by Jeff Dahlen
The journey began with a 6 hour drive through the beautiful California desert, next to the Mexican border, and into the smokin’ hot town of Tempe Arizona, home of the Arizona State Sun Devils. Upon arrival we settled into the luxurious Four Points Sheraton with our speedos, bikes, helmets, shoes, uniform kits, water bottles, food, and yes – three other roommates along with their speedos, bikes, helmets, shoes, uniform kits, water bottles and food. Let the team bonding begin.
Friday was the world debut of the Draft-Legal Collegiate National Championship. The team biked down to the course to cheer on our very own Bill “I don’t draft off people, people draft off me” Jones. We gathered behind the start line and watched as “don’t blink or you’ll miss him” Jones took off at the starting gun. Careful observation saw “there’s a reason I study fish” Jones get pummeled by what looked like people trying to hitch a ride on, which took its toll on his swim pace. Nevertheless he came out of the water 3rd and proceeded to dominate the bike, pushing 24.3mph for 30 minutes! Off the bike “enormous calves” Jones turned a great run (on what seemed to be a longish course), finishing in an amazing 11th place. I maintain that if there weren’t a bunch of stragglers hanging on for dear life that he would have led out of the water and had a much different race. Overall it was an exciting, fast-paced race that we will be excited to see “champion” Jones win it next year.
Saturday brought with it the main event, the Olympic distance race. After sharing a bed with Bryce “let me crack your back” Zaffarano, and being treated like a physical therapy test puppet all night, “I sleep 4 hours a night” Zaffarano and Dave “doesn’t lube his bike” Berry decided set the wake-up time for room 220 at 5:00am in order to get down to the race and make sure no one poached our (assigned) transition spots. After a round of bathroom breaks (or two for “loves his morning coffee” Berry) we headed to the course to claim our timing chips and prepare for a day of racing.
The first wave started “time for redemption” Jones, Jeff “this is my first time” Dahlen, and “Straw” Berry. “I swam at Harvard” Jones led the pack out of the water, followed by “I only swam Division III” Dahlen a minute back. “Swims twice a quarter” Berry followed with an impressive swim split to round out UCSD’s first wave. The second wave sent a fleet of freshmen including Charlie “don’t call me Chaplin” Chen, Dan “dominates the run” Gonzalez, and Joey “still needs a date to triprom” Clingerman. “Should be swimming in the fast lane” Chen came out of the water with a great time, followed by the “thank God we didn’t sink twins” Clingerman and Gonzalez. The third wave saw both Michael “snacks a lot” Lu and “mushy ankle” Zaffarano churn out amazing swim times! Matt “get me back to the Anarctic” Siegfried had a great swim in the fourth wave, followed by Jon “can you believe he’s an engineer” Hughes in the fifth wave to round out the Triton’s Male Racers.
“Custom tri-kit” Jones led through transition and onto the bike. “Really sucks at flying mounts” Dahlen took an eternity to get his wetsuit off, and then struggled to get on his bike at the mount line nearly causing a 5 racer pile-up. “Likes to use his race wheels on training rides” Berry flew through transition and immediately started mowing people down on the bike course. “The fastest of the freshmen frat” representatives (Chen, Clingerman, Gonzalez and Lu) all had great transitions and proceeded to take advantage of all of those freshman peloton breaks on our Sunday training rides, all turning out fantastic bike splits. I will say one of the highlights of the race was “usually gets lost in transition” Lu managed to not get lost in transition, and flew onto the bike course to reel people in (even with a few loose spokes in his rear wheel!). In the middle of the bike, “Gotta beat Bryce” Dahlen went a little crazy and managed to convince himself that “Gotta beat Jeff” Zaffarano managed to make up a 20 minute start time difference and get ahead of him on the bike. Crazed and amped on adrenaline “shuts off his brain while racing” Dahlen sprinted to try to catch up, barely remembering to dismount before starting a third lap on the course. Both “Rides a children’s bike” Siegfried and “can’t wait for the after party” Hughes put out some quality power on the bike, churning out two of the faster bike splits on the team, proving why we keep them around.
Onto the run, the course started heating up. As an aside, I think it’s safe to say it was definitely hottest during the men’s run leg (just kidding). “His calves really are so beautiful we should mention them twice” Jones led the Tritons onto the run course setting a blistering pace, though “running is in my genes” Gonzalez managed to out him by 1 second o walk away with the fastest Triton run split! “Say ‘Hi’ to your Mom for me” Berry had an amazing run split, dropping over a minute from his conference run time! The rest of the “fastest of the freshmen frat” had great run splits all around, but in my humble opinion the run of the day was “only one good ankle” Zaffarano’s run split following a monster bike! “I could hold this pace all day” Siegfried put in a solid run, more than making up the time lost on the swim to “I’m a lifeguard” Hughes.
Overall, the men’s team had a stellar showing such a young team. All of the Nationals Rookies had amazing debuts on a fun and hot course, and we are slated to do well next year!
