Racing by Joe Umphenour
After Florida 70.3 and St. George 70.3, I was feeling good about how things were progressing but not satisfied with my results. It had been since October of 2012 at Rev3 Florida that I had been in the money and to justify still being able to call myself "professional", I really wanted to return to being in the black. So for the season's third race, I picked a familiar setting at Kansas 70.3 and made the goal of doing better than my 8th and 6th placings from years past. I also followed my race-proven habits of driving seven hours by myself to Topeka and staying there away from the majority of the athletes. It was fun doing my ride and run the day before around the Topeka Zoo and even got to drop in on an outdoor swim meet where I realized that the smells and sounds are the same no matter where you are in the US. Race morning, I was worried about the car starting since it had been hesitant ever since I got there (turned out the starter was going bad so $428 later it was replaced back in Colorado) but it turned over and I was off to the races. Set-up went smoothly and a 75.9 F water temp meant we had a wetsuit swim. It would be a warm one for sure and as I settled in behind three guys, I looked around and realized we had dropped everyone else in the warm water. Although I welcomed the buoyancy of my BlueSeventy Helix, I was also in danger of overheating so I made sure I did the least effort in the water that I could so I wouldn't be in trouble before I hit the bike. We exited with a minute lead and away I went onto the bike. Leaving the park, we passed through roads that had butterflies covering them like leaves. My Trek Speed Concept 9 was working great but within the first mile, my Timex Bike Trainer decided to jump ship and leave me with no data to work off of (the butterflies will put it to good use!) It was three of us at the front for 20 miles with only TJ Tollackson in sight. Once he caught us, the other guys surged to stay with him and I lost contact. I stayed within myself and rode the rest of the bike in control and keeping up with my nutrition plan of Powerbar gels and salt tablets. Two guys caught me right near T2 which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Starting the run in 6th place, my goal was to run down third place. I quickly moved into fourth and had Robbie Wade sticking to my heels like glue. Through mile one we ran and I was keeping up a good tempo leading. Robbie gave me kudos for my pace and told me he'd come around and lead in a bit. Twenty seconds later, I leaned forward a bit and he dropped off. I really didn't do it on purpose but maybe I was feeling the urgency of trying to hunt down those in front of me. But he stayed within 10-20 seconds of me the whole run which gave me the incentive to stay in front of him since I knew he had been an NCAA runner but with the side effect of keeping the pace high. This picture actually shows the point when I started to pull away from him. I finally saw third place ahead of me after nine miles right around the time I got a side stitch. This slowed me up a bit and let Robbie catch up a bit. Once into the last couple miles, I could see third place sliding back to me but who should be right in front of TJ holding his own: Tim Hola. Poor TJ was in the middle of a Timex sandwich and I when I finally passed him with less than a mile to go, Tim and I flew the Timex colors proudly. Unfortunately, Tim still had a second lap to finish so we couldn't do the double Timex finish line action. Instead, I high-fived as many people as I could coming down the finishing chute in 3rd place after a 1:13 half-marathon run, four minutes faster than what I had done on that course before. Finally got the monkey off my back! It was so nice to get that result and repay the trust and confidence that Timex put in me. Delivering an excellent performance while showcasing the sponsors who support us so well is truly part of the honor of being a part of this team. Thank you Timex, Trek, Shimano, Powerbar, Nathan, Castelli, Blueseventy, Skins, TriSwim, Feetures, Challenge, Headsweats, Greenlayer and Training Peaks for keeping us on the go! Next race, Buffalo Springs 70.3 where I finished second two years ago. Let's try to improve upon that.......