S - 7,900 yards
B - 70.3 miles
R - 11.2 miles
Time - 6.62 hours
Well, it looks like after my not-so-great AG Nats Brian has been taking it a bit easier on me to make sure that I don't go into races fatigued. Well, more fatigued than usual. Unlike AG Nats where I felt good in the days leading up to the race this week I couldn't really tell. I was coming off a big week of training and was ready to try and light the ol' fire underneath my bum for race day.
So since not a whole lot of people know what race I was doing, it's called the Best of the US Amateur National Championship which is basically a gathering of some of the top racers from each state. Or at least, that's the goal of the race. In each state there is a race that takes the top 3 male and females and invites them to participate in the series championship, which this year was held down in Gulf Shores, AL in conjunction with the Brett Robinson Coastal Triathlon. North Carolina's qualifier was Stumpy Creek, where I placed 3rd. I was the only person I knew of going to the race and it worked out conveniently for me since I could stay with my family in our beach house in Fort Morgan, AL which is only 30 minutes away.
I drove down on Thursday and thoroughly enjoyed the most boring drive you can do in I-85. Once you get past Atlanta and Montgomery and get on I-65 it is incredibly boring. It's fun, however, when you get off the interstate and onto the smaller roads and go through towns that nobody has ever heard of like Bay Minette, AL you get to see neato stuff like this:
|I guess this has got to be cool somewhere, right? Take note of the balls.|
Race morning I accidentally woke up at 4 instead of 5 and made my way to the race site. I set up my transition area and went on a quick bike ride then a quick run to hit some non porto-potty bathrooms. When I got back to my spot there was an official walking around saying that the water temperature was 74 degrees (and therefore wetsuit legal); considering that the previous afternoon water temperature was 86 I had only brought my speed suit. Oh well. Unfortunately I was one of only a couple racers that were wearing their speed suit but I didn't feel too bad about it since the swim would have favorable current and it'd be easier to run up the beach at swim exit and my transition would be a bit quicker. The BOUS athletes had a separate mass start from everyone else so that was nice and at the sound of the gun we all ran into the water and began swimming.
Swim - 19:34 (4th)
The swim was very simple; we had all walked a mile down the beach so the route was simply out to the first buoy, turn right, head down the beach, the turn right and exit. Very straightforward. I chose a slightly different tactic this time; as opposed to going balls-to-the-wall from the get go and gradually slowing I chose to take it out [relatively] easy and then try and speed up toward the end. I always have a hard time telling where I am in the field during the swim but I was sighting easily and swimming pretty straight so I wasn't too concerned. I felt at about the half way point I was towards the front but with such a small field it's basically a long line, especially since everyone was so experienced - almost everyone was drafting. I noticed that the person I was swimming behind had dropped off the feet of a wetsuit wearer so I moved to pass and ended up being the lead of the second "pack" without ever quite catching the wetsuit wearer. At the last buoy I had a feeling I was near the front but didn't really know for sure and exited the swim feeling pretty comfortable and not over-worked. It was a nice change of pace from the way I normally feel at swim exit. I ran up the beach pretty quickly and entered transition.
T1 - 1:11
Now we get to what I'm most proud of at this race: my transitions. Normally I sit around and make a waffle or two in T1 but this time I didn't waste any time, although I did anger a volunteer by turning right after entering instead of to the left like they were directing. I had decided the right turn was the way to go when I was setting up my area and was "in the zone" and basically disregarding what they said since I wasn't really listening and knew that there was no "flow of traffic" rule in the pre-race info. As I got to my bike I put on my helmet, took off my speedsuit and while I was putting on my shoes the "main" transition volunteer came over and said "Hey # 7 you know we could disqualify you for that!" I responded by saying "What?" and he said "You disregarded us, we could disqualify you for turning right." I didn't really have much to say but as I was leaving I said "Well disqualify me then there's nothing I can do about it now!" I thought it was ridiculous that he felt he had grounds to DQ me for something like that and disregarded it as I left T1.
|Looking down like a Cat 5 noob! Everyone else ahead of me had shoes clipped in already, noted...|
Bike - 58:24 (6th)
I headed out on the bike and quickly passed a couple of guys and was in second place at about the end of the first mile. I could see the leader, Colin Riley, up ahead and the motor bike so I just put my head down and rode hard. After a while Ben Hall came past me and I stayed with him for 3-4 minutes before giving up (he rode a 55:00, that's 27 mph...) and settled back in to a more reasonable pace. The bike was basically an 8 mile out and back then a 6 mile spur towards the end. The wind was in our face on the way out and off our right rear on the way back. We went over a big bridge at mile 8 and Matt Payne caught me at that point (rode a 55:35...) and I didn't really have a chance to try and stick to his pace as we were going through some technical areas at that point. I put my head down again and was rolling along nicely and got to the spur and saw that the group of 3 was basically riding together (legally, duh) before I turned around myself to notice that Pat Parish had caught up to me (he rode a 56:39, I sense a trend...) and he passed me at the end of the spur with about 2 miles to go and I finally managed to stick with someone to the end! I think in these races (international/olympics) I stick it in cruise control a little too readily. Although it's unintentional, I shouldn't be biking 3+ minutes slower than these guys. I need to learn how to make myself hurt a bit more on the bike and run for these shorter races. But anyway, I digress. Excuses, excuses. I rolled into T2 about 3-4 seconds behind Patrick and hopped off mah bike.
|Hopping off bike, trying not to fall over. I think about it every single time.|
Another blazing transition, this one in no small part thanks to Ashley's new method of installing Yankz that seemed to help a lot. It may not have been the fastest set of transitions overall but I didn't give up big chunks of time like I normally seem to...
Run - 36:22 (5th)
Headed out on the simple, flat, straight out/back course about 15 yards behind Patrick, who then proceeded to run away from me. I held a good pace for 2 miles then I think I gradually slowed down as it was tough to motivate myself to run really hard as 6th place was pretty distant and 4th place was out of my view. I got to the turnaround and it was Matt, Colin, Ben and then Patrick chasing hard so I would have liked to run faster just to see what would happen towards the finish. After the turnaround I basically just kind of strolled in to the finish line (not entirely true, I was working hard but didn't feel like I was moving fast) to finish in 5th place. The run was pretty boring so I can't enliven it much, unfortunately.
|Yayy for finishing|
Final - 1:56:06, 5th OA
All in all I'm pretty pleased with this race. It was extremely well run and except for one disgruntled volunteer everyone seemed really nice (and reasonable...). I didn't have a standout performance but it was really solid. No glaring weaknesses and nothing out of the ordinary. 5th place against a field like this is pretty good, although I wish I had run faster. But that and 5 bucks will get you...well pretty much nothing these days. It was good to bounce back after a disastrous AG Nats and I'm feeling confident about Augusta in 2 weeks; I think I can do well there. Hooray!