AG Nationals in a Nutshell

Alright, here it is.  The skinny on my race.

Day before, disaster as you know.  But I made it and I got my packet and I was able to race!!

Given I had to be out of transition at 7:30, but still had to actually locate the race site, find the information tent (not an easy feat!), get my packet, set up transition, and get to the swim start – the morning was a bit hectic.  I got up at 5:20, took my shower as usual, had my breakfast and we were on the road.  I felt ready to race, albeit “behind” and unfamiliar with the race site, and honestly, a little stiff.

The actual “closest call” of the weekend ended up being as I picked up my bag to leave transition and head to the swim start.  All my gear was laid out meticulously, set up and I was ready to go.  There was a plastic bag sticking out of the pocket on my bag and as I went to stuff it back in my pocket, I felt my PEDALS for my bike that had been removed for bike transport!!!  Can.  You.  Imagine….if I ran into transition and went to hop on to my bike to find no pedals to clip in to?!  Holy crap.  Bike support put those puppies on for me and I was officially ready to race.

My swim start was a 8:15am, the 14th swim wave.  We swam in beautiful Lake Champlain.  It was a great 72/73 degrees and very clean!  I lined up in the center of the pack, front line, and was ready to swim MY race for once and try to find some fast feet to hang on to.  The swim course had us swim about 150 meters straight out to the first turn buoy then hooked a hard right.  The “funnel” effect where everyone merges to the center to round the buoy made my line up in the center a big mistake.  It got ROUGH at the buoy, had my head dunked, all that good stuff that happens during open water swimming.  Nonetheless, we made the turn, all was good and straight for a while.  I was breathing solely to right which was ok given the direction the water was hitting us at this point.  The next 500 meters or so were fairly uneventful but the fast girls were definitely pulling away by this point.  The second turn was another hard right which turned us directly into the sun.  Breathing on the right, the waves were hitting me right in the face.  I took in no less than 10 enormous gulps of water during the next 400 or so meters.  A boat flew by right around this point so we got to taste its gasoline and feel its waves moments later.  I actually felt sea sick for a few seconds.  After that 2nd hard right, it was ROUGH, there’s not better way to put it.  I kept finding myself to the left of the pack.  I’d swim a few strokes aiming to get back in the slipstream but never seemed to be able to get there.  The 25-29 year old men who started 4 minutes behind us were catching us by now and we had caught some of the wave in front of us so the water was just choppy.  I desperately needed to be in the slipstream, but seriously couldn’t get in there.  We proceeded forward, a hard left turn, uneventful, proceeded through the “rock barrier” and to the finish….all uneventful.  Saw 28.55 when I stood up and though than still does suck, I had to be pleased.  I didn’t swim a good line, certianly added 75-100 meters on by my HUGE sweeping left turn but my goal was to at least swim sub 30 and I did.  I know I have SO much improvement to do swimming before Worlds, but I have to start somewhere.

Exiting the water

Dawn was instructed to notify me of “less than 20” or “more than 30 / 40 girls” with blue caps that had exited the water in front of me.  I heard her usual awesome loud cheering and “more than 40” as I exited the water.  Despite being pleased with my (still-not-fast) sub 30 min swim, per usual, I had some ground to make up.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy given this was a National competition. We’re not in Charlotte anymore Todo, I literally thought to myself!

 I did my best to not let my lackluster swim get to me, as it usually does. I have faith in my riding legs, if nothing at all and I literally pep-talked myself out of transition that all my riding would pay off today.  Transition went perfect, nothing to report here and I was out in just over 1 min.  On the road!

The bike course, per Tom (my One2Tri Racing teammate) was “flat with one or two small rolling hills early on”.  I would not agree.  I thought the climbs were pretty steep for the first few miles, and a few longer graduals.  What made the bike course tough though was the WIND!   The road surface was also total crap and I saw at least 20 people with flats on the side of the road.  The ONLY good part about being a sucky swimmer is passing people on your bike.  I must have passed 250 people, about 12-15 girls in my age group!!  The back half of this course was fast as hell and I was hauling some serious booty headed back in with HR sitting nicely in zone 2-3- sweet!  The most disappointing part of the whole race is that my legs never really “woke up” for the first 18-20 miles of the ride.  I felt sluggish and almost just tired.  I usually get on my bike and within 5-8 minutes, I’m ready.  I feel it, grab a hard gear and take off.  Traveling?  Perhaps a factor.

