Sunday, August 21, 2011

Age Group Nationals...

Friday afternoon Mary, Eko, and I headed up to Burlington for my first ever crack at age group nationals. As the faithful know I have not been 100% for a week now with a nagging piriformis / hip/ back problem. I really thought that I could put it out of my mind for two hours and put together a solid performance and get under two hours for international distance. Mary and I went right to the expo and picked up my race packet. We drove down to Water Front Park and I set up my transition and bike before leaving it for the night. I was instantly struck with the enormity of the race. I know that there were 2,500 participants but the weight of that number does not really strike you until you see that my bikes on the racks. Running in huge races is so much different because I have always lined up right at the front and never really experienced the true size of a sizable field. I will admit that I was more than a little overwhelmed and frazzled leaving the park.

Saturday morning I was up at 5:25 after a very respectable night of sleep. My back / hip felt better than it had the previous day which was better than the previous day but I was still not confident that I was 100%. Mary dropped me off at the park at 6:50 so I could finish my set-up before the transition closed at 7:30. My first moment of panic came in the form of not having my racing chip. I switched bags a few times at the hotel and as I stood in the transition I was freaking out about what to do. I had never been the guy that lost anything let alone something as important as a race chip. Needless to say I spent the next half hour running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to find my missing chip. Mary and I went back to the car and still could not find it so I had to go to the timing tent. I had to give them a a credit card number and was told that if I did not find my chip that I could be charged $125.oo! I was angry mad, and even more frazzled than normal. As the other waves were starting I sat with Mary and Eko and tried to chill. Finally I headed down to the dock to start my odyssey.

Standing at the entrance to the yacht club was pretty cool. My best estimate was that there was between one hundred and fifty and two hundred other 30-34 year olds in my wave. We headed to the dock and were allowed to dive in while the women in front of us started. We were then herded to the starting line where we had to tread water for the next four minutes before the starting horn. I got myself psyched and ready to swim hard. I kept thinking of my swim Wednesday and how well it went and how mechanically I did so many things right. At the horn I got clobbered. Hands, feet, bodies, more feet coming from every direction. It seemed like everyone in the wave started at their maximum swim speed and left me in the dust. Out to the first buoy I was completely overwhelmed and had to work to stay calm in the chaos. Around the first buoy I found some space and started to get to work. It was really a cool swim it just seemed to take forever. Somewhere past halfway my hip started to get tight which I thought was pretty unprecedented. The rest of the way rather than focusing on swimming hard and having good technique I perseverated on my hip and what was going to happen on the bike and run. I started to get a little negative in the last straight and looking back I am pretty pissed at my attitude. Yea the hip was done but I didn't need to be negative about what was happening. I was having a lot of stupid thought that I will not dwell on but a sampling goes something like this. You'll never be good at long races because your swim sucks! All you"ll ever be good at is tiny sprint races. Really inspiring stuff that gets you charged up for the bike eh? I had a good transition and was mounted fast and was ready to rock on the bike.

Heading out of the park things were much different than they had been all summer in every other race. Every other time out this summer I have gotten on the bike and been looking to attack right away. Granted I was still passing riders left and right but I was not feeling aggressive. Two miles into the ride I could already tell that the hip / back was going to be a huge problem on the bike. Anytime there was an uphill grade My hip and back would get tight and linger all the way through my IT band to my left knee. Sitting up on the horns would alleviate the pressure and pain but at an obvious cost to my mph. I was still passing tons of riders but at the same time I was occasionally getting past which is mostly a new experience. I really did my best on the bike but it just wasn't happening out there. I could not push and I could not make any power which dramatically slowed my bike leg. I was as aggressive as I could be the last five mile heading back to town and took a lot of chances on the turns to rejoin some riders that had passed me earlier in the ride. Into the park past Mary and Eko I knew that Mary knew that I was off. Into the transition and off the bike my back was locked and stiffer than I thought it would be. I trotted to my rack and had to stretch a second before getting on my flats and hitting the run course.

Out of transition it felt like my back was in a bench vice and that there was a misfiring connection to my legs. I was a little scared because no matter how bad things have ever been in a race I have always been able to tear up the run to some degree. I was a little worried about hurting myself further and thought for an instant about stopping but I just could not bring myself to quit. At the top of the first hill I got caught and past which threw me for a wicked loop. I did my best to hang on but I was still to tight. Two more runners past me over the next mile and a half as I continued to get looser and back to a normal stride. By two and a half miles I was at a point where I knew that I could start being super aggressive so I went to work trying to salvage something from my morning. As is always the case within a few minutes I was almost back to normal with the exception of the pressure, and I was finally racing. Onto the bike path I would say that I was running 88-90% of what a typical triathlon has been for me this year but it was still doing the job. I was catching people left and right as is always the case and a lot of them were from my age group so I knew that I was starting to make amends for the first hour and a half of the race. Into the park I even ran down one of the guys that had past me earlier in the run which gave me tremendous piece of mind. Into the park and into the finishing area I was running really fast and finished as hard as I could. Across the line in 2:09 fifty something I just kept walking. I grabbed a water and headed right for the dock to be by myself.

After the race I was beyond frustrated and upset. I've had countless bad races in my life and usually they are due to lack of preparation or just being weak. I felt that I was more prepared for this race than any race in years. With the exception of a few negative thoughts in the water I was tough the whole way. I fought through a really shitty bike leg with a bum back and still rode respectable. On the run I just had to wait to long to be loose before I could be effective at destroying everyone. I WANT THIS RACE BACK SO BAD! If this race had been two weeks ago instead of Give Peace a Tri this would be a vastly different entry. It always amazes me how quickly a good summer of training can go to the birds because of a niggling little issue in my back. Obviously I need to get this right asap so I can focus of finishing my season on a more positive note. I hate writing recaps of bad races. Obviously it is mush more fun to write when everything is the bees knees but I have to be fair and write about the crud as well. Hopefully I can get things figured out this week and have a solid last two weeks of training before school starts.


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