Monday, July 30, 2007

Must Title This: I Qualified For Nationals, Woohoo!

Since Nationals will be in Oregon next year, I've been really hoping to qualify. I missed by one slot in a tri earlier this year, as I mentioned in May. Having my local triathlon get cancelled was maybe a bit of a blessing in disguise, since it allowed me to get to the NW Regional Championships instead. The Regionals qualify top 5 or top 33% in each age group, which is a bit easier to hit than the number 1 spot (or so I thought), so it was a great opportunity to try.

Though I felt a bit unprepared for this race, I had a really good time. I had trained for a bit longer race (the Tri-America series), so I hadn't trained for as much speed as I would've for an Olympic distance, and with a week of camping just before leaving for Washington, I was a bit behind the eight-ball going in (especially since, due to traffic, the drive up to Washington took us 7 1/2 hours!!! ugh). But race morning promised perfect Robin Triathlon weather (overcast, slightly cool, no rain) and the race was well organized and very friendly and fun.

When I got to the transition area, that was my first clue that qualifying might be a bit tough. No mountain bikes or scruffy road bikes here, all the bikes looked serious and the athletes equally so. Apparently this race was also a direct qualifier for Worlds, not just Nationals and some of the athletes were aiming for that . Wow, no wonder they looked so fast! Trying not to be intimidated, I got my gear out and saw plenty of familiar faces from other Northwest races. I had decided to wear my new Helix wetsuit (so new, I haven't even blogged about it yet - I just got it last week). I had been having some trouble with arm fatigue in the two times I managed to get in the lake with it last week, so I was a bit worried but decided to give it a go in a race. A woman in the transition area with the same suit gave me a good tip on how to get the shoulders aligned and that seemed to help a lot, my arms felt fine after the swim.

It's a good thing my suit felt fine as the swim was longer than usual by about five minutes (or nearly a quarter mile). This is always in my favor, so I don't mind if I look out and see the buoys looking unusually far in the distance. Unfortunately, they started the men's wave first and then the women, so after the second buoy I was swimming through the swarms of slower males, like an aquatic obstacle course, but the water was calm and I felt happy to be out there gliding along. I had great transition times at 1:11 for T1 and :43 for T2. For once, I didn't feel like I was fumbling with anything, and the full-sleeved suit came off easier than I had hoped (love that upside-down zipper!).

The bike course in this race was....welll...interesting, for lack of a better word. A four-lap course, which was a new one on me in the world of Olympic distance, and I was a bit worried about the course getting crowded after the first loop. As it turns out, that wasn't the hardest thing about this course. I guess when the race description says things like "the course meanders to 28th street", what that really means is lots of turns. I think I counted fourteen turns (as in 90-degree turns) per lap, for a record-breaking 48 - 50 turns over the entire bike course. Wow! So when you add in the little up-and-down rolling hills, it was kind of a technical course. Ordinarily, this isn't to my benefit, since as I've posted earlier I am a bit of a cornering scaredy-cat. But I discovered that this kind of course takes a lot of strength as you keep decelerating for the turns and then you have to quickly accelerate to speed again. Athletes with good endurance but little power were really suffering by the last couple of laps because there were no sections where you could get your speed up to a steady pace and keep it there. It didn't look that tough in terms of the hill profile, but it was a bit of a punishing course leg-wise for this reason. Still, I pulled in a 1:08 for the bike course which is a PKPR (post-kids PR, that is) for me! Also, although there were a lot of cyclists on the course, due to the multiple laps, the USAT officials kept everyone separated nicely, and I saw them many times on the course (and thanked them afterwards). The multiple loops also gave everyone a chance to see everyone else, and I cheered on all the triathletes I passed, which is my little race-day custom if I'm not too winded!

On to the run, those little up-and-downish hills all of a sudden loomed a bit larger. Hills are especially punishing to this athena-class runner, and I knew that I already had at least two, maybe three people from my age group in front of me (two of the three women who passed me on the bike were in my age group - wah!). Fortunately, the bike course was the same as the run course for the first mile, and all those cyclists I had cheered on earlier were now cheering me. The instant karma and good wishes buoyed me up and my second running lap was even faster than my first. All of the hard work I've been putting into my run this season paid off with a 10k time of :50, another PKPR by five minutes! And a good thing too, because a couple more F40-44 ladies passed me on the run and I ended up snagging the last qualifying spot for Nationals in my age group. Whew!

Overall, my finish time was 1:27:06. That doesn't seem too fast for an Oly time for me, but when I take into account that my normal swim time is :21 - :22 and this one was almost :27 (and I checked, all the athlete's swim times were about 5 minutes slow, so it wasn't just me or my new wetsuit!), that puts me into more into the pace for a 1:22 Oly in the future some time. Maybe at Nationals, if I'm lucky.


penney said...

Congratulations, Robin. I hope you have a great race at Nationals! When is it?

Any chance we'll see you up here in Vancouver for the 2008 ITU Worlds?

All the best,

paparazzi said...

Congratulation! and good luck at nationals. I'll be cheering for you.

I really appreciated your race recap - as last weekend's race was my first olympic length tri and I wasn't sure how the course compared to others.

I've enjoyed your writing for some time but never commented before. I'm an athena and your post last year "A glossy lie" made me realize that I am an athlete - thanks

stronger said...

Nationals?! That's awesome!

TriGirl 40 said...

Congrats on the Nationals! That is awesome!