In less than a month, I will be toeing the line at the 2008 ITU Long Course World Championship in Almere, Holland as a representative of Team USA. With having had my first A-race of the season only a few weeks ago, and with Worlds coming so soon afterwards, it seems as if the calendar, without notice, or even a holiday, jumped forward a full month. I can’t believe time is near for Worlds. I mean, in a few short weeks I’ll begin my taper. Wow.
It has now been since May when I officially accepted my slot on Team USA for the Long Course team. Since May! It feels like it was just yesterday, but the truth is, that was over 3 months ago, and to be honest, I still have not fully wrapped my head around it. I am still so excited, but almost as if in disbelief.
Wearing the colors red, white, and blue for my country, the United States of America, at Worlds in Holland is my Olympics. It really is. And it doesn’t get any better than this. I mean, here I am, 38 years of age, and I get to compete for my country in what is truly a world event. I will match up against the very fastest age groupers in the world…
I keep pinching myself, as if to say, listen to what you just said: You will compete against the very best in the world… the very best… In. The. World. And I’ll get to where the red, white, and blue. And I’ll be a part of Team USA. And a part of the Team Village. And Team meetings. Team coaching. Team workouts. Team dinners. Even a parade of countries!
Who would have thought?!
The truth is, before any of this ever happened, I had thought of it. I did. But I all but ruled it out. At least until next year. And even that, it would have been – and I knew this – a stretch to even set that dream in motion. For I had already planned to race the Halfmax National Championship, for which I already qualified, at the end of this year in attempts to come out with the race of a lifetime to earn a slot on Team USA for the ’09 calendar year.
That was the dream. Back then. But now, here it is, before me, the World Championship race only weeks away, a full year before even my wildest dream would allow.
Now that is cool!
Training To Date
Training has gone very well to date. Ironman Lake Placid, my first A-race of the year, falling a month and a half before Worlds enabled me to get in all the training I needed. Although you could say my training for Worlds is complete, that wouldn’t exactly be true. Endurance-wise, I have all the long swims, bikes, and runs I need. But speed-wise, I’m still fine-tuning. In an ideal training regimen I would have ended the hill work much earlier and converted over to speed, but that didn’t happen. Ironman Lake Placid was too important, and even an integral part of my journey to World, to have done any differently. So although I will not be at where I want with my speed, I am still very in shape to kick some ass in Holland.
I have very little training remaining. From here until I leave for Europe – a full week before the event – I plan to stay the course with a focus on building top end speed. I have such an immense endurance base that this should be easy. It’s not that I’m looking to get faster – because I won’t – but it’s more that I’m looking to gain endurance-speed so that I can hold a steep pace for much longer and do it without taxing the engine.
So from here until I leave, I will continue to push the bike hard 2 to 3 times per week on all short to middle distance rides. I can do this because I do not ride on consecutive days. So I’m good to go.
On the swim I will continue getting wet 3 times per week, one of which is a long session of 2.4 miles. I often push pace on the swims, so I’m all set.
And as for the run, I’m all set there too. My current fitness base on the run is more than sufficient. Remaining will be one very long slog to complete my quest of Marathon-A-Month for two years. Believe it or not, August will be month number 24! I will miss the streak. It’s been a very good friend for a long time.
Travel plans, for the most part, are all but finalized. Heather and I leave Boston on Saturday, August 23, a full week before the race on Sunday 8/31. After an overnight flight in which we arrive in Amsterdam, we will spend Sunday through Wednesday in city center. During that time we’ll scope out the city with tourist activities, visit a few museums, get romantic by the canals, and maybe smoke some weed (just kidding!) and sample the fine selection of beers from that region (not kidding!). Then on Wednesday we will haul our bags and my bike 30 miles east of Amsterdam to the city of Almere to join up with the rest of Team USA. After getting settled in – not to mention putting my bike together – we will spend Thursday doing some more touristy things, like maybe even checking out the resort in which the team hotel and athlete village for all countries resides. By Friday I will be busy with Team USA obligations, race registration, course and race site recon., and finally Opening Ceremonies including the Parade of Countries. Saturday will be checking in the bike and meeting up with Team USA for dinner. And Sunday is the RACE – the ITU LONG COURSE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP race! After the race is a big Team USA party that will roll right into the official WC awards. I’m already excited to stand on the podium as they put a Gold Medal around my neck! Monday is, sadly, back home.
Speaking of the Team Hotel, the hotel for Team USA is in a resort known as Center Parcs. Center Parcs will also be the Athlete Village for athletes of all countries. It’s pretty neat with all the cottages and activities and shopping and restaurants the resort has. On first pass it reminds me staying at one of the hotels at Disney World, where there is so much to do, so much space, and everything is clean and accessible. On the other hand, it reminds me of what the Olympic Village in Beijing is. And since this is my Olympics, I’m going with the former. It’s neat. That’s all I can say. And I think I’m almost as excited about checking out the grounds as I am in putting on that uniform. Note I said almost.
World Championship Course
The course in Almere is, like the rest of Amsterdam and surrounding areas, incredibly flat. As I’m told, you can’t find a flatter course anywhere in the world. I spied a few pictures, and yes, it is very flat. But where one good thing comes, something must give. And what gives is that what makes the area very flat – sitting below sea level – is also what invariably, as I’m told, turns the course in a nightmare. The wind. The wind out there can be stiff and all-too-strong. Have you ever seen a picture of Holland without a colorful windmill framing the center? Me neither. In fact, looking at pictures of the race course was quite comical, because not only is it all flat farmlands, but as far as the eye can see deep into the picture, wind-turbine mills disappear into the horizon. But what are you going to do? It will be what it will be. And I will still kick ass. Just get me out of the water. Then the party will start.
List of Competitors
A preliminary List of Competitors has been published:
According to the list, I will toe the start line with, so far, 100 total competitors from 19 different countries.
The countries are:
GB, ZAF, NED, FRA, ITA, USA, BRA, POL, POR, SPA, DEN, DUI, LIT, SLO, CAN, BEL, AUS, ZWI, IRL.
And that’s not even the complete list. Because you can bet that when they update next, we will see even more countries, such as GER, NZL, and others.
I get very excited, tickled even, thinking about all these guys from all over the world I’ll race against. I wonder if the term “On your left!” is universally known across languages, because as I haul ass all over the course in Almere, that’s what they’re going to hear!
The Team USA uniform is really cool. It is a blue Speedo FastSkin two-piece suit and is made to slip through the water faster than any other triathlon suit. But that does me no good since I’ll be wearing a wetsuit. The uniform fits like a glove. The letters of our country could sit squarely on the chest: U-S-A. My last name will be above it and on my rear: KIRLEIS. That plus a bunch of ITU and race logos and it’s a keeper. Only problem is that it still has not arrived. Damn.