PRERACE: I am new to this sport, so I am still trying to find a nutrition plan that works for an early afternoon race. I may have found it! I woke up on my own in the morning and went for a short shakeout run. After that I enjoyed a very normal breakfast of eggs, fruit, cereal, and a biscuit. I figured whatever I ate in the morning would be out of me by the time I race. I wanted to watch Greg and Jake Rhyner race in the age group draft legal race, so I made my way to the park about 9. The race took place at Lake Louisa State Park just outside Clermont, FL. Jake is a new athlete to Team IE but we have known him since the race and clinic at the OTC in Colorado Springs last season. Their race was about 3 hours before mine so I ate my normal prerace meal during their race. It is a lot of fun watching a draft legal race! Greg came out of the water with the front pack, so Lauren and I went crazy when we saw him come through transition. Then Jake came though just a little off the front pack. The bike was fun to watch and Jake ended up winning the race!! He had a great run and was able to start the day off well for Team IE. Greg ended up 9th in the race, not bad for a Master!! After their race I got away from everything and relaxed for a little bit before I headed to the elite tent to get checked in and set up my transition. I went for a jog and caught some of the women’s pro race while I was warming up. Lauren came out with the front swim pack, but was not able to hang on to the lead pack on the bike. My confidence just grew with this news. If Greg and Lauren could make the front pack in their respective swims, I started to believe I could too. It was a long shot, but I was excited to get my chance. After a run warm-up I stretched and headed to the beach. I did some swim cords to get warmed up and then swam the course once. The water was a little chilly, but it felt good.
SWIM: There was a quick “on your mark”, and then the horn sounded! We were off and…running! The swim was supposed to be 750 meters, but I was able to run out for about 150m and then I started dolphin diving. The water was shallow and slowly got deeper. The first buoy was about 400m out and the water there was about 5 feet deep. After dolphin diving for a bit I started to get out of breath. I knew this was going to happen, since dolphin diving takes a lot out of me, so I started swimming. I alternated a few dolphin dives with a few strokes of swimming until about 300m. Then the actual swim started. At the first buoy, there was utter chaos!! I was shoved under water and came up gasping for air. When I tried to start swimming again I had a hard time since people were all around me and on top of me. I finally caught someone’s shoulder with my arm and I was able to finally propel myself forward. I was off and swimming again. There was about 100m between the turn buoys and then the mayhem was back at the second turn buoy. As we headed back to the beach, I started to fall off the pack a little bit. I thought I was in trouble until I started dolphin diving again. Coming back to the beach I was able to dolphin dive at a relaxed pace while keeping up with everyone around me swimming. Once someone finally saw me dolphin diving, he started and then everyone else did too. About 150m from the beach everyone stood up and started walking/jogging out of the water. This was my shot at making the front bike pack so I ran full out to the beach and down the board walk to transition. There was no way I was missing this!!
BIKE: I left transition and went straight VO2 with my feet on top of my shoes. I bridged halfway to the group and then swung out to allow someone to pull though. I needed to get in my shoes if I was going to make the pack and stay there. Will Huffman pulled though, so I got on his wheel. I knew he was a strong cyclist so I had good company! I was still nervous the pack would get away, but Nic Tautiva pulled up beside me and said, “We’re in, you’re good!” Finally I was able to relax a little bit and enjoyed the moment that I finally made the front pack at a triathlon. It was a good feeling, but the swim “conditions” were a huge advantage for me. On the first lap of four, everyone was antsy and two guys crashed at the first time around the 180 turn. They got up quickly but one guy flatted. He was not happy!!! After going through transition the first time, everyone finally calmed down and I then started to move toward the front of the pack. Being at the back is harder, since the whole pack is like a whip when you are at the end. I knew where I needed to be, I just had to get there. The bike was a lot of fun! I felt like I was in a stage of the Tour de France!! As we came into transition I started to get excited. This is what Greg and I have been working on for about a year!! I was finally going to get a chance to win a race with my run!
RUN: As we left transition Ben Collins got out first, and fast. We were all chasing. Once we caught him, there was a large pack moving down the road. I could tell by the way my legs felt I was not going to be able to kick at the end. I was going to have to shed the group if I was going to win. At 2k I started pushing the pace and tried to draw the kick out of everyone. At 3500m it was Greg Rouault, Jarrod Shoemaker and I. Greg went to the front and started pushing the pace. I responded by going back to the front but the only kick I killed was my own! Jarrod kicked first at about 500 to go and then with 200 to go Greg threw it down and pulled away from everyone!! I looked back to make sure no one was going to catch me. I was across the line in 3rd, 2nd American! Not too bad for my first USAT Elite National event! I was happy; I did what I could to place among the top athletes in the race. That was the hardest I have run since graduating college, and I loved it!!
POST RACE: Since I finished 3rd I got the call from the USADA doping team. I was dehydrated and I was going to have to stay in the holding area until I finished my business! Chris Foster had a plane to catch so he came and got me for the awards. I had to be escorted by someone from USADA since I had not finished my testing yet. The awards were not ready yet, so it was back to the USADA holding area. I pounded a lot of water and Gatorade, but was not able to do my business yet. One of the USADA guys in the holding area told a story about the table tennis world champion that took 8 hours to finish testing!! This was not words I wanted to hear at that moment. Finally I was able to fill a cup, but then I was worried it was too diluted since I drank so much water!! It had to have a specific gravity of 1.05, and mine was about 1.06 or 1.07. Squeaked by!! I was free!! I was finally able to celebrate with my family and teammates. A big thanks to my Mother, my Grandparents and some of my extended family for making the trip! It is always easier to compete when I have a large cheering section!!
I may not have won the race but Greg and I are on a great path and I am happy with the result this weekend! Stay tuned, this season could get exciting!!
There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.