Intimidating. Humbling. Awesome. That sums up the USAT Age Groups Nationals in three words. When I was wandering around the expo looking at all of the incredibly fit people with incredibly expensive bikes and incredibly serious looks on their faces, I kept thinking "I do not belong here. I am in way over my head." I was under trained going in and I suddenly felt self-conscious of my aluminum frame bike and $40 helmet from REI. Intimidating.
As a side note, I stayed in Burlington with Shelley's family. They are as amazing as Shelley is, big surprise. I'll have another post just on Vermont and travelling later. But I would not have done this race if Shelley's family wasn't close and I owe them a HUGE thank you. Shelley's step-mom Mary, also raced. She is a BAMF and qualified for the World championship in New Zealand. She's my hero.
I knew before the race that I was in the 3rd to the last wave to go and I had more race-anxiety than normal. The men's 24 and under was after my wave and I wasn't looking forward to that for good reason. They had every wave corralled up at the dock and then lead us down to the water as a group. I felt like we were cattle being lead to slaughter. Did I mention race anxiety? My wetsuit didn't help the feeling of suffocation. It was a treading-water start, which was a great opportunity to get used to the water before the chaos began.
After waiting for the countdown and gun, we were off. This was probably the most physical swim I've ever done; physical meaning lots of contact with other bodies. The beginning went well - cool water temps and a good draft. Then at the halfway point, the youngsters caught us. The 24 and under men just started swimming over the top of us. Fuck, fuck, fuck, this is not good. Arms and legs everywhere. Yellow caps. Green caps. The water tasted like diesel fuel. I started leading with my elbows just to keep my head above water. Keep calm and breathe. Keep calm and breathe. Those damn whipper-snappers. No manners in the water. I'm ready for the 30-34 age group, just to get away from the 24 and under men.
I came out of the water in about 32 min, a good swim for me. I was a little dazed and had the feeling of vertigo. I found my bike and ran out the end of transition. Then kept running. Jeeze, how far is the mount line? I felt like I ran a quarter mile with my bike! The transition area routing was poor at best. Bike-in crossed over swim-in, bike-out crossed over run-out. I'm surprised there weren't any crashes.
I got on the bike and took off, ready to have some fun. It was a gorgeous course through the rolling hills outside of Burlington. I was trying not to pay too much attention to my Garmin since I knew I wouldn't place well overall. I was setting my pace based on my body and having fun. About halfway into the bike I realized why I like 70.3 races so much. It takes me 12-15 miles to get warmed up on the bike and by that time in an Olympic distance race, there's only 10 miles left. Oh well, I had a great ride and averaged 20 mph.
I passed one woman on an all-carbon set up, solid disc wheel in the back. Let's just say her rear wheel was more expensive than my whole bike. And I passed her on an uphill like she was standing still. I felt good! After the results were posted, I checked all my splits and when I looked at the bike my jaw dropped. A 20 mph average speed was in the bottom half of my age group. Damn. 20 mph average usually puts me 1st or 2nd in my age group. Humbling.
When I got back to transition and tried to rack my bike, I noticed that almost all the bikes were back already. Again, humbling. This race sold out faster than it ever has and because of that, USAT opened up an addition 500 slots for the race. I don't think the organizers in Burlington got the memo. Our personal transition area was exactly the width of a bike. It was so tight, we had to rack by our seats. So as I tried to re-rack my bike, the back wheel kept getting caught in the bars of the bikes on the opposing side. I probably spent an extra 30 seconds just trying to get my bike wedged in my spot. It was worse for the women since the racks were set so high none of our front wheels touched the ground. So if you bumped into one, they all spun around. It was a mess.
The run course was less than inspiring and there's not much to say. It was 10:15 when I started, so the sun was out and it was getting warm. I knew what pace I needed to keep to meet my 2:45 goal time and I was working hard to maintain that. The last two miles I was starting to over heat and I knew it. Two miles, anyone can run two miles. I came in at 2:43:36, a great time by my standards and also a PR. (Since this was my first true Olympic distance race, I was going to PR no matter what. Minor details.) Awesome.
It was probably my best personal race, and it was also the worst finish I've ever had if you're judging by overall finish. But I wasn't concerned with that, it was an amazing race experience and I am so glad I went. I usually finish in the top part of my age group, and top half of all racers. It was such a great and humbling experience to race against the fastest people in the country. In case you're curious, a 2:43:36 was good enough for 60/79 in my AG.
And I am damn happy with that.
3 days ago