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Sunday, August 21, 2011

USAT Age Group National Championship – The Results



Before the Swim

Yesterday I competed in the USAT Age Group National Championship in Burlington, Vermont. It was, as expected, a well-organized event with great support from the community of Burlington. Suzanne and I enjoyed our four days there – the waterfront area and the commercial areas up from the lake have some nice restaurants and galleries and Ben & Jerry's original factory is just 30 miles away. The weather was perfect, too. Actually maybe too perfect. About mile three of the run, I would have really loved to have had some cloud cover.

When I competed in the Championship two years ago in Tuscaloosa, I set a world's record for the slowest swim time (in my defense it was against the current and the water temp was about 98 degrees so they didn't allow wetsuits – which for some reason didn't bother the other swimmers as much as me) and then after a decent bike ride, I got severe hamstring cramps from dehydration and couldn't finish the race. Not my best day.

The good news on yesterday's race is that I set a world's record for most improved swim time – improving on my Tuscaloosa effort by over twenty minutes. I managed to finish in the middle of the pack – of course I swam with the over sixty year old crowd and some of the pack were in their 70s – but those guys were all serious competitors and a lot more experienced. That's sort of the end of the good news.

Last year I started utilizing a water bottle that fits between my aerobars so that I can sip from it whenever I want without having to grab the bottle from the frame or from behind me. My cycling skill /confidence level is not too high so anything that involves a lot of movement tends to slow me down. This bottle system worked great for me as I could sip continuously throughout the ride and thus could avoid the dehydration that I experienced in Tuscaloosa. The only problem was that I finished the bottle usually about mile 20 and then I had to either go without fluid for the last five miles or attempt to grab the reserve bottle from behind my seat. So this year I replaced the bottle I had been using with a larger one. I raced with it in my last race and at the finish I still had plenty of fluid left.

Yesterday, as I started out on the bike and was headed up the first hill I hit a small bump and the larger bottle popped out of the bracket. It was bouncing around held in only by the heavy rubber band that was wrapped around it as an extra precaution. When I reached the top of the hill, I stopped and pushed it back into the bracket. It held for about ½ mile but again came loose when I hit a rough patch. Two more times I stopped and repositioned it. The third time I took extra time trying to adjust the bracket and I thought I had it fixed, but it came loose almost immediately. I tried holding it, but I found it difficult to steer with one hand cupped around the bottle. I decided that if the rubber band held, the bottle was not going to fall out as it was more or less held in place by the aerobars. I remembered all of the coaching lectures on how we seldom ride a perfect race and that is important not to let these unanticipated problems derail the entire event.

So I ignored the water bottle and got myself mentally back in the game. I raced hard for the last fifteen miles, but those first ten miles cost me at least ten minutes – five or six minutes while I was stopped to try and fix the problem and at least five plus minutes while I let myself get distracted and dispirited by the mishap. I was actually surprised when I finished the bike segment in 1:26. That was eleven minutes off my goal of 20 mph, but at least I had a chance to finish the race in less than three hours. That gave me something to focus on during the run.

It was hot on the run. The first half mile is up a steep hill and it was a tough beginning. I had hoped to run the race at an 8:30 pace, but that first mile was over 9 minutes and the next two were not much better. I did finish with the last mile close to the 8:30 pace. 

I knew I was going to be way down in my age group, but I was surprised to see how far back: 43rd out of 48. Even if I had not had the bike mishap and had finished at my goal time (which I think is realistic) I would have been no better than 32nd. Of course it's a national championship – those old men are all very good athletes and tough competition.

I guess my goal of finishing in the top ten was sort of presumptuous, but it was fun thing to shoot for. I just wish I had come a little closer.


DateTotalSwimT1BikeMPH T2 Run PacePlace
GOAL2:45:0032:002:301:15:0020.02: 3053:008:2915th
ACTUAL2:59:4232:512:451:26:0217.92:2655:388:5943/48



At the Finish Line
(I know it looks like I'm about to collapse but
actually I'm running so fast that the photographer
almost managed to miss me...again)


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