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Burlington, Vermont did not disappoint.
I wanted to race USAT Nationals Olympic for a few reasons. Mostly, I wanted an opportunity to race head to head with the best short course athletes in the country in my 40-44 age group on this given day.
Last time I went to USAT Nationals I was 35-39 and it was in 2007 in Portland. This is the trip where I earned the nickname Miss Daisy from Driving Miss Daisy. I was worried about bears, starving to death all the time and always had a bee in my bonnet. Hence, the nickname. Fast forward to USAT Nationals in 2012 and Miss Daisy traveled with Elizabeth and Chris Waterstraat – same trio from 2007. This time, Elizabeth EARNED the nickname MAUDE and for the same reasons I am called Miss Daisy. I told her it is the impending turning 40 that is making her lose her mind: the chills, hot flashes, demanding FOOD and coffee, having a meltdown and stomping her feet. Because guess what happened? MAUDE came out in Burlington and Miss Daisy was a peppy, happy (and relaxed) as a clam. Oh the irony. (after 40 you just don’t give a sh*t quite frankly).
But, we had a great time – lots of laughs, good friends and shared respect for each other and our racing preparation. Our hotel was absolutely disgusting and I rallied and did not complain too much – that is what happens when you jump into an already sold-out Nationals of 3000 athletes – hotels are GONE. Enter: Roach motel.
I was calm for Nationals. I knew I was in great shape and knew that I would have a good day. The weather was cooler (yay!) and the water choppy. I can’t ask for much more. And, mentally I was in a great place. I have raced Nationals enough (and big, competitive races) to know that YOU MUST have a good swim. PERIOD. If you cannot have a good swim at Nationals, you cannot get into the mix right away. And, in my age group – we were last of the day, so we started at 9am! I knew I had to work hard from start to finish because the course would be super crowded and I would not know who was 40-44 until I came upon them.
My goal: NO regrets and TOP 5 Age Group. Top 10 is Podium at Nationals and the Award Ceremony is as inspiring as it gets in short course racing. USAT recognizes the TOP 10 in all age groups and it is one of the highlights of each Championship – to see the 80-84 year olds and 70-74 year olds! I loved it.
I have been feeling really good lately. Amazing what happens when you don’t train for an Ironman and you specify your training for short course! Ah! You feel good! I knew that if I was going to be in the mix in this race, I would have to swim in the 22 minute range, bike sub 1:10 and run 42 or better. I was confident in all of those times; however, the wild card was my run. I KNEW I could run a 42 minute 10k, my workouts had proven that, but that was my HUGE goal for Nationals, run 42 or better, that is 6:45 pace or better. I did a track workout the Saturday before Nationals (bike/track repeat) and it was VERY good so all things pointed to this being doable. (since last year at this time I was not even walking)
SWIM: The best thing about the swim here is that it was REAL. It was choppy and aggressive and just what a National Championships should be. I secretly was overjoyed. I was wishing it was worse because then it would most definitely rip apart the age group. I found my friend Mary B and we tried to relax as we waited forever for our AG to start. I warmed up a few minutes and then just plopped myself in the front of the AG – it was aggressive – we were all treading water and kicking one another to get position. But, I don’t care about that – I know if I get a clean line – I can keep Mary B and some of the faster swimmers in my sight and I will be fine. And, that was true. I came out of the water in the top 5 and was right where I needed to be. I felt GOOD in the water – didn’t sight as well since I too am not used to choppy water, but all fine. We were all slow, but I did not care, just trying to keep the rubber band from snapping from the lead group of 1-3 girls.
BIKE: Funny because I was most confident in my bike these last couple of months and this is the area that comparatively I did not do as well as I wanted. But, it was enough to stay in the mix. The bike was harder than I thought it was going to be and I was trying to get into that rhythm. I was feeling good though and was passing a ton of the 30-34 girls who started 8 minutes ahead of me. I kept trying to find ANY 40-44 girls! I will say that if you are in the top 5 at Nationals (or thereabouts) EVERYONE IS FAST and you do not just “pass” someone – you have to hunt them down and get them. I got off the bike and really had NO idea where I was. I had one girl pass me and I knew I was still in that 4-7th position. Note to self: TIME to get back to the Computrainer, way better than outside riding for short course training.
RUN: I felt AWESOME. I saw 2 girls in front of me in T2 and I made it my mission to get my legs, get up that massive hill out of T1 and then settle and then attack. I saw my friend Mary B up ahead and after I passed her I worked on getting the girl in the bright yellow POWERBAR kit (Thanks for wearing that color). I felt light, fast and perfect. Temps were perfect and the course is fast after that initial hill. I was moving and everything clicked. I did not even care where the mile markers are – or what my time was, I was racing. I was going hard and I was feeling AWESOME. One of those days you just need to bottle up. Where you do not want things to end! I was passing a ton of people and by mile 3 caught Powerbar girl. I had NO idea where I was so I just started chasing the faster 30-34 girls ahead of me.
