Editor's Note: Last year Lance "Gutti" Panigutti surprised many seasoned professionals by just missing out on the top podium position at the 24-Hours of Triathlon. This weekend he went back to the ultra distance race to win.
After last year's winner dropped out, it looked like he was on track for a record breaking solo win of his young career.
But a lot can, and does goes wrong, when you race, swim, bike and, run for 24-hours.
Read how Gutti learned and important lesson that we all can understand in his race report below:
Thank you again for everyone's support this Summer and this weekend at the 24 hrs of Triathlon. This is definitely a very bitter sweet race report to write, but lessons learned is half of what this sport is all about. Going into this past weekend I knew this would be my last 24hrs race for at least the next 4 years as it's time to focus a career on my favorite discipline - daft legal short course (No more Triple T's, Half IM's, or even 150 mile Mt. Evans Days), so if this was it I was going out with a bang. After looking at the start list the race was easily a 2 man field again between myself and last years record setter Joe McDaniel.
In 2007 I had two great things going for me - blind ignorance as to how much this would hurt and not knowing who the competition was till 12hrs in. That allowed me to race my own race at my tempo. In then end I lost the race not on the course but during transition. I couldn't stack back to back runs or back to back bikes like Joe could. This year would be different! My support crew thought my laid back approach for a solid week going into the race meant I wasn't ready, wasn't excited, and didn't know how to take down Joe.
Oh I knew how, but it was going to take a strategy that in the end could take me out as well and either way hurt like hell. Instead of racing from behind and make a late charge in the last 8hrs I would take this race by the horns, push the pace early on to demoralize Joe in hopes he'd drop out knowing he couldn't sustain the pace. 24hrs is so much more than a physical endurance race - great nutrition, mental head games, and a little good fortune play the most critical roles to success. Get inside your competition's head and the race is yours!
I couldn't have been more ready to put on a show for the first 6hrs. Training the last 2 weeks was near flawless, with major jumps in speed that surprised even me. The first race took off and after starting the bike side-by-side with Joe I should have known that he had the same strategy as me - we were both in trouble. He was coming off a 3.59 at 5430 Long Course and was determined to flex that same form out here. 11.2 miles into the first bike with a avg just over 26mph, a suicide pace to say the least but neither of us was about to relent. Even the relays teams were shaking their heads after finishing the first triathlon with a mere 40sec advantage ("Either those 2 solo guys are ridiculous or idiots" - another 12 hrs and we'd find out). This strategy meant holding on until one of us cracked and we both knew this was nothing like 2007.
5 more bikes coming through in 2hr20min for 56miles on the road and I couldn't have felt better. Once I hit the water in the back of my mind I knew he had to be worried. With his pit crew watching my every lap it was time to kick things up a notch. In 07' It was a struggle knocking out 2 swims (1 mile) in a row so what better way to push the pace than to rattle off 12 swims (3 miles) all back-to-back! The race was only 6hrs in and we were on pace to go just over 22 triathlons, 30miles over last year's record mark. It seemed like all the pieces were falling into place when "it" happened. There was Joe in his street clothes ready to pack it in for the day. With his body shutting down he came over to wish me the best and say "not to let up".
Surrounding pit crews were shocked and with a 50min lead already built up over 2nd place the race was clearly in hand. 18hrs to go and the smart thing to do would have been to drop the pace, stop stacking bikes and runs to keep me fresh, and pace to the win. Yet those closest to me know that I'm the last person to "lay up" or "play it safe". This race would mean nothing without Joe in it if I didn't make a run for the record. Still feeling amazing out there I actually upped the pace (call it a surge of energy knowing this was my day or stupidity)! 3 more bikes, 5 quick swims, 3 back to back runs, and all systems were still firing at hr 11.
Now I know why more bikers drop out of the Tour de France due to digestion issues. At this unrelenting pace I was burning twice the calories that I was in 07'. 2 bottles/hr and an additional 200-300 calories of solid food was still not enough, something had to give. One by one it was as if every system in my body began to shut down. First the stomach couldn't process any more food, gas tanks were empty and the legs couldn't muster even a fast walk, then the lungs went and I was having trouble getting a full breath in on the bike. For 3hrs things began to get worse with no recovery in site.
Caffeine, coke, you name it but the body was in survival mode at this point and the next leg of the race was straight to the med tent. After an hour in the tent and with my lungs still not clear the tough decision was made to pull out. There would be no record today, no finish line, no pay check. I've crashed out, been DQ-ed, and DNF-ed before but nothing was harder than taking off the timing chip today and letting down my support crew out there. Who knows what this race will evolve into by 2013, but I can say that when I come back to it there won't be any surprises - the favorites better expect a suicide pace and record setting effort to take this one from me again.