Friday, August 24, 2012

5th Place at Nationals!

I made it! I qualified to compete in the WORLD TRIATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS! Honestly, its never been a goal of mine. I've seen it advertised in Triathlete magazine but that's where it has stayed; on paper.

My goal for Nationals was to have fun but place at least 18th in my age group. I had no idea what the competition would be like. It's the Nationals, pretty much the best racers in the entire nation. I researched results from last year and there were only 10 women in my age group, this year 40 of us had registered! Last year the top five females overall finished between 1:11 and 1:14. In my age group the span was 1:12 -1:39. I would have been second in my age group with my 1:14:38 finish time. Huge difference this year, the top female finished in 1:05:25, almost 10 minutes faster than me!

We watched some of the Olympic distance race on Saturday. I needed to see how the swim start went and just watching others race gets me pumped! The water was very choppy that morning and I thought- oh man I'm in for a rough swim! It looked like the ocean, nothing compared to the glass like surface at Echo Lake where I've been training. The start was quite a bit different than I'm used to. Transition closed at 7:30am and some had to wait almost 2 hours to start. I knew that would throw me off a little but now I knew what to expect at my race.  I met my family for lunch, got a few things at Skirack and showed them how transition would go and the best spots where to view my race.

Mandatory bike check in was at 4:30pm on Saturday. I've never had to leave my bike overnight nor go through the flow of the transition area the day before. Some people were putting bags over their seats, wheels and entire bikes. I thought thats a waste since everyone is going to be wet when they get on their bikes and there was no forecast for rain. In the sea of over 1,000 bikes it's easy to loose your place especially when you are going at race pace. Each row had a letter assigned to it, I was between C and D. The back side of transition was lined with flags of different countries. My bike was lined up with a blue flag don't ask me what country it was, all I needed to know was that it was blue. As I practiced coming in from the swim I didn't visualize my bike, I found C & D and then the blue flag. With my bike checked in the only thing left to do was to eat, apply my tri tats and do my hair.

As I jogged back to the campsite my mind was focusing on each leg of the race. All I have to do is excute what I have been doing in training, thats it! Dinner was chicken and veggies with Gina Tami Sue and Sinea-then it was tatoo time! My numbers were temporary tatoos, perhaps the most exciting part of this race for me. Tami Sinea and I made sure they weren't upside down and were perfectly lined up. Once I peeled away the backing I got such a rush, I felt like a professional racer!
Since my hair isn't quite long enough for a low ponytail I wanted the front part sectioned and in small elastics so it wouldn't distract me during my race. I described how I wanted it to Sinea and she did a great job!
I packed my transition bag while listening to music, making sure I had everything. I was in bed around 9 and fell asleep rather quickly, only to be woken up at 10:30 by the campers next door tinkering with stuff. Then I was awake worrying if I had trained enough, hoping my race would run smoothly -the typical stuff I think about before any race. Because it was Nationals the worrying was multiplied by 10! Alarm went off, but I was already awake. I needed to focus before anything distracted me so I put in my head phones and let the music run through my body.  I wasn't getting nervous, breakfast was egg and cheese on a toasted multigrain roll. I double checked my bag just in case I forgot something. We walked about 1.5 miles down the bike to the start. I felt a little bad that I wasn't talking to Tami, Gina Sinea or Sue but I knew they understood. I gave Regina my bag halfway there and jogged the rest of the way.

Arriving at transition was a bit overwheling, this was it-this is what I've trained all summer for. I organized my spot, went through the exits and entrances pf transition one last time. I couldn't leave my bag there, I had to check it. I pulled out my wetsuit, goggles and swim cap and had almost 45 minutes before my wave started. I never have that much time. I didn't know what to do with myself. I didn't bring extra sneakers to warm up more so I put my wetsuit on. I had borrowed a friends that fit a little better than mine-thanks Sally! I stretched as I watched other waves starting. I was surrounded by the support of Team Skidmore which felt good but did not calm me.

8:05 it was time. I made my way over with all the other red caps, we shuffled down the ramp and into the water. We had a few minutes to warm up while we waited for the wave ahead of us to start. I wanted to throw up but knew that wouldn't be good for the water or others trying to swim. We lined up and I made sure I was off to the side not to be caught in the chaos. "2 minutes to start give the girl next to you a high five and have fun!" came over the megaphone. I high fived some girl only wanting to kick her butt :). I had my finger on the start button 3.2.1 Go and we were off. I swam as hard as I could and kept to the outside. As I rounded the second turn and went to sight the next bouy all I could see was the glare of the sun out of one eye, my right goggle was half filled with water. I could see a few swimmers ahead of me so I did my best to follow them. Turned the last bouy and saw the exit-"just get there and then you can fly on your bike" I repeated to myself.  If I feel good about my swim I'll check my watch, I didn't feel fast so I didn't look. I heard someone yell under 15 and that made me smile.

