The Double at USAT Nationals

This season I have been focusing on short course racing and I have really enjoyed the simplicity and intensity of it. I honestly like it more than Ironman training and racing. I decided 2015 was going to be the year of short course and local racing. Aside from an early season San Juan 70.3, where I ended up spectating the race instead of racing, all my other races this season have been within driving distance and over in ~ 2 hours or less!

We sold our house and moved in late April. 15 years of being in one house and I like “stuff.” I had bags of letters from my childhood friends, old boyfriends and well….just a lot of junk. It took Jerome weeks to clear out the basement of all our bikes, triathlon junk and crap. I cannot believe the amount of crap we accumulated all these years. We went through nearly 100 x 100 gallon bags+! I was so tired – like deep bone tired. I have only been that tired the first few months after the twins were born. We then moved successfully into a rental townhouse. Prince and Princess live upstairs and Jerome and I are re-living our college glory downstairs. My bike is in the closet-size entry way on the computrainer.

In April we also broke ground on our house and we are currently under roof, hardie board is going on and we are in the midst of designing and picking out the kitchen stuff and bathroom stuff now. Building a house has been fun. It is a little financially stressful – and there are A LOT of decisions. And a lot of phone calls. You almost can barely think every time the Builder calls and asks “Did you want a can light in X spot?” BUT, honestly, it is re-freshing and Jerome and I have embraced the process and having fun with it – we have waited and worked hard to build our “dream house.”

So, due to wanting to be PRESENT for this process as well as the feeling that my kids are leaving us soon…I decided not to ride my bike long this year. The longest I have ridden since my JHC Camp in March has been 2 hours and 37 minutes. It has been blissful.

Along the theme of short course races this year, I decided to make USAT Nationals Olympic and Sprint and Worlds Sprint and Olympic (in Chicago) my “A” races this year. I am lucky that Nationals was in Milwaukee, a mere 1:45 from my house. Again, within my “driving range” rule. I had a sub par Olympic race last year but a great Sprint race there. My goal was to get myself on the Podium for both races this year (Top 10 for OLY and Top 5 for Sprint).

I love Nationals because I love super competitive races. And, honestly, I like competitive races where the girls are my age. I am motivated by the fierce competition in my 40-44 age group. The girls are fast and getting faster – it is something that has changed dramatically over the years!

Last year I did a poor job at simplifying my life the week leading into Nationals and I arrived a wee bit tired. This year, I was adamant on not letting that happen again. All the small details really matter at a race like Nationals. Aside from some personal stress that is just normal life, I did a good job compartmentalizing life, work and racing. I was nervous all week. I was a little on edge but worked hard at staying positive and visualizing being strong and fast on race day.

I roomed with Chris Wickard again. We shared a room last year and we get along swimmingly. Not only are we friends, but I have been coaching Chris for 4+ years and I was excited to spend some quality “spooning” time with her. Honestly, she is easy and let’s Miss Daisy watch HGTV (the way I unwind) at night. :) And, she let me use her Recovery boots – Wow, am I missing out!

Saturday arrived and I woke up after 8+ hours of sleeping and ready to GO. I was still super nervous but confident in my preparation. I arrived healthy and hungry to race; two things that I don’t take for granted.

Our wave was late – 9:18am start time. This year we lined up on the wall and had to hold the sea wall that was high with one hand. I did think this was fair since last year we kept inching up and inching up in the water. I started next to my athlete and eventual winner of the 40-44 age group, Megan James. I know how she swims and knew she’d be the first out of the water, so I was just going to try to keep the gap as small as possible. I was looking for Elizabeth too, but did not see her at the start unfortunately.

