I was really looking forward to racing Lake Stevens with my confidence high after my first win at Steelhead two weeks ago. Competition was very tough with the likes of Joe Gambles, Matt Lieto (Matt has a fantastic story in his journey to becoming a pro athlete) , Luke Bell, Paul Ambrose, Luke McKenzie, and Guy Crawford but I was still looking for a podium spot.
Race morning again came very quickly and before I knew it we were all lined up waiting for the gun. During the warm up I noticed a rope on the lake bottom that was in line with the race buoys. I made sure I lined up right on the line while lots of my competition were further out to the right. Gun went off and I was able to cruise the first 500m in my Velocity ++ swim skin while the pack to right started angling itself my way. Brian Fleischmann went off the front but I was comforted by the fact I had Luke McKenzie and Guy Crawford around me. Swim was standard and a bigger pack formed that I was thinking would.
The bike was going to be strong as Lieto, Bell, and Ambrose all like to ride pretty hard to brake up the field. I felt pretty awful the first 10 miles and kept yo-yoing off the back of the group and worried I was going to be dropped. Eventually my legs came around and I was feeling okay. The second loop of the bike course became very interesting as we would now joining the age group field and be exposed to more cars on the course. Bell was smart and broke the field and would ride solo into T2. He got a minute cushion over the rest of us in the chase pack. While he rode solo up front we all battled for prime position. If you were not constantly holding your position up front, your race would potential be over with. With cars exiting out of drive ways and more cars on the course it was easy to became trapped behind vehicles while the pack in front could accelerate away from you. At mile 45 I became trapped out of nowhere as a car quickly exited his driveway. It was obvious this guy was not happy to this race taking place on his backyard and we was constantly accelerating and decelerating to annoy the riders. I managed to put in a huge effort to brake free of the vehicle and hunt down the group up front containing Gambles, Ambrose, McKenzie, and Crawford. I was able to latch on and ride back into T2 with the group.
Bottle One: 24oz water, first endurance liquid shot (400cal), two scoop EFS lemon-lime (200cal)
Bottle Two: 24oz water, 2scoops EFS (200cal), 8 pinches base salt
I was feeling a little flat the last 10 minutes of the ride and was unable to get to the front of the bike group before heading into T2. My transition was horrible with the group 10 seconds up the road before I managed to get sorted and running. I had to start very conservative which was very tough for my ego as I knew having Gambles off the front would be very dangerous. At mile 3-4 I came right and moved up on to Ambrose's should battling for third position. I was feeling awesome at this point! I was floating in my K-Swiss K-Ruzz thinking to myself this is another podium spot for sure as we were moving up fast onto Bell and Gambles was not getting any farther from us.
Turns out I was a little cocky and at mile 6 or so I got the stitch everyone fears. The stitch that reduces you to a shuffle because it hurts so bad. Paul was running awesome and gaped me straight away. Bell ran straight past me and it was off the podium for me. It wasn't until about mile 8-9 I came right and made up the 40 seconds Bell made on me. Soon as I passed Bell I had three miles of pain left for a moment of glory on the podium.
"James, you can do this!" I was telling myself.
I surged and opened up a gap but the cramps/stitch came back. I surged one more time hoping Bell would think I was on fire and would let me go. He didn't and was right on my shoulder. I lasted another .5 mile before I had to slow it down. You're a hard man Luke! All the best in Kona this year. With two miles to go, I had to accept 4th and a close fourth it was as Mckenzie was breathing down my neck.
Not the result I was hoping for but I did go as hard as I could but just couldn't get it done. Can't be bummed with forth because last year I was horrible. Nice to be a spot of fitness were I can be disappointed with fourth though, right!!
1. Joe Gambles (AUS) 3:57:47
2. Paul Ambrose (AUS) 3:59:07
3. Luke Bell (AUS) 3:59:53
4. James Cotter (NZL) 4:00:55
5. Luke McKenzie (AUS) 4:01:32
Thank you Matt Dixon for turning me around and allowing me to "turn it on" consistently. K-Swiss for making the best apparel and running shoes. You all need to check out the Blade-Light Running shoes. They are amazing! First Endurance for amazing nutrition. Phase One Design for your support. Ron Vaughn for the best massage in town. Jarod Carter for fixing some last minute injuries. Also want to thank Kyle Watson for hosting me while in town for the week. Kyle owns a great store in Redmond that you need to check out if you are in the area called Mr. Crampys Multisports.
Next up in Branson 70.3!