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April 2, 2007
Ironman California 70.3 Race Report...

Sitting back now in Scottsdale, Arizona, I'm bringing good news to those who love to see me do well! The Ford Ironman California 70.3 race was held this past Saturday just North of San Diego. Quite a few Tri-Scottsdale featured athletes competed and it seems like just about everyone had a breakthrough performance. Congratulations to all you guys on your respective races over in California. Of course it sounds cliche, but I get a lot of my focus and inspiration from seeing all of you work day in, day out.

Here's my report on the race over the weekend. As always, it's important that I include a little disclaimer about this being my perception of what went down and may or may not coincide with my competitors perceptions...

On the Thursday before the race we did a normal bike-brick-swim workout and then hopped in Marc's SUV and headed over to Oceanside. This went well, and we were greeted with a beautiful hotel on the beach and super weather. After dinner, we headed to bed. The next day Patrick Quigley, Eric V, Shawn O, myself, and Marc went out for a 90 minute easy ride covering the first ten miles of the race course. No surprises here, it was about how I had remembered it. After this, it was a ten minute brick run and then a relaxing afternoon. The pro meeting was at 4:00 PM and those being mandatory, I made my way over to the pier. I saw lots of big names around and tried not to pay too much attention and just listen. After the meeting Shawn and Marc joined me at the Encinitas YMCA for an easy 1000 yard swim.
What an amazing facility! The pool has a retractable roof that opens up when the sun comes out. It gave us the feeling we were at a major league baseball game, only we were swimming, in a pool.

Race morning was nothing out of the ordinary. After a good night of sleep and a little breakfast, I busted out my new ZIPP ZEDTECH race wheels and threw them on my TREK TTX. I haven't raced with "full gear" yet this year and it was fun to roll the two miles to the start knowing, that in this race, my equipment was top-notch. Somehow the time always passes too quickly and I ended up rushing to the start in just enough time to swim the 100 yards out to the deep-water start. The 59 degree water didn't feel warm, I was glad I had remembered to wear two swim caps!

Onto the swim, the pace started blistering fast as usual. This year I decided that since I've been swimming a lot it wasn't a bad idea to get right in the thick of it. I started with about twenty dudes to my right, and maybe twenty dudes to my left. I pushed my way to the front seconds before the cannon went off and sharpened my elbows for what was to be a rough first 400 meters. I guess this is just how it goes and it's unavoidable, but the first five minutes were ROUGH!!! I think me gritting my teeth scared all the fish away because I didn't see any as I battled with all the other pros out to the first turn buoy. Around the buoy safely, I found myself in the back end of the top ten and fairly comfortable in my effort. It was nice that it no longer seemed like everyone was whaling on each other and that we were beginning to swim like a group of somewhat civilized beings. Somewhere out there, well before the far turn buoy, the leader of our big group ( the big group was now over thirty seconds behind the lone swim phenom Andy Potts) decided it was time for us to take a short-cut. Unfortunately we all played follow-the-leader, so it didn't workout and within 50 yards we were all directed back to the race course. Now trailing Potts by an even more sizable margin we made the correct turn and headed back to the swim/start-swim/exit. I slipped back a few places on the return trip but got out on the trailing end of this lead group. I figure we lost about one minute having gone off course more than once so a 25 minute and change half IM swim was good for me. I saw Lovato, Clode, and Cunningham as people I recognized running to my bike knowing I had not lost time to most of the fast guys. About a mile into the ride, Shawn gave me a three minute split to Potts. Not bad, considering this guy is an Uber-Fast swimmer and that we swam a couple circles on top of the regular 1.2 mile swim course.
Settling into a decent rhythm I started passing a few dudes and was enjoying the early part of the ride. Right about then this Danish racer I know, Jens Kofoed, came flying by me. Happily keeping him in sight, Jens and I rode through a few more folks as we headed toward the first turn around about 12 miles in. I love this turnaround because it's really the first reality check in the race. I passed Jens and rolled comfortably up the winding false-flat uphill toward the turnaround. First came Potts the other way, no surprise here. About a minute later came Luke Bell looking good but maybe not as good as last year... Now, who would be next? I paid close attention waiting, a few seconds... All these names were going through my mind.

