Tuesday, August 23, 2011

USAT Age Group Nationals 2011

Burlington, Vermont
August 20, 2011

My first age group nats!

1500M SWIM --- 40km BIKE --- 10km RUN

This race was semi planned last minute in the sense that I knew that I wanted to race, but I kept putting off signing up for various reasons. I received an invitation to do the race from USAT earlier in the summer because I was ranked 38th in the nation in my Age Group in 2010 and was named an Honorable Mention All-American. They tried to sweeten the deal to get me to show up with a discount code.. but the selling point that eventually swayed my mom to say okay to letting me sign up was the potential to qualify for Worlds in NZ in 2012. She was totally down for another triathlon vacation haha.

There was a small scare in July when the race actually sold out because USAT didn’t allocate enough race slots… so I put my name on the waiting list for sign-ups as soon as I saw the complaints on Slowtwitch. Luckily, I got an email in the next two days that I was good to go and signed up for the race! Apparently USAT figured out a way to convince Burlington that they had the capabilities for more race entries.

This was an interesting month of August. I flew out on Wednesday, August 17th, towards the east coast and then left the following morning for the road trip to Vermont. We settled in and I went and did a short jog along Lake Champlain near the transition area for the race. After only being there for one sunset, I determined that Burlington is absolutely beautiful. A friend of mine spent all summer in Burlington and had told me that the sunsets over the lake were unreal.. and boy was he right. I never knew the entire sky could light up with pinks and oranges like that.

Friday consisted of race check-in, rolling around on the bike, dipping into the lake for a short swim, and abandoning my bike at the mandatory bike-drop at transition. We ordered some chicken and pasta from the nearby Olive Garden and focused on getting ready for the next day’s race!

Getting to the race and finding parking was surprisingly simple and we got a spot right next to transition. Cha-ching! Setting up and going through the pre-race ‘rituals’ were relatively smooth. Got the wetsuit on and made my way to the swim start!
Fortunately for me, the F20-24 group was Wave #2 in the whole race! There are advantages of being in the back waves, but I was really glad that I’d have some more open water and roads for this race.

Swim= 20:45 – 8th fastest swim split in AG, 8th overall female swim split

I’ve never lined up for a swim start before and actually been seriously intimated by the girls standing around me.. but this was a whole new ball game. Everyone was talking about the D1 schools they swim/swam for and some of them just looked fast. You can always tell who the real swimmers are by the goggle selections.

We jumped in the water and I kept an eye out for a few girls I knew would kick it on the swim so I could try and hang on behind them. In-water starts are always a pain, but I had a pretty great start for once and ended up in a lead pack right away towards the first buoy. After the second buoy we slammed into the stragglers of the older men’s wave ahead of us and everything was broken up from there. I was just dodging guys left and right all the way to the last turn into shore. At that point I was going stroke for stroke with another girl and I came out of the water next to her; later I realized that she was the girl who ended up winning the F20-24 AG.

T1= 1:07

Bike=1:08:04 – 3rd fastest bike split in AG, 51st overall female bike split
Average power = 184
Average speed = 21.9
Bike HR Avg = 180

Within the first 4 minutes of the bike, I had a horrifying experience. My Profile Design water bottle on my aero bars decided to fling off my bike when I hit a huge lip in the pavement that hadn’t been marked or emphasized by the volunteers standing around… I then proceeded to yell NOOOOOOO as I saw it fall to the ground and empty everywhere, and made the split second decision to suck it up and somehow live with one meager bottle with Gatorade for 24 miles. Needless to say, I was very concerned that wasn’t going to be enough hydration.

All I can say about this bike is that it was FAST. I had seen the elevation profile (but we didn’t drive the course, bad move) and knew that the first part was uphill, then it plateaued with flats and rolling hills, and the last part was downhill to transition. So my plan was to work the beginning and keep it strong, then blast it after the turn-around. The beginning was tricky and my HR skyrocketed from the start, but once I got a rhythm I started passing some of the guys and girls ahead of me.

I was high on life at the end of the bike when everyone was yelling “3RD FEMALE!” Third? Really?! I guess I passed 5 girls during the bike and moved my way up from 8th out of the swim to 3rd into T2! Yikes.

T2= 1:14
Terrible T2.
When I hung up my bike after getting to my spot on the rack, I got an odd cramp for the first time ever during T2. I couldn’t bend down to get my shoes on because my left quad would seize up and cramp. So after two attempts I had to just pull it back and stretch it for a few seconds and then I finally got the shoes on.
And then, I dropped a Gu and turned around and added like 5 seconds.
And then I decided not to listen to the guy yelling “Watch your step here! It’s slippery!!”… and of course I slipped and slammed onto the ground hard right at the transition exit where everyone simultaneously groaned at my clumsiness. Embarrassing.

The most hilarious part of all of that mess is that my mom, sitting all the way at her computer early in the morning in California, saw me totally wipe out via the live stream coverage that USAT was broadcasting online. I got my phone after the race and there was a text from her that said, “I saw you fall : (” Even more embarrassing that everyone on the live stream saw me! Haha oh just my luck.

Run = 47:46
Run pace = 7:41 min/mile
Run HR Avg = 184
Only an elevation gain of 217 feet according to my Garmin.
Feeling a bit sheepish after falling, I made my way around transition area to the one and only hill on the run course and just powered up it as best I could with wobbly legs. I could feel the spot where I cramped up in T2 and just prayed that it wouldn’t hurt me later. I also had the sinking feeling that I didn’t drink enough on the bike because of the bottle mis-hap, so I made it a point to get a cup of water at every mile.
Personally I felt like I was moving at a really good pace.. but it never helps when there girls start passing me left and right in the first few miles. I didn’t get discouraged much though, because I had my Garmin watch telling me that I was going faster than any pace I’ve ever done for a 10k! After about mile 4, the last two miles were a gradual descent back down to lake-level at transition and I was moving my legs as fast as possible. I remember some guy in a Duke tshirt telling me “Come on, Stevens, you’re the 16th girl. Hang on.” In hindsight, I now realize that he was trying to tell me I was in the top 18 winner slots, but at the time I was annoyed that he told me my place with .2 miles left to sprint. Needless to say, I gave it all I had to the finish and the pictures at the finish line show how dead I was..

Considering I’m not much of a runner, I’m pretty happy with the fact that I was in the top 50% of the run times in my age group! It was also a personal BEST TIME! My run at Westchester last year was a 48:06, so I broke the 48-minute mark for the first time! Super stoked about that split. I really really really need to get under :45 for Collegiate Nats. New goal.

Overall time = 2:18:55

That’s less than a minute slower than Westchester’s overall time.. but there were a lot of different factors coming into play here and I’m at the point now where it’s hard to compare different times on varying courses (especially swims).

But I’d definitely say this was my best Olympic distance race I’ve ever done! It’s going to be great to compare this to Westchester in about a month!

Hopefully this is a sign that the NECTC season is going to be awesome!!!!! http://nectc.net/calendar_11.php

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