In the words of Andrew himself.
Hello, I’m Andy Holland (click to see Strava and ZwiftPower profiles). In Ian W’s post on the DIRT Facebook page, some may have seen that I recently won the men’s 40-44 division in the Sprint Distance at the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship in Milwaukee, WI. It was pretty exciting!
Chris asked me to put together a race recap for The Zom, so here it is.
First, I would like to make a quick introduction. As I mentioned, my name is Andy. I live in Erie, PA, with my wife and two kids. I also work as a civil engineer when not on Zwift or training or driving to soccer, swimming, or gymnastics.
I’ve been running and swimming in some way, shape, or form pretty much since birth. I ran X-country and track and swam in HS; swam in college for four years; became out of shape and overweight for a few years after college; started running again; have done 13 marathons (Boston twice, NY, and others) and a handful of ultramarathons (no 100 milers yet); and started cycling and doing triathlons in 2014.
I joined Zwift right at the beginning of the COVID pandemic and began spending a lot of time on the trainer. As a triathlete with pools closed, I filled my extra time with Zwift because cycling is typically the weak leg of my triathlons. With many races, group rides, and events to choose from, I tried many different rides. At some point, I found myself jumping in DIRT rides quite a bit and decided to join.
At first, I lurked from the outside but eventually responded to a FB post looking for riders for TTT. The following week I was racing with the DIRTy Bibs. It took a few races to get the hang of things, but my TTT slowly improved, and I was having a great time racing with my new virtual team.
I moved over to the DIRTy Rascals team with the newly formed Rogue early morning squad and sometimes doubled up with Fury in the PM. These high-intensity efforts on Thursdays and the more extended DIRT Badge Hunts on Saturdays made up a lot of my bike training from summer/fall 2020 through late spring 2021.
It’s been a great experience riding with my DIRT (& MIRT) friends. They have pushed me hard during TTT’s and given words of encouragement during some of the longer badge hunts (especially the Über Pretzel). It helped me become a stronger rider heading into the triathlon season.
(Thanks to all those I’ve had the pleasure to ride TTT with … I’m sure I forget a few: Carsten, Paul, Jeff, Billy, Suz, Stu, Laura, Adam, Lenny, Nigel, Dan, Keith, Justin, Dirty Bri, Scott, Jay, Jaye, Meylina, Sterny, Steve, Ian, Brett, Jason, Tim, Lucy, Ben, Taylor, Luke, Matthew, Brit, Kyle, John, Frank, and more).
Enough rambling and onto the race weekend. (*Note: all places listed are based on my age group, not overall, since the race is “Age Group Nationals”)
The Olympic distance event was first up for the weekend, which consists of a 1500m swim, 40km bike, and 10km run. I raced this distance at Nationals in 2018 and 2019 in Cleveland and placed 7th and 4th.
I was 1st out of the water on the swim with a 20:47 split, which my watch says was 1:16 per 100 yds. I held the lead until mile 18 of the bike when the second-place rider passed me like I was standing still, but I tried to keep my losses to a minimum in hopes that I would have a good run and make up some time. Bike split 58:23 for the 40km course (a little over 25 mph).
I came off the bike in 2nd place, but in the end, my good (for me) run of 37:16 (6:00/mile) wasn’t quite enough to catch 1st or hang on for 2nd, as the top 2 guys had incredible runs.
After Saturday’s race, I tried to rest as much as I could. Still, there was a lot of unavoidable activity between the clearing of equipment from the transition area, walking back to the hotel, walking to/from lunch, and walking to/from the awards and dinner.
I did manage an hour’s nap, which was helpful. Another round of thunderstorms with heavy rain rolled through on Saturday night/Sunday morning, but I slept well. A 4:30 am alarm signaled time to get ready for another race (sprint distance is 750m swim, 20km bike, and 5km run).
My goal was to go out hard on the swim and hopefully build a more significant lead heading onto the bike. I was first out of the water (10:52, a slightly slower pace than Saturday) for my age group (by only 2 seconds).
I had some trouble getting into my shoes on the fly, heading onto the bike, and dropped to 2nd. My power meter woke up and connected to my computer, but I was having calibration issues, so garbage in, garbage out on power data (while I’d love to think my avg. power was 400 watts, I know it was wrong).
I remained close to the leader after being passed by another rider in my age group (the Olympic winner). As we headed to the run, I came off the bike in 3rd place (bike split 30:14, a tad under 25mph).
I missed my transition spot and had to backtrack through the muddy transition.
I hit the run 20 seconds behind 2nd place and 30 seconds behind the leader (who out-split me by over a minute in the 10km run the day before). In 2019 I came off the bike in 7th and moved up to 3rd, so I hoped I would have good run legs and reel in at least one spot.
The first mile (5:39) included an out and back section, and I could tell I was cutting into the deficit. After 1 mile, I caught second place and could tell I was closing the gap on the lead. Mile 2 (5:37) I worked pretty hard and pulled within 2 seconds of the leader.
At this point, I gave myself some time to sit just off the leader’s shoulder and decide what to do. As noted above, I knew he had outrun me in the previous day’s 10km run leg by a little over a minute. I had just made up 30 seconds in 2 miles, so I thought that perhaps his legs weren’t as good today.
I decided to pass and take the lead inside 1 mile to go and turn the screw, upping the pace. From that point, I left it all on the course.
My final mile was 5:33, and after a fist pump, I crossed the finish line (16:56, the course was slightly less than 3.1 miles).
I had to hang on the barriers at the finish to keep myself from falling over and avoid a trip to the medical tent. I was pretty sure I had won, but it’s always possible that someone else had been up the road the entire race, and I didn’t know. Second and third place came in 25 and 35 seconds later.
After a discussion, the 3 of us were pretty sure there was nobody in our age group ahead of us and that I had won the age group (later confirmed by someone with the tracking app on their phone)! (see race results here and overall results here) I won!
My wife and some other friends from my triathlon club were still out on the course, so I found a good spot to cheer and watched them run to the finish. My wife was dealing with a knee injury and hadn’t run in over two months, but she powered through her run to finish strong.
A friend won a national title in his age group, too! It was an exhilarating day that was made more special by sharing it with my wife and friends on the racecourse.
Great Job Andrew! I, for one, am proud to be your teammate. Go DIRT!
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit, and through its work and the pages of this site, Chris is committed to helping others with his bike. His gain cave is located on the North Fork of Long Island where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two college student children.