USAT Age Group Nationals Race Report
|August 22, 2011||Posted by Emily under Uncategorized|
I went into this race with two very simple goals.
One, to have fun.
Second, to beat my time from the DC Tri.
Mission not accomplished, but for good reasons and I’m okay with it.
Let’s back up.
I arrived at the Burlington waterfront almost an hour before transition closed to try and avoid the usual mayhem that greets my less than punctual self on race day mornings. As much as I love hearing the announcer yell “2 minutes until transition closes!” every time I pull up to a triathlon, I decided to avoid that excitement this time around.
Of course, that’s not to say I avoided all race day drama…I had more than one member of my family sprinting to the transition area to hand me things I kind of sort of needed…like race belts and safety pins.
Oh, and nutrition. I managed to not pack the majority of my nutritional needs. Luckily, I was able to bum some gu off a very kind girl in my age group. Clearly I was uber prepared for this race.
One thing, I was not lacking: awesome cheerleaders.
Besides my immediate family,
I was blessed with the company of my two aunts (one not pictured because she arrived after I jumped in the lake and escaped before I could bombard her with photo requests)
My rock star boyfriend
And two of my best friends from high school
One, a champion triathlete in training and the other just a champion.
Plus, my friend Leslie (remember her from the Expo?) was working the finish line and managed to sneak away from her post to cheer me on every time I was in and out of transition.
We randomly bumped into her on our way to the start, because you know, it’s Vermont and the population of the entire state is the size of your average high school. That, and the transition area was parked right in Leslie’s front yard.
If anyone knows the formula USAT uses to determine the order of starting waves, I would love to hear it. Because to me, it makes no sense to have the 20-24 women go at 7:32 while you make the poor 25-29 year old women wait a very long hour before jumping in the water.
A very long hour that also means these same 25-29 year old women will be running after the sun has had some extra time to rise and heat up the race course. But, more on that in a bit…
So, after transition closed, I waited around for that very long hour with my family and friends and took my sweet time lubing up, putting on the wetsuit and getting pumped to dive into Lake Champlain.
Finally, it was my time to line up with the rest of the girls in my age group.
After the mass swim start of thousands at Lake Placid, I will never be intimidated by wave starts again. 76 women to contend with in the water? No sweat.
When the gun went off, I quickly found my own patch of open water, sighted off of the first orange buoy and worked myself into a nice, smooth stroke.
The first several minutes of the swim were just terrific. I set out to have fun this race, and it was happening. Then, some other stuff started to happen…
First, it got choppy. Lake Champlain is a really big ass lake and not lacking in sizeable waves and rough water. As we were swimming toward the final buoy before the turnaround, I felt like a ferry must have just roared by as I battled wave after wave to keep moving forward. In reality, it was probably just a tug boat floating along, and I’m just not used to swimming in anything less calm than my bathtub.
But the waves were nothing compared to what came next.
cue ominous music.
MEN. Really, really fast men. Strong men. Men who wanted to win a national title in triathlon and would stop at nothing to get it…including innocent 27 year old girls who might need a little physical drowning to get out of their way. Now, normally I’m not the kind of girl who will complain about an influx of athletic gentlemen, but normally said gentlemen are not willing to physically harm me to get across the finish line a few seconds faster.
To make matters worse, I encountered the first of these men (who were in the wave 4 minutes after me) as I rounded the first turn buoy. Now, turn buoys are always a little bit of a clusterfuck with everyone wrestling to get around them at the same time, but add a few victory hungry large men to the mix, and all hell breaks loose.
For those of you have read the second Hunger Games book (and those of you who haven’t: skip ahead), I felt like the clock had just tick tocked and the Gamemakers sent me a new obstacle to survive, and my outlook was not good.
But miraculously, I remained alive after the onslaught of vicious triathletes, and started to try and find the next buoy. For some reason, USAT decided to not use very many buoys to mark the course; I believe there were 5 spread out over the 1500 meters. And after we rounded the final turn before heading back to shore we were looking right into the rising sun. I could. not. see. So I followed the angry splashing of the men in front of me and desperately kept trying to find the alleged buoy in front of me. Apparently, according to my merry band of cheerleaders, wave after wave of swimmers kept going way off course at this turn. They said it looked almost like we rounded over an additional buoy and added about 200 meters to the swim course. My guess, is one early wave had trouble finding the buoy, and everyone after that just kept sighting off of the lost waves in front of them.
