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Mike Collins' Personal Account of World Tri Champs; NOVA Coach and SwimInfo Correspondent Takes 5th in 35-39 Age group -- May 12, 2004

The following is Mike Collins' personal account of his experience at the Triathlon World Championships in Madeira. Mike is Masters coach at the Irvine NOVA swim team, a top 35-39 competitor, and a regular contributor to SwimInfo.com

"I just finished competing at the ITU World Triathlon Olympic Distance
Championships (1.5k Swim-40k Bike-10k Run) in the city of Funchal on the
Island of Madeira off the coast of Portugal on May 8th along with three other Nova Masters Swimmers.

I had my best performance at the Worlds in three tries with a 5th place
finish in the 35-39 age group. I finished 20th last year in Queenstown,
NZ (pretty out of shape by Dec), and 26th in 2002 when the race was in
Cancun, Mexico (died in the extreme heat and humidity).

For full results and splits go to: www.triathlon.org

Now if you care to get more of the details you can read the long report
below.


PRE-RACE
============

I arrived at the race site on Tuesday which I hoped would be enough time
to acclimate to the several hour time difference from California. I had been in Florida a few days before which helped a little in the 8 hour time
difference.

My bags didn't arrive with me so I couldn't do any running or swimming
because I only had the clothes I was wearing. My bike wasn't coming
until Thursday with Christen King.

The Aquathlon race was Wednesday evening, but I was not competing. I had
missed the online entry deadline and there was no pre-race registration
as there had been in the past two years. It was actually a good thing for me, as I was not ready to race yet. I was still screwed up from travel and my body needed a few days to get tuned up for a good race on Saturday.

Did the usual race check-in, Team USA meeting, massage and chiro visits,
and other general preparation stuff that seems to make the days
disappear quickly. Friday I checked my bike into transition, organized
all my race gear, and took a hot bath and did lots of stretching (the
secret weapons I rarely get time to do before most races).

On race day I went down to set-up transition at 7am and then went back
to the hotel for breakfast, stretching, and a swim because my race
wouldn't go off until 11am. That's a bad start time if it's a hot day,
but it was only going to be in the 60-70's. I love late race starts :-)

SWIM
============
I swam the entire course EZ the day before. I stopped several times
along the way to check navigation points on land and pick the points on
the course where I would make attacks if needed and how far from the end
I could start pushing for the finish. It would be risky to go too hard
at the end of the swim with how long the run to the bike was, but I have
trained to run fast right after swimming fast.

We started in the water holding onto a floating dock. (The pros got to
dive off of it). I started on the far left because I like to breathe to
the right and that allows me to see where everyone is. After two false
starts we finally got a good one. I had a great streamline push-off from
the dock and instantly had a body length lead on those around me. (SEE,
even triathletes can benefit from learning to streamline push off!) I
kept my head down and swam strong using the bottom to navigate instead
of lifting to sight.

After about 300m I looked over to my right and almost thought there was
another false start because I didn't see anyone. I looked again and
slightly back and saw some splashing and realized I had about a 20m lead
already. I just kept my rhythm and jetted toward the turnaround. It was
a long rectangular course going clockwise. There was some wind so it was
a bit choppy on the way to the turnaround. I didn't bother looking for
the buoys much because I had my land sights to keep me on track. I took
another look near the turnaround back and to the right and still had a
good gap on the field. Suddenly, just before the turn I felt some taps
on my feet. One guy had gotten on my feet early in the swim and was
enjoying the free ride around the course. I checked at the turnaround
and saw it was just one guy though. I just kept my pace on the way back
and kept a little gas in the tank for the swim finish because pride
would not let me drag this guy around the course and let him get out
first. I won the swim with him right on my feet, but we were 55 seconds
up on the rest of the field!

TRANSITION 1
============
There was an extremely long run to the bike and through to the
transition exit. The guy I just beat out of the water somehow got his
wetsuit off right out the water and came sprinting by me before we
reached our bikes to get out onto the bike first.

