Two weekends ago was Collegiate Nationals for triathlon. I drove to Lubbock, TX with about 30 CU team members. A few were there to cheer, a bunch competed in the sprint tri, and 14 of us (7 guys and 7 girls) competed in the Nationals race. This was the big race of the year for the team, the reason we had devoted so many training hours through the winter.
This was my first trip to Texas and my first few hours in the state were quite exciting. Just outside of Amarillo we got caught in a hail storm. The driver of our Surburban didn’t decide to pull off the freeway until the hail was golf ball sized and bike trailer was fish-tailing on the hail covered road. After the hail stopped, we made our way to a near by town for gas. We investigated the hail damage (moderate) and found out we had just been within 5 miles of a tornado that touched down. But the fun didn’t stop there. As we entered Lubbock, we noted the funnel cloud in the sky. And then it started hailing again. We sprinted from the car to the hotel through a foot of water and with hail pounding our heads (had we been thinking, we could have worn the plethora of bike helmets we were traveling with). Once inside the hotel, we find out we can’t check into our room because of the tornado warning. After about half an hour, we did make it to our rooms and were able to change into dry clothes.
Race morning arrived with some frigid temperatures. The water was a chilly 53 degrees. Even with a full sleeved wetsuit this was really cold, like face numbing cold. The swim seemed to take forever, but I convinced myself that it just felt long because it was so cold. In actuality, it was a few hundred meters long. Graceful as always, I tripped on a carpet on the way out the swim and face planted. Then I tried to put on arm warmers (air temp was also in the low 50’s). Numb fingers, wet arms and tight arm warmers make for the slowest transition ever.
The bike started out with a few steep hills and then onto some flat sections. I was really flying on the flats and felt great, turns out this is because of the tailwind. Which meant there was a pretty harsh headwind coming back.
Heading out on the run, I passed right by the finish just in time to see our top guy sprinting by. From the sound of the crowd, I knew he was close to the winner (he was 3rd). At 1.5 miles into the run, I passed Jess, superwoman freshman on our team, heading the other direction (she started 2 waves ahead of me). She was running in first and was able to hold onto it for the win. My toes were numb from the swim until about mile 3 and running with numb toes never feels too good. The last mile of the run was awesome with lots of cheering teammates on the sidelines.
This was a team competition as well as an individual competition. The race was scored similar to cross-country, although only the top 4 scores were counted for each team. Our team was really focused on doing well, which adds some extra motivation to the race. In the end, I finished 2nd fastest for our team, 17th overall, and 4th for grad students (for which I got a plaque). Our womens team finished 2nd (behind UC-San Diego) and our men 4th. Our combined team finish was third (behind Navy and Cal).
Despite the difficulties of the day (cold and wind), the race was actually quite fun. Hanging out with a team of motivated and supportive people is always enjoyable. And it is pretty cool to be training with the reigning National Champion. Sure, I would have liked to place better individually and as a team. But I realize 17 out of 313 is nothing to complain about, so I will save you my whining about wave starts. Fortunately, there is always some race to look forward to, another chance to prove ourselves. Next up is Kansas 70.3 (half-ironman) in June. There is a collegiate division (the 70.3 collegiate nationals to be exact) and we should have a pretty big team headed there for another chance at a national title.
I would like to thank everyone who donated money to the team this winter. I know that despite my saying I didn’t expect a reply to my “beg” letters, many of you donated anyway. That money really helped with travel to the Regional and National races, making the cost very reasonable. Thank you for your support!
Article about the team: http://www.coloradotriathlete.com/articles/09/2009_collegiate_colorado_triathlon_team_01.html