I've joined another training group at the same place I've been doing my run training for the last two years. However, this one is a bit different. I've previously been in groups that were event focused. That is, everyone was training for the same event, or events that were around the same time, and the program was over once the event happened. This new group is a year-round group that's full of people that are pretty serious, most of whom either have or are trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. If I'm honest, I'm a little intimidated. Especially since it's been hard coming back from the Ironman race and the recovery afterwards. This is compounded by the fact that it's the middle of summer in Texas. I'm slow, don't have as much endurance as I did, and I'm struggling a bit. It is what it is I guess.
Back in March I competed in the Tall Texan Triathlon in Boerne, TX. My "win" qualified me for a spot in the USAT Olympic Distance Age Group National Championships in Milwaukee, WI. I figured that it might be a long while before I get another chance to qualify for something like this so I should take advantage of it while I can. After all, surely there was a few other people like me that qualified at some small race and were going to be out their league here. I mean, the field can't completely be the fastest people in the nation, can it?
My plan was just to race as hard as I could, have a good race, and not finish last. This was also my first race out of state and the first time I've had to ship everything. That all made for a very interesting experience. I was able to get in some practice time in the swim area. The swim was taking place in a protected area of Lake Michigan. It was cold water but protected from the chop and waves of the lake. I knew that it was going to be an interesting swim. Wetsuit legal, no wetsuit strippers, and a decent run from the swim exit to T1. I had my work cut out for me. After a big pasta dinner, I settled back into the hotel room and got everything ready for the next day.
Race morning I arrived early morning, I knew traffic and parking would be a challenge, and it definitely was for those who arrived not long after I did. My group was going out later so I knew there'd be a lot of waiting around, and I'd prefer that to hurrying around last minute. I got my body marking from Miss Wisconsin, which was kind of cool I guess. I got everything ready, got my wetsuit on, and headed over to the swim start to watch the earlier waves and focus.
I was in big age group so it took us a while get down to the dock once it was our turn. So much so, that the warm up in the water before our wave we were promised never happened. Guess I was just going to wing it. The wave started and I began as I often do, slow and steady. Through all of my training, I have yet to develop an affinity for swimming; I tolerate it at best. As is often the case, I was at the back of my group, then alone behind my group, then caught by the leaders of the group behind me, then overtaken by said, group, then...well you get the picture. I'm not completely sure, though I think I was probably last of my group out of the water.
A quick transition and I was off on the bike. Of course, not without a little hiccup at the mount line. My flying mount wasn't as graceful as it needed to be and I found myself swerving toward the barrier. Simultaneously, someone was passing me on that same side and we almost had a collision. Narrowly avoiding disaster at the beginning of the bike, I was off and running (or biking actually). The bike course was relatively flat, except for the big bridge we had to cross over the channel into the port. That was interesting, especially the large timing mat on the downhill side. Those things can be a little unnerving to go over at full, downhill speed.
I had a pretty good bike and it was relatively uneventful. I made a good trip back into transition and headed out for the run. By this time, it was getting hot and the sun was full in the sky overhead. At least I was used to this. I was also happy about the fact that the run was one big loop. None of this multi-loop run course, which I'm not a bog fan of. It was a tough run and I was happy to say that I was nailing my plan until the last 1.5 miles. I started to fade bit. I kept pushing and the people who had already finished were very encouraging. I pushed hard and finished really strong, feeling I had left it all out there.
I didn't quite hit my goal, I only missed by a few minutes. I was pretty close and happy to say that was my fastest Olympic distance triathlon that I've done. I was also really happy with the sustained effort and I had and how I was able to finish strong and empty the tank. It was a great experience and I was really happy with everything. My goal was to not finish last in my age group...I made it by one spot.