I came to mile 6 and one girl came flying by me and I could not respond. While I felt good, she ended up running a 39:xx and I could not match that pace. I crossed the finish line – spent but SUPER HAPPY. I knew I nailed it and I knew I was where I wanted to be. My final run time? 42:xx !
We waited for results to be posted and I was 6th! Guess what the time difference was between 5th and 6th? .01 second. That is one one hundredth of a second. I am trying to understand that because I never saw someone that close to me but there must have been someone crossing the mat with me who was 40-44. It was crowded! Trust me, when I saw that, I spent some time trying to digest that one. BUT: That is racing! I left it all out there.
The best part of short course racing? Fast, furious and done quickly!
USAT Nationals was one of those races where I said NO REGRETS and I went out and just made it happen. I am happy today. I race for many reasons. Some are public (I crave the competition, I crave being the best I can be at each age, I appreciate the longevity I have in this sport) but some are private too. I am deeply inspired everyday by the athletes that cannot race and I never take one day for granted any more. With athletes dying on the courses, athletes fighting cancer or injuries or broken bones or motivation or the demons that run in their heads….I know when things are good – to ride that wave and jump on. I did all of that on Saturday and that is what makes me tick. When things are good – I am on that wave because life is short and who knows what tomorrow will bring. So, for that, I am grateful and HAPPY.
I celebrate each success and this weekend was a HUGE success for me. One of my best races – while it was far from any PR for me – It got the job done AND I am sure it is a PR for my 40-44 self.
And, I am grateful that I had bought new bright NEON SHOES (Yellow) so that Miss Daisy did not get lost in Burlington. I literally stopped traffic with them. And, here the whole weekend I thought it was just because I was cute. The shoes:
And, truth be told, all I wanted all weekend was ICE CREAM. I patiently waited until 9pm on Saturday night for Ben and Jerry’s CHOCOLATE THERAPY (right Caroline?). It was awesome..I had NO idea Maude (who needed to get her butt to bed and was fading away here) snapped this picture of me.
THANKS to Jerome who stayed home with the kids and supported my passion. He is such a great supporter and spent some quality time with the kids while I was off in Vermont for 3 1/2 days. Thank you, Jerome. xxo
Next up: Maude and Daisy do Long Course Nationals in Oklahoma. Oh, this will be classic.
I am heading off to Burlington, Vermont later this week to race in the USAT Short Course National Championships. It has been awhile since I raced Nationals – since 07 in Portland. I was on my way in 08 to Portland again but that was the year I was hit in my car and it totaled my car (the driver was texting). I am very excited to be going to Nationals this year and be in a position to race in shape and feeling GOOD.
I love LOVE short course racing. In fact, I this it is the bread and butter of our sport. It keeps me fresh, excited and most importantly: honest.
See, Nationals is no joke. It is an opportunity for the best age group athletes in the country to come together – and race head to head. And, to me, that is all I want. I have raced a LOT and sometimes people ask me, “Why Nationals?” when we have a ton of fun, local races here. And my answer: To race the best in the country in my 40-44 Age group.
Honestly, I just want ALL the top 40-44 girls to show up, on the same day, on the same course and hammer it out to see who is the fastest that day. I crave that competition and trying to raise myself up to that level. The Midwest is not short of talented 40-44 year olds that is for sure….and many I am lucky enough to coach..but at the end of the day, it is me versus the top 40-44 girls and I am excited to have that chance to suffer.
I woke up this morning a little nervous actually. And, all year, I have not been nervous at all. I have been challenged but for my Age Group, I want something bigger. And, Saturday I will get what I have asked for! Last year Susan Wiliams won the race and my AG. If you do not know who Susan Williams is, Google 2004 Olympics. I have not looked at the start list. The ONLY person I know who is going is my friend Mary Bradbury, who I am hoping to see in the swim at some level!!
For this training cycle – to peak for Nationals I have been:
- Eating well: This means eating healthy but enough to fuel my workouts and help me recover.
- Be at what I think is my ideal race weight – NOT too light or too heavy
- Sleeping 8+ hours/night
- Mentally sharp, positive and visualizing my race on Saturday
- Doing my exact workouts – not more/not less – and being PRESENT for every workout
- Reducing stress
- Recovering like a champ
On Saturday Elizabeth and I did one of our crazy trainer/track repeats together. We had a good time and both ran and rode way faster than we both thought we would do. It was a great confidence boost and workout the weekend before Nationals!
The great Spencer Smith used to tell me, “Jen, when the flag drops the shit stops.”
When I show up on the start line at Nationals on Sunday, I will be as prepared as I can be. And, I will be ready. I will race my guts out and have no regrets. And, let the cards fall where they may…but it will only be MY fault if I do not race well. All the preparation has been ideal. No excuses, just hard core and fast racing!
And, an opportunity to race the best in the country at short course — when I am at my best for 41 years old. I can’t ask for much more and I will shred myself apart to hit my goals.