BIKE
=============
I had heard weeks before the race that the course was quite hilly and
that it would probably be better to use a "road" style bike than a
tri-bike. I had been expecting to get a sweet new LeMond Titanium/Carbon
combo bike from my bike team, Coast Velo, but it never came in. With
less than a week to go to leave for my trip I got Hank at Edge
Cyclesports to build up a Felt F1 Scandium road frame I bought with
random parts. The bike came out SWEET and light. I was a bit nervous
riding a new bike in such an important race, but he did a good job of matching the critical measurements, and after a test ride on a hill I often time, and went up 45 seconds faster, I was convinced it was the right bike to ride. It turned out to be the right choice as the bike worked beautifully and never missed a shift or skipped. Thanks Hank!

In Maderia we were not allowed to pre-ride the course because it was on a
highway. The only way to preview the course was by bus. The course was
out and back. Maderia is basically a big volcanic island, so once you
leave the coast you are going up. There was NO FLAT SPOT on the course
except for the first and last 1/4 mile in and out of transition. Many
wondered if they would even need any aero bars. The course climbed
steeply about 3 miles, dropped back down a bit with a steep short descent,
climbed back up a bit and then descended quite a while to the turnaround
and came back the exact same way. The highway cut through several large
mountains so we went through many tunnels along the course - 11 to be
exact. The longest one was about twice as long as the tunnel on
Sepulveda under the runway at LAX. It got pretty dark in some of them
compared to the light outside.

Anyways, back to the race. I left second out onto the bike, but the guy
in front was a little slow getting his feet in his shoes, so I bridged
the gap and slipped my feet in without any trouble. I was right on the
wheel of the leader as we started to climb. I put it in a comfortable
gear and started to spin up the hill while he jumped out the saddle and
took off like a classic Marco Pantani attack at the bottom of a major
climb in the Tour de France. I said myself, "oh well, hopefully he will
come back to me later, because there's not way I can ride that hard this
early on the course."

I got in a good climbing rhythm and was moving through the back of the
field of the 30-34 and 25-29 age groups. I didn't get caught by another
guy in my age group until right at the turn around. A guy from Great
Britain came flying and I tried to match him for a bit but he was flying
too. Powering a huge gear sitting in the saddle, I put my tail back
between my legs and kept spinning my 39x23 up the grade back toward
town. Just as we reached the summit on the final climb I was caught by
another guy, a USA guy named Tim. He wasn't going much faster so I
stayed pretty close to him as we descended the last 3 miles into town.
The ride ended with a steep descent through a tunnel and a hard left turn
before a short straight into transition. I started taking my feet out of
my shoes with about a mile to go. As we came into transition I noticed
Tim struggling with his shoes and flew back past him right at the
dismount line to transition.

TRANSITION 2
==============
Another long run through transition. About 1/2 a mile long. My rack was
a bout 2/3 the way down to run barefoot with my bike. Plenty of room to
rack my bike since only two guys were in so far. No problem slipping on
my run shoes (skipped the socks and now am suffering due to a huge
blister on the ball of my foot, but it didn't hurt me during the race).

RUN
==============
Can you say flat and fast? My favorite. The course was 3 loops along the
sea boardwalk. It got a bit congested as there were several waves out on
the run at the same time. I was flying through guys as I was on my first
lap and some of the younger guys were on their 2nd or third laps. Tim,
the guy who lost a little time going into transition caught me at the
first turnaround on the first lap and encouraged me to stay with him,
which was a nice thought but a little over my head. I finished the first
lap in 10:35 (31:45 10k pace). Tim was gradually pulling away and I
needed to settle down a bit if I was going to finish standing up (they
don't allow you to crawl over the line). A few guys went by me on the
second lap but I wasn't sure if they were in my age group because they
didn't mark calves with the age groups at this race. Apparently an
Aussie went by who was in my age group, but I never saw him. My second
lap was 11:10 and felt pretty good, but the wheels started to come off
on the 3rd lap and I just barely hung on to finish 5th, just 10 seconds
ahead of 6th.

