The race this weekend was by far the most challenging race I have competed in both mentally and physically. The Elite course was different than the Age Group course. Two days before the race I rode a lap of the bike course and immediately called our coach ,Greg, after to complain about how hard the hill was that I had to climb eight times on race day. Greg told me just to take the race second by second and I would be fine. Draft legal racing is so much different than non drafting. If you are mentally out of the race for just a few seconds the bike pack can drop you and your race is over. We raced at noon on Saturday. The day of the race everyone was complaining about how hot it was outside and how bad the run was going to be in the sun. I tried to stay positive and continue to chug water. The swim felt really fast. The pace was a lot faster than it was at worlds but thankfully I came out of the water with the girls I thought I would come out with. The bike was very hard for me. After the second lap I knew my legs were already trashed but somehow I still had to ride six more laps and run a 10k. Well, I made it to the run....I felt like death the first lap. I was thinking how nice it would be to pass out so I did not have to keep running. I had the cold lips and dehydration chill bumps...it was crazy! A U23 athlete passed me on the run on the first lap and mentally I really did not think I would be able to catch back up. However, I wanted to win the U23 National Title..for myself of course, but especially for my coach. We have worked so hard this past month to get me ready to race the best in the nation and I needed to win this for him. The second lap felt the same as the first...hot, miserable, and painful. As I began the third lap I actually started feeling good. How? I do not really know. It must have been from all of my awesome friends yelling at me "DON'T YOU DARE SETTLE (thanks Brian)". My immediate goal was to get top ten, which meant I would have to pass two more girls. The U23 athlete was three girls ahead of me...29 seconds. I had 2.5k to make up 30 seconds. I passed two and then I sprinted up and passed the third to see her reaction. She did not sprint back, so I just carried my speed right into the finish line and became the 2010 U23 National Champion! This is a huge accomplishment for me. A year ago I just started toying with local sprint triathlons and now I am racing as a pro and won the U23 race. It is so awesome to see how much hard work pays off. Thanks to all my friends, my coach, and my mom for supporting me! Next up is Puerto Vallarta Pan Am Champs in Mexico. Too bad the race is on Sunday...no margaritas for this chick.
"We did it!" This was the first thing to go through my head as I crossed the finish line. I was thinking about all the time and hard work my coach and I have put in over the last 8 months. I was not sure if I had won or not but I knew I had to be close. I felt great the whole day and I caught a lot of the 20-24 guys, who started 6 min before I did. I don't like to compare race to race or even the same race year to year, but I was 10 min faster this year than I was last year. It is amazing what a difference it makes to have a great coach in your corner! Thanks Greg, this victory would not have been possible without you!
PRE-RACE - Usually when I travel alone I get to transistion at the last minute and to the starting line a few seconds before the gun goes off, not this time. I was with Greg and Lisa and they like to be early. It was nice to be able to take my time setting up transition and I was even able to lay down for a few minutes before getting into the water. Greg and I have a little saying that goes, "If you can stand, sit. If you can sit, lay down. And if you can lay down, sleep." I got to the stating area about 10 min before my race start and they let us in the water 5 min before, so I found a place on the sidewalk, to avoid laying in a mound of fire ants which are very common in Tuscaloosa, to lay down and relax for a few minutes. It was the first time in 3 days that I was not nervous anymore. The bright lights were on and I was ready to roll.
SWIM - It was a chaotic start in the water. The pontoon was full of people so I found a spot just off the end to tread water for the start. I had practiced starts the day before so I knew there was little advantage to starting next to the pontoon. It did not go deep into the water so you could not really push off. The gun went off and I started out hard for about 100 yards. I wanted to get in a good swim pack so I tried to place myself toward the front. Finally the group settled down and I found some feet. About 200 yards into it, I realized I was on the wrong feet! This guy was slowing up and the lead pack was getting away quickly. I had to go around and try to bridge the gap. As I was sighting buoys, I was looking for a green cap, a guy in my wave. I finally caught a guy about 400 yards later. The pace was a little slow but I had just used a lot of energy to bridge the gap so I sat on his feet for a little bit to gather myself. I touched his feet twice and each time he would speed up for about 4 strokes and then slow back down. It was time to go around this guy! With 400 yards to go I went around him but he did not want to get passed this late in the swim so he started going stroke for stroke with me. As we were fighting through earlier waves he kept running into me, but I was too close to transition to worry about him. I was doing my normal thing and thinking about transition, where my bike was and "Helmet on first!" Thank you Blue Seventy for sending me a PZ3+, I had a great swim split and I am sure that saved me a good amount of time. As I exited the water, Barb Lindquist, who runs the USAT Collegiate Recruitment Program, let me know I had lost 1:45 to the leader out of the water. Things were going well!! Last year I lost almost 6 min to the leader out of the water. My swim has come a long way but I still have a long way to go to be competative in ITU racing.
