USAT Age Group Nationals were my first big race. I’ve been racing in Triathlons since 2007, but have mostly stuck to the small, local races that I could drive to. This was a different experience, with a large and very competitive field.
My taper was less than perfect. Two weeks prior to the race I spent five days hiking on the long trail with my family. I loved every second of it and wouldn’t have traded it for anything, but it probably didn’t help my race in any way to carry a 60 lbs pack over the Green Mountains of Vermont so close to race day. I also hadn’t been in the water since the Lake Dunmore Tri, two weeks before Nationals.
Work also limited my training, both the week before that and on race week. Still, by Friday I was feeling energetic and optimistic. Even a flat in my rear tubular Hed Stinger hours before I needed to check my bike didn’t disturb me much. It was too late to glue on another tubular, but I had a backup wheel and disk cover.
I got downtown at around 3 PM, swung by to visit my brother at his office, and then went to rack my bike. The wind was blowing a bit and it had just rained a bit, but the sun was out and the air was dry. After racking my bike, I went down to the sailing center to go for a short swim, and then swung by transition to check my bike once more before heading home. The bike was fine, but I was amazed at all the efforts people went through to protect their bike from rain: plastic bags, bubble wrap, canvas tarps. It seems silly to me. There was no more rain in the forecast, but even if there were your bike can handle getting wet! Some of the wrapped bikes were acting like sails and blowing about in the wind. Fortunately, my bike wasn’t next to any of those.
I headed home, packed, relaxed, had dinner, relaxed some more, and went to bed. I didn’t sleep much, but then I never do before a race.
My alarm went off at 4:45 AM. I got dressed and then applied the decals. Man that took a long time. I called my brother to wake him up at 5:10, finished packing up the car, almost forgot to have breakfast, and then headed into Burlington. Thomas, my brother, support crew extraordinaire, and camera man, let me park and hang out at his office before the race.
My only complaint about race morning (about the whole race, really) was the inability to warmup in the water for any period of time. I race best after about 15 minutes of swim time, but we were only to get about 4 minutes. I also thought their should have been some sort of announcer telling us when to line up. It all worked out OK, but nobody really seemed to know when we should get in line or who we were after.
Onto the swim. The swim course was great I thought. It was difficult to sight when heading directly into the sun (the two stretches heading east) but there was plenty of room and not much crowding, even around the buoys. I started out hard and then eased up to find some good feet to follow. The nice thing about a large race is that there always seems to be feet to follow, even if you have to back off of the effort, which I did. I was feeling the lack of swim training and looked forward to the end of the swim. Coming to the finish, I felt there were plenty of people in front of me, but what can you expect with an hour of swimming a week.
Swim Time: 24:20, 25th of 110 in my AG (OK)
Transition was quick (1:02; 7th of 110), and I was headed out Pine Street before I knew it. There didn’t seem to be too many people on the road. I saw a few guys in my AG, but most were from earlier waves. Pine Street was littered with pot holes; actually, I think they were water main valves: some sort of 6-inch metal cover that was usually an inch or two below the road surface. I only hit one minor one on the way out, but hit a big one at speed coming back that I was sure would cause a pinch flat. Fortunately it didn’t
After I got to Spear Street, I started to get passed by guys in my own AG. My plan was to save something for the hills in Shelburne and the return back up Dorset. I didn’t want to blow it all into the wind on the gradual downhill of Spear Street, so although I kept up a good effort, I didn’t try to keep them in sight. I did pick up the effort once we hit Shelburne and pulled back a few people, but couldn’t keep it up and many of them distanced me again as we headed back into Burlington. Well, there’s always the run.
Bike Time: 1:06:41 (22.3 mph), 41st in my AG (Yuck!)
T2 wasn’t as good as T1 (0:57; 24th of 110). All I do is hang my bike, take off my helmet, and put on my shoes, so the only way to tighten this up is to run faster in transition.
Coming out of T2, I knew Depot St would be a challenge. I had no intention of hammering the hill, but then I didn’t want to be slow either. I focused on my turnover and tried to keep the effort hard but reasonable. At least two guys in my AG went past me on the hill, never to be seen again.
After Depot St, a few other guys in my AG also went past me, but one of them I was able to hang on to. This helped me out a lot and I did all I could just to keep attached to this guy right through mile 4. At that point he started to slow down, so I pulled ahead to the point where I couldn’t hear him breath anymore and followed another AGer that had also come by us both. Soon after that, however, the guy I was shadowing came by me again and this time I couldn’t hang on try as I might. In the last mile, a few other guys in my AG also came flying by me and I had no answer.
Run Time: 41:33 (6:43 pace), 30st in my AG (OK)
Overall Time: 2:14:33, 26th in my AG.
Obviously, biking is my weakness. I had thought I was making progress, based on some earlier races, but there is still room for improvement. Over the next few months, I’ll give some thought as to how I can improve my results. Gains are going to have to come from training smarter, though, because I don’t have a lot of room for more training.
Here are some photos my wonderful brother took. They’re really quite good. (Thanks Tom!) Click on the photos to expand them.