Well, maybe the only thing I would ask for is NOT to always put the 40-44 women LAST….it has been a hard adjustment to me as I turned 40 — it is like all of a sudden, BAM, in the back…but, I digress..
Lately I have been saying “WHO am I?” over and over again – but really, just in jest. I am not serious, I know who I am. More on this later…
On Sunday I raced a local Sprint Triathlon. Jerome is in China, so I needed a race that was close to my parent’s house to help me with the kids. I wanted to do a tune up before Nationals in 2 weeks. I have been feeling REALLY good lately, but with short course racing, I needed to race and get used to laying out all out there – ironically without any pressure – 2 weeks out from Nationals.
The distance was 800m OW swim, 20k bike, 5k run. AH! A little longer swim – I’ll take it! The only challenge I have now in local races is that now that I am 40, I am usually always in the last wave and Sunday was no exception. But, I just made the best out of it and tried to work on passing as many athletes as I could before the finish line. And, I chased every one of them down…and I really did not know if there was anyone in front of me (females) from the previous waves.
It was nice to catch up with some of my athletes, local friends and meet some new people – low key and actually my old boss (when I was in the corporate world) is the one who called me and asked me to come and race (she is friends with the RD), so that was a motivating factor for me!
Gun went off and I got a GREAT start – I have been working hard on my starts in the OW because if I can get a ½ step on the girls, I can usually get and hang onto clean water..and then if someone goes by me then I can grab their feet. I did have clean water – for about 1 minute until I hit the wave before us and then the wave before them….I am not sure how many athletes I swam through, but it was a little out of control. With a local sprint, there were many backstrokers and people out there clearly out of their element. I was careful not to freak anyone out – and focus on regaining my body position every time I sighted – which was A LOT. Got out of the water fast and raced to my bike.
Bike was uneventful EXCEPT for the fact that I dropped my water bottle pretty early. This was a USAT race and the USAT official (one of them) was near me, so I HAD to go back and pick it up – cannot risk a penalty. So, that was NOT fun as I know every second matters at that distance, but I got it and moved on. I did watch my Quarq power and it is funny how even in the Sprint we could work harder. I was working hard but having to ride so far to my left (but not across the yellow line as traffic was NOT closed)…so a little dodging here and there – and I did have that worry in my cycling as I was more focused on not hitting anyone, but it was all good. I felt good on the bike.
Onto the run. I had a few people tell me I was the first female and someone else say I was 2nd. All I know is that since I started in the last wave, I had people to chase down and get. I knew I was leading my 40+ women’s wave, but I was just out to destroy myself. I felt good – not amazing but good. I ran hard and was working hard at getting some of my speed back. I do not ever feel my Achilles anymore – so now it is just a matter of getting that top end speed back (Hello – anyone see it?) and every race I do I run faster, so it is coming. Then, at about 2 ¼ miles into the 5k I see the gal in front of me. I was gaining on her fast and we were almost done (she started 3 minutes ahead of me, so I was in theory beating her, but I wanted to pass her!). She rounded the corner and we still had 800-1000 meters left and she is raising her arms and celebrating. I thought….she has no idea. NEVER celebrate anything until you cross that line or results are posted. Anyway, BAM, there I was – ruining her party (she won last year) and not that my goal is to beat anyone, but I go to win. No excuses, no exceptions.
Then she saw my race kit with the JHC on the chest and knew I started 3 minutes behind her.
Mission accomplished: I went to suffer a bit, get my running down a bit, work on a few things, win and HAVE FUN! All done!
We were cracking up because LOOK at how big this trophy is? It is like from the 1990s!
Congrats to everyone who raced: Kelley, Rich and Katrina! And, thanks to Katie Thatcher who came out and cheered for us! Great to see some familiar faces out there!
And, speaking of “WHO AM I? theme…I have been working hard to get to what I think is a good race weight for me for Nationals and since March I have lost 10 lbs, but all while eating ice cream! (rah rah!) Actually, my goal was to get there before Door County 2 weeks ago. And, I made some big personal changes too – and this is WAY TOO MUCH information, but I think I will share it with you all (females) because some of you may be considering this….anyway, I went off the birth control pill after being on the same one for longer than I was off. Yes, I went on the pill at 21 or so – now 20 years later, I was asking myself – DO I really need these chemicals in my body still? BUT I rarely change anything that is working and I was afraid of what would be on the other side of going off the pill…
But, I did it June 1st. I felt AWESOME…in fact better than ever. I have been sleeping awesome, lost my appetite (my ravenous appetite!) and feel good. BUT, I am eating ice cream like a crazy woman (I do not even like ice cream), cleaning my bike, crying when my neighbors did not invite me to a get-together. I MEAN REALLY? Jerome is like, “are you a girl now?” Yes, I am a girl now. But, if I get pregnant with twins again, I will REALLY be a mess !!