Race Review: USAT Age Group National Championships 2016

Class: #401 “USAT Age Group National Championship.”
Instructor: Mr. Heat and adjunct instructor Mr. Humidity
Room: Omaha, NE


Yesterday's race day experience presented a plethora of challenges teaching me invaluable lessons for the future.

Going into the race:

As I had briefly mentioned on Instagram, I made the mistake of looking towards the end goal of a “Top 18 AG” Finish. Now I know to not focus on the goal, but on the process, but I couldn’t help but keep this in the back of my mind. I simply wanted to qualify for Team USA! I think what tempted me was the relatively easy qualification for this race. I participated in local Olympic Distance Triathlons because it seemed to fit my schedule and where I was physically and mentally this season. I just happened to finish all races in Top 5 in my Age Group. This is a major lesson learned. The competition at your local or regional championships does not equal the competition at the national championship race. Focusing on the result and pushing up my hopes made me unnaturally nervous two days out. 

2 Days before the race:


20 minute easy run as a shake out. I made a mistake and ran to feel. I didn’t realize that I hammered the first mile, albeit feeling strong, I ran entirely too fast causing me to feel sore going into the race. 

The day before the race:


No preload hydration; Looking back I should have preloaded. I am not sure why I took the temperatures lightly, perhaps because I am still stuck on the “this is not a 70.3 mentality.” 

Day of Race:


Not just double check, but triple check your race gear. As I was preparing my transition, I noticed I had forgotten one serving of Hotshot! This was terrible for me, for I cannot run without abdominal cramps without hotshot. Fortunately, the announcer helped us out by asking if anyone had an extra serving. One fellow athlete had a version of “It’s the nerve”, so I was, fortunately, to take in the shot during transition. 

Swim: 


I must have left 50 IQ points at home this morning. I really must not just look at the swim course but study it from now on. For the first third of the course, I was spotting the wrong buoy. I kept thinking “this course does not make any sense this way. Swimmers are going to be swimming into each other if we swim this way.” Then I realized where the first buoy was. Duh!!!
It wasn’t a big deal as it was “on our way, ” but regardless, swimming for the wrong buoy just makes you feel off. Another thing that makes you feel off was the 87 degrees water temperature. Even though it felt incredible to jump in, this was not water temperature for performance. I swam relatively well, but the lack of salt water and the higher temperatures left me far more fatigued than in previous races. 
I did swim with Rokas new R1 googles <link here>. They are the absolute best. I describe it like using Oculus for the first time. The field of vision blew my mind! Way to go Roka!! 

T1:


Decided to take in the first serving of Hotshot as I felt crampy coming out of the water. I should have recognized this sign….

Bike- 


I want to say I rode like a champ, but I rode like a donkey dipped in cement. Thanks Purplepatch for the saying. It was a felt 230w normalized power when in reality it was only 213w. On a course like this, it should have been at 230w. My average HR was 162 when in fact it should have been 155. I didn’t see the sign…


Course- 
Same as in the swim course, I should have taken a look at the bike course. I assumed the course was flat, so when we hit the first of 3 climbs my reaction was “oh crap! Ok just imagine you are in Matt’s class at Shift SF and imitate hill climbing. It worked, but it drained me more than I realized. 

Hydration on bike-


My hydration protocol included plain water in the first 30 minutes. This has been working in the previous races, leaving me far less thirsty and more refreshed. However, after the race, I realized I only had 500ml of plain water and 250ml of scratch hydration! In other terms, I was completely dehydrated coming off the bike for having to feel fresh for the run.

Power Profile Review- looking at my data I see that there is a gradual decline in power and a progressive increase in RPM/HR. This comes to show me that my strength was declining and I tried to make up for it regarding RPM which I know is more draining concerning heart rate. 

T2-

Took the second shot of Hotshot and felt fairly good running out. I set up solid form and was ready to hold my 10th spot. 


