On August 8th I raced the USA Triathlon Olympic Distance National Championships in Milwaukee, WI. For me, Nationals is always the most important race of the year. I put a lot of effort into all my races, but Nationals is different. There is always something at stake at Nationals. This year the top 18 athletes in each age group would qualify for the 2016 World Championships in Cozumel. The 18 slots could roll down as far as 25th place so I had to make certain I placed in the top 25 to be considered for Team USA.
My training was spot on until July 26th when I tweaked my neck. 13 days before the race. Not good! But not impossible. I thought positively and with the help of my chiropractor, Dr. Rob Rich, I got to the race ready to go. My neck was not perfect, yet, but enough flexibility had returned that it was not going to be a factor. And the good news – I was especially well rested.
The day before the race I learned that one of my close friends (Dave Dungan) from my Delta Upsilon Fraternity days was going to be in Milwaukee to watch his beloved Cardinals play the Brewers. Dave’s middle name is Dale so we always called him D-Cubed or Cubed. Cubed was in hopes that he might be able to see my race. Now I was even more motivated. I did not want to lay an egg.
I did my swim warm up 10 minutes before the start of my race off to the side with a bunch of men in my age group. It’s kind of chaotic because everyone is swimming in different directions. Some are swimming out. Some are swimming back. Some knuckleheads are swimming diagonally. The chance for a collision exists. I got a little aggressive and started to rev my engine up pretty fast when I collided head on with another guy. I drove my left hand into his head. If my hand could see, it would have seen stars. I’ve played a lot of sports over the years, but I never jammed a finger as badly as this. I think the other guy’s head was fine, but my middle finger really hurt. The only good news was that over the years I’ve learned to be ambidextrous when giving people the finger.
I got out of the water and walked over to the swim start area. My finger was swelling up and there was nothing I could do about it. As the minutes counted down to my race start I was pretty certain I’d get through the swim, but might have a problem gripping my bike handlebars. I did have a pretty good swim. I covered the 1500 meters (0.93 mile) in 23:21 putting me in 31st place. 31st does not sound that great, but there were 15 guys less than 1 minute ahead of me.
The 40K (24.8 miles) bike went well. The adrenaline had kicked in and I had no problem gripping the handlebars. There were a couple of hills and turns, but nothing too difficult. And the road was fairly smooth. I averaged 22.0 mph which is good for me. I knew I’d lose ground during the bike, but hopefully not too much. I had the 76th best bike split (1:06:46) to drop me down to 51st place. 2 guys managed to break 60 minutes – amazing!
The 10K (6.2 miles) run was going to be make or break for me. About ¼ mile into the run I saw Cubed on the sidelines cheering for me. This was awesome! I quickly found my rhythm and started picking guys off left and right. My run split was 38:11, the 2nd best run of the day. The only person with a better run was the eventual champion, Michael Smith, who ran an other worldly 36:33. Only 4 guys ran under 40 minutes. I passed 32 guys on the run to finish 19th out of 168 men age 50-54 with a time of 2:12:01. I was 320th out of 2,610 overall finishers.
We raced on the exact same course in 2014. Under very similar conditions, my time in 2015 was 1:31 slower. I was 24 seconds faster through the transitions in 2015, but 44, 48, and 21 seconds slower during the swim, bike, and run, respectively. Oh well. I accomplished my goal and that was a hard earned spot on Team USA for the 2016 World Championships. Amen!
To see photos from my race, click on this link:
Living the life…