My Countdown to Nationals

By Ana Hotaling | Aug. 08, 2017, 5:03 p.m. (ET)

Age-group athlete Ana Hotaling shares her thoughts from the weeks leading up to the 2017 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships.

Ana Hotaling

7/28: Fourteen days and counting. That’s what my USA Triathlon National Championships app tells me: 14 days, 9 hours, 54 minutes, 42 seconds. When that time’s up, I — and 100+ members of my age group — will begin swimming in balmy Carter Lake. At 86 degrees, I won’t need my wetsuit. I’m bringing it to Omaha anyway.

With two weeks to go, I’ve reached the “maintenance” stage of my training. I’ve had a tri or road race every weekend since Mother’s Day, with IRONMAN 70.3 Muncie and the Battle of Waterloo this month alone. Outside of Muncie, I’ve either won overall female, masters female, or first in my age group in every tri this season. I’m supposedly at the top of my game, but the continuous racing and training are taking their toll. Yesterday, I couldn’t get beyond 15 mph on my bike. Today, my arms struggled through the basic strength drills my personal trainer, Fitz, gave me. I’m icing my hips. I’m rolling my calves. I’m reminding myself that my goals at Nationals are to have fun and to improve my 2015 finish time.

But Competitive Me just bought a Rudy Project Boost 01 for just that much more of an edge.

Zen Me thinks these 14 days will be more for recovery than maintenance!

7/30: Twelve days and counting. Still in recovery mode; tomorrow’s therapeutic massage should get the rest of the kinks out. I’ve written the entire Nationals schedule on the kitchen whiteboard, where the bright pink letters drive home the fact that the race is just days away. Competitive Me thinks I might actually do OK, even though the Olympic — 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run — is my least favorite tri event. I cover these distances regularly in training, though, so I should be fine. I can’t do any worse than my 2015 finish in Milwaukee. I was under a cardiologist’s orders not to run competitively back then; I therefore swam and biked competitively and walked the 10K. I should crush that finish time. I should probably look it up so I know what I’m trying to crush!

8/1: Ten days and counting. Happy 15th anniversary to my husband, Jae, and me! We’ll be celebrating in Omaha. Jae has never seen me race anything longer than a super sprint, so Nationals will be eye opening for him. For me as well: I just checked USAT rankings and discovered I’m No. 2 for my age group in Michigan. So much for no expectations from myself! But at Nationals, everyone will be vying for that coveted Team USA trikit and a chance to go to Worlds, regardless of ranking. I need to stay realistic. At OWS tonight, my swim coach, Jen, had me do 1,025 yards sprinting in weedy Silver Lake. That’s on top of the 2,200 I swam yesterday. Coach Jen says I’m ready for both. I think I’m ready. We’ll see!

8/3: Eight days and counting. Today’s training included a 10k run at race pace, a 15-mile ride with hills, and core/upper arms strength training. I made the mistake of telling my mother about Nationals. Instead of maternal pride, I got an enormous lecture about growing up, putting my energy toward career advancement, and realizing that I’m wasting my time “playing triathlon” if I’m not getting paid to participate. Apparently “everyone” understands this except me. Sorry, Ma! Success isn’t always measured by one’s bank account. I’m fortunate enough to have other relatives and friends who support and encourage me and who’ll be cheering me on next weekend.

8/5: Six days and counting. This morning, I competed in the aquabike event at the Ann Arbor Triathlon. This was my third year participating and my only aquabike event of 2017. I raced semi-conservatively, took 10 minutes off my previous PR, and got first age group/third overall female. My friend Katy, who is also competing at the Olympic Nationals, thinks I’m nuts for having raced this close to race day. Perhaps, but now my focus is fully on Omaha. I’ve started laying out my race gear, one set for Olympic and one for Sprint, since I’m doing both events. My bike is at the shop for one final check. Come Wednesday, we’ll start the drive west. Competitive Me can’t wait. For once, Zen Me agrees!

Want to learn more about the 2017 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Omaha, Nebraska? Visit usatriathlon.org/agnc17. Check back after the race to hear about Ana’s race experiences.