USA Who?

By David Pickett | Aug. 16, 2017, 11:25 a.m. (ET)

david pickett age group nationals

When I received my first email in 2016 from USA Triathlon that I had qualified for the 2017 Age Group National Championships in Omaha, I’ll be the first to admit I really didn’t have a clue as to who USA Triathlon was or this race they would like me to join. Recently reintroduced to the sport, all I really knew about USA Triathlon was they were the people that required me to purchased their annual membership card if I wanted to sign up for any of my local sprint races. I speculated this “Age Group” race was simply a gathering of a bunch of guys around the country that finished high in one of their local races. Boy was I wrong on both accounts!

As I started to educate myself on USA Triathlon and how they strive to promote a healthy lifestyle and promote multisport growth across the country, I quickly came to realize my annual fee was way more than a race registration requirement. As I also started to educate myself on what the Age Group National Championships are, it became clear rather quickly that I would be competing against a completely different level of competition.

My reality really started to kick in once arriving in Omaha. Seeing the venue at check-in and the triathletes on site, this truly was a world-class event with athletes to match. At that point goals and race strategy changed. Things became simplified. Race within yourself and enjoy the experience became the new race day aspirations.

Letting go of unrealistic expectations (once realized) allowed for such a positive and rewarding race day experience. Besides the normal swim start anxiety, Carter Lake quickly became a distant memory as I climbed up the ramp toward transition. My swim split was a couple of minutes off my expected time, but I was happy and ready to move on to the bike leg.

The bike has always been my weakest of the three disciplines. My plan prior to arriving in Omaha was to back off my pace on the bike to allow for fresher legs for a better run. As I reached the steepest climb on the outward half of the bike route, I started to wonder if I would even have enough legs left to complete the 40k distance — especially since I would need to re-climb the same hill on the way back. But once I dismounted off the bike and was running back to re-rack my bike in transition, I could tell my bike strategy was going to pay off. My legs felt great!

For me the 10k run became a one-man two-lap victory parade. Being from Louisiana and training in 90 percent plus humidity for months, the cool race day temperatures and virtual lack of humidity seemed almost too good to be true. I really couldn’t understand why the wonderful volunteers at the water stations were asking me if I wanted a cold towel to put on my head or neck. I kept thinking, “are you kidding, I’m not even sweating.” I could not believe how fresh I felt turning the last corner toward the finish — that amazing red carpeted, American flag lined finish line. What a site to behold!

Crossing the finish line I became overcome with emotion. Volunteers were trying to offer me drinks and assistance but I was in a whole other world. I was too happy to even realize I ran right past the volunteers handing out participation medals (thank you Mr. Big Security Guard for allowing me to go back in the finishing area to get it).

So now I know what this 2017 Age Group National Championships are and thank you USA Triathlon for inviting me to this incredible world-class event. Anyone who’s lucky enough to get an invitation should make every effort to register and experience all that is the Age Group National Championships. You will not regret it.

Find race recaps, video highlights, social coverage, photos and more from the 2017 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships at usatriathlon.org/agnc17coverage.