David Warden’s Racetri Sprint Series Race Report (Ice, Salem, Rock, Ridge, Yuba)

Download printable version here: David Warden Racetri Season Recap

David Warden’s Mostly True, Self-Promoting, Gratuitously Long 2013 Racetri Sprint Series Race Report

At Aaron and Joel’s request, and without hesitation, below is a brief (ha!) race report, from my perspective, of all 5 Racetri Sprint events.  IMG_5485

Ice Breaker

(or, The World’s Fastest Midget)



(or, Always a Bridesmaid)


Rock Cliff

(or, Thank You, Spencer Woolston, Heath Thurston, BJ Christensen, Wes Johnson, Jason Crompton, Rory Duckworth, Sebe Ziesler, and Alex Bowcut, for Not Showing Up)


Herriman Blackridge

(or, David Warden is an Idiot)


Camp Yuba

(or, Damn, That’s the Last Time I’ll Ever Beat Kade Hunter)


As a triathlon coach, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in triathlons held in Abu Dhabi, Spain, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Italy, Russia and Canada. I’ve never had more fun at these events than I have at any given Racetri event. You want energy?  Check. Organization? None better. Plagiarized but inspirational speeches? Count on it.


I participated in all 5 of the 2013 Racetri Sprint-distance events. They were absolutely the key to the most fun I’ve ever had in a single season of Sprint racing. I’m a Sprint-distance specialist. A Sprintaphile. I’ve given the longer distances a chance to court me, but I keep coming back to the Sprint. It’s my element. The Racetri series provides a professional but local platform that keeps me motivated all winter long.



Ice Breaker

(WARNING: This race report is boring. I recommend you move on)David IB


I love the people at Icebreaker! It’s the dedicated athletes that do this race. No one has trained much, the weather has often been horrible, everyone is still recovering from Mardi Gras, but they still show up.


Absent from the roster were most of my primary rivals except (insert echo sound effect): Keb Wilson. Keb is a great athlete. He’s built like a linebacker, but bikes like a cheetah. If you ever have a chance to hear about his accident and subsequent rehabilitation, it will astound you how he has been able to still stay so fast. A healthy Keb would be a dominant triathlete. I knew I needed to keep Keb close. As the saying goes, “Keep your enemies close, but Keb Wilson closer”. Keb and I have raced several times, and we almost always come out together on the run. Rumor was his training for the Boston Marathon had made him even better on that final leg. Yikes.


The Ice Breaker swim is entertaining. 2013 was no exception. I just spent the last 30 minutes writing and rewriting this section, initially complaining about the swimmers who overestimate their swim time at the front of the indoor pool, time-trial start, causing me to have to slow down and work around them. But hey! That’s the Ice Breaker! That’s part of the allure, the adventure, the unknown. I’ve had the wrong attitude all these years. That random swim element is part of why I race. In fact, maybe next year I’ll go last.


I started out about 10th on the time-trial (TT) start, Keb was a few spots ahead of me. I only passed 3 on the swim, and they were quite accommodating about holding up at the wall to let me by. Coming out of T1, my wife informed me that a) I was 3rd out of T1 and b) the lawn needed to be mowed. With the TT start, you never really know where everyone is, but I felt I was in the right place.


About 3 miles into the race, I was in 1st place (physically), having passed Kade Hunter (remember that name! It’s called foreshadowing). Thanks to a quick swim and quick transition, I was ahead of Keb, but he was closing, having gained 10 seconds on the bike. By T2 we were only 19 seconds apart.


Fortunately, the run went well. At about 50% of the races I get hit with a side stitch on the run, but none today. Keb’s marathon training and race timing probably made him more fatigued that he would have been with a real taper, and I pulled away a bit on the run for the win.



–          Congratulations to Mike Strauss with a killer run time of 17:44! I look forward to racing him again, he’s going to be good.

–          Rus Southwick continues kick butt in transition. Drug test him!

–          I hope I’m still as fast as Gary Henderson when I’m M55-60. If he would just shave his chest, he’d make the Olympic swim team.



(this report is best read while listening to the Main Theme from Last of the Mohicans)


Oh, Salem. *sigh*. Salem, Salem, Salem. I could write a race report, or I could just sum it up in these two lines.


