Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Univ. of Colorado - Triathalon - National Champions (again!)

Yesterday was rough, to say the least.  A lot of things compounded to make it a pretty tough day.  But, every day is a new day, and when I woke up this morning and read this, I truly started to cry tears of pride.  This is an original piece by one of my ex-athletes, and it's perfect.  Take the next ten minutes and read it.  Especially if you want to know what being a champion at the next level is like.

By CHS alum Will Nabours, 2007 State Champion 4 x 800, member of the National Champion Univ. of Colorado Triathalon team, and one of the toughest athletes I have ever had the honor to coach.

Hey Sep,
It was good to hear from you yesterday. We need to get the old team back together one of these nights once school is out... Here's how the race played out for me if you're interested. I'm far from a good writer and it's pretty detailed so feel free to skim down to the bottom to just check out the results.

Race Day, April 9th, 2011. USA Triathlon's Collegiate National Championship was about to get underway. After waiting in line to enter transition zone - wasting invaluable warm-up time - CU Boulder split up to find our individual bike rack positions. I felt unnoticed as I racked my bike in position 499, the number corresponding to which wave you were in, mine being the 4th. I set up my gear, threw on my racing flats and went out for a warm up jog with fellow teammate Corey Hazekamp. We ran a portion of the race course and threw in a few accelerations to make sure the legs were awake and ready to go. I ran through a mental checklist in my head to calm the nerves, "alright what hurts? Shoulders, arms, back? No. Quads, hamstrings, calves? No." I was ready to go.

I was warming up in my "lucky" t-shirt. Before every championship race for the last 4 years, I have warn it to sleep in the night before and to warm up in the day of the race. To this day, it is 3 for 3. I took off the shirt halfway through the warm-up run to reveal the CU uniform. I started noticing people looking at the uniform, eying the black and gold "CU" logo inlay-ed across the chest. People know CU. They know we are the school to beat and if you're wearing that logo, you must be pretty damn good. It gave me an immense feeling of pride and made me pumped to know we were here to defend our title from last year.

One hour until go time. I grabbed my bag out of transition and proceeded down to the swim start where hundreds of people lined the shore of the Black Warrior River chanting, screaming, and preparing for the pain that was to lie ahead. I saw the group of CU athletes and went over there to put on my wetsuit. We suited up and hurried down to the river for a shorter than needed swim warm-up. I threw in some accelerations in the cold water and made sure my arms got moving. It was 10 minutes until the first wave, 22 minutes until the fourth wave. Everyone was ordered out of the water and back up the banks.

My face grew serious and I could only focus on one thing - the race. I tried to shut down the brain to all other distractions except for what I could do. If I couldn't think about anything else, it meant I couldn't think about the pain that was to come. Each wave entered the water in separate intervals with the roar of the crowd. The first wave was underway. The race had begun. The horn then blew for the wave ahead of me and wave 4 was ordered down into the water. I jumped in and swam about 10 meters out and returned to the dock where we started from. 10 seconds!! The horn blew and 100 or so athletes from around the country took off. Arms flew everywhere, I swam over the top of two guys, and got my head punched. The swim starts are arguably the worst or best (whatever way you look at it) part of the triathlon. It is just a mayhem of people flying fists, pulling legs, spitting up water, and swimming out of shear fear. I got into good position near the front but the pack was so !
spread out, I couldn't find anyone to draft behind. I swam out to the first buoy about 550m upstream and turned right ninety degrees, swam a hundred meters or so, and took another ninety degree turn. By this point I was passing a bunch of athletes who had started in the waves ahead of me. In a way this was good because it gave me drafts to leapfrog to, but bad because it meant I had to navigate through large groups of slower swimmers. I remember after taking the turn to head downstream that my arms were feeling too good. I decided to pick up the pace a bit and see if I could make them hurt a bit more. I could see another swimmer just ahead of me with the same yellow swim cap on, indicating wave 4. I set my eyes on catching him. We finally turned the last buoy to head back to shore and I caught the guy I had in my sights. We sprinted the last 200m or so back to shore where I left him behind on the run into transition, T1.

The run back into transition was further than I had remembered, but tried to tell myself that it was in my favor. I found my bike rack position easily after having visualized it during warm-up, ripped off my wetsuit, chugged some water, threw on my sunglasses, snapped on my aero helmet, took my bike, and sprinted out of transition. I had a clean mount and heard fellow teammates cheering me on.

