The first Friday of April in 2019 is a tale of two athletes among the hundreds that competed, but these are the ones that I am very most proud of. Both from Long Island. Both had different results. One finished with a smile. The other did not finish and with a frown. Both performed as best they could.
They competed in a non-drafting legal USA Triathlon High School National Championships at Tempe Town Lake, Tempe, Arizona consisting of a 750 meter swim with 2 loops, 20k bike with 2 loops, and a 5k run with 2 loops. A non-draft triathlon is when on the bike, the athlete must maintain at least 3 bike lengths from the bike in front. Should they want to pass the person ahead, they must do it within 15 seconds. This is very different than a draft legal race where you can have groups of cyclists working together to go faster and conserving energy. A non-draft legal race basically shows your individual efforts, especially on the bike. There are different strategies to consider, but you can not hide. You really have to know your strengths and weakness in each section of the course.
For the past several chilly months in New York, both athletes did their best with their training. Both did a lot of indoor workouts in the pool, on the bike trainer, and on treadmill. So the lack of being able to bump against other athletes on the swim might have been a disadvantage. Bike handling skills and balance practices were limited, so we focused on building a stronger and more efficient engine. Thank goodness that spring has arrived so that the basement air will be replaced by fresh air and changing scenery of the great outdoors will replace Netflix Movies and Series.
Working with Olivia for the past several months, you can see she is serious with triathlon. Lots of completed workouts showing up on the training platform that we use. To see her keep improving has been impressive to witness. Her background in the swim has served her well by positioning her in striking distance after the first discipline. Every athlete has areas to improve and we strategically worked on the bike to help improve the running. For me, I wanted to make sure she was able to run off the bike and feel strong and consistent.
I sat over to the left side of the swim start to get a good picture of the woman’s swim start. They started a few seconds after 1pm. It was exciting to see them swim out to the first turn buoy, swim back and run back to transition. She was ninth coming out of the water.
I ran over to the corner of Rio Salado and Mill and waited for her to return. Coming back from Mill, there is a 90 degree turn at the bottom of the overpass into Rio Salado, and athletes are coming in fast. While the turn is not that tight, it can be scary to make that right hand turn. It was interesting the different techniques to negotiate the turn and I thought Olivia executed the turn perfectly. There is lots of science on how to take a turn. She biked past and eventually I got a notification that Zachary Did Not Finish.
I headed back to the transition to find Zachary, and he was really mad and doing push ups. As long as he was not in the medical tent, that was fine with me.
Weeks going into this race, we were able to narrow down the cause of Zachary’s symptoms recognized his lingering pain might be coming from his back. For the past year, we were fixated on his broken leg and now a bulging disc has come into view. Addressing this body part has help everything else, but not to the level he was prior to the leg injury. He always worked on this core, but now we have other exercises to further protect the back and his doctor says he can go back to unrestricted activity. He has made great progress, but his personality has him wanting to be the best and he proves it through competition in order to feel accomplished. Best in that he knows that he did his best as opposed as where he finished in the competition. It has been a frustrating journey for him.
I asked Zachary on different times to remind him of his options, mostly because I wanted to make sure that whatever he decides to do, it would be ok with him from a coach perspective and as a parent. Prior to the event, I asked if he wanted to race or scratch and either is fine. He said, “Race” I also reminded him to pull the plug during anytime of the race to protect his back. His race started at 12pm
2 days later, He eventually opened up about what happened. Apparently, the bike post clamp was not tight enough, and the seat post crept down from the vibration of the road to about 4 inches lower than what was set from his bike fit. The position made his sit bones so uncomfortable, that he walked a half mile back to transition. He snarked, “I was angry! I wanted to have a good bike even if I did not run!” He basically did his best, but his body could not keep up with his expectations. So many lessons learned from making sure the bike parts are tight to preparing for what might happen and how you will be in those situations.
Getting back to Olivia’s race, I left Zachary since his defenses were up. I’ve learned to walk away and so I did. It was hard but I have another athlete that needs me as well. I caught her dismount off the bike and was now in 5th place. I was so excited to see some of bike workouts paying off, it was exactly want I wanted to see. She came out of transition and ran past, and I was really happy with her strong form. Even, Zachary said that she was looking much better than before. We walked over to the first look turn around and my app showed a time that was on the faster end of my expectations. Will she be able to hold that pace? Ultimately, she settled into a pace closer to expectations, and that pace was really fast and the effort was consistent..
!!! Olivia finished 7th Overall!!! She was thrilled with her final pace, and so was I. I felt a little like Mr. Miyagi at the end of the Karate Kid. Where Danny Larusso was holding up the All Valley High School Championship Trophy, but this was even cooler! Come to think of it, both Olivia and Zachary were not even born then.
Well, you can’t win every race, but you can easily lose yourself, get caught up in the moment of self pity, and WHY did the race not go my way. This is life and we take too many things for granted. It’s important to keep perspective with anything we have the privilege to do. We are very fortunate that WE GET TO DO THIS.
As my friend says, “Keep Moving Forward!” This was a great warm up towards the rest of the season to USA Triathlon Youth and Junior Elite Nationals located in West Chester, Ohio and many local races.
Please Race or Volunteer with us at the upcoming Spring Duathlon https://raceawesome.com/ and Mini Mighty Man Pool Triathlon http://eventpowerli.com/ When volunteering at these great events you can earn race credit to use towards race entries or please consider donating those credits to the Lightning Warriors so more kids can get into triathlons.
Now this is not the end.
It is not event the beginning of the end.
But it is, perhaps the end of the beginning.-Winston Churchill