T1- rip off wetsuit put on sunglasses, helmet and shoes and run as fast as you can out of the transition. Not very easy after swimming a 1/2 mile. Some racers keep their shoes clipped in to their bike pedals and get their wet grassy feet into them as they start riding. I find that very difficult especially in this race where we started on a narrow bike path. Being already clipped in I passed alot of people and powered out of the cluster. I saw my mom and Jim and gave them a fist pump-which I never do but I was here to have fun too! Around the tight corner and over the carpet covered train tracks, over the "cobblestone" around 2 more corners before I could get up to speed. I had ridden the course before so I knew about the turnaround just ahead. I'm a pretty decent mountain biker so I felt confident making the 180 turn. My coach Steve Vosburgh told me not to come out of those too hard and kill it, I stuck to the plan and got back up to speed quickly. Up next was a steady climb. Not steep enough to get out of the saddle but steep enough to make you think you do. I raised my cadence and looked down, I peddled hard and got up with enough to maintain the speed I was at before the climb. I passed a few more people. The next section was on Highway 127! I was very excited for this. The highway was closed and it was awesome coming down the on ramp at 30 mph! I passed more people. We exited the highway and had to get back on to make the 12.4 mile distance. I was passed getting off by a girl in my age group and then by another. I made sure they didn't get far. The first girl got away but the second one who's name I found out later was Dana, and I leapfrogged the rest of the course. There were officials on motorcycles passing us the whole time I felt like I was in the Tour de France. It was awesome! We came back down the same hill and Dana was just ahead of me, we rounded the corner and hit the straight away. This is were I pull my feet out of my shoes for a speedy transition.

I saw the blue streak of Team Skidmore and gave another fist pump I was loving this!! Dana dismounted right before me and I passed her going into the transition. I didn't have to take my shoes off -she did. Bike racked, helmet off and running shoes on. I put my race belt on as I'm running out to save even more time. Ran out of the shoot and heard my friend Christine "looking strong Meg!" I felt it too. I ran the course a few weeks prior so I knew about the huge hill we faced starting out on the run.

Steve was right there and said "just settle in". I couldn't until I got to the top. I felt so good still hadn't looked at my watch. Down then up by the high school and down through North Beach Campground right past our campsite to the Island Line Trail. 1.5 miles left. It was all coming to an end, all the work I put in-the early morning swims, the hill repeats, the intervals and it felt good it all came together. I got passed by a few but that was ok because I couldn't give much more and they weren't in my age group and most not even my gender. I wanted so bad to go harder but I knew I couldn't hold it to the end. I glanced at my watch 1:11 not bad! As I came around the last corner I picked it up a bit, then hitting the finish chute I turned it on! I ran as fast as I could.

I felt my form kinda go and I must have looked like little Forest Gump -head down fists pumping so hard they are raising overhead and knees so high I'm almost eating them. I saw the finish and threw my hands up and almost collapsed. I was handed water, and a wet towel and was pretty wobbly- a volunteer asked me if I needed assistance- I was ok. I was handed a finishers medal and went with the flow of racers pouring through the chute. I did it- I left it all out there. Then I started crying, I don't really know why at that point, it just came out. Maybe because it was all over, all of it, my training, all my effort, all had come to an end. I've never cried after finishing a race. I was quite the mess so glad I had sunglasses on to hide it.

Team Skidmore came and met me and the tears kept coming. All I wanted was results and that's exactly what everyone else wanted. It was a cluster near the posted results. The page for my age group was posted to 4th place with a time of 1:13:37, unofficially I finished at around 1:14. Gina said you have it but I needed to see it with my own eyes. There was a very long line to get a receipt of your official time, splits and placement. Christine had found me at that point and she insisted she'd wait in line for me, I wasn't about to argue. I talked about my race with everyone while we waited for Christine's phone call to say she was nearer to getting the results. It came and Gina and I ran over. I gave my number and in just 2 seconds I had my "golden ticket". I didn't look at my finish time or my splits, all I saw was 5th in age group. I smiled ear to ear at Regina and Chrsitine. I made my way back over to the group and held up five fingers, they went wild! I completely lost it. I did it. I made it into the top 18 and was 5th, I didn't believe it. I hugged everyone and was beyond myself. I didn't think I'd finish so close to the podium.
Thank you Gina, Steve, Tami, Sue, Mom, Jim, Austin, Emily, Maryann & Paul, Jane & Paul, Sinea, Shaun, Christine and Ellie for being there and supporting me!

Also thanks to all my sponsors: Mt. Washington Auto Road, Great Glen Trails,  Porky Gulch Bike Shop, Corrigan Screen Printing & Awards, Peak Health Sports Massage & Medical Massage Therapy, White Mountain Celebrations, Gorham Hardware, Jay’s quick Lube, Lydia’s Golden Touch Hair Salon, Gorham House of Pizza, Top Notch Inn and Saladino’s Italian Market

Age Group Results
For more photos check out my Facebook Album

All week long I pictured myself telling everyone "I'm going to London" Now it's a reality and it feels amazing!

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