In October of this year, Patxi and I chased away a demon from 2008 but not in the way you may think. That year, we entered the Big Kahuna Triathlon as a relay team with Joel Rinsky. We went into the event knowing we were a strong team and thought there might be a chance we could place as a relay team. We're all competitive but didn't have this as our expectation. Joel took us out with a powerful swim, Patxi killed it on the bike and I had a relatively good day on the run. But each of us thought we could do better and we didn't think we had a chance of placing...until we saw the results. We had finished second and podiumed that day. We were excited but also crushed because we had lost by a mere two minutes! Ugh!
We all felt we could each have made up that two minute margin had we known how close the winner team was to us. But none of us knew who that team was. We vowed that 2009 would be our chance to take the crown.
A lot can change in 12 months and along the way, Joel had to drop out and Patxi found a replacement swimmer, who then, the week before the event, had to drop due to a stomach illness. Patxi recruited another stud swimmer friend, Matt, and we were again on our quest for gold.
Then the morning came. Patxi quickly found the other relay teams and this time we knew who our competition was. The team that had beaten us was just 10 feet away prepping for the race. The other relay teams had clearly identifiable numbers so we would be able to track them and ensure they stayed behind us.
It was foggy as Matt and Patxi prepped the transition area and the fog stayed in place as the expected start time came...and went. After an hour after the expected start time had passed, the race organizers were forced to cancel the swim. It was just too dangerous to stage the swim in that thick fog. It was heartbreaking for all but the right call.
So our triathlon started with Matt running from the beachhead to the transition area - as if he had just finished the swim, and passing the baton to Patxi who rode off. He set a blistering pace with very few cyclists able to match him. What a stud on the bike. He averaged over 24 mph the whole way.
As I waited for Patxi to return I kept my eye on the runner for the relay team that had beaten us in 2008. As Patxi came in with the second fastest relay time and passed the baton to me our competition was still waiting for his cyclist.
I quickly ran up the starting ramp and was off. Started out a bit too fast but was able to settle into a comfortable pace by mile 2. I was looking for relay participants and checked to make I wasn't being caught from behind by the younger and much taller runner from the competition.
The half marathon run is an out and back course and as I approached the turnaround point, manned by a 6 foot wooden tiki doll, I saw two relay runners coming back towards me. We were behind. And yikes, their runners were flying.
As I looped around the Tiki and began the return run I kept an eye ahead to the two relay participants I now had to chase down and another on approaching runners to see how much margin I had on last year's winner.
The two relay runners ahead of me kept up their blistering pace and seemed to distance themselves from me as we returned to the shoreline. Last year's winner finally went by heading to the turnaround point about a mile behind me. Yes!
When I finally crossed the finish line, Patxi and I high fived for a great effort but both knew our goal of first place had eluded us. We took solace in the fact that we had blown away the team that beat us the prior year, though, and left Santa Cruz satisfied with our day - and who wouldn't be having just finished a tremendous athletic effort in a gorgeous place on a nearly perfect day (other than that morning fog thing, that is).
When we got home and saw the posted final results we got a positive surprise however. The two relay runners who kept me at bay were not both in the men's event. One was part of a co-ed team and we had once again finished in second place. And to make this surprise even easier to take, we hadn't lost by a mere two minutes but were totally crushed by an incredible team who beat us by 4 minutes on the bike (anyone who can beat Patxi on the bike by that margin deserves to win) and me on the run by...gulp...15 minutes. My hat goes off to Richard Pego. He finished the 13.1 in 1:23 at a blistering 6:21/mile pace. Yow.
While we were sort of disappointed we didn't win the event we couldn't be happier with our performance especially since we vanquished our opponent from 2008 and clearly watched the mantle pass to a superior team.
Thanks to Reesa, Maha, Marga, Marie and the Uriz clan for coming out to support us on this day. You all made it so special for us.