Friday, August 24, 2012

Age Group National Championship

The USA Triathlon age-group national championship were held in Burlington, VT this year.  This however was my first time going to the championship, I some how qualified through the thirty-three percent rule they had at the Nation's Triathlon, where the top thirty-three percent of each age group can go to the national championship (I don't know why they don't do slots like most races, it probably has to do with money).  But anyways I made it and I had a cousin and her family that I don't see enough of, and I thought it would be pretty cool to go to the national championships and see were I stack up with the top athletes in my age group.

So Lisa, Bex, and I got some breakfast Thursday morning at the house and we loaded up the car, with my bike (R2D2) on the top of the car and we headed north to Vermont.  I had Chrissee Wellington book "A Life Without Limits" about the world champion Chrissee Wellington on my iPhone.  The book lasted the whole way up, and Lisa loved it (she probably just told me that so I wouldn't feel bad for making her listen to it), but anyways we got up to Vermont mid-afternoon and our first stop was the expo at the Sheraton hotel.  I picked up my packet looked around the expo, and picked up some free bottles and then we headed down the road to our hotel.  We stayed at the La Quinta which was okay, nothing great just some place to stay for three nights.  Our first meal in town was at Charlie's Chicken, where Lisa and I got a whole chicken and two side.  The chicken was the size of a large bowling ball and could have feed a small village (it did say it feed two, but I was thinking this was probably two very large people this was meant it for).  Anyways we got out of there with our stomach full of chicken, french fries, and Mac-n-Cheese. 

During dinner I realized I forgot a swim suit for the practice swim the next day so Lisa, Bex, and I went shopping for a swim suit for me.  We frist went to Eastern Mountain Sport (EMS), and they were more of a hiking camping store, but the guy there told me to try SkiRack which was down the street and a sponsor of the race.  We headed down there and I found a pair of tri shorts, for about $50 which is the cost of a swim suit anyways so I got them.

The next day Lisa, Bex and I went down to Waterfront park to search for the swim practice area.  We found out by looking at the signs that the swim practice area was a little over a mile north or the actual race start, and so we walked the mile to North Shore Park.  I noticed that the lake was a little choppy, or actually very choppy.  There were waves that were close to three feet high.  It was tough to swim in it and I only got about 3/10 of mile, and I got out.  I didn't really want to die, and I sort of did get a handle of swimming in the choppy lake.  That didn't stop me from messaging Coach Bob and asking how to swim in the choppy lake.  He told be to swim with the waves don't fight them (you will lose) and turn more so you don't swallow water.  After the swim Lisa and I walked back to the car and we got some lunch a Moe's, that burrito place.  After I lunch we took my bike to the transition area.  I set the bike in transition and we returned to the hotel.  

At the hotel we waited for a little bit for my cousin to call, she and her husband were taking us to dinner.  We went to a nice Italian place called "Three Tomatoes" I had Chicken Parmesan (my usual) and it was awesome.  We all caught up with the lastest family news, and our lives through dinner and made plans for Lisa and Bex to meet up with them the next day at the race.  We got back to the hotel and I layed everything out for the next day.  I figured out the weird and wacky way they did the bibs and stickers for everything.   I took a shower and rested my head.  I actually feel asleep pretty fast and had a pretty good night sleep. 

The next morning I woke up around 4 am and I got everything ready to go, we left the hotel around 6am, after Lisa put the tattoo numbers on me.  Lisa dropped me off at the waterfront and I set up my transition area, and then I went to the bathroom.  The weather was windy and chilly, and the wind was scary since I knew the wind caused the lake to be choppy, and I didn't want the lake to be choppy since I am not a very good swimmer.  I caught up with Lisa and Bex and we started watching the wave starts.  During one of the waves, I heard someone was pulled from the water, and I later heard that the person was pronounced died when he arrived at the hospital.  This does happen in this sport, but you never get use to hearing that someone passed on a course.


