On Saturday, May 12th I raced in the inaugural ITU San Diego Triathlon. ITU stands for International Triathlon Union. San Diego was the 2nd stop in the 8 race series for the world’s best professional triathletes. It was a HUGE race for the American professionals as it was their final chance to qualify for the London Olympics. It was also an Olympic qualifier for many other countries, as well.
I personally had a very solid race and enjoyed one of my biggest thrills in 26 years of racing triathlons. To give you the background on how my day unfolded you need to know that on May 11th Scott Molina was inducted into the Triathlon Hall of Fame. Scott is an American who now lives in New Zealand. Scott was one of the “Big Four” in the triathlon’s early days. In other words, Scott was one of 4 guys who seemed to win all the races back in the 80’s. The other members of the “Big Four” include Mark Allen, Dave Scott and Scott Tinley. All 4 are now members of the Triathlon Hall of Fame. And Scott is in my age group.
The 1.5k (0.93 miles) swim was in Mission Bay with a beach start. I felt like I had a really good swim, but was disappointed both with my time (25:29) and my ranking (9th). I knew I was never going to win this race, but I was surprised to already be down nearly 4 minutes to my friends Kyle Welch (Sunnyvale) and Dean Avery (San Diego).
The 40k (24.8 miles) bike course was going to be a big challenge. We climbed and descended Mount Soledad twice (600 vertical feet each time) which was really cool. My only complaint was that the course was a bit bumpy, but nothing worse than I’ve raced on before. Thankfully the descent was on a smooth, wide road. This was my 1st triathlon on my new Focus triathlon bike and the bike did great. I need to thank Dano and Joel at Revolution Bike Shop for all their help in getting me on this great new ride. I had the 14th best bike split in 1:17:43 which moved me up to 7th place.
The 10k (6.2 miles) run course was 2 flat laps mostly on the Pacific Beach concrete boardwalk. A really nice guy from Bermuda named Kent got off the bike about 90 seconds ahead of me. I recognized him from some world championship events we have done. I caught Kent early on the run and kept pressing on. Laurie was spectating at a spot 250 meters from the finish line. She is always good at urging me on. She hollered “you can still catch Molina!” I thought I was at my limit. But that carrot was all I needed to find another gear. There were lots of curves on the run so only after she yelled did I actually see Scott. I could not believe it. I caught and passed the Hall of Famer with 50 meters to go and beat him by 3 seconds! That pass absolutely does not happen without Laurie. We are such a good team! I had the fastest run split – 35:42. I finished with a time of 2:22:30, good for 4th place out of 64 men in the 50-54 age group and 68th out of 1,097 overall finishers. That’s right, this was my first race in the new age group. It’s good to be the young guy again!
Kyle won with a rocking time of 2:14:37. Dean was 2nd, 2:18 back, then came Paul Brinkman from Flagstaff to round out the podium 2:22 behind Dean. Both Kyle and Paul have previously medaled at the World Championships so the podium was an impressive group of guys.
To view my race photos including video of me passing Scott Molina at the finish line, click on this link:
The women’s professional race went well for American, Laura Bennett. Laura captured the final slot as she qualified for her 2nd Olympic team. She placed 4th at Beijing in 2008. Laura joins Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah Groff who had previously qualified.
The men’s professional race was incredibly dramatic. To qualify for the Olympic team the American men had to finish in the top 9 in San Diego. If the best American had finished 10th, we would have gotten no slots. But Hunter Kemper finished 5th and Manny Huerta hung on for 9th. London will be Hunter’s 4th Olympic Games – amazing! Manny immigrated to the USA from Cuba at the age of 13. Manny wanted this so bad! It was a great finish line moment that brought tears to a lot of people’s eyes. Anything can happen in London.