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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jr. Elite Nationals- Bad race? Maybe. Learning experience? Definitely.

I was very fortunate this weekend to get to travel all the way to San Diego, CA for the Jr. Elite Triathlon National Championships. This would be my first draft legal race. I am so thankful to God, my family, my coach Dave Williams, my TMS-IOS teammates, Traingle Multisport, Inside Out Sports, Paul Sullivan of Winskins and so many others for this opportunity.
The eighty best triathletes between the ages of 16 and 19 lined up Saturday morning along a pontoon for the start. The pontoon was sinking from our weight! The swim was like a UFC match. I was shocked at how much I got beaten up and I barely had a chance to sprint. Before I knew it I was off the back in like 60th place still being beaten to a pulp. After the initial 200 meters I started moving through the field and passing people to get out in 18th. I was almost a minute back of the leaders. I really attacked the bike and bridged to a group of two. We killed it for a couple of laps going like 30 mph. At the end of the 3rd lap we caught a group of about 8 or 10 guys. The bike was scary- really technical course on bumpy roads strewn with sand, dirt, and puddles from the light rain. I had to murder myself because I couldn't corner as fast as the other guys, so I kept falling off the back after every turn and had to sprint to catch back up. Eventually I started attacking before the turns, getting dropped because I cornered so slow, and catching back on. I kept getting yelled at by other guys- one guy said 'Don't be a hero'. Apparently I was spending too much time pulling. I worked hard to keep the pace high and chased down a couple of late attacks which split the group. Coming into T2 I collided with another athlete and went down. Then I missed my transition space and had to double back. The first half mile of the run I was really slow because of a serious stomach cramp. I was having trouble breathing but it went away eventually. I never gave up and reeled in a few guys to finish in 12th place. I made a lot of mistakes which just means I have a lot to to learn and thus a lot to improve on. I'm not going to get discouraged or give up on my ITU triathlon goals because of a poor performance in my first draft legal race.

Here's the top things that I learned (or knew but experienced for the first time myself):

1. The swim is really violent.
2. Being able to sprint fast the first couple hundred yards is critical.
3. The bike can be very hard because of all of the sprinting and people yelling at you.
4. Technical skills are critical- you have to corner really fast,
5. If you don't you end up sprinting too much to catch back up.
6. Work as little as possible on the bike. 'Don't be a hero.'
7. Come into T2 in front of the group or you will run into other people and fall.
8. Run like its an open 5k race- forget about the swim and bike.
9. Be super aggressive all the way through.
10. Attacking and surging is important on the run to break people.
11. Never give up.
12. Accelerate after turnarounds.
13. Transitions make or break the race.

Now its time for a fun vacation with the family before gearing up for XC season- I have a lot of running to do because I've only been doing about 20 mpw...
Until next time,
Train smart and race hard!
Mason Boyles