My crazy journey to USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals and beyond

September 3, 2011

I’m a typical triathlete – a big planner and organizer, I like to lay out my season well in advance. I generally don’t like surprises. This summer showed me what can happen if you let a little serendipity into your life.

I had a rough winter laid up with a fibular stress fx and my running was not where I wanted it to be at the first race of the season. My whole goal was to keep it positive. In the final half mile I caught up to a fellow right in front of a photographer and instinctively we mugged for the photo. He stuck an arm out and I burst out laughing. After the race I met this fellow racer – Mike Morris – and it set of a chain of crazy events for me.

At a race the following month I see Mike Morris again and he starts telling me how wonderful Age Group Nationals is and that I really need to go and experience it. I write it off because (1) it’s 650 miles away (2) it’s the weekend after I am scheduled to do a double-race weekend (3) it’s right after my kids start school and (4) it’s overwhelming and scary. It makes no sense! But for whatever reason, I’m like, “YEAH! I’m going!!” I ask/tell my family, I ask/tell my coach. Mike gets to work on logistics for me and another victim of his coercion, Kimberly.

Meanwhile, at the end of June, I see this post on that a company called Endurance Films is looking for members for a new racing team to debut at Age Group Nationals. They ask for a 2-300 word essay or a 60 second video. Having never done a video, impulse dictates that I must apply and I must make a video!  I enlist the help of my 11-year-old technology guru and son. It took a full day, but we cranked it out, piecing together some choice video of me deadlifting (I’m a gym rat), tire flipping, and swimming with a cast. Considering it was the day before a race, I probably didn’t need the 15 takes of sprinting on the track for the opening scene. Oh well. The submitted video is here.

Okay, so guess what happens? YEAH, I get picked for the Endurance Films Racing Team! ME! A 44-year-old mom, wife, faculty at Virginia Tech. Me, a relative newbie to the sport.

I make my way up to Burlington, Vermont (no thanks to US Airways and the weather in Philly) and meet my awesome teammates. In a race of 2000+ people, it’s nice to have that instant group to hang out with (not to mention our great bike mechanics from Kane Custom Bikes). We get our official racing gear, have official racing team meetings, and generally I am feeling very official. However, I am well aware that I am the country mouse in the big city race. The town is teeming with fit-and-fast looking people of all ages, slick tri bikes, and racing wheels.

I have a pretty good race for me (my 13th triathlon!) and finish 39th out of 108 in my age group. I’m pretty tickled. My bike and run were quite strong and as usual I have plenty of room to improve on the swim. I have a full race report here and lots more about the whole experience here.


But wait, the story is not over! This race is a qualifier for Team USA for ITU Worlds in New Zealand in October 2012. They take the top 18 in each age group but they also have this “age-up” rule. They rank all the people based on the age group they WILL be in during 2012. So I will be in the 45-49 age group. Lo and behold, with this ranking I shoot up to #17.

I going to New Zealand as a member of Team USA. I will find a way to get myself there. The idea of representing my country is just the coolest thing ever and it will sure fuel my training in the coming year.

And to think this was all triggered by a shared moment, captured by a photographer. That and a few impulse, logic-defying decisions.

From this I learned that planning is great, but leave a little wiggle room in there for serendipity!

Check out more of the adventure at my blog, Cort the Sport