The Grand Finale
2018 has been a McMassive year for me in the sport of triathlon. With all being said and done I've competed in and completed 10 events in total, 8 Ironman Distance and 2 half distance. It's safe to say that I absolutely love racing and when the opportunity came up to race at the Home of Motor Sport, The Daytona International Speedway, I couldn't resist in finishing off my awesome year in Daytona beach. What exited me most was dealing with the logistics of racing and Ironman on the West Coast of Australia and travelling literally halfway around the world to the East Coast of America to race again in a 6 day period. Busselton and Daytona literally couldn't be further away from each other, both ways around the world are the exact same travel time!! Through into that the fact i had to make a very important Pit stop to collect a Diamond ring on the way and the week was absolutely full gas from the moment the gun went off in Busselton to moment i crossed the finish line 6 days later in Daytona. Was the absolutely perfect way to finally burn the last bit of runner left on my continental tires and empty the physical and mental tank for 2018.
There are no secrets that i love America, and i love Motorsport. Despite the circumnavigation of half the globe and everything we crammed in between i was bright eyed and bushy tailed when we touched down in Daytona in the early hours of Friday morning. I snagged a few hours sleep but as soon as the sun was up i was off to the race track, I couldn't wait to get behind the walls of a Motorsport venue I've been glued to the TV watching over the past 3 decades! Pinarello decided to sponsor the event to celebrate the mantle we've earned over the past 2 years of the fastest bike in the sport being able to cut some laps on the fastest race track in the world. On top of that the Guys from Epic Cycles in Claremont Florida had a massive expo setup to give the Bolide some VIP treatment and display for everyone to came take a look at it. Fallon and i often joke now that people ask first where is Olive and secondly where is the bike,Then they ask how we are!! It's actually become rather comical how much attention that particular bike gets, and the dog of course, it's really cool.
Friday rolled on with the usual briefings and intros for the weekend with it being clearly evident the influence NASCAR had had on the organising of this challenge family event. Everything was so organised and as a pro athlete they really made sure we knew how important it was for us to interact and be as accessible as possible with the fans, just like there drivers are on a entirely different level of popularity obviously but you get the drill. They wanted this to be very American, a big show!! To ensure this they had invited a great group of pros to ensure that's exactly what they would get. The womens field was stacked with champions across all disciplines from ITU to Ironman Distance making it impossible to pick a clear favourite. The men's field was set be equally as exciting with Andrew Starkyowiz gunning to exact some revenge on me for what transpired in Kona and Dylan McNiece & Peter Heemeryck both sat tied one place behind me in the Challenge Family World Bonus rankings which basically meant whoever finished ahead of each other would be 4th instead of 5th and take home $12000 instead of $5000. Basically put i had a big target on my back. Through in local Ironman legends Andy Potts and Matt Russel and a whole rath of ITU guys and the men was set to be an epic battle from start to finish, exactly what you want the seasons Grand Finale.
Saturday morning i was up again ready to rumble, it was race day 1! I'd suggested to the organisers that us pros spread out in teams for the sprint relay to add a bit more of that interaction the NASCAR guys had spoken off. I was paired with Lesa France who's grandfather built the track and family now are not only the owners of multiple venues around the country but the driving force behind the sport. It was amazing to meet Lesa under such circumstances as I always say as i always say sport is the greatest leveller and to see her passion we consider very small on the grand scheme of global sports was really exciting. Along with her assistant Wendy we had an absolutely fantastic morning and the 850m swim head to head with Dylan where i finally learnt how to swim on someone's hip!! It's like your surfing, amazing revelation for me, was a great way to blow out the cobwebs for Sunday's main event, I actually felt fantastic.
Sunday morning finally rolled around. I was up and feeling great, excited to leave whatever energy i had left on the race track, literally. When we arrived at the track there was an announcement about bad weather on its way. The organisers decided to have all the age groupers go off as planned at 7am to complete a modified course and the Pro's would race once the storm had passed later in the day to ensure we could do the planned half Ironman distance. We were called into the "Green Room" for a meeting which was a special room setup for the Pro's complete with treadmills, exercise bikes, food, drinks ect to basically ensure we where comfortable all weekend. This room alone was something I'd never experienced at a previous race and yet another indicator of how serious NASCAR where to help innovate our sport.
