I had a very different perspective leading up to nationals this year. Last year it was definitely my big race of the year. Because it was the US National Championships I still was very prepared for this race but my focus has been more towards non drafting races and Clearwater. I was much more relaxed for the race and I had a plan that I knew I wanted to try to execute. I wanted to be aggressive over the course of the entire race. This field was a very strong field with a lot of strong swimmers. Going into the race I figured there would be a large group out of the water and I wanted to be aggressive on the bike to try to set up my run. I would rather race for a very high position than race for a mediocre one and I knew that the combination of the athletes that were competing, my developing run, and the heat and humidity; that I would need to do something on the bike. This was the game plan that I had going into the race and although I did pretty much try this it didn't really work out at all.
Race Day: It was no secret that the weather in Tuscaloosa for nationals was going to be hot. I had heard rumors that the water temperature was reaching up to 88 degrees (lucky for us it was only 84 degrees...just about 6 degrees warmer than I would race in a pool). I haven't heard anything about the actual temperature on the day but it was just flat out awful. I had a terrible start to the swim. For some reason didn't get off the dock very well and had to swim through a group of people just to make it to the back of the front pack. At that point I was just getting mauled. It was probably the slowest I have swam in a race and also the hardest at the same time. Getting on the bike it was quickly apparent that there was going to be one big group of about 20-25. We cruised around for a lap or so and with the heat it was almost hard to breath. I just tried to drink as much as I could. I went on a couple of short attacks to no avail early and I was starting to think that being aggressive might not be a good idea. At the beginning of lap 5 I somehow managed a little separation without really making a move and with that I decided I would really accelerate and see what could happen. I was by myself till the top of the hill and then was joined by 3 other guys. (Charbot, Fretta, and I was not sure of the third) We didn't stay away for very long and by the 6th lap we were one group again. By this point I was starting to regret being aggressive early and was just boiling. By the final lap and I got dropped at the top of the hill...threw up...and then decided I might not even try to run. I did eventually make it to the run and with the help of my parents and friends cheering me on I knew I couldn't give up and gave what little I had left on the run which mainly consisted of putting one foot in front of the other. I am glad that I was able to finish the race and I am still glad that I took some chances on the bike. I want to continue to race aggressively and I am still learning so much about draft legal races. I do however look forward to the next two weeks where I will be racing in non-drafting Olympics at LA and Dallas.