Tuesday, August 12, 2014
About one year ago, I wrote this post about how I was going to focus on competing in Age Group Nationals in Milwaukee in 2014. At that time I was training long for Ironman Wisconsin and didn't think I could do very well in a sprint. I also knew that Nationals was coming back to Milwaukee this year and it was a qualifying race for the World Champs in Chicago 2015. I had to do it. I had to try.
And frankly, until I arrived in Milwaukee last Friday, I thought it was going to be easy to qualify for Worlds. Sure, a lot of people would show up to try to make it to a World Championship in the US. It would a be a close, affordable option for all of us to be a part of Team USA. But c'mon - the 2013 results made me think I could place close to Top 10, a shoo in considering you only need top 25 in your age group to qualify.
Then this past weekend finally arrived. I read an article how athletes from all 50 states were competing. Wow. That is cool. I saw MILLIONS of dollars worth of bikes being racked into transition for the races. Hmmm, there are definitely some pretty serious triathletes here. I perused the results of the Olympic distance race Saturday after it was completed. Ummm, are you kidding?! These times are SIGNIFICANTLY faster than last year.
"I am starting to have doubts," I told Gene and Elisabeth as we sat down for dinner Saturday evening. I know a thing or two about triathlon, and I can turn in a decent time, but I have never been one of those FAST girls that you turn your head at and say "wow." I now realized that all those FAST girls had shown up at this race. Every. Single. One.
They agreed this was the highest caliber of racing experiences. And they convinced me that if I was really going to make it, I should do it in a race like this. They were right. It would be a truly gratifying experience. If I was going to qualify, it was best if I did it against the best.
Sunday morning came and I knew I was going to have to give it a valiant effort to make this happen. I was in the first wave of girls and told my spectators to let me know what place I was in coming out of the water and starting the run. I just had to hang in the top 25. I could do this.
The starting horn blew and I took off, kicking and stroking. I was close to two girls who were giving me a run for my money and paced me well throughout the swim. We stayed near each other and I used them for drafting and sighting. In the first couple of minutes I lifted my head and saw the lead pack, 50 to 100 meters ahead. Don't get discouraged Angela, just keep going. I felt nauseous from exertion just a few minutes into the swim. It was going to be a tough race.
When I ran up the ramp out of the water I was told I was in 9th place. Not a bad position. But I knew my bike was my weak point. I have just not gotten out of the city enough to ride this year and I hoped my sessions on the CompuTrainer were enough to keep me from getting passed by too many girls.
The first girl passed me just about a minute in. Then another about a minute later. By the time we were crossing the big bridge I had lost count of how many had overtaken me. Just keep pedaling, I told myself. You do NOT want to miss this by one spot. My mouth was dry, my stomach was churning and my legs were burning. But I kept down and gave it my all. Finally I pulled into transition and racked my bike, relieved that portion was over.
I grabbed my visor and race belt and headed out onto the run. Immediately I saw Gene, Elisabeth, Tavia and Alex. "Twenty-five," they yelled. I died a little inside at that moment. I give up, I thought. There is no way I can hold off everyone behind me over the next 3 miles. I just can't do it.
The negativity was fleeting, though. I decided there was no way I was going to miss this by one spot. So I found the closest girl in front of me. And I watched her and paced behind her. As I creeped closer I realized I could pass her. So I picked up the pace and just after mile one, made my move. Twenty- fourth. Phew. A cushion. And then I got passed by another girl about thirty seconds later. Back to twenty five.
A few times I heard footsteps approaching behind me and I froze a little bit in fear. But then they would pass and it would be a guy and I would relax. A couple even mustered up the energy to say "Don't worry."
With about one mile left I could tell I was about to overtake another female. I thought I might wait to the end and snipe her but she seemed to be fading fast so I passed her fairly quickly. A cushion again. Relief. I kid you not, I got passed by yet ANOTHER girl thirty seconds later. If this was going to be, it was going to be by the skin of my teeth.
Finally I could see the finish line. I ran it in like I was being chased. Because I was. By several other girls who were racing to qualify for World Champs. And when I crossed they announced me in 25th place in my age group, the final position for Team USA. I had hoped to break 1:20 and had finished in 1:17. In 2013 it had taken a 1:24 to qualify. I ran my fastest 5K time ever at the end of a sprint triathlon. I felt like I was going to puke and cry and laugh all at the same time. It was glorious.
I have been thinking about punching my ticket to the 2015 ITU Age Group World Championships for well over year. I have talked about it, dreamt about it and worked hard for it. I didn't expect it to be quite so challenging to achieve, but that just makes it all the sweeter. To represent Team USA in my hometown will hopefully be nothing short of amazing! Bring on September 2015 :)
Posted by Angela Park at 12:04 PM