By Katie O'Dunne
Everything during the second half of my season had been building towards Age Group Sprint Nationals. I had the opposite of most seasons, as I kicked it off with 70.3 in January, followed by another 70.3 in April, only to move to short course for the remainder of the season. Even after qualifying for the Olympic Distance race, I opted to only compete in the Sprint to focus on qualifying for Worlds. I was excited to move into short, fast racing!
The temperature was perfect (around 68 degrees) with little wind and no humidity. I reflected on what I wanted to do…top 25 spots would go to World Championships in Chicago. I had e-stalked everyone I was competing against. While I was competing as a F20-24 today, I was needed to come in top 25 for next year’s F25-29 to make Team USA due to the age-up rule. I knew I needed to race as hard as I could. A few seconds could make all the difference!
I got out hard, but not quite hard enough. It was one of the most aggressive swim starts I have every experienced. I got kicked, elbowed, punched, and swam over at least 3 times. This definitely effected my swim time, as most of my energy was spent just “surviving” the pack and hanging on.
I was pulled out of the water, up the ramp, and ran as fast as I could on the long hike around and into the giant transition area. My biggest weakness is transitions, and I knew that today was not the day to mess around. I yelled at myself to grab my bike and just keep moving. Success! For the size of the transition area, it was not a bad T1 for me.
The bike course was fantastic. Out to the right for about 3 miles up a gradually hill, then back down…out to the left about 3 miles on the highway with some rollers, then back. It was a great feeling to pass tons of men and women from earlier heats the entire bike. It was a lot windier than I thought when I hit the highway. I decided to stop paying any attention to my splits and just to keep pushing as much as I could. Everyone was facing the wind, and I just needed to keep passing as many people as I could to stay motivated.
Back to the transition area! I dropped my bike off, threw on my brand new racing shoes, and headed out of the transition area. Nope! Forgot my race number! Did they say that’s mandatory in this race? Ugh, better just grab it! This added on a little time and could have been the death of my chances if I hadn’t really powered through the run.
This was the most effortless run I have had all season. Ted and I had worked on this, and I kept telling myself, “high cadence, just let it come.” I kept my cadence up and wouldn’t let myself look at my watch until the 1-mile mark. 7:28 pace? Really? That’s a lot faster than I had been running for my bricks all season. I just kept it up, passing one person at a time. I was pushing, but it also felt effortless. The last mile, I could taste it. I knew that if I kept it up I had a shot at qualifying. I kept thinking of Tony Orru’s account of how magical racing a world championship can be. That gave me the last little bit of motivation to push it in, through the final cheering crowd at the finish.
Katie bringing it home
Post-Race (Total – 1:22:04)
After the race, I wasn’t entirely sure if I had qualified. I had to wait for World Championship registration to see the official age-up results. They held everyone together in a giant crowd, letting a few people go at a time to check. When it was finally my turn, I ran up to the table with the results taped to them. I found F25-29, looked down the list, and there was “Katelyn O’Dunne,” #23 of 25. I literally just made it! Another 20 seconds and I wouldn’t have qualified!
I was and am ecstatic! Seeing the name Katelyn O’Dunne next to “World 25-29” and “United States” was the most incredible feeling I can imagine. I am so grateful for Ted’s amazing coaching this year, my parents’ constant support and assistance with financing the sport, the support of Podium Multisport / Team Podium, and Dean’s ability to carry my stuff during every race. Team USA, Sprint Worlds, and Chicago Grand Final 2015 here I come!!!