I took it out easy, giving my legs some time to warm up. It was a highway of people and I was in the fast lane - passing one person after another, too many to count. I remember finishing the first of two loops on the bike and thinking to myself, "you are going too easy!" I looked behind me on one of the climbs and saw a guy from Texas A&M trying to make a pass about 10m back. I got out of my saddle and went. I was done letting guys pass me only to be passing them right back 10 seconds later. I laid it down to the top of the hill and held it over the other side. I thought about clean, powerful pedal strokes, but my mind was fading. I remember riding out on the highway bridge to the turn around and seeing Corey coming back towards the finish. I was shocked that I was so close since he had started 4 minutes ahead of me. I tried to count the seconds from where he had been until I got there and got something roughly under 2 minutes. I put my head down and prepared for the best seco!
nd half of a bike I would ever had.

I remembered Coach Dave saying something in the car ride from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa two days prior, "there are two things humans fear most: the first being public speaking and  the second death." He said humans would rather be the one in the coffin than the one giving the eulogy. For some reason that stuck with me to that point and came out when I needed it most - something to fear.

For the rest of the race I thought about death. I thought about how I would never forgive myself if I ever gave up or  didn't give it everything. I thought of the insignificance from one life to another, and thought how I don't want to end up living a pointless life - that, like most, terrifies me. I thought of how I was given this opportunity that I would never ever have again and I needed to seize the moment. I compiled all this built up emotion and transferred it into my legs. Pedal stroke after pedal stroke, I was flying past people, dropping people like I was racing le Tour. I felt emotion during the race that I had never felt before and drive more intensely than I ever had. I was racing the race you remember for the rest of your life.

I came into T2 having increased my placing significantly. I was happy with my bike. My legs felt tired, but good enough to make it through what was to follow. I had a quick transition onto the run and saw Corey a hundred or so meters ahead of me. Now I was on the hunt. I was passed by a Michigan guy on the first hill and stuck on his back as we passed through mile one. He quickly fell apart and I left him behind. I now knew I could catch Corey. I knew he was a fast runner - if I did that, my run split would have to be good and my overall place even better. I remember being in terrible agony through the neighborhood loop but tried to stay positive and keep the emotions rolling through me. We ran past the finish and out onto the highway portion of the run. I knew this was it. I hit mile 4 and turned around towards the finish. Corey was still ahead of me with about the same distance as before - maybe 10 seconds. I tried to look ahead and spot the finish with the feeling that I would never make it. I remember hitting mile 5 and started having my mind shut down on me. I remember my legs just shutting down, having to walk a couple steps and then force myself to keep running. I remembered a terrible youtube video Jess Broderick had sent out to be motivational. It was of these two women in Ironman Hawaii staggering towards the finish line, eventually collapsing, and crawling across the line. I was determined to not let that be me. I remember coming in and out of consciousness narrowly running over a cone and a voice screaming in my ear. I later learned that that voice was fellow teammate Steve Richard who had graduated the year prior. He was told by Coach Mike to come out on the course to cheer Rudy in because some guy from Cal was gaining on him. It just so happened to be he stayed for the other runners to come in.

The following I don't remember and this is what Steve told me what had happened. He said I looked terrible but was in my face trying to encourage me to keep moving - I was only 600 or so meters from the finishing chute. But, there was nothing he could do. I was stumbling off coarse into a parking lot. I was going down. My body shut off completely and he grabbed me before I had the chance to smack into the asphalt. He yelled at some USAT officials to radio in some help. Another athlete, who I am so grateful for, even stopped his race to make sure I was okay. He and Steve waited for a golf cart to get to me, which I guess took about 10 minutes. Steve had enough time to call the team back at the finish and Eric Nancekivell, also a graduate from last year, came out to help. I was loaded on a golf cart and driven to the medical tent where I was put into an ice bath and hooked up to an IV. My internal body temperature was measured at 108 degrees.

The next thing I remember is waking up in the medical tent. I could hear cheering from the finishing chute and looked around to see where I was. I wasn't really sure what had happened, but I was sure it wasn't where I wanted to be. I thought about my teammates and my coach. I looked over and saw Steve. I asked him how the team did and he told me 2,3,4, and 9 to round off the scorers. I couldn't believe it. Never before had a team scored so low. We had made history. I then started to feel curious to what had happened. Steve and some of the USAT officials explained what went on and that I would be okay but would have to be rushed to the hospital. Next thing I knew, I was loaded onto a stretcher and into an ambulance.

