Triathletes, it is normal to be depressed right now. Not everyone around you has pretty calf muscles and looks great in a swim cap. None of your friends care about all of the other teams you met, or how fast your T2 time was. Only at an event such as the Collegiate National Championships will you find 1,200 people that share the same passion as yourself.
Nationals 2014 was quite an experience. From arriving in Tempe and seeing floating dead fish in the lake we were all about to swim in, we knew that we would all forever share a bond. Fortunately, the lake was skimmed and we did not have to collide with any giant deceased carp, yet even if we did it would only bring us all closer. The draft-legal race was phenomenal to watch. Having the men and women race separately made each race feel like an entirely different thing. Watching the men fly by and use each other to gain as much speed as possible made the draft-legal experience amazing for both the spectator and the participant. With only a small number of athletes even qualifying to be a part of the race, it was a cool feeling to know we were watching the best of the best compete against each other.
Once the draft-legal event was over, we set out to assemble everybody else’s bicycles. This is where the nerves started to set in. Knowing that most of the DL competitors would be competing against us the very next day was very unsettling yet exciting at the same time. Seeing everyone later on at the pre-race dinner made most of those nerves settle, as we found out that other athletes shared the same sense of anxiety. By the time race morning came, we were all excited.
The feeling of a swim start is unparalleled by any other race. Knowing that in an instant, you will be kicked in the face, punched in the eye, dragged back by your wetsuit and swam over by other athletes is horrifying yet incredibly thrilling (this is why I always wait an extra 10 seconds before I actually start to swim!). After a few hundred meters, suddenly a groove sets in. Suddenly, I CAN swim 1,500 meters. Suddenly, I WANT to pass the girl in front of me. Suddenly, I’m fast and fearless.
The bike portion of the race was my absolute favorite. PRing was not the only reason why I loved this course. Every time I passed somebody or got passed by somebody else, words of motivation were shared. “Good job, girl!” “You’re doing great!” “Keep it up!” “Go (insert school mascot here)!” All of these were enough to make me power through the course, and it seemed to go by in an instant. Having one part of the course pass where all of the spectators were standing was also a nice touch. It was exciting hearing my coach push me through the second lap of the race, and it was nice being able to embrace the positive vibes from everybody around me.
The run. The worst and best part of the race. In Tempe, this run was hot and uncomfortable. As I started, I felt sorry for the men that had to race later on that day, because it was very hot by 10:30 a.m. When we first got off the bike, our legs felt like jelly, and we could not fathom pushing through this feeling for more than six miles. But once again, the positive words flowed. Wishing every other racer a good race made it a less painful experience. Having amazing volunteers offer to literally throw water in our faces also made this race a little easier. By the time I hit the mile five marker, the girl I was running next to and I both shouted out “hallelujah,” and pushed that last mile as hard as we could.
The finish line is enough to make anyone feel like a champion. Having everyone cheer you on as you give it that final push is better than any feeling in the world, and having volunteers at the finish put a medal on your neck and make sure you don’t keel over is a huge relief.
The entire race experience was a wonderful thing for me, and I would go back to do this race again tomorrow if I could. I love the feeling of a race, I love the people I race with, and I love my team. There is not much more I could ask for! As we all settle in this week, and anxiously await another Nationals experience, we know that we have all shared something beautiful this weekend. So let other people look at you quizzically because of the tattoos you have gotten too attached to scrub off. If you’re a guy, let them wonder why you have perfectly shaved legs. When they ask you about it, encourage them to become a triathlete, so that everyone can experience what we have experienced this weekend.