BIKE - I got out of my PZ3+ quickly and blasted though transistion. I hit the bike mount line and went down! It was a line of red tape that got slippery when wet. I planted my left foot squarly on the line and it just washed out. I caught myself with me left hand and knee. In the process I slammed by bike to the ground. I picked myself up and looked at my bike. The bars were a little crooked but I couldn't see any damage. Sorry to the officials and spectators standing right there, a few words slipped out in the heat of the moment. I mounted my bike and started rolling. As I was getting in my shoes I could feel my hand throbbing as I gripped the bars. I also noticed a nice scrape in my left shin and knee but I could not feel that yet. When I went aero there was no pressure on my left hand so it did not hurt as much, I stayed aero as much as I could for the next 40k. It was getting warmer so I made sure to drink before I got thirsty. About 6 miles into the bike my knee started to get a little sore, but I was on a mission and this was not going to slow me down. I squirted some water on it to try and wash off some of the dirt, and that made it feel a little better. Either that or my quads were starting to feel the hard pace and my mind switched to that pain instead. Overall I was very happy with my bike split. It was difficult in some sections to pass since there was such a large number of people out on the road. A few times I just had to sit up and wait, to avoid gettting a drafting penalty. Thank you Rudy Project for hooking me up with a new Wingspan TT helmet and Noyz sunglasses. The Wingspan TT is a great helmet, it is very aero and has large vents in the front that kept me cool as the temp went up. I worked hard on the bike and I felt like I was going to vomit in the last 2 miles, so I backed it down a little to get ready for the run. I took it easy at the bike dismount, I did not want to go down again. As I ran through transition my legs were feeling the bike, but they felt better than they did in Chicago, so I was ready to run.
RUN - Starting off, my knee was aching with every step but Barb let me know I was 40 seconds behind the leader, and all the pain went away and my mind turned off to allow my body to run. The leader was in the earlier age group so I would not see him unless I could take 6:40 out of him on the run. I was running against the clock. I thought I could take 40 seconds out of the leader so I relaxed and just allowed my body to find its natural pace. I did not want to press too much too early because it was hot and the run course had 3 good hills to climb before a net down hill the last 3 miles. The hills were a swift kick in the pants, but I was passing people going up so I just kept pushing. Once I knew the hills were over, it was on! At around 4.5 miles I caught Nic Tautiva and asked him what place he was in his age group. He did not know but I knew things were going well. I had taken 6 min out of the Elite Amateur champion at St. Anthony's and I still had about 1.5 miles to go. My confidence grew and my pace quickened with every person I passed. With about 1 mile to go I saw Lisa going out on the run course so I yelled a few words of encouragement. With less than a half mile to go Ben Weaver yelled for me as he was going out on the run course. It took me a second to figure out where it was coming from and who it was, but then I yelled back and pushed to the finish line. I gave a few high fives as I came toward the finish line but was careful because Age Group National races can come down to seconds. I did everything I could in the race against the clock, now I had to wait for final results to come out.
I went to the med tent and got my shin and knee cleaned up. After that I found my mom and my grandparents and gave them huge hugs. They are great fans and cheered loud for me. I wanted to go out on course and find the rest of the Team IE athletes, so I got my printout and headed out to the run course. I saw Jason Smith finish so I did not get to yell for him. As I was heading out on course I looked at my printout - 1st overall!! There were still a lot of age groups that needed to come in, but I let out a small sigh of relief. I found Greg out on course first so I yelled for him and then ran after him to catch him as he left the finish area. I had to let him know that we did it!!
After the age group race was all over it was time for the pros to go after their national championship. We stayed around to watch and cheer for Lauren. Lauren won the U23 National Championship by showing how much of a fighter she truley is. With 2k to go she was down 20 seconds, and went on to win by 50!!! AMAZING!!
The awards were a great time and it was awesome to see so many Team IE athletes go up on stage. Results from the races can be seen here.
Christina Person - 20-24 Champion
Lisa Mueller - 9th place 25-29
Adreinne Hengels - 19th place 30-34
Jason Smith - 6th 30-34
Greg Mueller - 3rd place 35-39
Ben Weaver - 24th place 40-44
Female Amateur Champion Mandy McLane and I with our hand made awards.