During the meeting they outlined the details of the storm due to hit in a few hours and when it would pass to allow us to race safely. The speedway has a direct line to the national weather centre and it was remarkable how to the minute they where of predicting the weather to hit and pass. After a lengthy discussion of the different race and route possibilities we all agreed on a modified distance to take place entirely inside the stadium based of a 1600m swim. In other words that worked out to be a 60km ride (15 laps of the speedway, how AWESOME!!!) and a 14km run zigging and zagging around the infield of the track. The start time was set for 1pm so we all ad 5hrs to kill. Some went back to the hotel, some just hung out, while passed out on the floor in between a couple of treadmills, the jet lag had finally caught up with me! Finally 12:30 rolled around and just as predicted the rain stopped dead and the sunshine appeared, it was go time!!! All the athletes like one big happy family now after spending all morning together happily headed to transition to set up bikes and make the final preparations. Then bang on 1pm the gun finally went off for the final race of the season!
When it came to swimming I definitely saved the best till last and blasted off the line. Ive never felt better at the start of a swim and soon it was only the two super swimmers in Andy Potts and Dylan McNeice ahead of me. As we exited the water after 800m to then jump back in for a 2nd lap i was only 15seconds behind those guys, I couldn't believe it. The second lap Peter passed me but i clung to his feet and exited the water only 45 seconds down on Andy and Dylan, this was a massive improvement for me and i was absolutely wrapped. Now for the really fun part!
Going along to watch Jimmie Johnson at so many races I've always dreamed of riding on the speedway and i was finally getting my chance. I launched myself onto the bolide and set off in pursuit of Andy and Dylan and the lead of the race! About halfway through the first lap i knew i was in trouble as I just didn't have the punch I've enjoyed all year which left me with a simple decision, go hell for leather with what you've got and see if your remarkably hang on. Through the start finish straight people where giving me splits to Andy, was so cool having so many people so close to you so often, just and incredible experience. 3 laps in and i was in the lead and while it knew my pace was dropping every lap i just kept hammering away with every bit of horsepower i could muster.
Around 7 laps in i really started to struggle to compound my issues could also feel the looming Starky baring down on me like a ton of bricks. He was moving like a freight train and sure enough a few laps later he passed high up on the wall which was pretty cool to see actually and try as i might to stay in touch he kept riding away from me. I simply didn't have the goods to stick with him and was absolutely powerless to do anything about it. I'd experienced this 12 months before in Ironman Western Australia where that was the one race too far and i blew up halfway through the bike and latterly climbed off and sat on the road side. That was a horrible experience where i felt very foolish infront of my family and the fans so in this case i had the chance to wittier those wrongs and hang tuff as best I could and try to give the spectators the show they couldn't wait to see. Somehow i kept Starky insight until a few laps to go but then he just disappeared for good and pumped 2minutes into me in the last 2 laps, he was flying and on a mission! When i finally reached transition still in 2nd, I hadn't given up hope of one last blistering run for the title for 2018, I'm certainly ever the optimist.
Once my feet hit the ground it was very apparent there would be no fairytale ending to my 2018 season. My running legs picked up where my cycling legs had left off, flat out running out of sight on a dark night. 1 by 1 they ripped passed me until when I finally waddled over the final finish line for the year in 10th place. When it came to the exciting pre race hype between Starky and I battling the bike leg and could I hold Peter off to hold onto 4th in the world bonus I was well and truly the days biggest loser on all fronts. Peter not only finished ahead of me but he did it emphatically winning the race and obviously in the process ensuring himself a bigger Christmas bonus than I would receive, he was far and away the better athlete than not only me but everyone on this historic day for NASCAR and Triathlon and great inaugural champion of this great race.
With the curtains finally down on what was far and away the most fulfilling year I've ever had in all my years of sport I was looking forward to holiday. The race couldn't off been in a better location to get stuck right into the festive season with Fallon and I heading straight for Disney world and the first line at Magic Mountain and my favourite the Magic Teacups that I spun so hard in a bid to knock Fallon off her feet. While I didn't quit succeed at Disney World in doing so, later that evening once reunited with olive in her home town of Deep Creek Lake Maryland, I delivered her that Diamond ring I mentioned earlier. It fitted, she seems to really like it and I can't wait for whatever adventures lie ahead for us. It's been on amazing few years together where year on year has just kept getting better and better and naturally simply cannot wait to see what 2019 brings.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone and I look forward to hopefully seeing some of you if not all of you somewhere on some continent sometime soon.
P.s. As always my race data is all on strava, one victory I did have was the fastest lap recorded on a bicycle around the famous speedway!!
Sent from my iPad