Matt Sharpe’s First Race of 2017
“Feeling ready to do something doesn’t mean feeling certain you’ll succeed”
I like to follow the tech world. It’s an exciting sphere that I’ve found has a few parallels to what I do; sport.
There is a method of product development that involves creating the minimal viable product, or MVP. This is the something that a company can put to market, like an app, and it is intended to be built upon. Feedback whether positive or negative is used to improve the product and is crucial for innovation.
Racing can be used in the same way. There is no better feedback for the training than competition. If something goes well, then it probably doesn’t need too much fixing. If something is off, like a poor wetsuit removal, or bad cornering on the bike then there can be interventions in the training program to improve these weaknesses.
This is why I traveled almost 30 hours to Cape Town, South Africa in February.
I needed feedback.
(photo credit Samantha Hoft & Viviane Sloniewicz)
For an early season World Cup the Cape Town race had a solid field. I was ranked fairly high for this one, seventh overall. But looking at the names around me I knew beating my ranking wasn’t going to be anything easy. And with the uncertainty of early season form you’re never sure who is going to make the moves.
But I was cautiously optimistic. I wanted to be in the top five, and I was going to do as much as possible to put myself there.
Coming out of the water I knew I’d had a shocker in the swim. I didn’t have the strength to maintain the little gap I had at the start, and by the first turn buoy I was swallowed up by the hordes behind me.
There was some feedback.
The shock continued in the first transition with a T1 that can only be described as “mega cringe.”
Some more feedback.
Onto the bike I found myself in the second bunch. We had some good leadership and after 3/5 laps of hard work we caught the front pack. The third pack caught us shortly after that.
After a winter of Cyclocross racing I was right at home in aggressive and physical main bunch. One of my pre-race goals was to be at the front of the pack heading onto the run and I was able to achieve that.
Also, one of the guys had to swerve across the pack to avoid another athlete and his derailleur smacked right into my front wheel. It went into his spokes and somehow I avoided him crashing in front of me. It can be nuts out there. Talked to him after and he was all good, he’ll live to fight another day.
I forgot how painful running off the bike can be. We just tore it out of T2 and after the first turnaround I knew I’d burned most of my matches. I think I blew up and recovered five or six times in the next 2.5km lap. The wheezing noise that no doubt caused a neighborhood disturbance was me trying to hold on as a few guys went by. It became a game to see if I could hold my position without passing out. It came down to another sprint finish and I was able to get the guy to end up in 11th. Not a great result, but it was good to put myself in there.
Like Al Pacino said, “you find out life’s this game of inches, so is [Triathlon].” You can’t leave any margin of error at the highest level. It’s a reminder I needed to put me in the right mindset moving into the rest of the year.
Matt Sharpe, OBB Ambassador, is a Vancouver Island boy born in Campbell River, residing in Victoria. He is on the Canadian National Triathlon team, loves coffee and beer, too.
Next up: Sarasota North American Spirit distance championships on March 11, 2017.