2014 Collegiate Triathlon Nationals
by Bill Jones
Day 1, The Day before the Race: Good Sensations
I woke up at 5:30am, like usual, and got in a short run and swim. My arms and legs responded well to some short fast efforts. It is always a good sign to have good sensations the day before the race. After the mini-workout, Jason, myself, and a Jort Sport Photographer set off into the desert to AZ. Upon arrival to Tempe, I did a short race course ride with Coach Chris. Again, the legs had good sensations, so I was feeling confident for the next day. UCSD brought 20 athletes – and we were all ready to go! Gina was also doing the DL race on Friday. She pretty much killed it–read here.
Day 2, Draft Legal Race Day: Unlucky Ducks
Our hotel had an infinity pool instead of a regular swim pool. How cool is that? <pause> It is Really Cool! I was able to get a nice* 15min swim in before heading over to the race course. (*If you consider “nice” swimming straight into the equivalent of a hot tube bubble jet for 15minutes nice. It was that strong and I swallowed a lot of air and water. The infinity pool wasn’t that cool after all). After the wake-up swim, I made my way to the race course and finished my warm-up with my usual trainer ride. Once the gun went off, I felt amazing. Solo off the front amazing. I started on the opposite side of all the other fast swimmers, which worked out in my favor. I shot out to the front with very clean water and soon had a body length gap before the first buoy. With only one swimmer on my feet, I finished the swim with about a 10 second gap on the front pack, which is impressive for such a short swim (750m).
I raced through transition and mounted my bike… Perhaps too hastily as I heard loud cracking noises come from the seat post. Not good. Unlucky Duck #1. I managed to hold off the first bike pack of 4 guys for the first lap, but realized I was going to lose my saddle; an odd feeling to have during a race. Sure enough, shortly after I was caught, my seat post had had enough and called it quits casting my saddle down to the road. Bummer. The rest of the race was pretty much a disaster. Did you expect it to go well after I lost my saddle? I lost the front bike pack when I put a water bottle upside on my seat post (clever, I know). The USAT collegiate nationals highlight video has a nice shot of my during the draft legal race riding my bike with a water bottle instead of a saddle. I was able to put about 30% of my weight on it, but it was not the solution I needed. My ‘seat’ was too low, I lost a lot of of my power, and my accelerations (which are very important in a DL race) were drained from standing so much. Keeping up with a draft legal bike pack in the standing position is very challenging, especially while they pedal at 120rpm down a hill. With my modified water bottle saddle, I tried to stay in the game, but Unlucky Duck #2 hit. I hit a nail and with a loud BANG my tire was as deflated as my ego. Game over. I tried not to let the disappointment of the race get me down. Instead, I was more determined than ever to do well in Saturday’s Olympic race – the Main Event.
Olympic Distance Race Day: Redemption:
The swim did not go as well as the previous day. I’m not sure why. I started strong in second position, but faded about halfway through the race. I ended up coming out of the water in 5th position. Adapting to the situation, I made up a couple spots in the labyrinth that was T1 (it was NOT a unfair transition USAT). I made up the rest of the ground in the first couple of miles on the bike to take the lead.
Out on the bike course, I set into my pace. I wasn’t feeling as strong as I had hoped I would, but strong enough. A little less than halfway through the bike course, I was caught by CU’s #1 guy. This was a little discouraging for me because he’s capable of a 33min 10k. But I did not give up because I still had a decent gap on the other strong runners in the field.
I entered T2 in 4th position (two more guys had caught us – Tyler Rogers and Andrew Neilson – both had impressive bike splits). My transition skills paid off once again as I came out of the labyrinth in first – for the second year in a row.
I new I was going to need the run of my life to stay on the podium. I had prepared for this moment the entire season. Time to go to work. After a fast first mile running with the CU athlete, he pretty much said good bye as he continued on his 33min 10k pace and I slowed down.
At 1.5 miles to go, I was caught by a Colorado State athlete, Steve Mantell. I think this was about the same spot he passed me last year. I knew that if I didn’t stay with him, I would lose my podium spot. Despite my run history, I was actually able to remain relatively close to Steve and, to even my own disbelieve, found another gear to pass him in the sprint to the finish. I was absolutely thrilled with my second place finish – and encouraged that I may have looked like a runner out there on the course – even if only briefly.
Overall, it was a fantastic weekend thanks to the tremendous support I received all season from my coaches, family, girlfriend, friends, and teammates. The icing on the cake was racing with my twin brother Dan. He finished 29th, so we took the ‘fastest set of twins’ crown. The UCSD Triathlon Team ended up 8th in the overall standings – we were of course carried by our Women’s team, who finished 5th.
PS Sorry for the terrible formatting Word doesn’t translate well to WordPress.