On to the women’s team: the true stars of the day. By the time the women’s race started temperatures had already made it into the 80’s, and would rise another 5-10 degrees by the time they started the run! The first wave of women saw the start of Esther “literally learned how to swim last year” Walker, Gina “banana-fana-fo-FINA (sorry swimming joke)” Horath, Katherine “don’t call me Kat” Ellis, and Mallory “you should probably stay off your knee and finally let it heal” Pickett. “Surfer girl” Horath killed the swim leading the Triton women out of the water, followed by “I promise I’ll swim all summer” Ellis, with “swimming is the only thing you should be doing with a knee injury” Pickett and “no seriously I learned how to swim last year” Walker close behind. In the second wave Jenny “loves to make tasty treats” Kaehms had a great swim and was the first Triton out of the water. She was followed closely by Joanna “that’s right I race with asthma, ain’t no thang” Coker and Jackie “at least we think, but it could have been Lizzy” Sikkema. In the third wave Megan “don’t double cross her” Cross had a huge swim leading the third wave of Triton women. Catherine “call me Cat” Crisp and Haley “I just dropped 4mins off my conference swim time, NBD” Richins finished strong in the water for the Tritons.
While I hate to admit it, most of the women beat most of the guys out of transition, and flew out onto the bike course. On the bike course, “just finished survived her first half ironman” Ellis raged on the bike to close the gap “hates her tri-bike” Horath opened up on the swim. “Has a much better looking bike than Jeff & Bryce” Walker made her new bike scream while she flew around the bike course catching “loves to mash gears” Pickett. “Has a beautiful looking bike” Coker got on her legs to close the gap opened up by “the Elfin regular” Kaehms. “Not Lizzy” Sikkema showed “Not Jackie” Sikkema who’s boss beating her sister by over a minute on the bike course. “Seriously I want my new nickname to be Cat” Crisp had a great bike split on what was quickly becoming a hot course, and to round out a set of great splits, the “Fast Female Freshmen”, Cross and Richins, showed us why the freshmen are so fast!
By the time our women hit the run course temperatures were into the high 80’s, and the wind was stale. In what was one of the most impressive race splits I have ever seen, “division 1 steeplechaser” Ellis sprinted her way to what would be the third fastest run split of the day. “It’s getting hot in here” Horath, Walker “Texas Ranger”, and “holy smokes she’s fast” Pickett all left everything on the course finishing out the final leg of the first wavers. “I’m definitely gonna have me a cold Coca Cola after this” Coker, “can’t wait to make some more baked goods” Kaehms, and “don’t call me Lizzy” Sikkema all pulled out great times for the hot run rounding out the second wave of Triton women. “Kitty Cat” Crisp and the “Faster than the Freshmen guys Freshmen Females” Cross and Richins pounded the pavement making their shoes melt with fantastic times and form all around.
I said it once, but I’ll say it again: the women were the true stars of the day. Not only were they the stars, but they carried the men’s team to a top 10 overall team finish!!! I’ve never witnessed a more determined set of racers. To their credit, they didn’t even mention the heat afterwards (that’s probably a lie, they at least mentioned it).
The last event of the weekend was the mixed team relay. This consisted of two men and two women each completing a super sprint loop (350m swim, 5k bike, 1.2k run) before tagging the next relay member. After a lot of bike borrowing and wheel-swapping (Michael Lu you should really get that rear wheel looked at!), UCSD had two stellar teams in this event: Joanna Coker, Dave Berry, Jackie Sikkema and Charlie Chen made up the b-relay; while Gina Horath, Bill Jones, Kat Ellis and Jeff “all out of nicknames” Dahlen made up the a- relay. It was an extremely exciting event, and again the girls showed their stuff, racing only hours after finishing the Olympic. Gina and Joanna led, setting a great pace and a high bar for the rest of the relays. Bill was second in the water for the a-relay, putting in a huge bike split and setting the a-relay in a comfortable 7th place. While Bill’s bike split was impressive, it wasn’t nearly as impressive as Dave’s swan dive off the dock. I’m pretty sure he flapped his wings a couple of times getting some major air time. The third legs of the relays were Kat and Jackie. Kat followed Bill’s lead and dropped another two spots putting the a- relay in a comfortable 5th place, and Jackie absolutely destroyed her twin (by over 15 minutes!!!). Charlie anchored for the b-relay, ringing in a sub 6 minute mile to finish top 25!!!
Sitting comfortably in 5th place, Jeff anchored the a-relay catching and passed fourth place in the water. After Jeff got reprimanded by Coach Chris Burnham for looking like an idiot while mounting his bike during the Olympic, he managed to redeem himself by not falling out of transition 1 during the relay. He held onto 4th place through the bike and transition 2 before running “the fastest 400 meters of his life” (Coach Chris Burnham’s words) and relinquishing 4th place (or as I like to put it, losing the team $499). The a-relay finished in 5th place, winning the team a $500 cash prize.
In conclusion, USAT Collegiate Nationals was one of the most exciting and exhilarating races of my life. The UCSD Triathlon team proved why were are one of the best in the country, and we are stoked to have everyone on the 2013 Nationals Team back for another year. While Bryce might twinge at the thought of being cooped up in a hotel room with me again, I’m excited to vie for a spot on the Nationals Team next year and get a chance to race in Tempe again.