The 2016 Winding Trails Summer Tri Series wrapped up last Tuesday with the 10th and final race of the season. Even though WT is a training race, Debbie and I put our heart and soul into the series. She was intent to improve her off-road triathlon skills, particularly her swimming and mountain biking. She also really wanted to improve on her second place finish in 2015. I wanted to retain my overall title from last year and prove that I could do it again.
We had 10 spectacular evenings at Winding Trails in Farmington, each time, joined by our children. Our son did five of the Tiny Tri’s, a huge step forward for him, and our daughter did all three of the Kid’s Races. The Winding Trails sunsets are spectacular and I always leave the venue with a smile when driving past Lake Dunning. There were no t-storm caused rain outs and the course was always in good shape. We appreciate the hard work that Race Director, Jimena Florit, her staff, and volunteers contribute to making this a success.
After every race, Ken and Aubrey Schulz, and their young son, joined our family for a picnic dinner. Our kids dubbed it “The Grand Feast.” Having some supper at Winding Trails always beat going back into the Rt. 4/Interstate 84 traffic. Four weeks ago, I started to fade as week after week of all out efforts took its toll. I lamented to Ken, who shared my suffering, that I was looking forward to the end of the series despite having fun. I don’t know if we will return for the full series in 2017. The kids love it, but the Tuesday efforts often compromise the weekend race results. I couldn’t show up and not give it my all. I’ve raced there 41 times in recent years and it always hard to get there after work. I’ll have to think about 2017, but there is no rush, the series won’t kickoff again until next June.
Alas, Debbie and I both came up short. 19-year-old Lauren Cenci, who is less than half of Debbie’s age, had her number all season. Debbie was always close, but never close enough, and the overall went to Lauren, who has come on strong. Debbie was first in the 40-44 age group and improved dramatically, which is fantastic. It is really hard to race hard every week for two and a half months, especially when you are still doing other races.
Coming in to the last race, I had a shot to overtake my nemesis, Jon Arellano, who finished behind me in 2015. He and I have battled every week like warriors. The finish was bittersweet because I won the race (the battle), but lost the series (the war). I went down knowing that I had given it my all. I was cross-eyed after our fourth sprint finish of the summer. Four times we finished within two seconds of each other. Neither one of us was willing to give an inch.
In this last race, I pulled back my usual minute plus deficit, after the 1/4 mile swim, on the five-mile bike loop, catching Jon around the four mile mark. He hung tight, but I got a small gap coming in to T2. He rides in his running shoes, so his transitions are always super quick. He always picks up 15-20 seconds on me and this was the case again. I chased him out of T2, but reeled him in quickly and led the first mile of the three-mile run with him right on my shoulder. Joel Emmendorfer was also in the mix, but this week, he faded from the picture. Jon and I exchanged the lead no less than seven more times over the next two miles.
I attacked him on every climb and he pulled me back on every descent. I tested him several times, thinking that I could break away and overcome my points deficit. The week nine standings showed that my best eight races trailed his best eight races by 0.2 points (679.0 to 678.8), though I can’t really explain the scoring system. It can’t be that complicated, but I’ve never understood it. I’ve got great respect for Jon, but like him, but I’m a serious competitor and wasn’t going to make it easy on him. Of the 10 races, I won four, he won three, and we got beat by Gabriel Jiran, Jason Soukup, and Joel in the other three.
The cat and mouse game continued over the bridge and in to the final stretch as we briefly slowed our pace. With a hard acceleration, he took the lead with 200 meters to go, but I pulled him back and in a furious sprint, passed him on the left as he crashed in to the course tape before the sharp right to the finish. I got him by a couple of seconds and thought I was going to collapse. The racing and the weather were both hot.
I was thrilled to end the series on a high note after a couple below par weeks. My legs were heavy from Wildman and my heart was heavy after the passing of my uncle, Guy Roy. All my career, I’ve raced for my team and myself, but this time, I was propelled by the motivation of racing for my uncle who was a true outdoorsman and an inspiration for how I live.
The 2016 stats are neat to review. Aside from my automated Strava data, I stopped keeping a training log years ago, but I never stopped logging my race results. Over 10 weeks, I raced 84 miles. It took 518 minutes total. My fastest time was 50:49 in week three. My slowest was 52:47 in week two. The average was 51:49. The temperature is usually the biggest factor when comparing week to week times, but rest and competition are also big factors.
When the calculations were done, it was announced that Jon took the overall series, and I congratulate him. He really earned it and I’m sure he is proud as heck because I made it super hard on him. Those types of victories are always the sweetest. When you have to really work for it, you appreciate it so much more.
I’ll add a link when the final results are published. Like Debbie in 2015, I couldn’t have been far back. Upon further reflection, the results don’t matter that much because the fierce nature of my 10 Winding Trails efforts lived up to my adventurous lifestyle and symbolize how I fight hard in everything that I do. I’m pumped for cyclocross season and after some “rest,” I’ll be ready to race again.
Race Results (will be posted when updated)