1 Casey Robles ELITE 1:03:41.9

2 David Warden ELITE 1:03:42.7

See the actual video of the 0.8 second difference CLICK HERE IMG_4143

For those of you who attended the University of Utah, I’ll do the math for you. That’s 0.8 seconds. A beam of light would have traveled a mere 133,600 miles in the time it took for me to finish behind Casey. For crying out loud, the difference in the 2012 Olympic Men’s 100 meter FINAL was more than 0.8 seconds. Even now, months later, the tears flow freely.


Flashback two hours earlier. My hopes are high. For the first time in as long as I have been racing Salem (6 years straight?) Heath Thurston and BJ Christensen are not racing Salem. The race is wide open, but competitive. Casey Robles, Devan Tandy, Ben Olsen, James Lawrence, Kade Hunter, Wes Johnson…any one of them could win. But I had beaten every one of them at a race in the past year, and was confident I could do it today.


Everything felt good. I had come in second the past two years to BJ and Heath. I was just off a great performance at the St. George Sprint. And I had been issued bib #1 for the first time in any race. Surely, no one could possible come in 2nd at the same event for 3 straight years, right Jim Kelly?


The swim? Solid. Not great, but solid. The bike gave me more confidence. I passed Casey on the bike earlier than at any other race (I love how Casey races topless!). More confidence. Devan was tough to catch, but by T2 I had gone from 7th to 3rd. Only Wes Johnson and Ben Olsen were ahead of me, with Devan and Casey right behind, but out of my mind.


Wes had a run injury that had kept down all season, and I had caught Wes on the run in a race just a month earlier. I had raced Ben the past two years and had always caught him at about mile 1.5 on the run, and his lead was about the same it had always been. All I had to do was catch them both again and the race was mine! Bwaaahaaahaaa!


Then, things got weird, and my emotions went up and down fast. Three big surprises on the run. First: Ben was not getting any closer. Salem offers very good line of sight to the competition ahead of you. After 5 minutes I realized he was definitely not getting any closer, in fact he might have been pulling away. One year of training obviously made a big difference in his run! By mile 1 I knew that unless Ben had a meltdown, I could not catch him. I was getting closer to Wes, but I resigned myself to second place…again. Instinctively I slowed down, unwilling to take second place at maximum pain.


Passing Wes brought on surprise #2 when Wes revealed,


“Ben missed part of the bike course. You’re in first if he gets DQ’d.”


Now I was reeling. A lot had to happen for a DQ, but it was enough to make me pause and run with Wes for a bit. Was he sure? How did it happen? Anyone else ahead of us? The whole conversation took just a few seconds. Yea, just a “few” seconds.


Now visions of victory were back in my head. Never again would I have this opportunity. I’m at peak form, BJ and Heath are no-shows, Ben clearly is better than me now but a stroke of (bad) luck gives me a one-time opportunity. I got back into gear and headed for the finish.


Until this point, in 5 years of Sprint racing, I had only ever been caught on the run once, and that was from a side stitch so bad I had to walk. Once I have a position on the run, I just don’t lose it. But, at mile 2, distracted by various themes of “David Warden: King of Salem” montages running through my head, I felt uneasy. Something was wrong. I ignored it for a few minutes, until surprise #3…


The unmistakable sound of feet on gravel closing in! I turned to see Casey and Devan 30 feet back. What a stupid mistake. Hubris, arrogance, and laziness never won Salem. I was in trouble with Casey that close, but what the heck was Devan doing that close (no offense Devan). I gave it everything I had. Just before the bridge, Casey and Devan caught me.


What a great moment! Two of my early triathlon idols, athletes who had beaten me time and time again for years. The three of us, side by side, flying to the finish line (turn up music here). I made a move, they moved just as fast. I made another move, Casey moved faster. Devan backed off just before the bridge. I told myself that whoever made it to the bridge was going to win, and I had to make it to the bridge first. No chance. I had visions of staying close enough to out sprint Casey after the bridge. I turned on the after-burners, and it felt exactly like those ubiquitous dreams where you try to run, but can’t.


I can fool myself into thinking that all I had to do was make up 1 second somewhere. In transition? Talking to Wes? Perhaps not accepting a distance 2nd place to Ben, not slowing down, and giving it my all no matter what place I was in?


The truth is this: Casey could have won by much more than 0.8 seconds. Once he caught me, all he had to do was react to me. Casey is an experienced runner. He knew he was a better runner than me, all he had to do was stay just ahead of me. My 100% for the last 1/2 mile was his 90%, and that’s all he needed. Whether he caught me at mile 2.5 or mile 2.95, I could not have re-passed him. It was not a matter of making up 0.8 seconds somewhere, it was a matter of not letting him catch me at all.


