Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Collegiate Nationals (Pt 1) Leading up to race

The end.  I came into the Academy as a semi runner, semi swimmer, semi triathlete who was still finding his way after giving up baseball as a junior in high school. I ended as the proud captain and leader of a team that is on its way to what I hope to be great things in the future.  This is more a topic for a completely separate post, though.
First, I completely skipped out writing about some of the things I've done since Clermont, including the same duathlon as last year, as well as my first crit to help not die in my next draft legal race.  Both were fun, both went well.  I don't remember enough from either now to write a report.
The weekend itself of Nationals, though, I can.  It started Wednesday before the race when I helped load up the van.  A few of our team members were driving the ~19 hours from New London to Tuscaloosa, AL with our bikes and most of our gear in it.  They volunteered, but I would have been fine having everybody fly their bikes.  In hindsight though, it was a great idea.  The rest of us flew down early Thursday morning, getting to Tuscaloosa by lunchtime.  A few of us ran the "upper deck" (first few miles are pretty hilly then it flattens out) of the course and part of the out and back.  Then we drove the bike course before a team dinner.
Friday was a nice relaxing day for the most part, getting a late start.  That's always a refreshing break from the Academy, especially when you spent the previous week going to bed at times you'd previously woken up for training.  We got some good swimming in, and the water wasn't nearly as cold as last year.  We also rode a lap of the course as a team, which made me feel good.  Doing these little team previews made me realize more how much I wish we could've done more team training, even if just on easy days because of how much more fun it is.  Then there were the rules briefing (optional, but I got a penalty last year so I made sure I was there), captains' meeting, and a meeting for all of us doing the super-sprint mixed team relay (the subject of Pt 3 of this post)
Jonas and I did the USAT-sponsored pasta party.  Most of the rest of the team wasn't really feeling it, but us two old people on the team wanted to enjoy our last Collegiate Nationals as much as we could and soak it all in.
We all went to bed that night pretty satisfied, feeling good.  I was finally happy to be out of the super-stressful weeks leading in, with apartment hunting, finishing a draft of my thesis, and 300 other things.  We were finally at the destination.  The night before the race it really dawned on me how far I'd come from my beginnings with the team, and this was it.  Sure, I had other races before graduation, but this would be my last race with a team.  I thought I'd gotten choked up the weekend of Mightyman in the fall, but this was new.  I wouldn't call it sad, but weird.  Sure, I had done triathlons before CGA, and I had done them on my own without a team during my time at CGA, but my affiliation with a team was soon to be over.  My ice bath session led me to carve out this part-introspective, part-self-promoting Facebook status, where I tagged everybody or nearly everybody that was ever a part of the team while I was.
I went to bed knowing that no matter what, I was going to make good on what could be my finest race as a cadet.  Yes, I wanted to get a PR, yes, I wanted to break 2:05, yes, I wanted to finish in the top 100 if not top 50, but I'd come to terms with the fact that it was about more than just my time.
We made the decision in the morning that the girls, with their 7:30 start, would leave at 5:30ish from the hotel, while the guys would just get there at about 7:00 to set up transition before it closed at 7:30.  In the morning, the guys team actually went back to the hotel again before our 10:30 start while our girls were out on the bike course.  Before I even managed to really get in much of a warmup, the first girl crossed the line in something like 2:06.  That was a reality check.  Erin, our top girl, finished before I went over to the swim start for my warmup even.  Starting at 10:30 is a very strange time.  It's early enough that you don't get to really be up and going for all day, but still late enough that it changes your rhythm from the typical 7:00ish triathlon start, especially when you are up at 5:30.  I got my good run warmup in, cheering along some of our girls out on the course, then I got in and swam a fair amount, then waited.

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