Going into the National Championships, I had a couple goals in mind. After looking at past results, I believed I could make the podium (top 10 make podium). I have only ever done the Olympic distance at Nationals in the past, and I only made the podium once (2 years ago I was 9th). My very first year of racing Nationals was back in 2014. Top 18 qualify for Team USA with the Olympic distance, and that was my #1 goal, as Chicago was hosting the World Championships in 2015 (qualification happens a year prior). I made it, finishing 17th! There are also what is known as “roll down” slots. Basically, Team USA can take a total of 18 per age group and slots will roll down as far as 29th. My goal was definitely to automatically qualify though and lock down my spot!
Of my 7 years racing Nationals, my first 6 were Olympic distance, and I have automatically qualified 4 of those times, been offered a roll down slot once (the year I decided 2 weeks prior to the race that I would do it so I started biking and swimming 2 weeks out), and I failed to finish in the top 29 once (my worst race ever when I wanted to drop out and quit). This year was my first year with the Sprint distance. Only EIGHT automatically qualify with the sprint distance. In the past I have always felt that I had slim chance of being able to automatically qualify with the sprint distance. My philosophy in the past was always that I could out-train people in the longer distances, but that I have never been naturally fast enough to compete well at shorter distances.
|2015 Chicago World Championship|
Things have also changed in the triathlon world. When I was racing World’s at the Olympic distance (2015 & 2016), the sprint distance raced the same weekend at the same venue. Then a couple years ago, they separated the World Championships for them, moving the Sprint World Championships from the fall to the summer, and making it a draft legal race. This means that, even though I could qualify in a non-draft National Championship race using my time trial bike, I would need a road bike for World’s and racing strategy changes as well (time trial bikes/aero bars are not legal in draft legal races for safety reasons).
At first the draft legal concept was intimidating (my first bike crash was drafting related), but the summer time frame was VERY appealing! It felt like this was my shot at having the opportunity to compete for Team USA again. I coach volleyball in the fall, so when it was in Chicago, I only had to miss one game. When I went to Cozumel, I had to miss a week of volleyball, which is pretty uncomfortable as head coach. As my team was improving over the years, I just couldn’t miss any time in the gym anymore. After that, I stopped taking any Team USA slots that I was offered.
|2016 Cozumel World Championship|
A couple days ago, the dates were officially announced as October 17-20. Sprint World’s will compete alongside Olympic distance again in the fall. It may stay that way. As disappointing as it is, it just means that I will have to shift towards a new goal. There have also been rumors that Nationals will be hosted in New Jersey in September next year, which I would not want to do. Maybe it’s just time to take a season off from triathlon again.