RACE WRAP UP
===============
It was really nice to finally have a really good race at a really
important race. I don't think I made any mistakes on the day. I raced as
hard as I could and definitely left it all out on the course as I was
serious seeing stars at the finish.

Maybe I should thank Emilio De Soto, Dan Empfield and Monty for not
showing up. I probably would have partied a lot more before the race if
they had all been there. But I sure missed you guys after the race.
Although the Aussies made nice party mate substitutes. :-)

OTHER NOVA RESULTS
===========================

Dan Neyenhuis placed 4th in 60-64 division. This was a great return to
the World's for him since he had to drop out during the run at the 2003
Worlds due to an injury he suffered on the way to the race that morning.
His time was 2:36:48 which was the second fastest time from the USA
behind Robert Plant who finished 3rd in 2:35:07.


Christen King, competing in the 25-29 age group finished a surprising
10th in her first World Championships (She was originally listed as 11th
in the preliminary results). This was a far better showing than her 12th
place finish at Nationals which qualified her for the World Championship
race. Christen relied on a strong bike to move through the field after
the swim, and also passed two competitors in the last 400m of the run to
move up from 13th to 11th. Christen finished the race in 2:27:36 with
the 3rd fastest American time.

Finally, the youngster of the team, Kyle Hughes, competed as one of the
Team USA Junior Elites (16-19), for the first time, and finished as the
2nd American in the Sprint Distance Race (750m Swim-20K Bike-5K Run)
with a time of 1:12:03 for 44th overall.

PRO RACES
===============
The women's race went off at 1:30pm so there was plenty of time to sleep
in and eat breakfast before heading into town to watch it. Sheila
Taormina had an amazing day as she swam away from the field and rode
most of the bike course alone before finally sitting up and letting the
lead group catch her with just a lap to go on the bike. On the run it
looked like she might be in trouble as Laura Reback and Loretta Harrop
were right there with her and got to ride in the lead group of 8-10
riders for the entire bike.

Harrop put in a surge that dropped Laura, but Sheila stayed right on her feet and then put in a surge of her own on the last lap to take the World Championship title and gain the second USA Olympic Team spot. Harrop held on for second, Reback finished 3rd to medal in two straight World Championships, Barb Lindquist held on tough for 7th, and Julie Swail had a good day although she just missed getting into the lead pack on the bike due to being just a little too far back out of the water. Still, she finished 23rd which should move her up quite a bit in the ITU World Rankings. Susan Willams dropped out and Cook finished pretty far back after riding most of the course alone or with only one other rider.

The men's race was also very exciting. Fairly new American Andy Potts was
second out of the water and stayed near the front of the lead pack for
the entire bike leg. Hunter Kemper just made the lead pack and sat on
the back of the 20-30 man pack the entire race. In the run things broke
up quickly and it was clear that the medals would go to Dimitri Gaag,
Bevan Docherty, and Ivan Rana, but who would get what? Docherty and Rana
dropped Gagg with about a lap to go and then had a sprint finish at the
end with Rana going first, but Docherty didn't give up and took the
title for NZ. Rana 2nd, Gaag 3rd, Tim Don of GB 4th. Hunter held on for
10th and in a very impressive performance Andy Potts out sprinted 3 guys
to take 11th and get the 2nd USA Olympic team spot. Doug Friman and
Brian Fleishman also finished in the top 25.


POST RACE
===============
Went to the Aussie party which was at the hotel where I was staying.
That's always a good call. It's really fun to watch those guys get
totally hammered, dance like white-boy freaks and then pass out on the
lobby couches. (But they weren't puking in the streets like me in
Catalina.)


NEXT YEAR
==============
Worlds will be in Hawaii next year. There will be two qualifying races.
One in Shreveport this year for 6 spots(using a new lake for the swim),
and another qualifier next year in either Rochester NY, or somewhere in
Alabama.