Going into this race, I knew it would be a humbling experience. Yes, I’ve done fairly well at events this season, but Nationals gives triathletes a chance to toe off against the best of the best. For my age group (20-24), this meant racing against collegiate division I triathletes who’ve been swimming, biking, and running forever and who receive scholarships to do so.
With this in mind, my goals for this race included savoring the experience and simply competing. Getting on the podium—and honestly, finishing in the top 20—wasn’t a realistic objective. Plus, Saturday marked exactly one year since I completed my first sprint triathlon; it’s crazy how quickly it passed and how much I’ve progressed—and as this race indicated, how much room for improvement I still have.
Swim – 1500m – 28:19 (47/77)
Let’s get the bad out of the way: This was hands down my worst swim of the season. Period.
Once it was finally time for my wave to start (our projected time was 9:40 a.m., but we didn’t enter the water until after 10 a.m.), I situated myself on the right of the first yellow buoy, and in hindsight, this wasn’t the wisest move; it was congested, and I would’ve been better off getting a spot on the far left, even though it would’ve resulted in a few extra yards. Oh well—train, race, and learn. Anyway, as soon as I started, I knew it wasn’t my day in the water; I had trouble getting into a rhythm and defaulted to drafting off slower swimmers. On the positive side, it was a nice course that boasted ideal conditions: The water remained calm and notched a refreshing 69 degrees Fahrenheit. And as you can see from the map above, part of the swim took us under a bridge, which was lined with tons of spectators—and lots of cowbells. Swimming this section was my favorite part, but I was more than ready to get out of the water.
Transition 1 – 2:28 (35/77)
Even though I passed a few girls on the run to transition, it felt like I slugged through T1.
Bike – 40-K – 1:17 (51/77)
Write this on the calendar: I did not enjoy the swim, but I loved the bike. Who am I?
Prior to the race, I heard this course would be flat and fast, which proved to be accurate for the most part; aside from a handful gradual “hills” (basically on-ramps to highways) the course was a hammerfest. (Not that I hammer, but you know what I mean.) So here are the positives: This is a 40-K bike PR for me (19.1 MPH), and it’s also the most comfortable I’ve felt in the saddle. And even though I had an equipment disadvantage—I’d say more than half the girls in my AG had tri bikes—I held my own. In fact, I picked off a lot of girls who had TT bikes. “It’s the engine, not the car,” right?
Contrary to what my facial expression may indicate, I had fun on the bike.
Finally, I threw caution to the wind and took a gel at the halfway point, which was my first time taking in solids (i.e. anything besides my PowerBar Perform mix) on the bike. No, I didn’t practice, so I really shouldn’t be surprised it was difficult to get down. This is an area that calls for experimentation in terms of timing and actual nutrition (gels vs. shot blocks).
Transition 2 – 1:41 (43/77)
Like T1, T2 wasn’t great. As I grabbed my run gear, I noticed my Garmin had turned off, even though I powered it on before the race started. (I always turn it on and leave it in transition, and it’s never been an issue.) However, when I tried to turn it on, the screen flashed a low-battery warning and then shut off. So I would be running the 10-K based on feel. All right.
Run – 10-K – 49:25 (35/77)
Like the bike course, the run was basically dead flat, and it was nice running without a watch and adjusting my pace based on how my body felt.
As usual, it took two miles for me to find my running legs, and I also maintained a conservative pace for the opening 5-K. What I didn’t expect were the mind games and self-doubt that flooded my head: What happened during New York City could happen again; can I run six miles after that swim and bike? I know I’ll work through these thoughts as I race more after NYC. When I had reconstructive ACL and meniscus surgery in high school, I would think about my repaired knee all the time—during practice, during games, etc. But after playing through it for a while, the negative thoughts slowly disappeared.
Anyway, I was lost in my head for a while, so when I reached the turnaround point and realized how strong I felt, I started to pick up the pace. During the closing miles, I also saw one of my coworkers who eventually caught up and passed me. He’s super fast, and seeing him was a great boost! I rode this high to the finish line, and I picked off four or five girls in my age group along the way. This is also an off-the-bike 10-K PR for me.
Official finishing time – 2:39:46 (43/77)
Basically, I finished in the middle of the pack. There were some fast girls (swimming in 18-20 minutes, biking in 1:04-1:10, and running the 10-K in 37-40 minutes), and aside from my swim, I’m happy with the bike and run. Fingers crossed and knock on wood I’ll be back next year–I would love to take on this course with another year of training under my race belt!