Monday, April 23, 2012

Collegiate Nationals 2012

Collegiate Nationals 2012


Tuscaloosa, AL

Shaena Berlin:

Training background: This season, I spent the vast majority of my time training and racing for cycling, generally riding 10-14 hours per week while running and swimming 3 hours combined. This was certainly less than ideal for overall triathlon fitness, but my swim generally doesn’t suffer too much as long as I swim a lot the last few weeks before the race (which I sort of let slip this time...), and I did keep running consistently ~10 miles per week all winter and through the cycling race season. I generally went out for a long (7-10mi) moderately hard run each Monday and added as many short (1-2mi) transition “bricks” after cycling workouts or Sunday criteriums as seemed reasonable. This year I acquired a Garmin 310XT GPS watch and a Powertap, and using these gadgets for training and racing greatly improved my motivation for doing fast runs (I started running >1 min/mile faster once I could see my pace on my wrist!) and also gave me great enjoyment since I’m a numbers geek.
Travel and team: MIT sent 9 athletes, 4 women and 5 men, as well as our friend Leslie from Dartmouth. This year, each team had to qualify to send athletes to Nationals, so the weakest teams no longer could compete, raising the overall standard. We flew to Birmingham on Thursday and drove to Tuscaloosa, where we stayed at a hotel filled with other triathlon teams (several of which looked far more intense and organized than our own, with gorgeous bikes and trainers and coaches). Friday we rode the course and I did some openers, with my legs feeling pretty sluggish after taking a few days off (proper tapering for once!) but power pretty high. We jumped into the river for a quick swim and found the water temperature to be nearly perfect, 69 degrees and much warmer than last year; this served as a relief, since many of us didn’t have a chance to try open-water swimming in the frigid New England waters yet this year.
Race day: We awoke to very nice weather conditions, with temperatures in the 60’s F and mostly overcast. Compared to last year’s extreme heat and humidity, this felt fantastic. Women raced first, with the first wave leaving at 7:30.
Swim: 1500m, 28:19
I was in the second wave and had a really awful time right before the start; a few days before, I had essentially torn off my knuckle with an Allen wrench while removing pedals (note: if you forgetfully take wheels off the bike before pedals, don’t be lazy and decide you can get them off anyway). Anyway, the invisible skin I’d been using completely came off as soon as I jumped in for the warmup, so I had a bleeding, torn-up hand right before the swim start. After running around frantically trying to find a medical tent or something, I found someone with electrical tape and wrapped it a few times around the hand to hold it all together. This worked sufficiently, but the whole experience left me extremely frazzled, and I swam really inefficiently, exhausting myself for a pretty awful swim time.
Bike: 40k (actually measured at 25.5mi)/1:13, 21.0mph
I really looked forward to the bike leg, since I thought I should be faster than last year and it ought to be the leg I exceled at. After a very long and inefficient transition, I took a while to get into the bike, legs feeling quite tired from the swim up until the first turnaround (the course consisted of two out-and-back loops). However, even feeling slow and low-power, I passed a large number of women who looked intense and rode with gear many times more valuable than mine, which felt satisfying. The second lap I sped up a bit, and in the end the bike time was pretty decent, 3 minutes faster than last year and averaging 21.0 mph (according to my power meter – the official time included a 1min run next to the bike to the transition mat, which slowed the average pace down).
Run: 10k/51:01, 8:07/mi
Upon starting the run, I thought some pretty negative thoughts along the lines of “Why am I doing this?” and “I don’t even care about running fast; the bike is already done, so  maybe I should stop while I’m ahead”. These thoughts were not helped by a steep hill right near the beginning combined with shin pains and barely-held-off stomach cramps. Even so, I ran OK, not as fast as during my training runs but faster than last year.
Overall: 2:37: 43, 132/469 women
Overall, I did better than last year, with a similar swim, faster bike, faster run, and much slower transitions. Unfortunately, one of our team members had bike trouble and didn’t finish the race, so the MIT women’s and combined teams were not eligible to place. Even so, some individuals did quite well, and the men placed in the top half against very intense competition!
Collegiate Nationals is always a fantastic event, one of very few gatherings of all the strongest, fiercest young triathletes in the country. Sharing a venue with such amazing athletes is really neat, and it becomes better every year as I get to know more and more people from other teams. After seeing University of Colorado’s complete domination of the team omniums, I look forward even more to living and training in Boulder this summer and coming back for more road races and tris in the future!