If I had managed to look back earlier? Maybe, but probably not. Let’s do the math. I could have been perhaps 20 seconds faster in total, and the pace that Casey was running was 35 seconds per mile faster. Very likely even at my best he would have caught me anyway. At least that’s what I tell myself as I cry myself to sleep on my huge pillow.



–          Good sport award goes to Ben Olsen. Yes, he did not do the prescribed bike course, but the path he took was just as long or longer (he went straight instead of turning right at the big hill early in the race, then turned right later to get back on course). USAT rules are very specific that this is a DQ even if no competitive advantage is gained, you must go back to the point of course deviation. Ben took it very well, he’s a great example. No doubt he was the fastest on the course that day.

–          Racetri made a tough call here too, but they did the right thing with the DQ. Another reason these guys are professional.

–          Casey shaved almost 3 minutes from his 2012 Salem time, I shaved 50 seconds. The lesson here is a) always race your hardest, regardless of position, and b) never judge an athlete based on what they were a year ago. Actually, never judge a person based on what they were a year ago. That’s deep.



Rock Cliff


Low water levels could not ruin what turned out to be fantastic weather. My wife, brother and sister-in-law did the Sprint as well, and they helped me stay remarkably calm all morning by pretending to need my help.


The swim went well, but felt long. It always feels long.


Jacob Petersen and Kade Hunter were the clear favorites for the podium. Jake is a 800-meter specialist which means his VO2 is off the charts. Jake had a) just gotten of an LDS mission b) Just gotten engaged and c) just had knee surgery, and I was STILL worried he could beat me. He’s that good. Kade has just kept chipping away at my lead every time we raced, and I knew he was just one breakthrough race away from leaving me in the dust.


Not much to report on this event. I pulled ahead at about mile 7 on the bike, passing Kade. Jason Shamy, the Rabbit, tried to man-hug me (again) as I passed him, but I avoided it as usual.


At the intersection in Frances, I surprised the cop who was not yet out of his patrol car when I passed by, leaving his cruiser rocking from sire-to-side, then clocking 52mph on the downhill back to T2.


The run presented my old enemy: the side stitch, which made me panic knowing that Jake was somewhere behind me. He could have easily pulled off a 17:50 run at his best, and I had visions of again getting caught. Fortunately, religion, love, and surgery kept him at bay and I got the lucky win.



–          I met my wife at her T2, and she had her shoelaces tied BEFORE putting them because they “looked tidier that way.” Yes, she had to untie her shoes before putting them on. In 19 years of marriage, this is the first flaw in her I’ve discovered.

–          This is a picture of me coming out of the water (on the right), and this is my brother who waited for his wife. I think we can all agree that my brother has his priorities misaligned.

–          Who the heck is Renson Marroquin and how does he keep embarrassing me on the run? Curse you Renson Marroquin!

–          Did you know that the name Marroquin means “one from Morocco?” I already knew that. It wasn’t because I googled “how to slow down Renson Marroquin.”

–          8 of the top 10 females were over 35, only 4 of the top 10 males were over 35. Who gets better with age?



Herriman Blackridge


It was the best of races, it was the worst of races.


First time at Blackridge, and the entire family have come to the race, including my father (recently re-married this summer to my mother after 30-years of divorce. No kidding).


There were 5 athletes I was most worried about. Herman Vandecasteel, an amazing cyclist who has beaten me before. Jake Rushton, a smart triathlete who can outrun me any day. Kade Hunter and Griffen Conroy, both coached by the great Wes Johnson. And Rory Duckworth.

Rory is a great triathlon success story. In just a few years he has gone from middle of the pack, to top 10%, to consistent favorite and regular overall winner. His hard work, smart training, and natural talent have converged into a regional triathlon powerhouse. We raced twice before Herriman this year, and split the results. At the St. George Triathlon (Sprint) I managed to win the event, primarily because Rory was just two weeks out from the St. George 70.3. He was simply not 100% after his monster performance there. In early July, we went head to head again at Echo and he clobbered me to a distant 2nd place. He was the man to beat.

