And now onto the details…..
My travel to Seoul was fairly uneventful and smooth. After one night in Incheon (the actual city the airport is in), we had a 4hr transfer to our next hotel. As in per the norm in Asian races, leaving at 8:00 means 8:45, and 4hrs could only happen if we had a helicopter and not a 50-person bus. Day one in Incheon ended up being 8hrs on a bus. It only took us 5hrs to drive to our new hotel, but another 3hrs to drive 30k of the course. That’s right, 10k/hr in a bus. Painful. One of the reasons was the terrain, but also we had worst bus driver on the planet. He was slow and wouldn’t drive on the correct side of the road. On the way back to Seoul, he kept falling asleep at the wheel! Apparently he understood enough English that when we were constantly poking fun at him, he got the idea of what we were saying. His way of getting back was constantly getting us lost, finding traffic jams, and driving as slow as possible.
The one nice thing was that due to the ridiculous logistics of the race, everyone was on the bus together. I had a feeling it was going to be somewhat like this, so instead of stressing out, I just had a laugh….or three. We stayed at 4 hotels in 4 different nights! Every time we moved, we had to transfer all our luggage and bikes with us. What a production. It felt like a floating circus. In 4 days we spent about 17 hours in that bus.
One of the reasons for the hotel and bus situation was that the course was point-to-point. In fact the only discipline where we started and finished at the same place was the swim. The distance was a bit unusual: 3k swim, 80k bike, and 20k run. The swim was in the ocean, the bike was 80k straight up, and the run was from one mountain top to another. The bike had just under 2000m of total climbing and went from 0-1450m elevation. There was one significant climb that was about 10% for 8k, and another 15k climb that probably averaged 8-9% with the last 4k bit well over 12%. Everything else was basically a false flat. It was tough to say the least. The run was just as bad. There was about 10k of downhill running on a really rocky rough “nature” trail followed by some 15-20% hills. On top of it all, the run started at 1450m high, so the air was a little thin.
The funny thing is this was the “easier” course. The organizers had wanted to put some insane hills in the race on the bike and run, but Jan Rehula (Korean National Team Coach, and Sydney Olympics bronze medalist in Triathlon) came to our rescue and said that crawling up the side of a mountain was not triathlon. When we pre-drove the course we all assumed that the winner would take about 5.5hrs. The course ended up being a little faster than anticipated and I finished in 4hrs43min. Time-wise this was still my longest race to date.
The race itself went pretty well. I had a solid swim, and exited in the front pack. I knew the bike was going to be a struggle for me, so my plan was to race it conservatively. My back has been bothering me on and off since St Croix, so with the distance of the race and the long travel and transfers, I was quite worried about it locking up again. It ended up feeling pretty good and I rode well. Looking back, I should have been a little more aggressive on the bike, but I am happy with how it went. Onto the run, I felt amazing. I honestly haven’t felt that good running off the bike in a long, long time. I have no idea why if felt good, but it did. The first 5k I felt like I was floating. I found a great rhythm and focused on the guys up ahead. I ended up reeling in a Japanese guy who went back and forth with me throughout the run. The run was pretty brutal. The first 10k was almost all downhill. It seems easy, but it was so hard trying to run fast and not have your quads lock up. I think the downhill bits were much harder on the legs than the uphill ones. I found myself even with the Japanese guy the last k (which happened to be 16% uphill) and had to put in one burst to beat him. I am glad I did as I ended up 10th…the last money slot! I ended up having the 2nd fastest run of the day, and am really happy about that.
This race was really good for me mentally. After DNF’s in St. Croix and ITU Austin, and getting sick at Pan-Am Champs in Oklahoma, it is great not only to finish a race, but to race well! It is always fun for me travelling to new places and catching up will all my friends on the circuit. I am really excited about the next few months as I start to build my speed and start racing more ITU races. I have 4 weeks until I race again (ITU Treasure Island in San Francisco). I am going to dive back into the hard training with another big block coming up. But first, I need a few days recovery…..my legs are so smashed that I can barely walk right now.