Team USA Excitement

Last year, at the outset of the season I decided my focus was going to be to try to make Team USA for long course racing.  My favorite distance to race by far is the half iron and I've always done pretty well at the distance, but it certainly did not come easy.   With the excitement of receiving my team gear last night and 6 weeks to go until worlds I wanted to remember how I got here!

I decided to try and qualify by the time standard method which for me was a 5:05.   I was training a ton and probably in my best shape ever when I headed down to Eagleman last year primed to get my second Sub 5 race on that course.  The heat the week and day of the race was just brutal.  They announced at the start that wet suits would not be allowed.  My swim ended up being 38:13 which actually placed me 270 out of the 1509 athletes that started.  The water was in the 80's and I started to cramp on my way out.  I rode my bike into 174 place with a 2:29 bike split but I could feel the fade coming on in the heat.  The heat index had crept up to 110 and I could feel my day start to fall apart.  I hit t2 with 3:10 on the clock and only having to run a 1:55 to hit my 5:05 goal.  That should seem simple for someone who runs a 1:31 open half marathon but the heat was rising and when its that hot all I do is melt.  My run was atrocious from the start and only got worse.  As hard as I tried I ended up waddling  my way through the first 11.5 miles and found myself leaning over a fence wondering if I was going to have my first ever DNF.  The question wasn't whether or not I could run the last 1.6 miles it was more of can I even walk it.  I was delirious and dizzy yet determined to finish.  I somehow pulled it together and managed to finish in 5:25 with a 2:13 run.  20 mins away from my qualification time.  I finished the race extremely disappointed but I knew I had another 4 months until Long Course Nationals.

Over the next few days I contemplated what my next plan of attack should be and was eyeing another race within driving distance from me.  I was still upset because my fitness had been at its peak, but I wasn't able to perform due to the heat.  By Wednesday I made the decision to enter the Patriotman half that next Saturday, only only 6 days of rest.  It was going to be my 3rd week in a row of racing, and at the time my workouts were sub-par as I still had not recovered from the race on Sunday.  Even though I had signed up I wasn't confident in my ability to recover and race again so quickly.  On my rides my legs had no power, and on my runs my legs had no turnover.   Friday afternoon I went for a quick run just to see what to expect out of myself on Saturday morning and I felt comfortable running for the first time in days., called it a day and relaxed for the rest of the day.

Race morning called for a 2am wake up call.  Since I decided I was going last minute I didn't even bother with a hotel.  I figured I could fuel my body for the day on my drive up and see where the day took me.  I arrived at the transition area around 5am so I could get registered and set up and rack my bike.  The race allowed for an elite division and even though I had no aspirations of winning I wanted the clean course so I could focus on the task at hand and race as fast as possible.  We had a small wave so there wasn't much room to draft but it was a nice calm swim.  I came out of the water in 34:23 but was still disappointed with my swim.  On a side note post race I noticed afterwards that my GPS had the swim at 1.4 miles so I felt better after all the work I had put in at the pool. I was told that coming out of the water I was in 3rd place which took me by complete surprise.  I had no idea how far ahead the guys in front of me were or what I had left in the tank after racing just 6 days ago but I decided to go for it.  2 people that were right behind me coming out of the swim passed me in t1, so that put me in 5th.  I rode the bike mostly alone not seeing anyone until I started passing other bikers who were on their first loop as I was starting my second. I came off the bike in 2:31:32 still in 5th place with what turned out to be the 10th best bike split.  Since I wasn't passed and no one passed me I was still in 5th when I came off the bike, but the guy in first had a 15 minute lead on me.  No reason to linger in t2 so I was in and out.  I came out feeling amazing and surprisingly running well. First 2 miles 6:27, 6:43 and I ran myself into 4th place, I could see the 3rd place athlete ahead of me and I was chasing for quite some time but not gaining ground.  Next few miles crept into the 7's, 7:06, 7:18, 7:02, then I started to feel the effects of long course racing, my pace slowed to around 7:40 for mile 6 &7 and 7:50 for mile 8.  When I hit the next aid station I had a miscommunication with a volunteer and I had to stop and walk to get my nutrition.  I took a little more than a minute here to get my head together and I was passed by the 2 guys that I had passed early in the run and one more.  Back in 6th place I decided to keep it strong and see if I could come back.   Mile 9 was a 9:12 and 10 barely back in the 7's at 7:53.  I had someone from the age group waves run by me as if I was standing still in the 11th mile as I brought my pace down to 7:49.  As I came to the last aid station I stopped to walk for a minute.  There's a big hill before you get back into camp cathedral for the final stretch and I wanted to make sure I was going to run it home strong.  Mile 12 ended up being 8:20, but mile 13 came back down to 7:19 and the last .1 was run at a 6:38 pace as I could see the finish line clock and I was about to PR!  I crossed the line in 4:47:45 and my fastest half iron ever with a final run time of 1:39:05.  I had finished almost 38 minutes faster  than I did 6 days ago and qualified for nationals!  I was tired but ecstatic.

Four months later I was driving down to Myrtle beach for nationals and super excited about my chance to race for a slot on Team USA.  I wasn't sure what my chances were but I knew I would give all I had to get there after a summer of training.  The trip started off on a bad note as I drove down through a hurricane which certainly wasn't fun.  I got to Myrtle Beach a few days early so i could do some training, and also get my race directors certification from USAT.   Race morning I am all ready to go and I hear an announcement that the race director needs to speak with us.  He seemed so upset I thought the whole race was going to be cancelled.  It turned out because of the hurricane the e-coli in the river we were supposed to swim in was too high to be safe so they had to cancel the swim.  To be completely honest I was sort of relieved.  Stories in the days before the race of water moccasins and baby alligators had me dreading the swim.  They were definitely in the river because I saw them myself!  So since we had no swim we went off in a time trial format with athletes leaving every 5 seconds.  We would start at the swim exit, run into transition and then head out for a bike/run.  Knowing there was no swim I hit the bike a little harder than usual and wound up with a bike personal record of 2:23 a quick T2 for me and I was off the run again.  I ran a 1:40 half marathon and into 14th place in the 25-29 age group. Since the spots were for the top 25 I had made Team USA!  I found out after that since I would be racing in the 30-34 age group that was the group I would be qualified in which moved me to top 10!  It was a long road, but I made it.  And now with a little more than 6 weeks to go until the long course world championships I'm excited to race as part of  Team USA in Vegas!!!  I have attached pictures of some of the gear that I got last night!  The only thing I am still waiting for is my singlet, and that should be here shortly!