The bad and the good…
After 13 hours of driving I finally pulled into the Milwaukee Holiday Inn Express on Thursday night. I met my friend Joe who was coming from Iowa and we headed to dinner. After dinner we planned out the next few days. We needed to pick my packet up tomorrow for the USAT Triathlon Age-Group National Championship and the Sprint National Championship races. I felt good about my chances for both race. I really wanted to finish near the top of my age-group in both. I was so confident that I was going to race well that I wrote down the goal of finishing in the top 5 overall in both races. Now the age-group race is a much more prestigious race than the sprint race, but both are national championship races and both mean a lot in the sport of triathlon in this country. There were over 4,000 people in the age-group race and just over 1,000 in the sprint race.
Friday was spent doing some warm-up workouts, checking-in and racking my bike. I felt pretty good in the workouts, but still a little stiff from the long trip the day before. I eased my mind that afternoon by going to the movies and catching the latest Wolverine flick. Love that stuff. After the movie and dinner Joe and I went back to the hotel and got ready for the big day tomorrow. I had all my bags packed and everything ready to rock.
I had a horrible night sleep due to back stiffness and just feeling uncomfortable. I woke-up with about 4 hours of quality sleep. I didn’t think much of it, but I was a little nervous that it was 5:30 am and my race didn’t start until 9:30 am. I was worried it was going to get hot and I was uneasy about not being able to warm-up how I normally do on the bike because transition was closed at 7:30.
One-by-one the waves went off in 12 minute intervals. They made announcements along the way about who were the guys to watch for and how large the wave was. When it finally came time for my wave to get going the announcer said, “this isn’t the largest wave, but it’s the most stacked wave. There are 10-15 guys in this wave that can finish in the top 10.” There were 189 guys in my wave and all of them seemed very anxious. The swim was one of the hardest I’ve ever done. I was kicked and punched so much more than usual, but as is the case most of the time, after 500 meters I was in a single-file line and away from the craziness of the start. I got out of the water in a personal best time.
I got in and out of transition as fast as I could. Once on the bike I could tell there was something not right. I felt stiff and out of gas. I still had a pretty good bike only being passed by one guy and passing countless others from other groups. My back tightened-up enough that I had to sit-up on a few occasions and try to stretch it as much as possible, but nothing seemed to work. I got off the bike with a decent time, and headed out on the run feeling ok.
I felt pretty good the first two miles of the run, but then the wheels came off. I just felt out of energy as if I had just run the first 22 miles of a marathon and I was trying make it to the finish after hitting the wall. I’m not sure what happened, but I was passed by four guys from my age-group and fell to 9th and 53rd overall. My goal was about 4 minutes faster than I went and that would have been good enough for 5th overall.
This race was a struggle and I really have no idea what happened. I can’t figure out why I was so out of energy right from the gun. In the end I still finished near the top of the 4,300 athlete field which isn’t too bad.
Sunday brought a different story. I slept better, the day was cooler and there was little to no stiffness in my legs and back. Almost like I hadn’t raced the day before. While my swim leg seemed and little slower than I hoped I was still satisfied with coming out of the water in 5th. I quickly realized on the bike that I was going to have a good day. I felt great on the first mile of the bike which is a good indicator that things were good. I passed people the whole way and my power was a good 45 watts higher than the day before. I jumped off the bike and racked my bike first. I couldn’t believe I was winning my age-group.
I hit the run feeling great. I ran hard the whole time and when I crossed the line they announced that I was the winner of my age-group and the first person to finish under 1 hour. Before the day started it was thought that a lot of people would be under an hour, but for some reason the course was just not fast today. The swim was a little long and the wind on the bike was a tough crosswind that made handling a little hard. The run, while flat, just wasn’t fast.
Oh well a win is a win and today I became the second national champion in our family. Alison won the DII 200 yrd butterfly championship in 2008. I learned this weekend that my body works best with a hard workout the day before. The race Saturday helped my race Sunday. I was warmed-up and not stiff at all. It was a great weekend with a great friend and a great result. On to Old Forge.