Where's Cunningham? Rhodes? Will it be David Thompson? Did Lovato beat me out of transition? Will Clode be in third? Where's he? I hope they aren't too far ahead! Right then I come around this tree and there's the turnaround cone. Huh??? It was my turn to turnaround. Potts and Bell are right there and I'm NEXT? Perhaps working on the swimming this winter is beginning to pay off! A group of about six of us formed and we rode what seemed to be too comfortably for the next twenty miles. We caught up to Bell somewhere around mile 30 and could see Potts in the far-off distance.

The new 10-meter draft rule is awesome and Jimmy R. on the motor-bike was really enforcing it. Last year, there was some drafting in these races, no doubt. Now, it's impossible which as a cyclist makes me pretty happy. It seemed like everyone in our little group was looking at everyone else and hats off to super-strong rider David Thompson from Minnesota. David spent over an hour setting pace for all of us and he seemed like the only one who wasn't out there racing for second place, me included. After the hilly section of the course, our group still remained and I sat in 6th place with only Luke Bell just behind me. It was obvious to me with perhaps twenty miles left to ride that some of the guys in our group were getting tired.

Right about then Thompson accelerated pretty powerfully and nobody really followed. He put the hurt on the group and bigger gaps were beginning to open up. Over the top of the next hill I went on the chase and pursued Thompson who was now about 300 meters ahead of our group. As we crested the top of a roller, I noticed that he too looked tired, probably as a result of all the work he had been doing. I rolled powerfully by Thompson into second place and decided that he and I would probably work nicely together over the final ten miles. To my surprise, he didn't follow me. The next time I looked back there was nobody there and so I went about going to work on the gap to Potts. Last split we heard was 3:17, that would probably not disappear before transition but hopefully I could maybe close half of it.
Working hard now, I made my way onto the final long, flat stretch of the course. Somebody from behind in blue was coming up hard and I figured it was Bell. Cool. I would have Bell to work with for the final 15 minutes of the ride. Not long after, the blue jersey flew by me and it was my good friend Jens! Jens yelled something encouraging to me and so the two of us worked hard through town into transition. I thought Jens was letting me lead because I knew the roads well but later he told me it was everything he had just to stay in touch, perhaps he was just being nice.

Onto the run, Potts had somewhere between 1:30 and 2:00 heading out of transition. He ran so fast here last year I was more just thinking about getting on the podium and doing the best run I could. Jens and I have been friends for about a year now so it was fun finding ourselves evenly matched on the run. We talked a bit, just to work things out. He suggested I got the beginning of each feed zone and he got the end. This way, we weren't going for the same cup all the time. It worked quite well. This run is out-back, then out-back again. Sort of like 4x5k's after a tough swim and bike. At the first 5k turnaround nobody behind seemed to be chasing as strongly as I had feared and so I just focused on running my best race.

Jens and I went back and forth exchanging blows and he opened up about 50 meters with three miles to go. With one mile to go it was down to ten meters, if this were the bike I would be drafting now! Unfortunately, it stayed there until the line. Finishing just behind Jens, I placed third at Half IM 70.3 California! A big pay check and a spot to 70.3 Ironman World's in Clearwater in November! Overall, I'm very happy with the result. Andy Potts was the best on the day, and racing head to head with Jens made me proud to finish third to his second. We both rode 2:17 on a tough bike, and went 1:16 on a tougher-than-it-could-be half marathon. A time of 4:03 on this a very hard Half-Ironman course is just fantastic. My form is good, and my body is feeling fit heading into Ironman Arizona. I hope to do very
well, now more than ever.

Thanks for reading! See you at IMAZ,
Lewis

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