It’s been about a week since age group nationals. I’ve both had time to reflect on my race and watch the Olympic races that I had once hoped to be in.

Time is a way of distilling the essence of what’s important in your life. It seems the common theme among most of my posts this year have to do with people and places and less to do with how I did with the actual race.

By most measures my nationals race went pretty well to plan. I had a minor snafu on the swim when I sighted the wrong buoy coming back in. The three siding duties were not in line with the swim exit which meant that we had to cite the second ability to stay in line.

I was leading our small group of swimmers around the turn buoy and saw the first buoy thinking it was the second making a swim extra for the course. Most days this wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but at nationals every second counts.

The bike was a relatively smooth affair with me holding my watts just under my target. Ignoring a motorcycle that blocked me from passing another racer as well as another motorcycle that almost ran into me going the opposite direction the bike went off without a hitch.

Hydrated and ready to go I started on the run passing people by the dozens. The only thing that slowed me down was my own body in the annoying, irritating, ever present mucous running on the back of my throat.

About halfway as we entered the ballpark things were drying up which meant that I couldn’t breathe at top-end speed without gagging. It’s an annoyance I’ve lived with for over a decade now racing, but it seems to be the greatest downfall for me this season. I still ended with the 27th fastest run for the day, but I know I could of been in the top 10 had I been able to let my legs really run.

Overall and evidenced through the workouts for the rest of my week I left too much on the course. My only consolation is that I seem to need basically zero recovery after this race and absolutely crushed my workouts for the week.

With most of these races being fairly uneventful for me I’m never quite sure what to say in these posts. I sit here dictating these words and paragraphs in a microphone wondering if there’s any significance to be found.

I found myself watching the Olympics after the race wondering whether it’s simply a matter of hard work or for truly does take both genetics and work to make it there. At this point my career I think I have to admit there is a large genetic component to being the best the world at a given sport. However, that doesn’t take away from the work that all those athletes have put in.

As I watched Gwen cross the finish line and become emotional I couldn’t help but tear up myself. Later when I talked to Barb she admitted herself to crying watching the scene unfold. Maybe it’s simply my own rationalization of my inability to compete even at the professional level in draft, but it seems like Gwen’s finish carried not only her own dreams and aspirations but a small piece of each of us that dared to dream to be in her place one day.

There can only be one. The inescapable fact of any competition. I thought about this many times over the last few years of my training. The words “it takes a village” takes on different meaning in my head. Not only did take all the coaches family friends supporters to get Gwen where she was going, but her competition as well. Both friendly and adversarial.

Maybe it’s my own idealization, but without people to race against it seems near impossible to judge the profoundness of what she or any other champion is able to achieve. There’s somewhat of a Zen duality where you exist based on your own records and times as well as placed in a field of your peers. I’m a firm believer that you achieve the most you can by focusing on the first and allowing the second to simply happen.

Only one race left in the season for me. It seems another year will pass where I have yet to earn my elite license. However, with the new focus on the half Ironman distance and our increased focus on bike training that license’s ability to escape me is growing shorter by the day.

If nothing else this season has brought a renewed sense of self-reliance. Not in the sense of not listening to my coach or listening to Barb or any other solid advice. In the sense that I spend less and less time dwelling in the good opinion of other people.

I’ve read what people think you can do with your FTP in a year’s time. It’s no longer important to me. Time will be the judge.

Three weeks left to Santa Cruz, here we go.

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