Last Saturday was the big day: National Championships in Tuscaloosa, AL. I arrived on Thursday evening to 90 degrees and 75% humidity. Friday morning I got up and headed to the race site for my final tune up. Water was a balmy 84 degrees and when it was time to bike, I had already started sweating when I took the bike out of the car. Crazy. I came away from the workout feeling like crap, but in my mind I was confident because when I feel like crap the day before a race, that usually means I'm paying way too much attention to my body and I have a great race the next day. I'm so used to it now that I actually get excited when I feel like crap the day before a race. I was ready to go!
One thing that keeps me composed and relaxed during race weekends is my dad. He's my super fan. The number of my races he's been to from running to triathlon is pretty amazing. I've been lucky enough to travel all over the country in my athletic career for countless races and I can probably count on my own 2 hands the number he's missed. He made the trip down from Detroit to hang with me for this one. Catching up and hanging out with him takes my mind off the race and sidelines my nerves. He picked me up from the hotel at 6am race morning and we drove to the race site together. We wondered whether or not Michigan football would win and joked how incredibly bad our defense is. (We won!).
At 6:30 in the morning the heat wasn't too bad yet. I knew though, that come 8:30 when I'd be getting out of the water and onto the bike the sun would already be beating down on us. After a run and swim warm up I was ready to role. Key phrase today for this one was "don't ever slow down." The swim got off to a fast start. I kept telling myself to find some feet, find some feet. I found some to the first buoy, made the right turn and stayed on to the second turn buoy. Made another right turn and started the long half-mile straight away. I immediately found myself in no mans land. The pack was about 20 meters up and I missed it. I tried to sprint for a minute to try and catch them but to no avail. The half-mile straight was a tough one. I stayed positive and kept telling myself, "don't ever slow down." This was nationals; This is it. I made the final right turn and tried my best to hammer the last 300 meters to the shore. I got out of the water in a daze (pretty usual) and heard my dad yell you're 20!
Made it onto my bike no problem this time (yes!). I found myself in a pack of 5 guys in my age group including my good buddy Drew Haberkorn. Five miles into the ride, cyclist stud Brian MacIlvain caught us and I thought, alright sweet, I got this thing. I'm in a great group and I'm going to hammer this. "Don't ever slow down." Keeping our distance from each other and being careful not to get tagged for drafting, we worked as a group taking turns at the "front." Each of us did our part to keep the pace honest. When I felt the pace slowing a bit or getting easy, I passed the leader and pushed. There were a few times where I fell off the pace a bit and really hurt, but I kept telling myself "I got this, get up there." My usual nutrition intake on the bike is 2 GUs, and about a bottle and a half of water. Today, I downed 3 GUs on the bike and finished both bottles of GU Brew. I also had a fourth GU ready to go at transition to take with me on the run. I wasn't about to let the heat ruin my race. I got off the bike in the group ready for a solid run.
My legs felt pretty tired from the bike, but I believed in my mind that out of the group I was with, I was the best runner. I made my way up to the 2 leaders of the group and passed them at about the half-mile mark. Haberkorn and I ran together for the next 2 miles. I actually fell off a bit on the first uphill, giving up 10 meters or so. It was kind of a wake up call for myself. I caught him on the downhill and ran with him shoulder to shoulder until the 3-mile mark. At that point, I decided my race had started. I turned it up a notch and got some separation. It was time to see how many people I could pass. I wasn't seeing any calves with ages 25-29 on them and at times I got discouraged. I kept tell myself one was coming though, so keep up the pace. With a mile to go there were 4 guys that looked my age in front of me. I passed them with 800 to go, but they were all age 20-24. There was one guy in front of my with 600 to go and sure enough, his calf had a 25 on it. I put in one last surge and passed him quickly so that he couldn't respond and kept that pace to the finish line.
My final time was 1:58.39. It's my new PR for the Olympic distance! I took 5th in my age group, which put me 10th overall. I achieved my main goal for the race, which was top 10 overall. I like to keep it close! What I'm most proud of today was my mental attitude throughout the race. I've had problems this season with mentally giving up. Today my positive talk kept me focused the entire race. That being said, there are plenty of areas for improvement. My swim was 22 minutes, 1:30 slower than the winner. My bike was 59 minutes, and although that's over a 25 mph average, it put me 2 minutes behind the fastest bike of the day. Despite my run being the reason I made up so much time on some of my age group competition, there is room for improvement there as well. I'm very happy with my performance and even more excited with where I can go from here. Next up is the LA Triathlon this Sunday. I will be racing the Elite Amateur division in this highly competitive Lifetime Fitness Series race. Goal for Sunday is top 3. Bring it!