On August 22 I raced USAT Nationals in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home to the Univ of Alabama and city where you can get a turkey panini packed with green apple slices, gouda and cranberry mustard with side salad and bowl of fruit (upon presenting your USAT membership) for $3.81. SICK.
I earned ITU points for my 9th place finish seeing that nationals also served as an ITU Continental Cup. Why do I care about accruing precious points? Your points determine your ranking in the ITU points list--the more points you have, the higher your ranking. USAT, the governing body for USA triathlon, is inclined to send athletes with good results (thus, more points) to bigger races, like a World Cup. By consistently racing, placing well & s/b/r-ing faster, I have the potential to attend said races. If you get mediocre results (like ninth) and do 2 ITU races/yr (like me in 2009) you'll painstakingly move up, but it's better to race MORE and place HIGHER so progression doesn't take a LIFETIME. That's the goal here.
Background: Coach Paulo resides in neighboring TN and trekked to nationals to watch me and his other athletes race. I suspect the Chipotle presence in Tusca made the trip a SLAM DUNK.
The women athletes were introduced individually and jogged past the crowd to select a spot on the pontoon for the dive start. After brief deliberation, I placed myself between Hayley Peirsol and Margie Shapiro. I figured I'd get clean water on the Hayley side as she is her own front pack. Maybe 200 meters in I noticed packs forming on the ends of the field. Who can remember precisely what happend 2.5 wks ago, but I found myself on Jenna Shoemaker's feet who wore a conspicuous, red race suit, and thought to myself I HOPE PAULO IS WATCHING THIS (3 consecutive wks of 28k meters/wk in the pool is good for something). I came out of the water on her feet (first out was Hayley, a pack of 3, then me and Jenna) and she BLAZED through transition--I have never experienced such an intense transition before--like LIFE OR DEATH to hang with her. On that day: DEATH.
BIKE (6 loops): It was a sad affair as I was alone and did not hang with the 3 women who passed me in the early laps (being dropped/passed by all on the HILL). watts/kg. blast it. Paulo knew what was going on in my head (as he has received colorful post-race texts from me) and reminded me to FOCUS & STAY IN THE RACE. Me: yea, he has a point, stay with it. At the half-way mark, it was clear I was no catching the front pack (who had likely settled down the pace now that they were a bigger group of 8ish--boo), I slowed down, per Paulo's suggestion, to complete the ride with the pack behind me. Instead of dropping off completely in my slow-down-and-join effort, I made sure I got up that G-D hill on lap 4 and we merged around the top of the hill. Our group of 6 'pacelined' like a carousel the remaining 2.5 laps and we found our way...
OUT ON THE RUN. The motor home in background indicates I am in fact in BAMA:
The run included 4 loops, passing a total of 8 aid stations stocked with COLD gatorade and water BOTTLES--great race support. I ran most of loop 1 with Amanda Hahn (effort level quite high) but I fell off our pace and slogged through the rest solo. The best I could have placed was 8th since the front pack started the run WAY in front of us (and I have not yet approached a 30 min 10k time). Paulo kept me honest with encouragement throughout and I crossed the line in 9th--it was a different to race with him on the sidelines. Reality is he won't be at every race, so I must keep myself in check from start to finish.
I have lots to take away, namely s/b/r faster, but ALSO, I over-indulged Saturday night with EXCESSIVE AMOUNTS OF FOOD--too much for MY stomach to handle. The following week I felt nauseaus after EVERY meal eaten. To my dismay, I found little compassion as everyone just told me to not eat so much all the time.
My dad sent me this lovely basket of flowers the following Tuesday as congrats/bday tidings since I turned a landmark 25 on race-day, celebrating by paying adult prices on my rental vehicle.