March 15, 2021 is not a day I will forget anytime soon. On that day, I received an email stating, “Congratulations! You’re qualified for the Sprint-Distance Age Group National Championships.” What??? I am an average, middle-of-the-pack, everyday triathlete. I have never been on the podium (that has never been my focus), I don’t have a fancy tri-bike (I have a Specialized Dolce with regular pedals), I don’t use a coach, and I started in triathlons in my 40’s so I’m a ‘newer/older’ triathlete. I wondered, did they send the email to the wrong person??? Trust me when I say I have been in disbelief much of this past week!
There are five ways in which one can qualify for the Age-Group National Championships. Some qualify through more than one path. Athletes can qualify through USAT Sanctioned Age Group Triathlons; Regional Championships, Special Qualifiers and State Championships; Last Year’s Age Group National Championships; Team USA and Top 25% in Rankings; and/or Race Score Earned based on Age. Due to COVID19, the qualification for the 2021 race was expanded to start May 31, 2019 and end on July 30, 2021 and the race is capped. Checking out my race statistics to see if I would qualify never even crossed my mind!
As I have looked around online for examples of what this race weekend would be like, I located the highlight video of the 2019 Toyota Age-Group National Championships for both Sprint and Olympic. Watching this builds my excitement as well as my nervousness! It also makes me wonder what will be different in 2021 with the Safe Return to Multisport initiative.
Everyone should have the experience of the ‘first’ race, the first time one is doing a specific race and this one is a doozy. I have shared my excitement, nervousness, and disbelief with family and friends through Facebook, Instagram, and phone calls. So many supportive texts, calls, and messages from so many in my life rooting for me, encouraging me to register and participate, and asking many questions that I can’t answer yet. LOL. One of the Balega Impi 2021 teammates wrote the most wonderful supportive statement when I shared the news, “Thank you for being an everyday average inspiration!! Us regular folks can reach unthinkable goals!!”
So yes, I registered and my stomach was in knots the entire time. Am I good enough, can I do this, will I be fully recovered from surgery and ready to race again, etc.? If I wasn’t already questioning everything, the confirmation email stated, “You have officially reserved your spot to face off against the best triathletes in the country, and we’re thrilled to have you join us.” But as others have said, the average athlete can dream big, go for what seems to be unattainable goals, and then jump in the deep end with both feet. Qualifying for Nationals was never in my imagination, goal list, etc. so this is surreal to me. My goals are to finish, and take in every single aspect of the weekend! I’m giddy, nervous as all get out, ready for it, and can’t wait to experience everything that weekend. The start of my journey to Nationals in Milwaukee starts NOW! Hope to meet you along the way.