I have never been so disoriented in the water. At one point, I did perform what felt like a full 180 degree turn and still did not see a buoy. Based on my family and friends’ report, it sounds like this very much may have happened.
Finally, I saw a buoy and hungrily swam toward it. When I exited the water, I looked down at my watch:
Slowest Olympic swim ever, but I felt good while I was actually swimming and considering sighting issues, the men of doom and the chop, I’m okay with it.
As I ran out of the water, I saw all of my hot pink spectators lining the course. There were enough of them to stagger themselves and spread out so I felt a lot of love running up the short hill into transition.
Because we were near the last wave of the day, the transition area had turned into a big mud pit for us, forcing us to walk in a lot of spots to avoid catastrophic falls on our way in. Other than that, a smooth transition all around before I was off on the bike.
I knew the bike course was going to be hilly, but I clearly forgot just HOW hilly Vermont is. Turns out, they named it the Green Mountain State for a reason.
As soon as we were off on the bike, we started hitting climbs, and they just. didn’t. stop.
The bike course for the race was pretty much the exact route that I used to regularly ride after I first got Big Red and was starting to get into the sport. You would think that I would know the course profile like the back of my hand, but apparently distance does not make the heart grow fonder, it just makes the heart forget. The flats of DC have clearly spoiled me and washed my memory clean of just how hilly my old route is.
It did not take long for me to realize that it was not going to be any kind of a PR day for me, or even a day to beat my time from the DC Tri. My body actually felt much better than expected, but I was no match for the constant ascents.
So I stopped worrying or caring about how fast I was going and just enjoyed the ride through the rolling countryside of Vermont.
Bike 1:25.47 Pace: 17.3
By the time I hit the final stretch into transition and saw the mass of hot pink shirts, I was so ready to hop off Big Red and hit the ground running. I don’t know how I ever survived 112 miles on the bike during a race, 40k was plenty for me on Saturday.
Because I already knew my time going to be my slowest Oly ever, I didn’t rush through T2. I redid my hair, tied my shoes (speedlaces? what are speedlaces?) and made sure my Garmin actually had time to start up for once.
It would be very easy for me to get discouraged when I come off the bike during a triathlon. Pretty much every other competitor’s bike was already racked in transition, signifying that I was in close to dead last position in my age group.
But I don’t choose to see it as a means of frustration, I see it as a challenge and an opportunity to make up for my lack of speed on the bike with a killer run.
The course profile for the run at Nationals was pretty gentle…with the exception of one KILLER hill immediately after transition.
It’s close to a quarter mile long and wicked steep. (Wicked=New England speak for “really, very, hella” steep.)
I was so tempted to walk it, but my stupid family kept running alongside me and cheering me on and obviously I couldn’t let them down and not run. So I ran.
As did my dad…
I don’t know if these pictures do it any justice, but hopefully they convey to some extent that this hill was a beast
that just kept going.
I think smiling and trying to engage with my family was tougher than the climb itself…
But I finally reached the top and stretched out my legs to get a good stride going for the rest of the run course.
As soon as my legs got over the whole massive hill thing, they hit a good pace under a 7 minute mile.
I thought briefly about slowing down and trying to save some energy for the end of the race in case I hit a wall, but decided to take Prefontaine’s approach to competition by racing with guts and just trying to hang on.
While I get passed more than anyone else on the bike, the run is my time to do the passing. I like to keep my pace steady by slowly narrowing in on anyone ahead of me and then closing in on them until I pass. I don’t really care at all about who is competition in my age group or even gender, in fact, I prefer to pass men.
I felt awesome for the first four miles, my pace held around a 7:01-7:10 min/mile and my legs still felt fresh.
As I hit the mile 4 marker, I began to feel a little fatigue creep in, so I took a Gu, and instantly felt recharged.
I kept telling myself to cling to my speed and just get to the next mile.
When I neared the finish line, I sprinted with everything I had left and fist pumped my way through the final meters of the race.
Final Time: 2:44.45
While this may have been my slowest Olympic Triathlon yet, I in no way feel that it was my worst race. To compare this course to the other two I have done would be like comparing apples to cheeseburgers.
My body felt strong, especially strong considering I’m less than a month out from racing an Ironman and I had an absolute blast during the race.
Next year? Next year I’m racing this sucker and I promise you I will be a whole lot faster than a 2:45.
Until then, it’s been fun Burlington.