Friday, August 26, 2011

AG Nationals Burlington, VT

It has been a while since I posted last and I have been a part of a lot of fun and interesting things like an epic ride to and up Beech Mountain, the 24 Hours of Booty, and USAT Age group Nationals. Unfortunately everyday seems to have less time than the last and while I would not consider myself caught up by any means, I figured Charlotte’s taxpayers wouldn’t mind if I took a little break to blog about my little trip to Vermont.

My little adventure began when HaycraftGTWD (aka SmittenKitten), Talladega (aka Big Kat) and I all piled in the car and hit the road for Chapel Hill to pick up the fourth character in our journey, Mark Carey, from Raleigh’s infamous elite Triangle Multisport Team. We arrived to Chapel Hill at a reasonable hour and spend the evening downing pizza, talking tri’s, and wondering who would crack first on our 14.5 hour drive to Vermont. Despite the fact we were driving through every major city on the east coast, our drive was surprisingly uneventful. We missed all the major traffic jams and two short detours forced us to do a quick Clark Griswald tour of DC and New York City. Not bad. We arrived to the beauty of Burlington, Vermont along rolling major roads that would be considered back roads here in Charlotte. The cats and I ate a great dinner at this little joint next to the hotel and eagerly awaited the fifth and final member of our team, Moose (aka Moose, yeah that’s right).

Team Awesome
We spent Friday, our only free day, getting in our respective workouts, picking up our packets, dropping off our bikes, and previewing the swim course. My legs felt ridiculously stiff from the drive and I was really struggling to loosen my IT band on my left side. I do not usually have IT issues but I guess it could be expected from drive. After a bike ride, swim, and some Ibuprofen it had loosened up to the point where I could at least walk without feeling something tugging at the side of my knee. While we were all feeling our commute, I think the five of us were ready to get our race going. This is the first time in over 5 years I have travelled a distance like this to compete in anything under a ½ Ironman (Note – I am not an ironman elitist, I just took three years off from racing). It was refreshing to know the physical, mental, and time commitment to the Olympic-distance race would limit our fatigue so we could still enjoy the rest of the day in Vermont.

Swim -
I was one of the last waves to start the event, almost a full hour after the first wave. I had a lot of time to watch the previous waves glide through Lake Champlain. The course seemed simple enough with 4 90-degree turns and a swim into the boat ramp but as I watched the previous heats make a wide arch around the end of the course, I knew I would have to sight well in order to not make the same mistake. My turn to churn came fast as I struggled to put my 7 year old wet suit on probably for the last time. Like a troop of trained seals, the girls and I shuffled through the shoot and into the water. As we were all lining up for the in-water start and jockeying for a front of the line position this one girl turns around and says, “you all are going to want to get behind me, I am a swimmer.” I had to applaud her strategy but wouldn’t you know people believed her and did it!?! Well that is one crafty way to end the fight for the front! I am not going to complain because it gave me room to squeeze in next to her when the gun finally went off. I have been working on my sprint speed thanks to HaycraftGTWD’s critique towards my lack of such speed. I really tried to hit the beginning sprint hard to find myself some clear water and to trounce "the swimmer.” The strategy worked and ultimately I found myself in a pod of only four girls. We stayed together until the second turn, which can also be described as the turn into the sun, and immediately our group shattered like a piece of glass. As I desperately fought for glances of the next buoy I noticed that I too swam the arch instead of the straight line. I guess my learning curve ain't so steep afterall.

You can just barely see the swimmers heading out the first buoy.
Bike –
I knew there were at least two girls ahead of me coming out of the water and when I was in transition I did a quick recon of the rack. It did nothing to help me, ie time wasted. Thanks to starting later, the bike course seemed overwhelmingly crowded. It was difficult to tell who was coming and who was going, who was blocking, drafting, and overtaking. Maybe I should have shut my mind up but I really found it difficult to find a groove. I found it difficult to hit some kind of appropriate pace. I honestly felt like I was riding in a 56 mile ride instead of a 24.8 mile bike ride but I had a goal. HaycraftGTWD and made a small bet he would pass me before the 10th mile marker. I had a four minute head start and anything I gained on the swim. I had no reason not to make it. Even though he had a heck of a bike ride, he did not pass me until just before the 13 mile mark. Sometimes small victories are the best. I spent the rest of the ride in an unfocused state, “hey look at the silo, hey look at the cows, hey look at the . . . “ Didn’t see until I got my results how painfully unfocused my ride was. Ouch. Not my best effort.

My coworker says my bellybutton is too low which is why I am not a good runner  . . . but my low belly button makes me a good swimmer. Thanks for the analysis. Carry on . . . 
Looking fast in my BlueSeventy

At this point, any excuse for my poor run split is a good one. Coming out of transition we made one turn and then headed straight up a .25 doozy of a hill. I think the fast feet I may have had starting the run died a slow death on that hill. After the grunt (grunt = small steep hill that hurts a lot and you can't just grind it out) the run course was quite nice, mostly flat, in and out of the woods. As the girls in my age group started to pass me, I vowed I would only let one pass me per mile (more like wishful thinking than a vow). Pretty much only one girl came blowing by me per mile until mile 5 and then it was all me. Like the bike, my legs just didn’t have it. Looking at my splits I was left wondering how my training runs were faster than this. I just didn’t have it this day.
I crossed the finish line grabbed my one allotted bottle of water and sat by the water’s edge. Mentally and physically I felt beat. A local volunteer came and sat next to me and we chatted about the beauty of Vermont. I of course asked her if the cold was worth it. She said absolutely. Her answer, with its complete lack of hesitation, reminded me that not all races and training days are good ones. Some hurt more, some challenge us physically, and some challenge us mentally but they are all worth it. After a few more moments to myself I went to find my crew who had pretty much camped themselves out in the beer tent (Surprised? No.). No one was particularly happy with their race but everyone, including me, was in good spirits. HaycraftGTWD finished 22 AG, Moose, 3rd, Scarey Carey 6th, Talladega 51st, and me at a surprising 9th AG finish. Theam Awesome had three world’s qualifiers and the three podium finishes. We had some celebrating to do! I personally celebrated with a big bowl of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, the hard to find Coconut Seven Layer Bar flavor. Yum.

Auckland here I come? Not unless someone happens to drop $5000 my direction . . . hint, hint, wink, wink, hint, hint . . . . dang why doesn't the hint-hint-wink-wink thing ever work!?!