This last weekend Buffalo, NY hosted USAT Nationals. It was a very well run race, and the course was great. We swam in Lake Erie and the water was cold enough to be my first wetsuit swim of the season. The roads were fantastic on the bike, and although it contained two 180s it was very fast. The run was flat and fast, like most of the run courses this year.
A big thanks goes out to everyone who made it to the race. My Mom was once again my personal driver for the weekend. I am not sure how she continually puts up with me, but I am glad she does. It was great to have my Grandparents there as well! They stopped by the hotel before the race, so it was nice to chat with them pre-race. It is always great to have Greg there cheering, he always knows what to yell to keep me focused on the task at hand. I am glad that the Housands made the trip. Tom is a training buddy, and he brought his daughters, Addison and Aubrey, with him. They brought some great energy to the race. I would have to say that I had the best cheering section of the day!!
Swim – ITU races always have a fast start. Not just the pace of the swim, but the actual start. You have to be ready when the race is handed over to the starter. As soon as he says, “On your mark,” you might as well jump in because there is less than a second usually before the horn sounds. I am now ready for this when I show up at a race, and this race was no exception. I got a good start and was in the middle of it all. I was surprised at how nice everyone was! Usually there is a lot of fighting all the way to the first buoy, but that did not happen this weekend. Either that or I just happened to be a good position. Although I did not get beat up at all, the swim was very hard. I was on feet early and I really wanted to make a bike pack, so I swam as hard as I could to stay there. The whole time I was swimming I imagined a solid line of guys from the very first swimmer to me, and I believed that if I could stay on feet I would be in the front pack. This was not the case but it kept me in a good position! By the end of the swim I was dizzy from being on the rivet for about 500 yards so I was happy to be heading to the bike.
Bike – Once I was out of my wetsuit I was around a few guys and I could see some guys leaving transition. I ran out and jumped on my bike. I got my right foot in my shoe and that was all I had time for. I was at the front of a few guys and there was a pack of 5 about 5 seconds ahead. I put my head down and tried to close the gap. Once I got close, I swung out and let someone else pull us the rest of the way to the group. Once we got there I was able to get my other foot in my shoe and tighten them down. There were small packs on the road, but the pack I was in was working well together. Hunter was in a group of 7 at the front that was moving the best, but my pack moved well and caught the 3 packs in between. I didn’t miss a turn at the front on the first 6 laps. I wanted to do all that I could to try and catch the front pack. The front pack got a max lead of 80 seconds, but it did come down on the last lap and a half. On the last 2 laps I had nothing left in the tank. I did all I could to just stay in the pack and make it to the run. Toward the end of lap 7 Kyle asked me if I was ok and told him I was fine, but I was in survival mode. Draft legal racing can be easier than non-draft, but it can be harder as well. They are different styles of racing. I am used to a steady hard pace for 40k, and this was like a roller coaster. There was a lot of easy peddling, but there were a lot of hard accelerations. I think the hard pushes took a toll on my body!
T2 – I broke this out separately, because I made a huge mistake here! Usually this is routine and simple, but something happened out of the ordinary. I missed my bike rack!! I am not sure if it was the mental state I was in or the size of the group that threw me off. For most of the season I have come in to T2 toward the back, all by myself. I ran in to transition too far and when I realized it I had to turn around and head back in to everyone coming in/going out. Not what I wanted at this point, but there is nothing I could do about it; there are no do-overs.
Run – I was out of transition almost last from my group so I tried to stay calm and tried not to get ahead of myself. I knew I had ground to make up, but I could not do it in the first quarter mile. I just tried to set a hard pace and make up as much ground as I could. By the end of lap 1 I was in the top 10, and I had caught the majority of the guys from the front bike pack. By the end of lap 2 I think I was in the top 5, but my mind was wondering, so I was not sure what place I was in. Before the race I told Greg that there were two things I would like to hear during the race, other than words of encouragement. The first thing was if Maddie won her cross country race earlier in the day, and the second thing was if Notre Dame won their football game. I think it was on lap two Addison let me know ND won. I couldn’t help but smile! It is amazing how happy thoughts keep you going. It had nothing to do with the race, but it made me happy and maybe even gave me a little extra spring in my step. By the end of lap 3 I was in fourth, moving in to third. I passed Andrew Yorke for third but he passed me right back so I let him stay in the lead and break the wind along the only stretch with wind. At the end of the straightaway, I passed him and tried to put it down. He hung on for a while but I slowly pulled away from him. I tried to speed up and go after Ritchie for second place but he was too far ahead and I was not going to catch him. I ended up in third place!! Second American!! That was the same result as I had at USAT Sprint Nationals. Not bad for my first year as a pro. Hopefully I can improve on that next year!!
Good Job to Kyle! He was right at the front coming out of the water, and finished with a strong 22nd overall! It was nice to have a teammate in the bike pack as well!
Post race – I got the call from USADA. But since awards were coming up right after the race, I got to stay out of the tent for a while. The awards were fun, and it was the first time I got champagne. I still had some left in the bottle when I left the podium so I poured the rest on Greg! He deserved the champagne just as much as I did. He is the one that got me to the podium. Once the awards were over, I had to head to the doping tent. It still took a while for me to fill up a cup, but I think it is getting better. I just hung out with all my nice USADA friends until I was able to go.
Thank you to all my sponsors: Profile Design’s Marlin wetsuit for getting me out of the water in a great position, Look Bicycles, Profile Design for my Altair 52 wheels and bars, Rudy for my helmet and sunglasses, Hammer for my nutrition, Champion System for my tri suit and clothing, and John Cobb for the comfy V-Flow Max saddle.
“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” ~Jim Rohn