

    Anyway, we looked up the results from last year and you CRUSHED your time!!! So exciting to see all your hard work pay off. And that swim will come...oh it will come... ;) Congrats again Ben!!

  2. Great job Ben. Not many people can pick the pace back up like you did after smashing the bike like that. Was fun to get to actually "race" the last mile like that. Good luck in Vegas!

  3. Ben--I enjoyed the photos and the first person reporting of the race that you include. One month to go until LV! Good Luck! Dad