"Nothing felt right. My heart rate was through the roof. I thought, what the hell is happening to me? I feel like I’m having a panic attack. I’m a veteran of this sport, this isn’t supposed to happen to me. Am I going to die?" Greg Garcia, ATF featured triathlete
This has to be one of our favorite interviews to date. Here's Greg Garcia's most memorable moment(s) in the sport.
My most memorable race...that’s a tough one as I’ve done nearly 100 now. I’ll say that we have some excellent local races, especially Tri Louisville. I can’t call it my most memorable as I never seem to put together my best race there, which is completely my own fault. I actually got lost on the run course that I helped to design. Let’s chalk that up to “race brain.” I will say that the post race experience/awards at Tri Louisville is the best around.
Now, on to my most memorable race. Maybe it’s recency bias, but my most memorable race is last one I did, USA Triathlon Draft Legal National Championships in Tempe, AZ. After getting a chance to represent Team USA in Lausanne, Switzerland in August, I got hooked on wearing the Stars and Stripes. The goal at DL Nationals was to qualify for Team USA again and race the ITU World Championships in Edmonton, Canada. In order to qualify, you need to place top 10 and be within 10% of the winners’ time. I scoured the entire field and knew I would face some tough competition. There were more than a dozen former Team USA members/All Americans in my age group. There wouldn’t be much room for error. The bike is my strength, but I put in a massive amount of work on the swim and run heading into this race. In draft legal racing, if you can’t swim near the front of the group, you’ll get left out of the strong bike packs.
Let’s just say it didn’t start out the way I had hoped. It was a mass beach start with every single person there trying to qualify. It was bound to be intense. No worries though, I had the best swim fitness of my life at that very moment...right? I made the mistake of starting right in the middle. As we all charged into the water the carnage was real. The first 150 meters was absolutely brutal. I was getting clobbered on all sides. I was getting a lot of contact on both arms, and even worse, someone kept trying to swim on top of my hips. My wetsuit felt like a straight-jacket. The next 100 meters wasn’t any better. Nothing felt right. My heart rate was through the roof. I thought, what the hell is happening to me? I feel like I’m having a panic attack. I’m a veteran of this sport, this isn’t supposed to happen to me. Am I going to die? Then the real doubt and negative thoughts set in...what a waste of time/effort/money to come out here and do this, I’m not going to qualify...blah blah blah. I wanted to quit and turn back to shore. I actually stopped, treaded water, and collected my thoughts. Calm down, start moving your arms and dominate once you hit dry land. I ended up swimming 13 minutes for the 750 meters...2 minutes slower than my planned pace and I was in 11th place.
This is my strength. I flew through transition and mounted the bike. It was time to get nasty and bike angry, and that’s what I did. I biked solo for about half of the first lap on the the 3 lap course. After that, I caught up to a decent group to work with. As we were catching other people, it was time to put my scouting to work. The goal was to work with the strong bikers/weak runners, and to attack the strong runner/weak bikers. It was a technical course with about twelve 90 degree turns and 6 hairpin turns. Every turn and every climb, I made sure to leave the strong runners behind. Over the bike course and T2, I was able to work my way from 11th to 5th. It was my first race on my new bike from Grit Cycling and I absolutely loved it. I averaged 24.5 mph, which isn’t bad given the number of turns and 3 climbs.
I saw my friend Chase (Future Olympian) and he gave me an idea on my position. I knew I’d be in good position to qualify as long as I didn’t have a meltdown on the run...which tends to happen to me sometimes. As I set out, I felt pretty decent in spite of biking very angrily for 30 minutes. I passed another person in my age group within the first 1/4 mile which put me into 4th place. I was probably averaging about 6:15 pace through the 1st 2 miles and felt mostly comfortable. Then the cramps hit me as they tend to do, but not usually in sprints! Calf’s and quads. Damn! I forgot to pack my NormaLyte! I stopped 3 times, but gutted it out and ran ugly to the finish. I ended up averaging about a 6:30 pace which isn’t what I had hoped for, but it was good enough for 4th place and good enough for my 3rd consecutive Team USA qualification! I might have had a shot at the podium with a better swim. I ended up beating some of my friendly rivals that I never had before. The race was a complete emotional roller coaster. Draft legal racing is a blast!
It was an incredible experience and many lessons were learned; train in your wetsuit, don’t forget your nutrition, don’t get cocky even if you’ve been doing this forever, don’t be afraid to persevere when things aren’t going your way. None of this would be possible without the support from my family, friends, sponsors, and badass TRI-LOCO teammates!