Monday, August 11, 2014

Age Group Nationals 2014

The past few weeks have been busy and inspiring. Several people I know competed in IRONMAN races in Canada and Boulder. Along with the NoCo Tri club and CSU Tri team, I volunteered at a bike aid station for IM Boulder. It was great to be on the other side of the food/water hand-off and encouraging the athletes. I also ended up with close to 50 extra bananas which I had to eat in 2 days before going bad. Just kidding, I chopped them up and put them in the freezer...smoothies have been amazing!

Bananas on bananas on bananas

This weekend I went to Milwaukee for age group nationals with a couple other triathletes from northern Colorado. After Lifetime Minneapolis, I was debating whether to race again in Milwaukee this year. My focus has been preparing for 70.3 Worlds (longer distance) and I didn't want to take too much time away from that. Ultimately, the atmosphere and competition at age group nationals is top notch so I decided to commit and race. Early in the week, training was the same as any other week highlighted by a Wednesday night open water swim/run followed by a potluck at Horsetooth Reservoir. (Thanks Green Events for organizing throughout the summer.)

Getting to Milwaukee was a little hectic. My 8 pm flight got delayed till about 10:30, resulting in me getting to the hotel around 2 am. Many type A people would probably have a panic attack but I figured it was out of my control and not something worth stressing about. This mindset really carried throughout the weekend. To kill time in the airport, I enjoyed my home made dinner, hung out with another CSU Tri team member whose flight was also delayed (so many bored selfie snaps), and watched part of a movie.

Airport dinner! Salad w/ rice, carrots, baby tomatoes, cashews, raisins, kidney beans

For the weekend, I traveled and stayed with two other Fort Collins athletes also competing. The day before the race, we slept in a little but made it down to the race site before 10. We finished quick workouts, packet pickup and bike check by 2 and headed to Whole Foods for our big meal of the day. The rest of the evening and afternoon was spent napping, putting race numbers on gear and getting snacks from Trader Joe's.

Skratch bag came in handy while stocking up at Trader Joe's

Race Day
Race-day morning started early as Brent was in the first wave. I ate a rice cake with some blackberry spread and a banana before leaving the room, but carried the rest of my breakfast to the race site. After setting up transition, Cyrus and I relaxed for a while before the first wave went off. I listened to a little music and ate my new favorite breakfast (3 races now) recommended by my girlfriend, Geneva...quinoa and hummus!

Eventually the waves started and Cyrus and I moved around to spectate and cheer on Brent and the other racers. As our start time neared, I got in a good warm-up, checked my post-race bag and put on the Roka Maverick. I was excited to go and felt surprisingly relaxed. I saw a lot of people doing the typical sizing-up/intimidation/pre-competition stares. I know racing and adrenaline brings out the competitive side in us but I think it's still important to keep in mind that we do this sport by choice - for fun, no one is forcing it upon us.

**enjoy triathlon

Swim start: crowded, tapered and jacked up 24 and unders raring to go. It was a battle for the first couple minutes.

I started a couple lines back but eventually found some people to swim with. Things felt good and in control. Along with a couple others we made our way through the faster starters and up the ramp into the transition area.

I ran hard through transition and got settled in to the bike after tightening up my shoes. In the past I have freaked out at how far behind I was and gone very hard on early sections of rides. Instead, I stayed calm and was confident that the time spent riding the past couple months would work out for me. On the first out-and-back I saw the super swimmers. At the time, the gap seemed big - I estimated around 1.5 minutes or so. I wasn't sure I would ever catch them but figured I would just go as hard as I felt was right and see what happened.

It was getting hot out so I made sure to take a sip of Skratch every 6 to 8 minutes or so. I didn't want skipping sips to catch up to me on the run. The course was relatively easy and fast (but you can always pedal harder). The only hill was an overpass. The many different wave start times made determining overall placement (vs just age group) challenging.
I was much closer to the leader at second out-and-back and caught him a couple miles before t2. We headed into transition together and out onto the run course.

Ian leading into transition

I suspected Ian had been working on his run and he has made a lot of progress. I tried to ease in to the 10k, with Ian right on my shoulder. I didn't want to go really hard to try and drop him in the first 2 miles only to blow up and be caught during the last couple miles. With that being said, I knew if I wanted a shot at a good overall time I couldn't back off too much. Ian hung tough through the first out and back then started fading.

Final stretch

To keep pushing myself, I thought about all the people who I'd trained with and were supporting me this year and what a good result would mean for that community. It made a huge difference to think of other people instead of focusing on the pain I was putting my own body through. I went hard to the final turn around, saw I had a decent gap. The remainder of the run was a slightly downhill straight shot. I was hurting but felt encouraged by those around me also racing and the spectators cheering. Because I don't race with any data (I wear a watch out of habit but don't start the time at the beginning of a race) I had no idea of my relative overall position. As with all races, I wanted to finish strong feeling that I had left everything out on the course.

Shortly after finishing, a USAT representative informed me I unofficially had the fastest time for the day. Winning the race and being called a national champion was the result of consistent hard work.  In usual delusional post-race mental state, I gave her a couple comments. Looking back I'm both surprised and disappointed that USADA was not involved at this level of competition.

I felt surprisingly little stress going in to the race even though I knew many people had their eyes on me. What I've learned this season is that I don't care so much about a time result or place. Yes, I look at splits and analyze results just like everyone after a race, but during...I think the experience really needs to be enjoyed. Staying in the moment by focusing on the task at hand works well for me. This result is not only a great milestone for me but it's also great for the Fort Collins community.

What is great about endurance sports is that at some point (with increased distance or with challenging courses) hard work and perseverance will beat raw speed. Even more so over three disciplines. One aspect about triathlon that I like is that if someone is faster than me, I know they have worked their butt off in training and have been smart about recovery to get to where they are.

Racing without socks = cut up feet

After the race we cheered on the super sprint racers before our appetites took control. We ate a quick snack at the hotel, then met up with my friend from Minnesota, Dave, at a pizza place to catch up. Next, we headed to the awards ceremony with the EMJ guys. Seeing the longevity of the people competing in triathlons and enjoying their experience was very inspiring.

EMJ crew at the awards

Big thanks to MP Multisport coach Jon Mason for outlining my training and highly recommending I compete at AG nationals...Every Man Jack for the fantastic products, cleaning up nice after a race never felt so good...Roka for a ridiculously fast and cool looking wetsuit (I got several comments at the swim practice the day before...yes I love it, yes it feels fantastic and yes it does look sweet)...Skratch labs for the hydration mix, worked perfectly yet again (orange flavor this time)...Trader Joe's in Milwaukee for providing me with a place to get the essential snacks to make it through the weekend (watermelon, dried mango and hummus)...of course CSU Triathlon and NoCo Tri members, thanks for the training and friendly faces...and my parents and family, your support and enthusiasm means a lot to me.

So many notifications

This summer has been straight-up terrific and while I don't want it to end, I'll be starting my Master's degree this fall and teaching a lab at CSU. Racing wise, I plan to race with the CSU Tri team at Boulder Sunset then I'll be heading to Canada with the EMJ crew for 70.3 Worlds.

Once again, to anyone who has messaged me or congratulated me, I really appreciate the thoughts and kind words. To the athletes, keep training, I hope to see you out there...

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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