A big thanks goes out to my mom for driving Greg, Lisa, and I to and from Tuscaloosa. She was a saint for driving, putting up with all the pre-race emotions, and getting anything we needed. I love you Mom!
All the hard work and preparation over the last 8 months comes down to one race. With less than a week to go and the last hard workout over, I am already a bundle of nervous energy. A big thank you goes out to Dr. Jerry of Hofferth Chiropractic. He met me outside of work last night to work on me to get me ready for the race.
Greg, Lisa and I sweating it out on the pool deck Sunday morning to get ready for the Alabama heat.
Age Group Nationals is an interesting race, in the way it is set up. It is the only large triathlon in the US that does not allow the best amateurs to go head to head. Wave starts are arranged by age group and alternate men and women every three minutes. The majority of the people in the race are after a top 18 finish in their age group so they can represent the US at the age group world championships next year. For them the race is set up perfectly. But for the people looking for the overall victory, it becomes a race against the clock.
A good thing to remember is to never make last minute changes in gear or bike adjustments. Whatever you are going to use at the race needs to be determined at least one week out. You do not want your emotions for the race to determine what gear you use. Stay with your old trusty flats and never wear a new pair of goggles without wearing them in a workout first. Having your gear selected ahead of time will take some of the stress out of packing as well.
Good Luck to all those competing and go TEAM IE!
If you are interested in following the race, there are two links below that should offer coverage.
This weekend I will be competing in my first National Championships...as an Elite! This is somewhat overwhelming but it doesn't get much better than toeing the line with the best women competing in the sport in the nation. I have just gotten my feet wet with draft legal racing and I am still learning how to be competitive in these races. I have done three races and each one gets better and better.
So here are some things I have learned that can help others who are just starting to race:
1. BE CONFIDENT; someone once told me there are three parts to a triathlon, the mind, the heart, and the legs. Without confidence in yourself, you have nothing. This took me some time to understand, but now after Worlds I am confident going into Nationals, of course this is a process! It is so odd how it just takes one workout session or one small part of a race to get your mind right.
2. EAT; often on race morning I am a ball of nerves and I do not feel like eating much. Bad idea. Food is fuel for the body and it is so important to eat just the right amount the race demands. This takes time and trial and error. I have yet to figure out exactly what works. The best race I had I ate eggs, bacon, potatoes, toast. Most people would frown upon that, but hey, it worked!
3. Prepare for your race in transition; it is so important to have 0 stress on race day. Therefore, make sure your shoes are loose enough, helmet is tight enough, sunglass lenses are clean, bike shoes are rubber-banded properly, gels are properly taped, and water bottle is filled. The last thing you want is to be swimming and worrying about your transition area. This is something so simple to master, but people so often overlook these minor details. This is what separates 1st from 2nd.
4. HAVE FUN! If you aren't having fun then there is no point in competing. Bottom line.
5. The most important...look good. Here is a picture of the U23 team in Budapest, Hungary before the race.
I hope to fix the things I did wrong at Worlds at the race this coming weekend. I am so excited to race against the best and see what I can do. Kaleb will be racing in the amateur race. I am sure the Elite Men are happy he is not racing in their race. He is such a talented athlete and I am happy to have him as a teammate. Go IE!
Welcome to the website for Team IE Elite. Current members include Lauren Goss from Charleston, South Carolina and Kaleb VanOrt from Waterloo, Indiana. Lauren is a fifth year senior at Clemson University, finishing up her last semester. She got started in triathlons about a year ago and has quickly become one of the best U23 triathletes in the nation. Kaleb graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2006 and now resides in South Bend, IN, where he trains with Innovative Endurance head coach, Greg Mueller, and other Team IE athletes. He got his start in triathlons about 2 years ago and has become one of the best amateur triathletes in the nation. Both athletes will be chasing ITU points next year, in hopes of becoming a USAT funded Project 2016 Athlete, and one day maybe even representing the United States of America at the Olympic Games. Lauren just missed a place on Project 2016 on September 11 in Budapest, Hungary. With rainy conditions she was unable to take on calories on the bike and fell 4 places short of the top15 - automatic spot on Project 2016. Still placing a very respectable 19th at the U23 World Championships.
Check back periodically for race recaps, training updates, and general happenings of Team IE Elite. Hopefully you enjoy following these gifted athletes as they enjoy the highs and endure the lows in this amazing, sometimes crazy sport of Triathlons.