I arrived in Tuscaloosa feeling very excited. I healed well over the past two weeks and was ready to roll. The only difficulty post-crash was getting the wetsuit on and off my arms. The entire weekend was a ton of fun and organized very well. They had a parade for us on Thursday…a two block parade but still it was my first time riding in a parade. There is pretty neat You Tube video posted of the parade if anyone’s interested in what a two block parade of 21 athletes looks like….. On Friday, I had the opportunity to speak to a local school about triathlon and try to get the middle school kids interested and excited about the sport. It was a great experience and the kids had some very thoughtful questions. We did a short race to see who could get on their running shoes fastest, simulating a T2, and I lost badly. I guess I have some work to do. I hope that the kids enjoyed the presentation as much as I did and that some of them are able to continue in sports through high school and make it part of the rest of their life. Maybe even a few will do a triathlon one day. The race was on Saturday after the collegiate race. I woke up feeling great…well rested and excited to race.
The race started off well, since there were only eleven of us on the start line, position wasn’t too much of an issue. I tried to get out hard and hang on to the feet in front of me. I didn’t have a very good swim. Not only did I struggle but I was also at the back of the pack and the last one to see as we went off course and the last one to correct the error. Swimming even slightly longer than the course is a mistake that I couldn’t afford to make. I exited the swim way off the back of the leaders and knew that I had a lot of work to do on the bike. My goal for the race was to never give up so I decided to go after it on the bike. I caught up to Becky Lavelle almost immediately and we worked together to catch the 2nd pack of riders during the 2nd lap. I went by strong and yelled for them to grab on as I wanted to help us catch the lead pack. Sadly no one came with me, I ended up in no-mans land and got as close as 35 seconds from the lead pack but wasn’t able to bridge the gap on the strong group of four working together. After fighting by myself for a lap or two and not making up any ground on the lead pack, I eased back a bit to wait for the second pack in the hopes that together we could catch the leaders. It just wasn’t meant to be…we spent the entire rest of the ride about 50 seconds off the lead pack not losing or gaining any ground. On the run, I started off strong and felt good for the first mile. Then I struggled to find my form from 2K to 6K and finally in the last 4K I began to feel better and tried to finish as strong as possible. I finished in 6th place a heart-breaking 10 seconds off of 5th. Overall , I was happy with the race. If the swim had gone better, I think I could have bridged to the leaders on the bike and come off in the lead pack. But I don’t think it would have changed the results significantly as I wasn’t ready to run fast enough to land in the top three, those girls all blazed to 35 minute 10Ks. The Olympic Trials was a great experience, and I am definitely happy for Julie Ertel who earned her spot with the win. She had an amazing season last year, and it is nice to see her get named to the team. Sarah Haskins in 2nd and Sarah Groff in 3rd also had incredible races, and I am sure they will both be in Beijing one on the team and one as an alternate. The race in Des Moines could be pretty exciting if Sarah Groff can pull off the upset and be first American. If I am not at the race, I will surely be glued to my computer that day.
Congrats again to Julie Ertel and Matt Reed whose gutsy bike and fast run got him a spot on the mens’ Olympic team. I am definitely inspired to keep working hard and hope to be back in contention 4 years from now in 2012.