During the bike ride, however, Dye broke free, finishing that portion 2:12 in front of the next man, 28-year-old Seattle native Ben Collins. Dye heard someone in the crowd yell to him that he held a commanding lead. Still, he never felt comfortable. Running is his weakness.
"There's definitely been days where I've come off the bike 90 seconds up, and it has disappeared in a hurry," he said. "It's a good thing to hear [about leading], but it's definitely a matter of pushing constantly, because the guys behind me are phenomenal runners."
Dye ran cross country in high school, but once he entered the pool in college, his legs were dedicated to the water. At Iowa, Dye said, he doesn't think he ran once. But since he started competing in professional triathlons in 2007, he said his running has improved each year.
His technique still can fail him when he gets tired, however, and his stomach muscles squeezed tight about 4 miles into the run. He didn't chug any water, though — he feared that adding liquid would only sharpen the side stitch. Instead, he pushed forward for the final kick.
At the final turn, Dye said, he looked behind him. He didn't see anybody. For the third time this year, he crossed the line in first place.
Every race brings pain, he said: sore arms, sore legs, hot spots on the feet.
"But when you win, it's like as soon as you get to the chute, it all just disappears," Dye said. "You can fall across the line, but if you win it pretty much makes it all not hurt so much."
His run this year actually was 25 seconds slower than his run in last year's Philadelphia Triathlon. But Dye said his effort Sunday was better. His time would have improved had someone else stayed close enough behind to motivate him, he said.
The 35-year-old Potts, who set a course record last year by finishing in 1:46:05, said the conditions weren't as favorable this year. Strong water currents and a headwind challenged the competitors.
Potts, who was born in Hershey and grew up in Princeton, thought he was in striking distance until Dye broke away in the bike portion.
"There was no giving it; he took it," Potts said. "He took all that time, and it was like he was earning that time and riding hard. I felt like I was riding hard, and I got off the bike in third."
Potts was seconds behind Collins, and 3 minutes behind Dye. He could catch Collins. But not Dye. Not in a 6.2-mile run.
If this were a longer triathlon, such as the Ironman competitions Potts competes in, Sunday's results might have been different, Potts said. But in an Olympic-style run, you don't have as much of a chance to make up lost time.
In the women's race, Haskins, of Clermont, Fla., finished the swimming portion in second, in striking distance of the lead. But she wasn't so sure. She thought she was in second, but that's not what she saw.
When Haskins rounded the last marker in the water, she started pedaling back toward where the swimmers had begun. That's the course's design. But when the St. Louis native stretched toward the river bank, she approached a pack of 11 women, a whole group in front of her.
She thought she was faster than those women, but she was staring at their backs. She later found out that group had rounded the second-to-last marker — a penalty that later disqualified them. But at the time, Haskins was confused.
"Mentally, it's tough," the 31-year-old said. "I was running through transitions thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, there's, like, 10 women in front of me. I don't know if I did the right thing.' I'm second-guessing myself."
But Haskins passed that group — for the second time — and then cruised past Sara McLarty about 2 miles into the bike race.
From there, Haskins didn't look back. She beat McLarty by about 6 minutes for her first win in Philadelphia and her third victory of the season.
Her victory wasn't quite as ceremonious as Dye's, though. Dye's wife, Natalie, had never been to a race that he won. And the couple's 9-month-old son, Liam, stayed home with Grandma in Boulder, allowing Dye's birthday to end in a more relaxed way than it started.
All he wanted was a nice dinner. n
Contact Tyler Jett at firstname.lastname@example.org