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A Weekend with the Best

By Justin Roeder | Aug. 23, 2012, 12 a.m. (ET)

justinThis past weekend I traveled to Burlington, Vt., to compete in USA Triathlon’s Olympic-Distance National Championship. After the weekend in Burlington I would strongly encourage anyone who has qualified for a National Championship Age Group race to jump on the opportunity and experience the atmosphere. The city of Burlington was crawling with triathletes decked out in TYR, Zoot, minimalist shoes, compression socks, and the streets were overrun with time trial bikes. Every athlete there had endured countless miles, kilometers, and hours in the pool, on the bike, and running, just as you have. Each athlete needed local and national success in order to qualify for this specific race, which meant everyone was someone. While the presence of such phenomenal athletes is intimidating, it is also exhilarating to associate yourself with them.

 Leading up to the race, my goals were to place high both in my age group (25-29 males) and in the overall rankings. I finished 4th in my age group and 13th overall, but wanted much more. Here is a little race recap to let you experience the event:

 The start of the 1500m swim was a deep water start (a start where all athletes float in a straight imaginary line before the starter’s command). The rolling water caused by the winds made things difficult, especially while trying to hold my spot on the start line. My swim time was slower than I would have liked (21:50), but I was only 2 minutes back from the quickest in my age group. Success!

My first transition went smoothly. My wetsuit glided off without a hitch, and my flying bike mount was USA Gymnast material. Once on the bike, I managed to hang with fellow competitors until the half-way point, but after that it was a mystery. The wind smacked us right in the face on the way back and I watched as competitors vanished in the distance. Not until the finish of the bike did I realize how slow my split actually was, but even after hearing the splits I still was mentally buckled down and ready to run down as many athletes as I could. Unfortunately, the time that elapsed on the bike would eventually prove to be too much to make up. I closed the 10k run well enough to receive the fastest run split for the second year in a row. The unofficial time was roughly 31:30, so there was a bright part of the race!

justinInitially, after the race I was really frustrated with my result. But like many other qualified age-groupers, we all could have done something(s) better. In every race and hard training session, you learn a little bit more about yourself as a person or athlete. In this particular race, I learned that even in the presence of negative feedback (time gap behind competitors), I was still able to shrug off unconstructive thoughts and continue to compete to the best of my ability. Also looking back, I was extremely happy with my swim progress by taking over a minute off last year’s time in this year’s rough water conditions. It is hard to compare from year to year, but last year I think I was about 4 to 5 minutes behind the fastest in my age group!

So what’s next? Well, with my success in draft-legal triathlons, I have filed my elite athlete application and plan to compete professionally. It hurts a little to finish my amateur eligibility on a low race result, but on the bright side, the event and the atmosphere were something to remember.

 I want to thank my fellow age group athletes, event organizers, and all the supporting cast behind the scenes. This year of competition has been very memorable and enjoyable. It is no wonder that the sport of triathlon is growing so rapidly. The people involved in this sport are motivated, competitive and above all else, compassionate. Only triathletes welcome a newbie into their swimming lane, explain the difference between road bike and time trial, share insights on body glide and padded cycling shorts. Again, thanks for welcoming me and others like me into the community. I plan to pay it forward to the next intrigued participant.

Congrats to the winners, participants, and to USAT for another great event!