Monday, April 30, 2012

USAT Collegiate National Championship Race Report

Frist off, this was an awesome experience and I am so glad I went down to Tuscaloosa for it.  This was a race with over 1200 athletes all between the ages of 18-28.  Most athletes came down with their school triathlon clubs and competed for team points.  Athletes without "teams"(me) were still able to race for individual titles.  Seeing the club teams their and all the spirit and energy surrounding the event was pretty awesome.

My mom and I decided to leave Acworth, GA on Thursday night and drive partway to Tuscaloosa so we wouldn't have to be in the car too long on Friday morning.  We made just past Talladega before retiring for the evening.  The Friday morning drive was short and easy - no hassle of Atlanta traffic or long hours in the car the day before a race.

We arrived at the race site just 1 hour after packet pick-up started.  There were plenty of other teams there going on shorts rides and/or runs and just strutting their stuff at packet pickup.  The venue was the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater - a different kind of venue then I am used to and definitely has some pluses and minuses as you'll see.  I was able to pick up my packet without any trouble before setting out to do a full run down of the race start and transition area.  My mom and I studied the maps of transition - which showed 2 different transition areas - one for "open" division athletes and one for team competition.  We only saw one transition area - so I found a USAT rep and found out there really was only going to be one transition area.  That made things a lot simpler.  We then set out to check out the swim exit/start.  The swim exit was about 400m from transitions, up a curvy and hilly jogging path.  Awesome.  Swim exit was at a boat ramp and swim start was a couple hundred meters further down off of a dock.

After feeling comfortable enough with some of the race logistics we set out for lodging and food.  I had made a reservation at Homewood Suites when I first registered for the race.  A cheap one queen bed suite.  We went to the hotel and found out wt was a smoking room and they were completely booked, as were many of the other hotels.  They understood our hesitation and basic refusal to stay in a smoking room and offered to let us use the computer to find another hotel.  Without trouble I found Mom and I a nice room at the Fairfield Inn - one of the closest hotels to the race site.  We stopped in at Jason's Deli for some lunch, along with Texas, Texas Tech, and a couple other tri teams and everyone else and their mom in Tuscaloosa. It was still pretty quick and delicious.  Off to our room at the Fairfield before heading back to the race site.

We went back to the race site in the afternoon so I could get some time in the Black Warrior River during swim practice as well as take my bike by the bike mechanic.  On Thursday my mom and I went for an nice ride on the Silver Comet and something was rubbing on one of my tires.  I checked the brakes pads about 1000 times - it was not a brake pad.  I could not figure out what in the world it was - but the mechanic knew right away!  When my ZIPP wheels were installed the screws near the dropouts of the rear wheel weren't adjusted and the wheel was just slightly bigger than the previous Easton's and the tire was rubbing on the frame.  It was a quick fix and I thought this would also be an answer as to why my bike splits have been a bit slower than what I know I am capable of.  Swim practice when well.  I swam about 700m - practiced sighting and realized I was drifting right and needed to correct it to stay on course.  A huge barge of coal when through the race course right after I got out of the river - Black Warrior River, I get it.

Friday evening was the usual pre-race dance.  Pasta dinner. Attempt to drive the course (fail - horrible directions/map). Pack, check, and re-check the race bag.  Put a # sticker on every piece of gear - bag, helmet x 3, bike, swim cap x 2, spectator.  Apply Tri Tats to myself.  I had never done this before and the instructions only said 1 on each arm, but we had 4.  I applied my # to both arms without a problem.  I then went on to attempt to apply the ridiculously long number to my thigh - where  I knew no one was see it.  I messed up the first one - doh, forgot to taking the backing off and applied the tatoo right to its packaging.  The 2nd one went on without a problem, thought you really wouldn't be able to see it at all under my shorts.  Lights out and a good night's sleep.

I woke up at 5am, had my usual pre-race breakfast of Special K Red Berries with almond milk and banana.  Got myself race ready, loaded the bike into the car along with all my gear and mom and hit the road.  About 4 minutes down the road I realized I had forgotten my wetsuit.  Based on the water temp during the practice swim I knew I had to turn around to go get it.  Got the wetsuit and hit the road again.  Arrived at transition with bike and gear around 6am for a 7am transition closing time.  Before entering transition we had to wait in a long line to pick up our timing chips.  The line moved decently fast and once through the line I was in transition.

I set up my transition area which was not crammed at all.  There were plenty of USAT officials around to ask questions about the course, transition, etc.  The transition area was considered a "clean transition" which meant that you could only have your race necessities and not store any bags or gear in the TA.  I set up my bike with helment & sunglasses, bike shoes with baby powder, running shoes with baby powder, race belt, hat and nutrition ( 2 gels for the run, and 2 gels already taped to the bike frame).  I headed out of transition and mom and I headed to the swim start.  There were tons of spectators at the race and lining the swim entrance and exit.  I wiggled myself into my wetsuit and donned my black armband as I prepared for my 7:45 start time.

