Hey green team,
As age-group athletes, we reward ourselves - rightfully - for conquering new distances, setting personal records, coming in 28th out of 30 (YEAH I WASN’T LAST!), and tackling a three-sport event with grace, integrity, a limited amount of Gu showing in the professional race photos.
For some of our WWMS teammates, however, age-group holds a bit of a different meaning: once you become truly outstanding in the sport, you have the honor of participating in the USAT National Championships. In order to qualify for Nationals, as one guest informed me, “[for the Olympic Nationals] you have to finish in the top 10% of your age group. If there are fewer than 10 people in your age group, you need to finish first. There are no qualifying requirements for the Age Group National Sprint. It’s open. All you do is sign up.”
To understand how Nationals differs from our local tri series, I caught up with David Crelling, Sherman Roberts, and Sharman Lappin - three of our esteemed Nationals competitors in recent years*. Here’s what they had to share.
JV: How did you find out you qualified? (Please say someone delivers the news to your door in a wetsuit, please say someone delivers the news to your door in a wetsuit…)
DC: I think Bonnie, my wife told me.
SL: Sorry. No wetsuit. USAT sends an email late fall.
SR: Just and email from USAT. No wetsuit sadly.
JV: What did it feel like knowing you were traveling to this race as a national-level competitor?
DC: I was doing ironman distances at the time so my focus was there. My training for that year was ironman distance training so the nationals field wiped the floor with me. I didn't have that short distance speed and power since I was training for more slow and long ironman distance.
SL: I was very excited and nervous. When I racked my bike the night before the race and looked at all the fancy bikes around me, I started to cry. I was quickly comforted by some really wonderful women. That was empowering.
SR: The first time a bit keyed up. It is a somewhat higher level of competition in the AG world.
JV: How did the race atmosphere differ from our local events?
DC: It was the same vibe as local races but the competition level was much higher. Better bikes and fitter people.
SL: A lot more energy.
SR: A lot more flirting and drinking... No, seriously, a bit more celebratory.
JV: What was the most exciting thing about participating in Nationals?
DC: We had other team members up there so being around the team was good. Racing against other strong dudes is always nice since you then get a check on where you stand against other people with similar experience levels. Going to Hot Topic and Wet Seal in Burlington mall was the highlight.
SR: They are fit and serious as hell at race time.
JV: What advice would you have for teammates seeking to race at the national level?
DC: Getting a training plan or a coach is really helpful. Find the local races that are national qualifiers and make those your "A" race. For the bike use a power meter and periodically do a ftp test to figure out your threshold and use that number to guide your workouts. On the run use a heart rate monitor to do a LT test and use that number as a guide for your workouts. Join a local swim group and do more of your workouts in the pool instead of open water. Ride with pure cyclists, run with pure runners and swim with pure swimmers. They will be stronger in their respective sport than you (most likely). Have fun, eat and drink well.
SL: Train – hard. A hint is to find a race with not much participation.
SR: Train seriously and be in the top 5 or so in you AG, although check with USAT on that. They are very attentive. This is REALLY a different level of AG competition.
As we wind down the 2017 season, the athleticism and determination personified by these former Nationals competitors provides fuel for the 2018 race fire. To all our Nationals participants: huge congratulations! To those with eyes on the Nationals prize: keep at it. Remember, we’re all blessed with an opportunity to compete in multi-sport events; a very small percentage of U.S. citizens are able to do this (in 2015, USAT had ~161,000 members - even if we add 40k for 2017, it’s still <1% of the US population).
So be inspired, and know that you are already inspiring.
*Note: we have many more Nationals athletes on the WWMS team! My decision to include these particular three was predicated by...them being the three who responded to my email.