Last Thursday night under the bright lights of Vegas Bec and I placed 5th and 6th at the Super Sprint Grand Prix Triathlon. This is a new (to the US) format of triathlon racing. It has been popular in Australia and Europe for awhile and the Aussie race organizer, Mark Lees, has been working hard to bring it to the US. He set it up in conjunction with the Interbike trade show which was going on in Vegas last week. Unfortunately, the venue had to be moved across town - fine by me - better pictures with the Wynn and Encore in the background!
You might be wondering how it's possible to have a triathlon in the middle of the as Las Vegas strip. This is where this format of racing gets interesting. The entire race was contained in a large parking lot. A 25 meter, 10 lane inflatable pool was constructed in the middle, with the bike and run courses marked off by a series of zig zagging metal fences. A steep ramp and diving platform were built so we could get in and out of the pool.
Thursday morning the races started with two heats of a 300m pool swim, 7 laps of the bike (5 miles) and 3 laps of the run (1.5 miles). The top 5 in each heat advanced to the final 12 hours later, to do that same thing, but twice, back to back. Yep, running and then diving right back into the pool to do it again.
Bec and I were assigned different heats for the prelim. She got to go first and she and Gwen Jorgensen pretty much cruised through it. My heat was a bit more competitive and I really had to try hard to get 5th. I went into the race with a sore foot - and was hoping just to do the race for experience - but when I saw that I had the chance to get to the final, I couldn't hold back. Despite having some very bad transitions (tiny mistakes balloon when there is a bike pack leaving you), I managed to claw my way back to 5th. With both of us through to the final, we went and rested for a bit and then over to the other side of town to visit Interbike. We got to see some of our sponsors and check out some new products (will do another post on that), and then it was back to the hotel to get ready for round 2.
The lights were on, there were 3 good food trucks, and free beer garten that was filled with a ton of triathlon media and fans. I don't think we've ever had a better crowd. The girls were the first to go and as we were getting ready Greg Welch (Welchie, who was announcing) came over to me and Bec and gave us a little how-to for getting on the bike fast. He didn't want to see me repeat what I did in the morning. Little did he know that I couldn't get on my bike because I could barely stand on one leg due to my foot! Moments before the race I was so worried I almost didn't start - I had to repeat to myself "Laurel, you can do this." I tried to put it out of my mind and went to my lane to start. Unfortunately, I was the last seed and got the lane farthest away from the bikes (not good for my foot). We got announced to the pool and dove in for a 300m swim. It was like a swim meet - a really fast swim meet. At least 7 of the 10 girls in the race were Division I NCAA full scholarship swimmers. The cool thing about this format is that all three sports of triathlon matter. You can't get away with slow swimming. I didn't feel that great swimming and struggled with the transitions and especially the runs, but tried to make up for it by biking as hard as I could. I easily made up the deficit from the transitions and was able to ride well. Funny because before the race, even more that my foot, I was worried about racing in a draft legal race! It was only my second time doing it and I had not practiced anything technical on my road bike since last year. Turns out it was what saved me. My Cervelo S5 and the Lightweight carbon clinchers were a lightening fast combination. From what I could tell, I was putting significant time into the other riders - even people who have done a lot of this kind of racing. We didn't have chips, so I don't know for sure but my fear of being dropped and riding solo was the opposite of what happened! By the time I got to the final run, I just told myself to get through it. Bec zoomed away and I tried to build the three laps. When I saw that the people behind were gaining on me I kicked it into another gear somehow. I was fully expecting to be caught and get 10th, but something wouldn't let me give up. I ended up 6th and 5th American (extra bonus $ because it was the Sprint National Championships). Normally, I'd be trying to figure out why I didn't come closer to winning, but with this race I am very happy I finished and worked with what I had. Despite my foot, I had so much fun racing. Seeing all the people cheering us on every lap and hearing Welchie and Jenny call the race as we were going was thrilling. I'm really excited to try this format when I can actually run!
Thank you to all the fans who came out to watch us. Hope we put on a good show! Congratulations to Gwen, Sara M, and Lindsey for 1-2-3. In the final race, 4 of 10 were NYAC athletes and 2 of 10 were Wassners! Thank you to our sponsors (Nike, Cervelo, Zico, NYAC, First Endurance, Rudy Project, and ISM) for helping us get to a big stage to race together again. And thank you to our mom and dad for dragging us all over the place for swim meets and track meets - wasn't it worth it??
If you want more details on how the race played out- you can watch it all on Universal Sports on October 7.
Now time to rest my foot.