I was introduced to some doctors and good looking nurses who started hammering me with questions. My memory felt hazy and I had to pause and think out the questions they were asking. I was stabbed in the arms over and over, hooked up to IV's, had blood drawn, copious amounts of other fluids injected into me, and my chest hooked up to living machines.

I sat in the ER for what seemed an eternity, being questioned and visited by nurses needed all sorts of information and vitals from me. One of the coolest things I've ever seen was the echo cardiograph. Basically, a doctor put a stick over my heart that projected it onto a computer screen. Right in front of me was a moving picture of my heart. We could see the valves opening and closing, pushing each drop of precious life through me. They even recorded and played the sound of the blood swooshing through each ventricle, something I will never forget.

So then I was done with the fun stuff and was sent back to the ER where a doctor notified me that I had to stay overnight. I was pissed because I knew what that meant; I would miss the awards ceremony and the traditional festivities to follow. I was sent upstairs to where I was supposed to stay for the night. I was greeted by two nurses who seemed to be in unusually good moods - I tried to play my cards. I put on the saddest face I could and asked if there was any way I could get out of the hospital in time for awards. I made sure they knew our team probably had won the title, it was my senior year, my last race, and with my team. I had to be there. They felt bad for me saying, "we'll talk to the doctor and see what we can do."

A bit later, I was on my way to freedom. Bryant Mason and Coach Dave came to meet Steve and I and take us back. What was supposed to take 15 minutes of paperwork ended up taking an hour and a half. We waited patiently for things to play out and finally they said we could go, but I HAD to wait for the wheelchair. No way in hell was I being wheeled out of that hospital, so as soon as the nurse left, we all booked it out of the room and onto the elevator.

As Dr. King, Jr. once put it, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty we are free at last!" Not that it had any comparison to the significance of its original use, I deemed it appropriate.

The race was over. The team had won. We had all survived the race of our lives and were more ecstatic than ever before. The CU Triathlon Team added another one to the national title count, bringing it up to 12. That would be all ten fingers and both pinky toes for some of you.

I am so proud of the team and everything we accomplished over the weekend. I will never forget the race and how much everyone put into it - from Rudy taking home the Big W to the thought of our man Nate Diaz falling to his hands and knees to hurl all over himself at the finish line. I will never forget this team and all it has done for me. I owe our coach, Mike Ricci, and the members of the team so much. Without them, I wouldn't be the person I am today.

My results:
Swim w/ run into transition - 22:43:00
T1 - 0:56.09
Bike - 1:02:11
T2 - 0:38.01
Run - N/A

I'm pretty confident I would have finished well into the top 15 had I been able to finish the race. The following shows how the other teammates ended up finishing. We got tagged with a bunch of bullshit penalties, but were able to not let them hurt us.

Men's Team Results:
 1 Rudy Kahsar - 1:57:04
 4 Chris Braden  - 2:00 - 1:59:20
 5 Ryan Bice - 2:00 - 1:59:23
13 David Bobka 2:00 -  2:02:30
(44) BRYANT MASON 2:08:00

Women's Team Results:
3 Jessica Broderick - 2:15:53
6 Tess Amer - 2:20:24
25 Caryn Maconi - 2:27:39
26 Maggie Scanlan - 2:27:44
(39)Courtney Clark - 2:30:57
(54) Molly MacInnes - 2:34:41
(63)Bryn Morales - 2:00 - 2:36:54

Top 10 Schools Scores:

Not finishing the race has had me pretty down the last few days, but has also given me motivation for what is to come. Now when I am out on a cold, wet training ride I can think back to that moment and understand why we do what we do. Some things don't go the way they're planned, but that's the glory of life. We wouldn't be living it if we knew what was around every corner. (emphasis mine-SEP)

Thanks for reading through this Sep. You have been an inspiration to me not only throughout high school but into college as well. I'll never forget what we were able to accomplish back then and I know you have done a lot for me - much more than just building the base of my racing career. You helped me build the base for who I am. I learned how to suffer from you. Thank you Sep. It means more than you'll ever know. See you soon.

Will Nabours

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