As the saying goes, “keep your enemies close, Keb Wilson closer, but stay as far ahead of Rory Duckworth as possible.” That was the strategy. Actually, the strategy was to keep him within 30 seconds on the bike. He’s just a better cyclist than me. I had no illusions of beating his bike split, but I felt confident I could run him down if he was only 30 seconds ahead.

At first, it worked. Thanks to a small error by Rory, and an advantageous swim course design*, I was first out of the water in the first elite wave. This had never happened before. “First out of the water” and “David Warden” had never been said in the same sentence. My wife was waiting for her wave to start when I came out and said “Way to go…David?” Never before was I the leader on the bike out of T1, and things were looking good. I had a 16 second lead over Rory, giving me a decent cushion for my goal of keeping him less than 30 seconds ahead.

Then I made a mistake I’ll regret for the rest of the season. Despite waking up at 4am in order to understand and drive the bike course, despite my determination to know the course, I missed the next quick left on Emmaline Drive. I just can’t explain it. The cop was there waving me “through”, maybe there was a moving car blocking the left turn sign. Maybe I just was too excited about being out first. Maybe I’m an idiot. Regardless, it is the responsibility of the athlete to know the course.

Flying down Juniper at…an undisclosed speed…felt great, but I instantly had a nagging feeling. I glanced over the shoulder, fortunately quickly. No Rory. I turned around, saw that I had lured Kade Hunter down the same primrose path that is the downhill of Juniper. I shouted to him we had to turn around and hammered back up the hill to make the correct turn on Emmaline.

How much time did I lose? Thanks to the curse of modern technology, I have the GPS data to quantify my first mistake of the day. Just less than 1 minute**. About 20 seconds down the hill and 40 seconds back up.

Riding angry now, I passed Jeanette Schellenberger and Jake Rushton, but Rory was already GONE. By the time we hit the Bachus Highway, the first time I could get a clear view of where Rory was, I hit my timer and he was already 55 seconds ahead.

Approaching the intersection at 13400 South, there was not yet a policeman there to control the 2-way intersection. A truck was approaching from my left. I came to a complete stop*** stared straight ahead in total race mode, waited for the truck to pass, then gunned it as soon as I saw the truck’s rear tire go by. Unfortunately, the truck was carrying a low, long trailer hidden from my initial assessment as it approached from my left. The wheel well of the trailer clipped my front wheel, sent it spinning off to the side, and I went down on my elbow.

What seemed like forever was actually again, just under 1 minute based on my GPS. I got the tire back on and kept going. My aerobars were at least 15 degrees from parallel to my bike due to the impact, but there was only about 2 miles left in the bike.

The run was terrible. I could not bend my left arm, it just dangled at my side. I felt weird and just could not get my rhythm and limped into 3rd. The medic on-site thought it might be a fracture, but I was later diagnosed with WOSSI syndrome**** and was 100% in just a few days, just an inflamed nerve. What a disappointment in front of the whole family to have my worst race ever. In over 50 races I had never gone off course. The worst part is that even though I had all those issues, I still would have lost to Rory even with a perfect race. The dude is money now.


–          *Rory accidentally started swimming to the right of the first “gate” buoy, and had to come back around to catch the pack. I calculate that the multiple buoys on the short, circular course is what gave me an unusual advantage on the swim. Whoever made it to the initial buoy first then forced the other swimmers to either take a longer, curved line around the lead swimmer in order to pass, or to fall in behind the slower swimmer to take the shortest path. I sprinted to the first buoy, got there first, and managed to hold everyone else behind me like a semi in a one-lane freeway.

–          **See http://tpks.ws/1Xk4 to view my entire race file. The swim is all wonky due to the lost signal when swimming

–          ***Refer to the “mostly true” part of this document’s title.

–          **** WOSSI: Warden Over-States Seriousness of Injury

–          I want to ensure the multi-sport community that despite my accident, triathlon is safe, and that Racetri is a professional and safety-first organization. No race director wants racers in slings on their podium pictures (sorry guys, I should have taken it off for the cameras, a dumb lapse in judgment). It’s important to me that I convey that what happened was 100% my responsibility. Any athlete who races at several events, and given that each of those events have multiple intersections, finds it is inevitable that sooner or later one of those intersections will be uncontrolled. Despite the best efforts of the race management company, they cannot guarantee that local law enforcement will be able to arrive before the first cyclist. In those cases, safety is the responsibility of the athlete.


Camp Yuba

It was going to be a rematch of Kade Hunter, Jacob Petersen, and David Warden (if you win 10 triathlons in one year you get to refer to yourself in 3rd person).


