Sunday, May 20, 2012

Collegiate Nationals (Pt 4) Reflections on a collegiate tri career

I'm writing this slightly out of order because quite frankly, this is probably the deepest post I ever have/possibly will write on here for quite some time.  I've been boucing around in my head exactly what and how I wanted to write for this since last October even, after Mightyman.  I imagine I'm feeling something similar to what many college athletes feel at the end of their senior year.  The thing that's strange about triathlon though, is that people laud the fact that you can keep doing it after you graduate, and that most people don't start until they are fully adults.  That's true, but I know it's not the same.  I wrote a lengthy email to my teammates earlier this week.  I'd been thinking about that for a while too, and it killed me that I couldn't get it out before most of them left for their various summer assignments; the thesis took over my life last week unfortunately.  Either way, I hope all/most of them read it because I really tried to capture what made being part of the team so special to me.  It's a bit different writing for them versus writing for here, otherwise I would just copy and paste that into the browser right now.
Prior to coming to CGA, I'd really just dabbled in triathlons.  I know I've said this before here, but being on the team here has advanced so much for me, and beyond just swimming, biking, and running.  I wish I could quantify all of the other things, but I don't know if it's possible.
My start in high school in triathlon was somewhat of a perfect storm, if I remember the story correctly.  The fall of my junior year is really where it started.  My cross country coach had run the NJ Marathon and I was mildly intrigued by the idea of something beyond just 5k's and baseball.  I recalled back to my youth swimming days and thought maybe I'd give triathlons a shot, maybe not.  I made no plans in my mind.  At the same time, that fall was somewhat of the fall baseball season that never happened.  I think we played one game, between rain, people not showing up, etc.  Then, in my cross country season, I started having issues off and on with stress fractures and was getting a bit fed up with running.  It also just so happened that my high school had its first swim team.  I figured why not, because I really didn't want to run another season of winter track.  At this point, I decided I was doing a triathlon the following summer because well, how hard could riding a bike be (look at my draft legal and XTERRA race reports, as well as my hospital visit following a crit this weekend to figure out if I've done that yet)  My mom also decided she wanted to give one a shot.
To make the storm a little more perfect, I pretty much woke up one day early spring my junior year and couldn't throw a strike.  As a pitcher who had nothing but a fastball and couldn't hit, I was pretty much useless at that point.  By the summer I learned how to hit well enough to DH a little bit, but it was a sad attempt.  I did, however, do my first triathlon and ever since then I was hooked.  I dabbled a little bit the rest of the year, doing one other, then another two before reporting to the academy in June of the following summer.  My HS graduation present from my parents was my first real bike: a Fuji Aloha that replaced my 1980s Univega with stem shifters (what Mom still used for her tri last summer!)
I still wasn't sure if I was going to do triathlon at the academy.  I knew there was a club, but I was planning on swimming.  Then, it was actually one of my cadre (the people who yell at you) who mentioned that he was on the team.  That summer he actually did Rhode Island Ironman 70.3, and that's when I decided I was going to be part of the team.
Hammerfest 2008: My first race experience with the tri team. I volunteered instead of racing because of an injury, but I could tell there was something special about this
When we first really started competing inter-team wise is when I fell in love with the team, with collegiate tri, and just tri in general. It started my sophomore year with The Nation's Tri against the other academies, but then I also went to my first NECTC collegiate conference race. I LOVED it. I loved seeing the same faces at races and suddenly it had become a strategic game. I decided to get more involved with the conference itself even and I stepped up as a board member, which put me in closer contact with more athletes from other schools. Again, this just made me love it that much more.
Mightyman 2009: My first NECTC race, also known as "The Great Flood of Montauk"
Even before this school year started, I'd seen the end. I was on a ship in NC last year but I decided to drive up to Richmond, VA for an XTERRA. In addition to getting crushed in the race, I saw just how lonesome it could be to drive 3 hours to stay in a Hotwire-booked hotel and retweak my bike 538 times because it was that or the TV. Racing by yourself is kind of boring, even if it's a local race. So with that in mind I tried to make the most out of my last season as a collegiate triathlete.
So if I were able to offer advice to a current or prospective collegiate triathlete it would be this: take advantage and cherish the time you have training, racing, and hanging out with such a close knit group. Triathlon is great because it is a lifetime sport, but nothing will compare to the time you spend racing as a collegiate.
Somewhere in Alabama, April 2012: Jonas and I had a sitdown history lesson (going back all the way to the early 2000s when we think the team was founded) at WaHo with  some of the younger members of our team, trying to impart on them the "wisdom" that we have developed in our four years on the team. I don't mean about how to have a quick transition or chop time off a run, but how to cherish their time racing as collegiates.  I think the advice stuck.
As for me, it's off to racing by myself and trying to get to grad school before I turn 28 so I can still be eligible for Collegiate Nationals

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