Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Clemson 2015 - Collegiate Club Nationals

A few weeks ago, I traveled with the CSU Tri team to Clemson, South Carolina for the Collegiate Club National Championships. It's taken me a long to finalize this blog because since returning to school, I've been working hard to prepare for finals, finish assignments and other things in life.

A group of us competing in the draft-legal events left Colorado Wednesday to arrive a day earlier then the majority of the 30+ CSU athletes that would be attending. As I'm sure most of the other schools can attest to, the logistics of getting to Clemson was a little hectic but eventually we made it to the hotel around  

Thursday was spent doing a course preview, loosening up, discussing strategy with Coach Mace, getting checked in and drinking smoothies.  
This swimskin is awesome!

I think we made 3 trips there over the weekend...
Friday morning started early with some rice, almond butter and bananas. The weather was fantastic and my body felt good! 
After getting set in transition, I warmed up and waited with the others on the beach for the start. With a low number I was starting second from the outside on the left.  Eventually, we were off. I quickly crossed over Dylan to the outside and sprinted for a minute or so before trying to cut back and find a pack. After the first turn I saw was a few seconds behind a larger group and tried to make up the distance in the last straight-away. I came out of the water with a few other athletes around me ready to work on the bike.  

I was excited about trying to work with the athletes around me on the draft-legal bike after having  success motivating the group the second day at Clermont.  After mounting my bike, Coach Frost told me that everyone was strung out and that no one was working together. I could see a steady line of athletes just up the hill from me. My legs did not like the effort I was forcing them into but it was time to race! After heading out to a highway, the bike course was three loops of a boring straight away.  The straight away with 180 degree turns was pretty lame for a draft-legal course and made it really hard to split things up because no matter what, everyone had to slow down for the 180s.  Coach Frost and other coaches stood at one end of the loop giving us splits and updates.
Strava file here.
The first few minutes in the pack I tried to be relentless about taking pulls. I encouraged people and had no problem jumping to the front when the pace slowed. There was only one group ahead of us, with 2 faster swimmers off the front.  Most of our group was content with sitting in but we still caught the group in front of us.  Michael from Texas A&M had some hard pulls and looking back we should have tried to get away from our big group with one or two others. 

The road leading back to transition was lined with people all of the schools, cheering us on. The energy was amazing.   I made it out to the run course at the back of a small pack.  The road was again lined with people yelling and screaming.  Whatever energy people had not showed on that bike they were smashing the run.  I hung on at the back of the group waiting for people to drop off as they usually do but it never happened. These guys went HARD.  The 5k felt ridiculously fast and I wasn't moving up through the field as I usually did.  I passed a few people and ended up possibly running my fastest 5k ever.  

After the race, I did a quick cool-down and then cheered on the women draft-legal team.  Emily, a freshman from CSU came off in the lead bike pack and ended up leading the run for almost a full lap. She had a gap on second place and I was getting chills watching the race unfold. It was so awesome to see some one from our school doing that!  A few girls caught her on the second lap but she had an amazing race and I know she learned a lot.
Emily - leading the women's DL race!!
The rest of the day was spent relaxing, eating and getting equipment ready for Saturday's olympic distance race.  I spent some time with my parents who had made the journey from the Tundra (Minnesota).  It was great catching up with them as always.

Saturday started early and before we knew it we were at the race site in a slight drizzle.  My brother stopped by in transition and we wished each other luck.  Ernie had a great race and most importantly enjoyed his experience.  I did a shortened warmup, and got in my Roka wetsuit for the 730 am start.  I swam around a bit then lined up far left.  After a slight delay, things got underway.  I tried to push myself for the first few minutes but my body wanted to build into the effort.  I didn't start feeling like I was in race mode until we headed back to the beach.  I was afraid any chances of being towards the front were gone after that but I told myself to not give up. 

My glasses fogged up heading out of transition so I shoved them down my jersey momentarily. I pushed hard the first 10 minutes and made my way up to the guys who I normally exit the swim with.  It was raining a little bit which made the ride a really cool experience. Riding in the rain sucks if you're commuting to school and or if its cold. Racing in the rain can be a lot of fun.
Strava file here.
We gained some time on the race leaders the first lap and passed a lot of the faster swimmers.  I was really impressed with Cole Bunn from CU. He showed an enormous amount of maturity on the bike, pacing and riding smooth, unlike someone at their first Collegiate Nationals.  After three laps we headed back to transition, bombarded with cheering from all sides. 

I headed out on the run intent on running my own race.  A couple guys took off immediately and I picked up my pace to not let them get too far head.  The run was very spectator friendly. There was a hill at one end and a color run was happening nearby playing music. I couldn't tell you what songs were playing but it did help to forget a little about what we were putting our bodies through. 

Running uphill I didn't make up much ground until we hit the hill for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th times.  Again I found myself with Cole and was happy to run with someone for a bit.  I saw Ernie out on the course a few times and we grunted encouragement at each other.  He moved up a lot during his run! I ran my way up a few spots and ended up finishing 10th. After, I cheered on the rest of the CSU men and was so pumped for them all to have awesome races. 

After the race, the rain died off in time for the women's race to have dry roads and a cloudy sky.  I hobbled around trying to yell for Geneva and the other girls.  Cheering them on for their run was a highlight.  All of our girls were spaced very closely and in the thick of it, competing!  The Wisconsin tri team had about 20 people at the turn-around doing awesome cheers which more often than not made those suffering in the race laugh or smile.

Both our relay teams did awesome and I'm really glad some of the older students were able to experience the draft-legal atmosphere, having the majority of people yelling and screaming at you like only college students can.

After the relay, we headed back to the hotel were the officers had coordinated for Chipotle to be catered. It was delicious.  A couple burrito bowls later, and in our rainbow costume, we headed to the awards ceremony.  

We knew both our men's and women's team had done well. It was heartbreaking to find out that our men placed 6th by just 5 points and the women 8th.  Even though we did not make the podium, nobody can take away from the team how hard we worked to get ready for this race and how much of a family we became for each other in the process.  In my four years of competing at this race, I'm always reminded each year of how much bonding happens while we are all suffering together.  We had an amazing build up for this race with so many people supporting us and believing in us. 

A massive thank you to the team's coaches that guided us to becoming a nationally competitive team, having fun along the way. Thanks to everyone's parents who came and supported us or cheered us on virtually.  And big thanks to the team for making this year's race so memorable.  All the volunteering, late nights and early mornings were worth it for a great weekend. I don't know what next year will bring for me but I know this team is headed in the right direction. Thanks to friends, family and EMJ Teammates for all the encouraging words. I truly appreciate it.
Collegiate Nationals - always an amazing experience
Up next I will be focusing on longer distances starting with Boulder 70.3 on June 13th.  I'll be following a training plan to build endurance for focus races IM Boulder and Kona towards the end of the season.

I'll do my best to keep my outdoor rides updated (I ride the trainer a few days a week) on strava so follow along and feel free to give me some feedback! I'm looking forward to some solid training the next few weeks with friends.  Thanks for reading - train smart and have fun!

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