Kade Hunter and I had raced just the week before at the East Canyon Triathlon, where thanks to an error on Kade’s part, I had won by just 15 seconds. He had really beaten me athletically; I won only technically because I was the first one to cross the finish line. If I didn’t have a perfect race at Yuba, he was going to beat me this time.


Jake Peterson was healthier than last race and looking sharp.


To make matters more interesting, John Kemp was there. I had beaten John by only 14 seconds the last time we met, where he had just about run me down in the last 400 meters of the race. And guess what? John had a little brother, Kevin, who was racing. As the oldest of 6 children, I fear the little brother. The 5 of us were likely to round out the top 5.


My groove was thrown off from the start when Aaron announced that there would be 2 Sprint waves. Under 35 years old and Over 35 years old. Apparently 35 is the new over-the-hill. The other 4 contenders were all under 35. I would be racing blind, not knowing where I was relative to my rivals. I approached Aaron and the conversation went something like this:


“So there is no Open or Elite wave?” (translation: What the crap? Why are you putting me with the peasants?)


“That’s right.” (translation: Quit whining, prima donna. Why don’t you man-up and do an Olympic now and then.)


“So I need to go in the second Sprint wave?” (translation: You’re not going to make an exception for David Warden?)


“Yes.” (translation: Hey, David Warden do what David Warden gotta do, but if you want to race today, it’s from the second wave.)


The swim was a bit crowded, but I felt strong. I was suspicious of the swim distance due to the “buoygate” scandal of Camp Yuba 2012 (was is a conspiracy in 2012*?). I left T1 feeling great with a swim where it should be. I knew that I just had to get the leaders within 2 minutes of me (the difference between wave 1 and 2). The bike course is just great at Yuba. No way to get lost on this course!**


As I approached the bike turnaround, sure enough the leaders were sorting out. In order: Kade, John, Jake and Kevin were ahead, already flying in the opposite direction. I calculated that I was still a full 2.5 minutes behind Kade. Kevin was wearing a T-shirt, flapping in the wind as I passed him. Let it be known that Kevin Kemp had one of the fastest bikes of the day while still wearing a moo moo.


I entered T2 feeling just great with Jake, John and I all in T2 at the same time with Kade ahead by an unknown time. This meant I had a 2-minute lead on Jake and John, but both were capable of running more than 2 minutes faster than me and I decided it was best to to hang with them. At the dam, Jake, John and I were all close together and John started to surge. I stayed with him, and Jake started to pull back.


John did a great job pushing me. By the turnaround, I calculated I was 90 seconds behind Kade in real-time, which meant I was 30 seconds ahead of him in the race. John went turbo on me at mile 2 and I could not follow, but I was ok with that knowing that I just had to keep him less than 2 minutes ahead. I crossed the finish line in 3rd, but won the race just 49 seconds ahead of Kade with John in 3rd.




–          Kade, John, and Kevin all had a T2 time of 37 seconds. Weird.

–          I had good transitions (Russ Southwick would be proud). If you take out the transitions I was only 25 seconds ahead of Kade athletically.

–          *Yes

–          **Dave Sherwin DID manage to get lost on the course, taking a left onto the I-15 southbound ramp instead of left on frontage road. Too funny.

–          In 12th place was Scott Swift. Coolest name ever for a triathlete.

–          Jameson King comes out of retirement, hadn’t raced for 18 months and wins the Olympic! That’s impressive.


David Warden


Thanks to David Warden for this amazing report on his experience of the RaceTri events. This year David Warden received the RaceTri athlete of the year award


Presentation of the award: “David Warden bib #1 Took first at Ice Breaker, Took second at Salem, Took first at Rock Cliff, at Black Ridge he took a wrong turn, got hit by a car – got back on his busted up bike, got back on course and still managed to finish 3rd place overall. This guy is a force! But more than a force I saw this guy 6 months ago stand on the podium 1st place at ice breaker and then hang around and cheer on the kids for the kids race, and after the kids race was over he stayed even longer and clapped for every single kid as they took a turn standing on top of the podium (and not any of the kids were his). He cheered athletes on as they raced 70.3 miles at the Utah Half. This all around class act is what RaceTri is all about; good sportsmanship, pushing to be ones best self, promoting the sport of triathlon, and so it is with great honor we present David with the  RaceTri Athlete of the Year Award.”

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