Sunday, September 8, 2013

Setting the Scene: ITU Age Group Sprint Distance World Championships

It all gets set into motion tomorrow.  I will finally be boarding that plane to London.  To say I've been single minded over these last few days (OK, weeks) is a gross understatement.  This race is a big deal for me for many reasons, and I want to make sure I attend to every detail possible.  I know anything can happen on race day, so I want to control everything else.  I'm receiving plenty of grief from my family for the three page single-spaced itinerary that lists details as minute as, "5:20 banana and 2x toast with pb."

I've had a really good season so far.  In three triathlons (White Mountains 1/2, Norway sprint and Bethel sprint), I won my AG in each.  In the last two, I was 3rd overall.  Training has also been solid.  I don't think I've ever been this strong in all three disciplines at the same time.  My swimming is close to mid-winter form, I have put in some great 20 and 30 minute TT efforts, and I'm running faster than race pace in bricks without an excessive effort.  My taper has also been good.  A couple of weeks ago I felt that my quads were really tired to the core, so I backed off and focused on shorter race pace intervals.  I tend to taper longer and more gradually than most, a result of experiencing taper programs at Tufts under the guidance of Don Megerle- a true master of the taper.  He always says, "you can't cram training, so what makes you think you can cram resting?"

So why is this race such a big deal for me?

1. It's been a long time.  I first tried to qualify for the 2009 Worlds.

2. PEs.  I qualified for the 2010 Olympic Distance race in Budapest, but was sidelined by extensive pulmonary emboli that blocked 90% of both pulmonary arteries.  The cause was never discovered, and I was eventually cleared to go as hard as I wanted.  I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to race again.

3. NOAD.  I've half joked that it's all about the uniform that includes USA and my last name on my fanny.  There's something about wearing the national uniform that goes to my core.  Not until today have I been able to get to the root of that emotion.  I'd have to say it started Jim Craig.  He was the goalie for the 1980 US Men's Olympic Hockey team in Lake Placid.  Their victory over the Russians in the semifinals was part David v. Goliath and part Cold War.  After the win, Craig wrapped himself in the American flag and skated around looking for his father.  Ever since then, "the colors" get to me.  Wearing them represents the top of the sport.  It's a good feeling to be near the top.

4. My family will be with me in London.  They have been incredibly supportive over the years as I engaged in this sport that took energy, time and focus away from them.  They are thrilled to be going, and I think admire the effort.  I don't want to let them down.

5. Along the same lines, I have countless friends in and outside of the sport here at home that have supported me.  So much of the training for triathlon is a solitary, grueling existence.  It helps to know that others are going through the same thing.  In fact, about six of them will also be competing in London.

6. This is it.  This is the last one.  It's time to move on to other things.  Things that I love to do but haven't. For example, I love to sail, but only go out a few times each summer.  Sailing was my big summer sport  growing up, and I even made it to a collegiate national championships.  Throw in trail running, hiking, paddle boarding, rowing and other activities yet to be discovered.  More important that any other athletic pursuits, I want to allow Christine's priorities to take the lead.  She started volunteering for Partners for World Health, and may go on some mission trips.  It's time for her schedule takes precedence.

Back to the race.  The whole thing is in Hyde Park on closed roads.  The swim is in the Serpentine, the same as the Olympic triathlon swim.  The bike is a three time out and back, loosely in the shape of a "C."  For those of you doing the math, you're right- go 2 miles, go back to the start, and do it again twice more.  I hope congestion isn't too much of a problem.  The run is twice around the Serpentine. We finish right where they finished the Olympics.  Both the bike and run are flat.  The first wave goes off at 8:00, and mine at 10:15.

This is a huge race- over 2,100 competitors, 1,200 men and 900 women from 85 countries- and that's just the Sprint.  There are 121 in my AG, split into two waves.  All 16 Americans in my AG were in Burlington last August.  I had the third fastest time on that day, but about 8 were within one minute of me.  My goal is top three Americans in the AG.  Unfortunately, the other four in the top five are in the first of the two heats.  I will therefore not know where I stand against them until after the race is done.  That means I need to go hard right through the finish.  As for an overall goal within the AG, I'm making a wild guess at 30th.  I would have been about 15th out of 75 in Auckland last year, but I'm sure this is going to be far more competitive.

So here goes.

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