Today was National Age Group Championships in Portland, OR. It was my first focus race of the season and a lot of effort went into preparation. Last year I won my age group and was second overall, so there was a lot of pressure on me this year after I made public my goal of taking the crown.
This whole week I felt relaxed. Unlike at Hy-Vee two weeks ago, when I was fresh off final exams and still carrying unneeded stress, this week I felt calm and ready. While my coach was hoping I would hit my taper, I was so confident in his training program it never even occurred to me that I could miss my taper. Here’s my recap of the race:
Pre-race: I couldn’t see the buoys at all through the glare of the sun. I called together the front line for a huddle, but nobody seemed to have a good idea of what to sight off of.
SWIM: I sighted wrong, went way inside, then corrected once I finally got close enough to see the buoy (~50 meters away!). I rounded the far Buoys for the out and back and took advantage of the glassy water, to glide in for a 17:49 swim prime, and a solid lead over the rest of the group.
BIKE: I biked the first lap hard, then picked it up a bit for the second lap. Unfortunately there were a lot of people on their first lap when I was on my second, and at one point a woman I was passing got confused by a motorcycle and swerved into me, bounced off my handle bars and went down hard. Knowing what it’s like to crash in a race I felt awful, but there were people trained to help her, and there was nothing I could do. I kept riding, but my head was out of the race until about 3 minutes later when a 39 year old on a P3 with Zipp 909s came by me like a jet plane. I managed to hold on to him and another 37 year old for 10 minutes, but eventually had to ease off to save myself for the run. They were on their first lap, and I could be surprised if their second lap went as well as the first, but regardless, it’s nice to see guys hammering like that.
RUN: My goal was to push the pace the entire run. I set out flying up the hill out of transition. The course was an out and back with 3 up hills and 3 downhills each way, so I counted as I went. Every hill I pushed harder than the previous, and when I made it back to the parking lot it was all the energy I had left to get down the hill to the finish line. I left it all on the course.
The results? 1:57:08.
USAT decided to add suspense by refusing to post results until the awards banquet tonight, so after the race I had to go home not knowing if anyone in the older age groups had bettered my time.
They hadn’t, but there was no breathing room. Second place was 17 seconds back, and 3rd and fourth were just another 10 seconds behind him.
How do I feel?
I feel like a champion. In a year I’ve gone from the Dark Horse to the favorite of the race, and better yet, I followed through and had my best race so far. In a word? I’m stoked, and the closeness of the competition just motivates me to keep up the hard work and stay focused. First, however, I’m ready for my mid-season rest. I’ll post more this week about how I spend my week away from training.
Check out results here.