I did the Celebration Sprint triathlon last year and got third behind Anthony Van Lierop and Scott Coon. Although I am more of an endurance guy, I really enjoy doing the shorter distance races and the prize money helps as well. I came back this year to improve on my third place overall finish last year and possibly go for the $800 top prize. Most of my training up to now has been in preparation for my Ironman in May and Kona in October, which heavily favored longer endurance sessions over speed work. My coach, Mike Matney, introduced a bunch of speed into my training for the month leading up to this race and it paid off big time. Here is how it unfolded:
Woke up at 4:00am, had a piece of toast with peanut butter, a granola bar, and a cup of coffee to go. I arrived at Centennial park around 5:30 and headed to transition pump up my tires and get things set up in transition. I headed over to the MMTC tent soon after, stretched, ran a bit, and waited for my 7:40 swim wave.
Since I was in the 5th swim wave and Anthony Van Lierop was in the first wave, I was immediately put at a disadvantage. He was a college swimmer and being in the first wave, he had a clear course on the swim, bike, and run. I, on the other hand had four waves ahead of me to weave through. Anyhow, despite swimming well, I was a minute behind him after the swim.
(Swim time: 15:16)
I rushed through transition and decided to go sockless to save a precious few seconds. It took me a couple of miles on the bike to get into the rhythm, but I finally warmed up and pushed hard to make up that lost time to Anthony. The Celebration course was definitely hillier than I remember from last year. I found it really hard to gauge my effort on the bike since you are constantly on the cusp of going out too hard. On one hand you want to save energy for the run, but on the other hand you don’t want to leave anything out on the bike. I took in ½ bottle of inifinit and a gel on the bike. My legs were pretty burnt out by the time I made it back onto 108, but I knew had enough in the tank to get through the 3.1 mile run. As I entered transition, my girlfriend told me that Anthony had finished in 1:20 (breaking the course record) and that they had already essentially announced him as the winner over the PA system. They even had a finisher’s ribbon for the “first” male and female finishers. I found this tactless for the race crew, as there were still 90% of the competitors, including myself, left to finish. Anyhow, I knew I had to put in a fantastic run to come close to his time of 1:20.
(Bike time: 43:24 – 24.2 mph)
I left the transition like a bat out of hell. I really had no idea how I was doing compared to Anthony, but I knew that it could come down to seconds. My heart-rate was through the roof for the entire run and Gatorade Hill didn’t help. I took a swig of water at the last aid station and prepared myself for the last mile towards the finish line. This was definitely the hardest moment of the race, but I kept telling myself that I only had a few minutes of all-out running left before it was all over. I also couldn’t help thinking about the money that was at stake. I made the final twist into the finishing chute and heard the announcer say, “Ben Winterroth – 1:21.” I missed Anthony’s time by one minute.
(Run time: 20:03 – 5:54min/mile)
I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t grabbed the top prize, but all in all it was a fantastic day. I had improved 8 minutes over my time from last year and there’s no denying that Mike at Fitness Concepts was a part of that. I am extremely happy with where I am in terms of both endurance and speed , which should be a useful combination going into Ironman Rhode Island 70.3 in a couple of weeks.
Finally, I want to thank the MMTC tent volunteers and coordinators for their awesome work. Their hard work definitely makes the day that much more enjoyable for us racers.