The USAT Collegiate Nationals Championship was the last race of my collegiate-triathlon career. It was a very emotional weekend for me because I was the captain of the USAFA Triathlon team and we had set very high goals for the team at the beginning of the semester. There was a lot of pressure going into the weekend. Not only because I expected myself to show something good, but because I did not want any of my teammates to be disappointed in each other or themselves. I had never experienced this feeling before, one where I was actually scared of seeing disappointment in other athletes if they didn’t meet their personal goals. Being the team captain, I felt like it was on me all semester to make each individual get faster. Therefore, I put a lot of pressure on myself that wasn’t purely selfish. I will admit that I did not used to care how others did. Being a leader on this team made me grow tremendously as a person. Even with all these nerves, it ended up being an amazing 5-day trip and I could not have asked for more.
10 April: Our team headed out in 15-passenger vans to conquer the 14 hour drive down to Tempe, Arizona. We stopped at Kirtland AFB that night in order to split up the drive. Thank gosh, because my stomach needed a rest from the car ride. I actually had gotten a bacterial infection in my stomach in Lake Havasu 2 weeks before at our conference championship race, and still hadn’t kicked it in the butt. This stomach devil affected about half of our team the couple of weeks leading up to Nationals, so we all just prayed that it wouldn’t hurt too bad to race with. Not being able to hold any food down for 2 weeks has a huge effect on the body!
11 April: On Thursday after the long car ride I had to go check in for my first race- the first ever Collegiate National Draft Legal Sprint race. I was so nervous; I was not prepared. I was going to ride a road bike that I had never sat on before, attempt to draft in a bike race which I had never done before, and begin my first try at racing two days straight. My vice captain had informed me about 7 days before the draft-legal race that he needed me to race in order to have our team get any chance to get up on that podium. We were also putting 1 guy in the race. In my head I was not happy. I was selfish and wanted to conserve all of my energy for Saturday’s race. That was what I had been training for all this time anyways. I did not tell Kevin any of this until after the race, although I know he knew I was thinking it. This guy knows everything about me!
For the rest of the day on Thursday, I tried to stay off of my feet as much as I could. I had to fit myself on the road bike that I was borrowing, put my race wheels on my Trek to get it ready for the Saturday race, make sure my team was calm and preparing for their Saturday race, deal with team drama (as usual), and try to shove food into my system that I could stomach (ended up being peanut butter and bananas). SO, just like most days before races, you mean to relax but it always just ends up too busy.
I will never enjoy peanut butter and bananas again after this trip.
We got to bed around 10pm that night. Got a good-luck-call from my favorite person in the world around 9pm. After that call I knew I was ready to race the next two days.
12 April: Race day number one! My heat of the race (500 swim 20k bike 5k run) didn’t start until 1050 but one other guy on my team was racing at 0730 so we woke up to go see him. He did amazing, 12th place overall. This really pumped me up. He gave it his all for our team and it made me so proud to be a part of the crowd.
During all of this I had been loading up on my favorite pre-race treat: Honey Stinger waffles. I love the vanilla or peanut butter flavors. My stomach was iffy, but I knew I needed some type of fuel before the race. Honey Stinger has been a great sponsor to me, and always takes care of my race nutrition needs.
When the women’s race was about to start we all lined up by the crowds. The atmosphere was great; people were screaming and cheering. For this race, we had to line up by race numbers in the water on a concrete wall. After the official said “You are now in the hands of the starter,” we heard the gun go off and off we were.
The swim was intense. Girls were all fighting to get out front and get out fast. I was told that the main goal was to be fast enough in the swim to get out with the lead draft-pack. I tried, but I am just not at that level of swimming yet!
I got out with the 2nd or 3rd draft pack, and we made our way through the bike. It was about 90 degrees and sunny….it was HOT compared to Colorado blizzards the week before. It was a 4 loop course and there was one pretty brutal hill on each loop. I sort of enjoyed the drafting race experience, but it definitely was nerve-wracking for me the whole time because I didn’t know how to draft.
Favorite part of any triathlon for me? Being done with the bike. I was SO happy to get my Brooks PureFlows on my feet and take off for a quick 5k. I didn’t have enough time to make up distance on the girls who killed me on the swim, but I was able to pass a good amount before settling into a solid 4th place. My team was happy with this and so was I. I was so glad that I could live up to their expectations!
Immediately after the race it was recovery time. I chugged about 4 huge bottles of Powerade Zero (my current favorite drink) and I got in some chicken breast, carrots, and peanut butter. I called my coach who lives in Las Vegas and he just told me to get in protein, and quickly.
I was promised nap-time after the race, but that did not happen. I honestly don’t remember what my best friend and I ended up doing that afternoon, but we somehow wasted a lot of time laughing and NOT sleeping. Maybe it was the delicious coffee i snagged back at the hotel.
That night we had the pre-race athlete dinner at Dave n Busters. It was a lot of fun but we were all exhausted and nervous for our race the next day.
…to be continued