T2 also went off without much hitch, other than blazing past my little “area” by 5-10 feet but nothing to detrimental.  I took a one second glance to assess the amount of bikes in the 1400 #’s area…25-30 was my quick glance assessment.  I still had some ground to make up.  

I headed out to run which actually felt good!  My legs just felt like they wanted to stretch the whole time I rode.  Immediately out of transition was a HUGE, I mean .40 mile, 15-20% grade climb.  It sucked so bad.  The hill was absolute carnage.  I was please for my first mile to be 7:55 given this hill.  I was 1 of 2 people around me, of about 30 or so in the vicinity to be actually “jogging” by the time we reached the top.  The course was then flat for a while….loooong flats, where you can see forever and it seems like there’s never a turn.  I felt just “ok”.  A 31 year old girl that ran out of transition in front of me, took off a little during mile 2 but I refused to let that bother me.  I planned to just run my pace and, for some reason, knew she would fade.  By mile 2, I started to get the “oh wow, I have 4+ more miles at this pace, I don’t know if I can do it”.  My energy was low.  I took in my “emergency gel” praying that it would give me the boost I needed to get through the rest of the 6.2 mile run.  

Getting an idea of the hill – pix don’t do it justice

The worst part of my run was the man who ran on my heals for 5 miles (the way that the pros do it).  It is so mentally challenging to hear someones foot steps so close, breathing in your ear, feeling them behind you.  I felt so confused at to why this man wanted to “get in the head” of someone he wasn’t even competing against and it was so very hard to not let it get to me.  The run took some turns and we headed back on a gorgeous shaded path.  I kept a nice pace, picked off 2 girls in my AG at some points during that time.  I was truly exhausted though.  I had zero energy, zero pep in my step but I kept plugging along thinking of my coach, my sister at the finish line and my athletes.  I would not let another race defeat me.  

I am making huge strides on the mental side of this sport and this race proved to be probably my biggest stride. I wanted to walk SO SO SO badly.  I was totally out of gas after mile 5 but I dug harder than I’ve ever dug before.  I had passed the girl who took off early on and I was reeling in another girl in my age group.  The guy on my heals continued to annoy the crap out of me, but honestly kept me going in a way.  I hated him, but thank him now.  🙂  The finishing shoot was long and I felt like I gave it the biggest kick I could….then I saw the video my sister took of me and it looks like I’m crawling!  I knew I had recently passed two girls in my age group ans I refused to let them out-kick me at the finish.  I thought of the final sprint in bike racing and decided to make this equal to that pain.  It was.  I nearly collapsed as I crossed the finish line, made my way to the grass, and laid down. 

So, general thoughts are, I bonked, hard.  Or did the day prior really take a toll on my performance?  I guess I’ll never know!  What I do know is I was mentally strong enough to keep it together.  I am proud of that.  I also ran my 10k PR by 15 seconds (43:53) – stand alone and triathlon included.  I swam sub 30 which was my goal.  I crushed the bike course (22mph average) but did not crush my legs, they were never really “there” to crush.  Though not comparable on courses, I PR’d this distance by over 2 minutes.  I have to be pleased.
Registering for WORLDS!!!!

But, I have SO much room to improve and I realize that and races like these against the “big girls” fuel my desires to continue to train hard and perform well.  The most amazing part about the whole journey was the conclusion.  Despite not ever feeling strong, I was able to nab a spot racing for TEAM USA at WORLDS in October 2012!!  I’m going to New Zealand – a once in a lifetime opportunity!!!  I’m not sure anything could be more exciting!

Check back for some race photos this week!  I hope everyone had a great weekend of training or racing!  Now I sit again, with another delayed flight, another missed connection, likely a night in DC, a flight to Cincinnati and then to Charlotte…by tomorrow evening.  Clearly I used every bit of potential luck I might have to grab a Worlds spot this weekend.  Traveling has not been in my corner.   

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