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Winning a USA Triathlon Elite Sprint National Championship

By Chelsea Burns | Sept. 19, 2014, 12 a.m. (ET)

I am the USA Triathlon Elite Sprint National Champion!

It is a cool title that resulted from an even cooler race, the Las Vegas Super Sprint Grand Prix (SSGP). I headed to Las Vegas two days after leaving Monterrey, Mexico, where I had traveled to race an Olympic-festival Continental Cup. To make an epic story short, my bike was flown from Seattle to Washington, D.C., to Buffalo to Chicago to Houston to Boston and ultimately to San Diego where we would eventually reunite. Needless to say, the bike never made it to Monterrey and I did not start the race. I was pretty frustrated, but I saw the ordeal as some forced rest and good motivation to be on my game in Las Vegas. 

The super sprint is executed in a preliminary/final format. At 9:30 a.m. I raced in the third heat of a two-lap course a 200m pool swim, three-lap 3k bike and one-lap 1k run. This circuit was set up entirely in a parking lot just off of The Strip. I finished first in my heat which advanced me to the A final, which was held 10 hours later and under the lights. Distances for the final were a bit longer - 300m swim, 5k bike and 2k run - and raced twice through again and on the same circuit.

I lined up for the final with a stacked field of nine others, which included four Olympians as the announcer would repeatedly remind the crowd throughout the race. It was an experience that produced a truly unique and exceptional amount of pain. Much of this comes from diving into the pool for the second 300m swim after just running a 2k hard. Imagine dragging a lactate filled body through thick syrupy water. There are also tricky components like putting on a swim cap as you are totally gassed and running up a steep ramp to the pool. Or the mere fact that there are five transitions and a lot of room for error.

The entire field was pretty much together until the final 2k run, which made it a tight race and anyone's race to lose. I knew going in that I had to swim fast enough to get on the bike with everyone else, stay upright and be with the group on the technical bike course, and then run as hard as I could. When I took off on the final run I went to the front and stayed there until only Erin Densham and I remained rounding the final turn and barreling toward the finish. We kicked it up for a true sprint finish, which brought a slew of track and field flashbacks. I managed to hold her off and win which was the most exciting triathlon result of my life and not to mention a good pay day.

Since crashing in London at the end of May, I have had a long string of disappointing races. Between a few DNF's, crashes, a disqualification and that no start in Monterrey, I have been waiting, more and more impatiently, for that breakout race that validates all that training. So winning is awesome but winning after this long period of dissapointments at a race that was such a blast is really awesome. My training partner Erin Jones was third and a ton of people that understand and care about my success in triathlon were present in Vegas. USAT and the SSGP guys did an incredible job of organizing and executing an impressive event which will even be televised (Universal Sports on Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. ET). I am really grateful for the support, especially from USA Triathlon and Team Psycho and I am excited to bring some confidence into my last two World Cup races of the season.