After an amazing experience being a part of Team USA this year and wearing the red, white, and blue in competing for the US at the 2008 Long Course Triathlon World Championships in the Netherlands this past August, I decided to make a run at re-qualifying for next year (2009), when the World Championships will be held toward the end of Oct. ’09 in Perth, Australia.
The way to qualify for Team USA ’09 was for me to compete at the National Championships, a race called Halfmax and one for which athletes must qualify to even race. I happened to qualify for Halfmax earlier in the year with a great race at Mooseman, a half Iron distance triathlon in early June in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. I had a great race on a day that saw temperatures climb into the high ’90’s. No kidding.
So with the great experience of Worlds behind me and wanting another chance at re-living the glory, I decided to race Halfmax in October in attempts to requalify. Being a National Championship meant that the field was very competitive. And because the course was so tough, only the strong and fast would survive. Seriously, for those of you who cycle, the bike course alone had a total ascent of 7000 feet. You can’t find a hillier bike course. Slots for Team USA would go to the Top-10 athletes in each age group with roll down slots handed out, if available, to the next 3. So I had to come in Top-10 in age group to earn my spot, or come in 11th, 12th, or 13th and hope a roll down slot comes.
Halfmax was held out at Lead Mead, NV. The swim took place in the beautiful Lake Mead. I honestly have never swam in such pristine waters, waters that even tasted sweet — no kidding. The bike course started at Lake Mead, went out into the desert around Lake Mead and back, and then made a steep climb at mile 48 all the way up and into Boulder City, NV. The entire way up was lined with scenic overlook pull-offs. That’s how crazy hilly it was. But that’s also how beautiful the course was. With tempertatures hitting near 90F, I began the run leg of the race in decent shape. The run was the toughest I will ever do. It had long gradual inclines and drops that gained or lost up to 500 feet over a mile or two. Those were worse than steep, short hills. The run got very tough. I started strong, held pace through mile 7 or 8, but knew by mile 4 it would get ugly. And ugly it got. Although my pace on the run didn’t drop off all that much, it did drop, and it did hurt. But I was counting age groupers — my competition — and was in okay standing because, well, nobody in my age group passed me. In fact, the course was so tough, even though I was dropping off, so were others, because nobody passed me but one or two.
I crossed the line in 12th place in my age group. Top-10 got automatic slots on Team USA. Roll down to 13th place. And so I got a roll down slot. Earned the hard way. Against the best age groupers in the country. And I think because this race was such a battle, because I earned it the hard way and on such a tough course, it meant that much more to me. Because, honestly, I am excited!