It was finally my time to go to the boat house where we started the race.  We all jump off the pier into the water and had a very short practice swim.  I was one of the last people in the wave to jump in, since I am not a very good swimmer and I hate to tread water.  I finally jumped in about two minutes before the horn went off and took a few practice strokes and noticed that the lake wasn't as choppy as I thought. I got into position  and the announcer noticed we were one of the largest waves in the race.   The horn went off and we were off.  I was in a big pack of swimmers for the first 200 meters or so, I moved out to my left to get in some room.  I was sighting off the people just to the right of me until we got to the second right turn.  I apparently didn't make the turn sharp enough and I swam way outside, the boat actually came out and told me to turn in.  By that time I noticed the wave behind us has caught up to me.  I tried to catch up with them and finally caught them near the end.  I looked at my watch when I got out of the water and it said 30 minutes and some change.  The water wasn't that bad, it was a bit choppy in spots, but overall it was a good swim.  My goal was around 25 minutes, and swimming off course and finishing in 30 minutes wasn't to bad.

I got out of the water and in transition, and got my swim stuff off and my bike stuff on, and I was off on an out and back route in Burlington, VT.  There was one large hill in the beginning of the bike and rolling hills for most of the course.  The course somewhat scenic for the parts that I was looking around at, which weren't many spots.  I noticed we had a tail wind going out and a head wind coming back, or at least that is how it felt to me.  The crowd support was great in spots and I was moving along the course.   The bike here is only 40k or just under 25 miles so I just tried to get through it as fast as possible.  My bike leg was 1:16:22, I got into transition and got my bike shoes off and my run shoes on and then I was off on the run.

The run started with a hill, you went straight up the hill right off the bat.  This was the worse part of the run.  I eventually got up the hill and the first mile was around 7:15, it would be my slowest mile of the run.  You then start working your way down the hill, and eventually make two lefts and your are heading back to Water Front Park were the race ends.  I was moving down the back stretch, my last mile was a 6:26 and then I saw my support team my cousin Shelby, Pete (her husband), Ben (Pete's son), Lisa, and Bex I high-fived Lisa and I headed to the finish line, where I crossed the finish line in an official time of 2:32:39.  Okay I should say at this point I only actually did one olympic distance before, which was the Fort Ritchie triathlon in Maryland.  I approved on that by about 15 minutes.  I should be proud that I took 15 minutes off, but then I looked at my placing for the day.  I ranked 120th out of 144 finishers in my age group.  I really can't be happy being in the bottom half of the pack.  After sometime I realized I was racing against the best in the country.  You had to qualify for this race, which I will confess wasn't that hard, but still not everyone made this race.  So I finally got over that I really can't compete with the big boys yet, but maybe someday I will.

After the race my support crew and I went to a learning center that was located at the Waterfront Park called "Echo".  It had information about local wild life, and other stuff, and it was about an hour long, which I thought was a good length, since Bex normally loses interest around that time.  After Echo we said good-bye to Shelby, Pete, and Ben and headed back to the hotel.  Lisa and I took Bex swimming in the hotel pool and decided to go to the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory later that evening.  We learned how they make ice cream, and also learned they took a corresponds course from Penn State, no wonder their ice cream is so good.  We enjoyed some ice cream at the end of the tour, and took Bex to a play ground that was on their campus, after that we headed back to the hotel which was around 20 minutes away.

The next morning I went for a quick run back down to the Water Front, and when I got back Lisa and Bex were up and we went to the Kountry Kart for breakfast (it was recommend by my cousin) and it had this awesome breakfast sandwich which included a hash brown in side the sandwich.  With breakfast in our hands we headed down to watch the sprint national championship.  We saw the last few waves start the swim, and we saw some of the participant come out on the bike.  Knowing of the long journey back to PA, we decided to head home.

Will until next time, which will probably be the Marines Corp Marathon in Washington D.C. in October, which I am running for Georgenna Puliti who is batlling AML a form of Leukemia, and you can check out my mission at http://running4georgenna.com.

Keith