THE SWIM - 1500m - 34:17
Swim start at the Bama Bell.
Crap.  Complete crap.  I am way better than this in the water (pool).  Saving grace - it's early in the season. I was in the 4th and final wave of women to start the race - as were all the other open division athletes.  It was nice seeing the other waves start and different tactics of positioning.  Before I knew it I was lining up and walking down to the dock.  I started off the end of the dock on the inside of the course so I would be hugging the bouy's.  Based on my swims the week leading up to this race I was confident I could nail a decent swim time (29:00).  My swim started out well, I stayed on course and stayed midpack.  After making the turn around I started having sighting issues.  I was sighting a lot, and not exactly taking the most direct route.  I knew I was catching some folks from previous waves due to swim cap color so I thought I was still doing ok for my goal time.  The swim exit was tough - a carpet was laid down over the boat launch but it was slick and difficult to get your footing on.  After a few slips I got it together and was able to run out.

T1 -3:35
The was at least a 400m run up and into transition.  I felt slow and running in the wetsuit isn't exactly my favorite thing to do.  I was overjoyed when I reach transition.  The wetsuit came off without much to-do and I quickly donned bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses before I ran out of transition with my bike.

THE BIKE - 40k - 1:17:18
This is my favorite part of triathlons.  I should have nailed a 1:06ish time.  I'm blaming the new wheels for now.  I was 4th on the bike, the times in general were slow - probably due to environmental factors.  The course was a 2 loop out-back design with some rolling hills.  On our way out we had a tough head wind, a cross wind as we went over the bridge to turn around and come back over the bridge with the same cross win and finally a bit of a tail wind on the way back in.  I was consistently passing people and feeling good on the bike.  The night before I had removed my x-wing and put a water bottle cage on my bike frame.  I carried water and diluted Gu brew and had just enough liquids with some to spare.  During the end of my first loop I got passed by the 2 leaders on their way in on the bike.  Granted they started 15 min before me, had gotten at least 12 min on me on the swim - but this still meant they had even gained time on me on the bike.  Argh, I don't like that, especially when my ZIPP wheels are supposed to be faster!  I continued to pass people the entire bike course.  As you approached transition the streets were lined with rowdy spectators, at some points creating only narrow passageways through.  As I approached the dismount line I unvelcroed my shoes sliped my feet out, and rested them on top of the shoes as I continued a light pedal.  I successfully completed my first flying dismount and ran it in to transition.

T2 -1:13
I reracked without any issues thanks to nice and tall racks.  I slipped on my running shoes and hat, put the nutrition in my sports bra, and grabbed my race belt.

THE RUN - 10k - 52:27
This will get better.  From the previous weeks races and pictures I knew I had been overstriding during my run.  The beginning of the run course was difficult - with a big test early.  Within the first mile their was a long and steep climb - I saw many people walking here and chewed them up and spit em out.  I was feeling pretty good on the run, catching quite a few people the first couple miles.  The first half of the course was through the downtown neighborhood with some rolling hills and local spectators.  The 2nd half was along a jogging path and back along the same road we biked on.  This part was more flat but desolate until the final 800m.  My plan had been to really push it once the course flattened out - but I couldn't pick up the pace.  I was frustrated but kept mt feet underneath me and kept on moving forward.  I discovered that I accidently pulled out a power gel and a power bar when I set up transition.  I don't take bars on the run, or at least I never have.  Luckily Gu was available around mile 3 so I was able to hold on to one to take instead of having 2 Power Gels.  I like to take a gel at miles 2 and 4.  The final 800m of this course was by far the best part of the event.  The street was lined on both sides with cheering fans and you came down and around into the orchestra gallery along a red carpet lined with USAT National Championship paraphernalia.

I had decided, maybe a little too late, to make this a goal race for myself.  I was full fledged into Ironman training and didn't do any real short/fast work up until 2 weeks before this race.  I wanted to PR but in actuality my training was not where it needed to be to PR.  Not that I haven't been training but I've been cycling and running  long without much focus on speed.  Overall I was 9th in the Female Open Division which isn't bad - ok top 10, heck yeah!  I was disappointed with the result and still am a little bit.  At least I nailed my transitions, but I wasn't where I needed to be speed wise in the other disciplines.  I have time to get to where I want to be - get to race weight, respectable swim time, improved running times, and hitting 22-23mph avg on my bike splits. I was a little over 10 minutes off my PR Oly time.  I am beginning to focus some more work on speed now that I have ample time and I am back to my usual training routes in DC.  It's frustrating to not be where I was at the end of last season but I'm also light years ahead of where I started last season in May.  I am also frustrated with the ZIPP 404s I got on craiglist for my bike.  My bike splits have been slower with the 404s on - I am getting them checked out before my next race and if I'm faster with the Easton's then the Easton's it will be on race day.  The 404s were a great deal - but I may be figuring out why - no more original ZIPP hubs, I was told they were 07's but the decals match the 01's...hmmm?
At least they look cool.


  1. I think finishing in the top 10 is great! Look forward to meeting you, now that you are back in dc :)

  2. You are so AWESOME and such a wonderful blessing to this planet!

  3. Let's take a look at those bad boys and see what we can do. Bearings, maybe? Whoever sold you those should be publicly flogged. You're fast. Shouldn't let something like that slow you down.

  4. Hi,
    I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could email me?