As last season closed I really got to the core of what I want to do: Race often. That isn't easy if an athlete focuses on long-course triathlon, marathon or ultras.
I came along as a middle-distance runner so short, very fast and hard was the name of the game; it's no wonder to me that I simply have no desire to race much longer then a couple of hours. And after ten years at Triathlon I also realized I'd tried nearly everything to fix my swimming and it never truly got better. I do enjoy it more now then ever but in any case I need an aided course to swim what I need to be competitive.
I've tired of starting with a huge disadvantage in long course racing (though less in short stuff) and to see less aerobically-enabled folks get the measure me on the strength of a swim gets old. I did fix the bike, I'd love to see what my bikes splits would have been on this Cervelo P3 w/proper tyres on the same power I road an old Giant bike w/road drops. I mean, averaging 290w in a sprint tri at my weight (it's under 140 and that's all I can say!) but then not recording one of the top bike splits is a measure of my stubbornness around those equipment choices.
And last, the run. I really got sick of having to drill it to run myself into contention. 5.40 miles in a Half Iron? Check. 39min 10k in that same Half Iron. Check. Slowing down to a 1.26 HM because of 95F heat? Well, I'm only human.
So, I decided I'd try to take the National Championship title at Du Nats. A forty year-old guy won it last year, he and I ran about the same sort of times in college; I needed a challenge that suited my strengths. I figured 3min/KM was going to be the requirement assuming I'd be facing at least two other guys in 15.30/5k shape. I went to the track 2x/week. 400m in 66-69 and 800m a touch slower followed by 150s at "finishing speed" to prep.. It was fun to run that fast and started to feel like I was bringing a nuclear bomb to a gun fight, after all who else would (or could do that) at the amateur level? Usually, an ex-gun or a very young athlete out of college turning professional.
The race? In a nutshell I played my card, which was just run away from folks. The first run I followed a U18 guy through 800m in 2.22 then casually took the lead from there as he faltered and lead the first run passing mile 1 in 4.56 on my way to about 7.50-ish for 2500m; that works to out to just over 9 minutes for the 3000meters- on a rolling course. :)
At this level the races are so fast that T1/T2 is critical and I had no idea how fast folks could hop onto the bikes. I got out in about 56sec per transition whereas the top four got out in 20-30secs. So I immediately lost my lead going on to the bike. I pulled everyone back except McNeil (ex US National team cyclist) but I was penalized on the bike for going to the left of some traffic cones. (had no idea until after the race)
Came into T2 thinking I'd kick McNeil down. No such luck, I got out transitioned again! Refs to be candid should have been policing the three guys riding behind me. Post-race the results were a mess, I tried every avenue to resolve the penalty but USA Triathlon would have none of it and I went from the podium, being covered in the press release, 3rd at the National Champs to an also ran.
In other news, Shannon Horn, my old team mate at PSU and former World Du Champs U23 competed and finished behind me. We caught up at the finish, and I'll be honest it was good to get the measure of him; he was a 3.53 1500m guy who could ride a bike when were in school and it's nice to have staying power in the sport on my end- if anything I've kept all my athleticism that I had in my mid-twenties and apparently a bit more. :)
Where does that leave me now? I'm racing for fun. Serious training, but it's fun. I'm not announcing pre-season plans, etc. After chasing school records, course records, qualifying times, going to NCAA XC champs and then doing ten years of fairly focused (though not always) Triathlon I'm focusing on the stuff that makes me happy. Defend my state TT championship? Maybe! :) (Hey, getting that title surprised me too!)
I'm out in Bend right now, one day before my birthday, having done what I'm pretty sure was a good time trial this morning. I'll do a nice jog in a bit and I have a vague idea of what's next. It will be far shorter then a sprint triathlon for sure. Still, tomorrow night we lap swim. I just like it.
My plan for racing and training is really still the same: Race often, enjoy it, race and train to my strengths. Enjoy new stuff.