Written by Brian Reynolds
The 2018 USAT Age Group National Championship took place in Cleveland, Ohio this year. The olympic distance event was an “A” race for me. After an off-season of working hard on improving my swim and a summer filled with great training sessions, some fast new equipment, and improvements in every discipline, I was ready and excited to peak for my “A” race. I was excited to race because my summer training was going really well.
Here is how my day unfolded at Nationals on August 12th, 2018.
The drama before the swim was waiting to find out if the swim was going to be wetsuit legal. The day before the water temp was 78.5 deg F and the wetsuit cutoff is 78 deg F so it was going to be a close call race morning. On race morning the water temp was 75.8 so it was wetsuit legal! I was happy it was wetsuit legal because it would help neutralize the advantage to the strong swimmers. There were a fair amount of waves in Lake Erie, which made it a tough swim.
I started in the first wave, which was helpful because I knew who was ahead of me in my age group. In past events, I’ve started later and never had a good sense of where I was compared to my competition.
My plan for the swim was to get out strong and try to catch the draft behind the strong swimmers. However during the race it was very difficult to stay on anyone’s feet for more than a few seconds without getting pushed off course by the waves. I was working harder during this swim than any other swim this year. It didn’t help that the swim was around 200 to 300 yards long. Although it felt like I was giving up a lot of time to the leader, I was only 1:10 minutes down from the leader. This was the closest I’ve been to the leader coming out of the swim at Nationals. I was in 17th pace after the swim.
T1: Swim to bike
The swim to bike transition was long. It was roughly a 300 yard run from the lake-shore to transition. I had a smooth transition besides my helmet visor being super foggy.
When I got onto the bike my legs were feeling good and I was able to get up to power quickly. I passed 8 riders within the first 2 miles of the race. After passing the riders, I could see the flashing lights of the motorcycle pacing the two leaders. I used the motorcycle as my carrot to chase. I was quickly making up time on the leaders. By mile 5 I ca
ught up to the leaders. At this point I was excited because I’ve never been this close to the lead at a USAT nationals event.
I had to wait before passing the leaders because there was a sharp right hand turn. As I made the turn I noticed that the road surface was very rough. There were several tare strips going across the road which prevented me from taking a more aggressive line into the turn. Instead I took a wide sweeping turn to help keep my bike under control. Unfortunately I ran out of pavement and my front wheel hit the curb in the middle of the road. I landed on my right side and skidded across the pavement. I had cuts on my elbow, hip, and hand. I would also find out later that I had bruised my rib and had a big dent in my helmet. A race volunteer ran up to me asking for my name and what event I was in to make sure I didn’t get a concussion.
My day went from an ultra high feeling of being with the race leaders to an ultra low feeling of being on the ground bruised and banged up. At first the crash didn’t feel real because a month prior I had crashed my bike during the Tri Del Sol race. I couldn’t believe that I crashed again! As I laid on the ground I thought about dropping out and calling it quits. But after thinking about it for second I picked up my bike, re-positioned my dropped chain, fixed my helmet, and I got on my bike.
For the remainder of the ride I felt discomfort in my right shoulder area with every breath I took. I wasn’t able to ride at the same power prior to the crash, riding at 75% of my full capacity. Although frustrating, I knew that all I could do was give it my best effort. Even with the crash, I was still able to post my fastest bike split for a USAT Nationals event. My hard training had paid off.. I was in 8th place after the bike.
T2: Bike to run
My T2 transition was not as smooth as T1. Coming off the bike my shoe fell off the pedal so I had to go back and pick it up. As I ran through transition and picked up my run gear I was starting to notice more discomfort in my right shoulder.
When I started running, my form was off due to lack of mobility in my right shoulder due to pain. I was running 20-30 secs slower than my typical race pace and at this point I was in 8th place. It took about 2 miles until I was able to settle into a descent run rhythm. I wasn’t feeling too fatigued during the run since I wasn’t able to push myself to my full capacity. Thankfully I was able to run the 2nd half faster and picked up a few places to finish 6th in my age group. I was proud of myself for finishing the race let alone finishing in the top 10. However, I was still bummed about not having the performance that I was capable.
If there was a silver-lining I can takeaway from this race it’s that unexpected things can happen to disrupt your race. However, when the unexpected happens it’s your attitude that will dictate how much of an impact it will have on your race. A good attitude will go a long way especially, when you need to adjust your race plan and expectations. During this race I was saying to myself “it’ll be pretty cool if I could still finished in the top 10” and I did! I still had something to chase and keep me mentally engaged during the race. At my next race my goal is to keep the rubber side down and that will be a win in my books.