Nationals had a unique and powerful energy that I could even feel the day before the race. Race morning came and we were blessed with mild weather as opposed to the oppressive heat that Omaha had just days earlier. There was such a huge transition area and so many people, it would have been easy to become overwhelmed, but blocking that out, I was focused on what needed to be done. The swim started and I got out hard to stay away from the chaos in the pack. I was swimming in second with another swimmer well off the front. My stroke felt long and strong and the swim is a strength of mine, so I kept the pace fast. Quickly I came up on the wave in front of me, so I had to navigate through some of the packs of that wave. They also had orange caps so it became difficult to distinguish from the orange sight buoys. As we continued along the final straightaway of the swim, another athlete was at my toes the entire time taking a draft. I didn't want to slow to take his draft because I wanted to make as much of a time advantage on the rest of the field as I could. Finishing the swim in second position in my wave, I was into the huge transition area and out quickly.
After the longest bike run-out I've ever done, I was the first in my wave onto the bike. The bike felt just as good as the swim immediately which was a pleasant surprise. Within the first 5 miles, my friend and fellow collegiate recruit, Jack Felix, who I know is a strong cyclist, and another athlete from my wave caught me and passed me on the hill. I was in a controlled chase, but never could make up that lost ground. With a mostly flat course it would have been easy to stay tucked and aero the whole way, but in the last 5k I made sure to get up and stretch my hips and prepare for the run, all while still trying to finish strong as I remained in third position in my wave.
Quickly again through transition after another long run with the bike, I was out onto the run course chasing others in my age group whom I couldn't see. As soon as I started to run, I was hit with an abdominal cramp. Although somewhat transient, it persisted throughout the run, making it hard to gain much speed because as it would subside I would increase the pace and then it would come back. Nonetheless, I stayed focused which eventually allowed me to move into second place in my age group and resulted in a fifth place finish overall.
I am elated with the results of Nationals and earning my elite license even though it wasn't a perfect race from start to finish. I simply followed my race plan and saw the rewards from a very solid season of training. Now it's time to hit the training hard one more time before my final race of the season. I will debut as an elite in New Orleans at the USA Triathlon Elite National Championships in the beginning of October.