Run 


My first mile was a 8:32 pace, my mind was solid, and I felt in control. At 0.8miles both of my VMO muscles cramped up. Now I have never had this cramping happen to me before. The muscles visually contracted against my will. My abdominal cramps were nowhere to be found, so I knew Hotshot was doing its job. This was a whole different cramping experience. I continued running through the cramps but steadily lowered the pace by 20-30seconds per mile. Mile 2 and 3 were painful due to the cramps. But I did not stop, I remembered Sarah’s Piampianos race report from Vineman and that she also cramped but ran through it, so I thought “ be like Pimps! Run through it and add a smile.” It worked-she is inspiring!
Towards the end of the second-mile things turned from bad to worse.
At mile 3 I took my first 2nd Surge in hopes it would be a pick-me-up. No such luck. I was on a downward spiral. Mentally and physically. I was hurting not just physically but mentally as well. I was clearly overheating, and my body was screaming so loud to get myself out of this heat. All sirens were going off, and all I could do is not give up and keep going. In the meantime, women were passing me left and right. I started counting then lost count. Looking at the stats, it must have been at least 25 women. This was demoralizing. It just sucked-plain old sucked! I started getting super depressed, I knew I would not stop running until I get to that finish line, and I didn’t, but realizing I was now “running” a 10-10:30 pace just threw me way back to a different time. I have worked so incredibly hard on my running, and at this very moment, it was as if none of this training ever happened. 
When I first set out on triathlon a ten pace would cost me a heart rate of 165 and I couldn’t hold it very long. On a normal training day, I can keep a  pace with heart rate at 120-130. This was not normal. My body was really struggling and was failing at dealing with the environmental stress.

The course:


This run course is very ugly. Sorry USAT. This was a grueling course. A power plant and a clarification plant lined with concrete and zero shade? As fun as making a round through the Ameritrade stadium is it also means you are running through a stadium fairly alone, being projected onto a big screen revealing to you an image that is better not projected on a jumbotron. I am not sure about others, but I wasn’t aware how big these stadiums are from the bottom so when I ran in, I was like “holy-crap-I have a way to run here.”
I walked at the next two aid stations taking my 2nd Surge gel and having water and ice. By the time mile 5 came, I was in real dark territory. It was a pretty miserable experience. I was deeply depressed having conversations in my head with my coach about quitting. It takes a lot for me to even considering quitting but this was the closest I have came. The feeling has diminished since. more about this below. 

 
Crossing the Finish line-

I was severely singular focused. I tried speeding up but no such luck. The moment the race was over I hung myself- I want to end it at that. Ha!
No, I hung myself over the fence. Medics came and said, “you have to keep moving.” They pulled me away from the fence. I used them for a crutch still folded over by the hips. Getting up meant tumbling to one or the other side. My family appeared, and I stumbled with tears in my eyes to a shady spot. I  just called out “ice water, ice water.” The medic gave me a Gatorade, so I chucked that. I just sat there staring into nowhere, tunnel vision just crying out of mental pain. I just felt so miserable. tThe cold water helped as we just emptied bottle after bottle over me. I started being able to talk again, and my vision started clearing up. It was a fairly scary experience. 

Review of the day:

We attend the awards ceremony as spectators that evening, and I gained a new perspective on what this triathlon thing is all about. It was incredible to see all the various age groups! The best was Sister Madonna Budder climbing onto the 1st spot podium! What a legend- What a woman! 

This sport is for life. Racing the USAT National Championship for AGE GROUPS allows every day triathletes to feel special for one race. There are no pros. There are elite levels of athletes, but we are all Age Groupers. We all have jobs more or less. Perhaps it is my insecurity, but it felt great just to be surrounded by people that are “like me.” I appreciated this event and for what it did for me. 

I am at peace with how the race unfolded. I learned many lessons about going into a race and how my body responds to heat. One missing part can have a domino effect on how the day unfolds. 


It didn’t go accordingly to plan, and this is ok. I take a look at the data, and the information gathered and will improve for next time. No smile wasted, to frown passed. There were no tears apart from tears of pain. The struggle is real in this sport, and we are all, regardless of pro status or not, in it to be the best we can be. Being gracious and ambitious is part of the game. At least we are pushing the boundaries of our existence and our bodies, and for this, I can be thankful.