Once upon a time there was a triathlete from Grand Junction, Colorado who traveled to a far away land to chase his dream…
It does still seem a little surreal (maybe even like a fairytale) to be typing a race report from the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii where I get to say that I am 2nd. In the universe (as my mom wrote to me in an email after). It’s not at all to say that I didn’t believe in myself or the possibility of a high finish in Kona, but the plan has always been longer-term, and in some sense I am reeling, suffering a good form of whiplash from the accelerated upward trajectory. I came prepared for a top ten in body and mind, and technically I got that, but a podium at worlds? I’m just thrilled.
The story starts way too far back to recall it all, as is the case with any of our lives that lead to a great moment. Instead, I suppose that touching on the energy around my time on the island will suffice for now.
I arrived about ten days before the event, in very good shape from my year of hard work, especially the final touches in Tucson. Mentally, I was in the zone: Relaxed but excited. Confident but not cocky. I had incredible support from my family, girlfriend, sponsors, friends, coach, and massage therapist, and many notes were pouring in from fans wishing me well on the big day. I was still hungry for something special after some hard luck and mishaps, close calls and underperformances. It was time.
So, after bringing my taper to a finely sharpened point in the final days pre-race, I was anxiously awaiting the morning buzz, getting body marked and setting up the rest of my gear. I quietly warmed up in Kailua Bay, calmed my mind, and focused. The cannon sounded, and a career of hard work was being tested for any holes by the strength of the winds in Hawi, the heat and humidity of the lava fields, the best athletes in the world, and my own demons of self-doubt. Fortunately, I had done my homework in my previous trips to the island, trained appropriately, and was ready for the challenge.
A clean start in the water set me up for a comfortable front pack swim, and then I stayed attentive and aggressive on the bike. When the time came to push a little harder, my legs were strong, and I went all in. It was always my game plan to do my own race and not react too much to other athletes, but in the end “my race” was to take this chance. In a World Championship, I feel that it is a privilege to compete, and out of respect for the race, other athletes, and supporters, one must give everything. So back into town we rode, steadily pulling time out on chase groups. Being close to last year’s champion gave me confidence, and I closely monitored my hydration, nutrition, cooling, and mental state. All systems go.
My running has come a long way in the past two years, and I believe I am finally starting to touch on my potential. Confidence in my ability to execute a strong marathon was bolstered by a breakthrough run at Ironman Coeur d’Alene and several of my fastest half-ironman runs throughout the year. Strong and steady was my mantra on the run, feeding off the energy of so many supporters. From 5th to 4th, to 2nd, to 3rd, to 2nd once more, the battle raged on. I stayed in my head, daring myself to forget about the chasers and focus only on what was in front… a world title. In Kona, anything can happen, so I fought and protected what I had worked so hard for all day, year, career. And then it came, the top of Palani, like the reassuring pat on the back from an old friend. I was descending, around the corner on Kuakini, then Hualalai, then the sacred Alii where dreams come true.
On this day, my dream did come true. I clashed with the best warriors in our sport, and proved myself a worthy contender on the hallowed grounds of Kona. Clutching the American flag, feeding off the energy in the finishing chute, I will forever cherish those moments. And, soon it will be back to work, for there is another step yet to take…
There is no way to properly express in words my gratitude to all those who have been part of this effort, and it is a deep fear of mine that I would overlook someone, but I will try my best now. Triathlon is not truly an individual sport, and no athlete accomplishes great things entirely on his or her own. To my parents, girlfriend, coach, massage therapist, training partners, friends, fans, and media, thank you for all the support and love. To my sponsors, thank you for the belief and backing for so long now. Zoot, Specialized, Clif Bar, Infinite Monkey Theorem Winery, Tender Belly, SportPump, Fuelbelt, Zipp, SRAM, Vector 450, and Oakley: You are the best of the best, and enable me to race to my potential at the highest level. To anyone and everyone else, past present, and future, thanks for being part of Hoff Racing!