In case you missed it, I went to Phuket, Thailand for my last race of the season. Why did I go all the way over there to race? Do I miss the long haul flights to obscure destinations from my ITU racing days? Perhaps I misunderstood the location and thought I was going to Laguna Beach, CA for a cast reunion of the MTV reality show? None of the above. In fact Challenge Laguna Phuket is a race I’ve always wanted to do, plus I needed an excuse to get to Asia to visit my brother who works in Nepal at the moment.
Laguna Phuket is a community of resort hotels on the island of Phuket, and the race takes place entirely on this island. I got there sufficiently early to adjust to the time zone, spending my mornings training before the searing 100F+ heat set in, with the rest of the day dedicated to watching HBO and occasionally heading out to grab a coffee in town. It’s always a challenge to stay fresh at these hot races since just walking around outside drains your energy.
Race day: the gun went off sending us into the Andaman Sea for the first 1200m swim loop and Rasmus Patraeus immediately left everyone in his wake. I led the chase group out and across the beach and into a lagoon we had to cross before getting into T1. Jumping into the lagoon to finish the swim was like doing intervals in a hot tub – just a horrible feeling. I literally couldn’t get out of the water fast enough.
Out onto the bike Luke McKenzie immediately settled into high gear at the front through the twisty, damp roads. I lasted about 20k before popping off into the second group where the pace became more sustainable for me. It was disappointing to not have the horsepower to stay with the front group, but overdoing it in the heat could mean a DNF, and there wasn’t much room for error. The course is mostly flat except for two or three sets of ridiculously steep hills. I made it over the first few hills and descents fine, but at about 80k my rear wheel locked up on a wet descent and started fishtailing as I had misjudged my speed. I thought I was going to save it until I heard cursing from someone behind me having similar issues and then BAM! Luke Bell rammed me off the road, over the curb and into a thorn bush. With my bike on top of me and Luke + his bike on top of that, it was a minute or so before I got up to assess the situation. My bike seemed to be working and I was fine physically so I got back on and finished the short remainder of the ride, albeit taking the corners slowly. Luke was worse off – he couldn’t hold onto his bars and appeared to have a couple of broken fingers.
Out onto the run I was in eighth which would still get me a paycheck, and I wanted to see how I handled the heat, so I tried to put the crash behind me and get the best 13.1 miles out of myself that I could. I took the first sponge I could get and cleaned the leaves and blood off my left arm and leg, pulled a few thorns out and was good to go. I actually had a decent run with good pacing, and I caught Alberto Casadei right before the finish chute and we battled for 6th. It later turns out the difference between 6th and 7th was 50 Euros, so it was totally worth it.
6th wasn’t what I wanted going into the race, but motivation is running high to get to work on being faster in 2015. I got my first training sessions from my new coach Matt Dixon/purplepatch just a few days ago so I’m excited about what’s to come.
As always, thanks to my sponsors that made 2014 a successful year for me – BMC, Skins, Shimano, The New York Athletic Club, On running, Kurt Kinetic, ISM saddles, Rudy Project, blueseventy, Skratch Labs, and Davis WheelWorks. Happy Holidays and thanks for reading.