USAT Elite AOY 2011

Recently, USA Triathlon announced their selections for the 2011 Elite Athletes of the Year. There are several awards given, including U-23 athletes of the year and rookie of the year awards for first year pros. The “overall” awards are split into two categories (in addition to the obvious split between male/female) – ITU/Olympic athlete of the year and non-ITU/Olympic athlete of the year. The former award recognizes those athletes focused on the draft-legal Olympic distance (1.5km/40km/10km) format that is contested at the Olympic Games and which revolves around the ITU WCS (World Championship Series; now called WS – World Series) races as well as various World Cups (what used to be the top tier races, but which are now the 2nd tier races), Continental Championships, Continental Cups, etc. It’s an incredible array of races, and most athletes who race this format tend to focus almost exclusively on it as the demands are quite different, even from short course non-drafting races like Chicago, Minneapolis, etc. Though many of the top ITU athletes do jump into these races from time to time and almost always win when they do.
The non-ITU/Olympic athlete of the year can be awarded to any athlete that does something other than draft-legal racing. So it can go to someone who races XTerra, or who specializes in short-course-NON-drafting races, or to someone who focuses on long course triathlon (generally used to mean half-Ironman or longer). The past two years, it has gone to Timothy O’Donnell, who at the time focused on half-Ironman (aka 70.3) distance racing and who won the ITU Long Distance World Championships in 2009, when it was – briefly – raced as a double-Olympic (3km/80km/20km) instead of the normal “Nice” distance (named for the classic Nice Triathlon in Nice, FRA) of 4km/120km/30km. While last year already seems like a fond memory with plenty of hard miles under my belt for the 2012 season, I was honored to be selected as the non-ITU/Olympic male athlete of the year for 2011. I shared the award on the female side with Mary Beth Ellis, who joined me atop the podium at Ironman Canada this year, so that was a nice coincidence.
2011 was certainly quite a year, and this award serves as a special cap on it. Though it does make me really think even more seriously about only racing in odd years. And it makes me wonder what it will take to top it on the race course this year. But in an effort to not always be moving the goalposts, but to allow myself to occasionally run through them before I move them further away, I’m doing my best not to focus on one-upping myself but rather on simply continuing the process, putting one arm in front of the body, pushing one leg at a time, and putting one foot in front of the other. That’s how 2011 happened. And that’s how 2012 will happen as well, whatever it leads to. Dans les champs de l’observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés. – Louis Pasteur. I’d say the same is true of endurance sport and the prepared body…

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