Gun went off and we shot off the wall like a cannon! I went hard – got a good line – never touched anyone, never had anyone near me and I tried to find Megan the whole time. She was in a pack of 3-5 swimmers and I was just trying to keep that gap as small as possible. I consider myself a strong swimmer and my goal was to be in the top 5-6 out of the water. I felt awful. Just flat and could not get going – my stroke was good; I felt smooth. But, I had no top end. Weird. I have been swimming solo so much this summer (as my Masters team is on break) and I know that bit me in the ass – just not enough hard swimming that I just cannot replicate unless I am chasing feet in the pool. Anyway, I had a sub-par swim for me and came out of the water in 9th-10th. I had a little, “OH SHIT” moment, but just pressed on and passed 1-2 girls in T1.

One of the things with Nationals is that one just does not make up time on others easily. Everyone is fast that is around you – so if you think “I will just catch her on the bike” – that does not really happen.

I felt good on the bike. Really good. I came out of T1 with Elizabeth – and I was riding right behind her (legally) for the first 5-6 miles and then we came through a bumpy part and my bottle ejected. Ugh! And, I had to stop, get off my bike and turn around and get the bottle. Huge bummer because I lost Elizabeth, but I had no choice. I needed my nutrition (or the run would be awful) and I did not want to get a penalty. The marshals were all over us.

I was riding well and felt great. Last year I felt like I was on the bike forever (that is when you know you are off a bit). This weekend I felt good. I was pushing strong, felt smooth and on top of the pedals. I knew that I was capable of riding a 1:05 on this course and that was my goal. I passed three girls right away on the bike. That motivated me because now I was in 6th-7th place. The bottle drop cost me 45-60”, but it was the right decision. Just shitty luck. Two girls came by me drafting and that was really too bad. I was so mad. One of the girls thankfully got a drafting penalty. But the other one did not. Otherwise, the ride was clean from the other girls I saw, which is nice.

I got off the bike in 6th place or so.

I felt great on the run. I had my legs, I was taking salt and drinking and carried a hand held so I did not have to stop at the crowded aide stations. The first part of the run is an out and back and the race is so tight, so you can see it all unfold. I could see Megan in first place and Elizabeth making ground on 2nd, 3rd, so that was exciting. I was working hard to close the gap on the few girls in front of me. We were all kind of running the same pace ~ 6:50s. No one was running 6:30s, so every time I assessed the time gaps, they were about the same. I kept pushing and pushing. I was talking to myself, “Jenny you are in the TOP 10, keep digging, get top 5…get top 5.” I ran out of room and finished in 7th. I was happy with my finish and had met my goal. While my race was far from perfect, it was a solid effort for me and I was on the podium with one of my athletes, Megan and my dear friend, Elizabeth!

After the Olympic race we sat around and tried to force food down our throats to recover. Luckily, I had a VIP pass from my result from last year, so Megan, Chris Wickard, Elizabeth and I were living it up in the VIP tent. So nice.

I had a nice group of athletes racing over the weekend, so I set up a get together at a local brewery after the race to put some food down in order to recover so we can race again in the morning. I was a zombie and unsure how I was going to pull that double off again. After the JHC get-together, Chris and I rode our bikes down to T1 again to re-check in for the Sprint race. Then off to the Awards ceremony. Then shoved more food in our throats and off to bed.

Up again on Sunday morning to do it again! I actually did not feel too bad. We headed back down to the race start and I walk SO slowly, I think Chris felt like she was cattle prodding me all the time. I just like to “stroll.” We set up in the transition area, talk to some of my friends and athletes and then make our way to the VIP tent to hang out until the race starts.

I was a little relieved that the Sprint wave was a little smaller, I felt like I could breathe a bit more with less commotion and bodies around.

I knew I had to swim harder than Saturday – and ironically, last year I felt like crap in the water after racing Saturday. But, I actually did not feel too bad on Sunday. My breathing was much more labored than usual, but I went out hard, had no contact again and made my way to the front. I was right off the back of the 1-3 girls and just trying to hang on. I was swimming way better today. Heather Westerman (eventual winner) was off the front and out-swam us by nearly 2 minutes in a SPRINT! She is a super swimmer. And we were hauling ass!

