Monday, August 18, 2014

USAT Age Group Nationals Race Report

I still can't wrap my head around this race and everything that came with it. This was by far the largest and most competitive triathlon I have ever done. And to be honest, it was really intimidating for me. In the small city of York I am one of the better triathletes but that doesn't mean anything when you are lining up against the best in the country. Throughout race weekend I went back and forth between feeling inadequate and like I didn't belong to super excited to have the chance to race against such speedy women. This race went completely different than I was expecting but was amazing nonetheless.

This was an unusual set up for me logistically speaking because I am used to getting to the race, setting up transition and starting the race all within about 90 minutes. For nationals I had to be there around 7 to set up my transition area but my wave wasn't scheduled to go off until 10. This made for  a lot of waiting around trying not to waste too much energy. Luckily my sister was there with me and kept me entertained and my nerves down.

Swim (.9 mile)
Finally around 9:45 I wandered over to the swim start to start getting ready. We were able to get in to warm up around 9:50 except there was an unexpected delay and they recalled us back to the dock seconds after I jumped in the water. After about 15 minutes we were finally allowed back in the water. I knew coming into this race that the water was going to be cold and that I would be racing without a wetsuit but I definitely didn't expect the water to be as cold as it was. I was told on Thursday it was 66 degrees, which is the coldest water I have ever swam in. Between getting in to warm up and being called back out, getting in the water again and then treading water for more than five minutes I was pretty frozen by the time my wave started.

Thankfully those five minutes flew by and before I knew it we were being counted down. I've heard stories about the contact that can happen at the beginning of swim starts but I was really not expecting the chaos I found myself in. As a former competitive swimmer I am used to contact in the water. Nothing is as brutal as meet warm ups. But what I experienced here was useless grabbing and thrashing. There were girls next to me hitting me for no logical reason at all. I understand contact because there isn't enough room or you are trying to pass but please don't get all physical with me when there is no need. Rant over.

From all the contact I found myself sucking in water each time I tried to breathe. I spent probably the first quarter of the swim gasping for air and simultaneously nauseated. Once everything settled down I was able to find some open water and get to work. The amount of girls that flew by me that I re-passed later during the swim was ridiculous. Normally I love the swim but this time I remember being fairly frustrated by it all. I was anxious to get on to the bike since this year has been really dedicated to making improvements on the bike.

Swim 22:54 (30/91 AG, 1:23/100 yards)
T1 3:15 (62/91)

Bike (24.8 miles)
The run to transition was long and coming into transition from the other side I ended up going to the wrong rack and couldn't find my bike. I felt like I was running around the entire transition area with no luck. Finally I found my bike, through on my helmet and was off. I thought the mount line would be really hectic with all the girls getting out of the water around the same time but I found myself riding alone for nearly a mile. I was a bad triathlete and didn't check out the bike course at all before the race so I had no idea what to expect. I knew it was a relatively flat course but that was all I knew.

To my surprise there were a few small inclines. I wouldn't exactly call them hills but when you're told the course in pancake flat even a bridge suddenly feels like a big climb. I don't know exactly what the reason was but I just didn't feel great during the bike, which frustrated me because my biking has improved so much this summer. No matter how hard I tried to ride my legs just felt dead. Maybe 10 miles into the ride I noticed a pain on my left sit bone, aka my butt. I've never had a pain like this while biking so I was a bit freaked out. The bike course was on some pretty torn up roads and with each bump the pain got worse.

When I think back on the bike leg what I primarily remember is spending the entire ride wishing I was off the bike. My legs felt empty, my butt hurt, my low back became really sore, and I was getting passed too frequently. By the time I was heading back downtown I was nearly in tears I was in so much pain. When I got off my bike I was struggling to walk and had to sit down to put my shoes on. I didn't know how I was supposed to run 6 miles when I was struggling to walk.

Bike 1:21:32 (71/91, 18.1 mph)
T2 2:14 (80/91)

Run (6.2 miles)
When I started the run I was at a loss over what to do. I was in too much pain to run and I was scared that if I tried to run through the pain that I would end up injured and unable to do my half ironman next month. I'm not sure if this is the best logic but my thoughts were that I was already at nationals and it would be better to try to finish the race even if it meant walking, especially because I could get a refund for my half if necessary. Yes the half was my goal for the year but nationals is nationals and I didn't drive 13 hours there to drop out.

As all of this was going through my mind I was jogging really easily. By the time I made up my mind the pain had subsided some, enough for me to run slowly. I decided I would just take the run minute by minute based on how I was feeling. As the pain let up I increased my pace. I was running without my garmin so I had no idea what my pace was. By mile two the pain was completely gone and I was hauling as much ass as I could. I spent the remainder of the run picking off as many women as possible.

Given how much of a struggle the first part of the race was I was surprised with how well the run was going. I didn't know how I was doing pace wise but I knew I was passing way more people than were passing me. In fact I only got passed by one woman the entire run and passed six men. I think there is something to be said for running blindly and not knowing how hard you really are running. If you had told me I was holding sub 8 off the bike I would have probably slowed down out of fear of blowing up. But I can hold that pace.

With about a mile to go a guy around my age came up to me, gave me a fist bump and we started chatting. We joked about ditching the race in favor of going jet skiing. We ran together for most of that last mile, which helped keep my mind off the heat and the fatigue of being at mile 5.5 of 6.2. Before I knew it I could see the finish line and I was sprinting towards it and a shiny new PR.

Run 49:57 (39/91, 8:02/mi)

Overall 2:39:54 (56/91 AG)

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