At the Evergreen Tri (Mideast regional championships) in July I apparently qualified for the Age Group National Championship race. I say apparently because I was only vaguely aware that such a thing even existed, and it simply wasn't on my radar. I had just returned to triathlon after a 5 year hiatus. I had a couple decent performances earlier in the summer, but the only previous time I raced the Mideast regional championships (in 2002)... I got my ass handed to me. Fortunately, I had a good race at Evergreen. I finished 5th in my (30-34) age group, which qualified me to compete in the national championship race.
I thought about it for a couple weeks then decided what the hell, I'll do it. I mean who knows when (if) I'll ever get a chance to do something like this again. I didn't race again the rest of the summer. Instead I focused myself singularly on preparing for this race.
Prior to Evergreen I was only swimming twice per week, totaling about 2400 yards. In August I started swimming more frequently, longer distances, and faster. Olympic distance triathlons have a disproportionally long swim (1500 meters), so a little improvement to my swimming could result in big time gains. In an Olympic distance Tri in 2002 I swam a little over 25 minutes, whereas at Evergreen in 2008 I swam a little over 28 minutes. I really wanted to get back down to 25 minutes again.
My bike workouts stayed mostly the same, but I did add a long ride on Saturday mornings to my routine. This ride had been going on for months, but I spent most Saturdays early in the summer doing various races, so I usually missed it.
The other addition to my bike training was the PCC Tuesday time trials, held every other week. I didn't like the idea at first because I usually run on Tuesday evenings, but I eventually decided to take part. And I'm glad I did. The short, intense efforts really helped me improve my time trialling, even after only four tries.
The other thing the TT series helped me do was evaluate my performance on different machines. I rode three different bikes in my four tries and I was able to quantify how much slower the Pocket Rocket is compared to my Litespeed TT bike and my Trek road bike: surprisingly not much, maybe one mile per hour. The night I rode the Pocket Rocket in the time trial was the night I decided I would be taking it to the national championships. It travels so much easier and cheaper than the bigger bikes, and it's really not much slower. Now, in fairness, I knew I had no chance at winning the national championships, or even finishing in the top 16 in my age group (top 16 qualify for world championships). Had I intended to be truly competitive, I would have ridden a big wheeled bike.
As far as running goes, I kind of slacked off a little. Mainly I did this to allow more time to train on the bike and in the pool. The thing is, I don't think it mattered. I'm so much better at running than I am at biking and swimming that I really only need to run once or twice per week. As long as I maintain my fitness biking and swimming, I am able to keep my speed on the run.
The long hours I spent training July through September left me fatigued on a daily basis. I successfully tapered last week before the race. I was able to show remarkable restraing by taking it easy when everyone else wanted to go hard. In the past I haven't handled tapering that well. I guess I've matured... and it only took 29.9 years. Anyway, the preparation worked, as I felt fresh and strong as race day approached.