I cannot over-emphasis here how important the swim is in short course racing. For example, Megan James (who won 40-44 Oly) and Heather (who won 40-44 Sprint) BOTH out swam their competition by 90”-2 minutes. At the Nationals level, that is a ton of time and really, really hard to make up. They both had the fastest swims of their days and went on to win their age groups. Unless someone 40-44 is running a 38 min 10k (rare) – these gaps are hard to break.

I came out of the water in about 4th place. Heather W, Becky Paige in front of me. I went for it – I accidentally went too far down on my rack for my bike (had a stupid moment thinking I was racing the Oly again)….but grabbed my bike and off I went. I felt a little flat on the bike – but that was to be expected. My watts were lower, so I never looked at them again. The best part of racing at a race like Nationals is how many girls there are near you! It’s like I can feel their breathing on my neck.

And, I love racing people, not the clock. In a short course, competitive race like Nationals that is my favorite part – knowing where I am at – chasing girls and holding girls off – I did not even start my watch, look at my watts or computer the entire day. It just didn’t matter – I was in the moment, racing the girls.

My goal → DO NOT GET PASSED. I hammered, I was flat, but it was just mind over matter. No one passed me on the bike – I passed no one. Ran into T2, threw my bike in and was off on the run. No visor (I love running w a visor), no socks (of course – but my feet were a hot mess after Saturday’s race – bloody, cut up, pretty bad). But, I was in 4th and every second mattered. I could see people all over the place. I just had to go go go.

I started the run and felt great! I felt way better even than Saturday’s 10k, where I thought I felt good! I could see Becky ahead of me by about 20-30” so I just focused on her. I was running well. I knew that if I could keep running my pace I would be able to hold this position. I could see one girl at the turn around that was charging hard. A little too hard.

I was breathing like a freight train and even was having that little “throw up” in my mouth as I tried to manage the effort and pain. Ironically I never felt my feet. I gave it my all. In the end I finished ~ 20” behind Becky (she did the Double too) and 5” behind Ceclia Dubey (Duathlon National Champ) and in 5th. I gave it my all. I visualized the hard track workouts I have been doing as we closed in on the final 1 mile of the race – just trying to get to the finish line as fast as I could.

I did it! I was 5th and was over the moon. I was able to hit both my goals at Nationals. While I was slower both days, I did not care. The day was different, the courses are never exactly the same, I was there to race the girls, not the clock. And, at 44 (nearly 45) in the 40-44 age group, I was happy to still be in the mix.

The Awards ceremony on Sunday was just as special as Saturday’s. Some of these athletes – and many very young ones at the Sprint – are just so fast and amazing. It is a very inspiring collection of athletes of all ages. And, you know, all the hard work, detail management, that it takes to get there you can finally say, “It was worth it.” And, Becky Paige was 1st in the Double and I was 2nd in the Double (yes, there are awards for fastest combined Oly and Sprint times. She beat me by 80” or something like that). That was fun!

Chris Wickard won the 45-49 AG and to be there and share that with her was special as well. Chris has had some minor (or major) niggles this year so this win for her was extra meaningful.

Every day we question our sanity of why we do this sport. The time, the money, the sacrifice, the early mornings, the preventative work on our bodies…but when I drove away from Milwaukee I was once again reminded how great this sport is. How great the people are in it and how much I love the competitive arena, the outstanding performances by so many and the overall camaraderie that a National Championship event holds.

Thanks to everyone for their support and most importantly, thanks to the girls in the 40-44 age group who pushed me both days to my limit; ultimately that is what I crave and why I do this sport.

Next up: ITU Worlds in Chicago

Sprint Finish USAT Nats 2015

 


Comments

  1. Yea! So happy to read this and congratulations! What great results!!!!!!


  2. Incredible effort and racing by you as always Jen! Especially after such a busy spring and summer = impressive!!


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