Monday, September 27, 2010

Age Group Nationals Recap

"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!


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