Next weekend, in Burlington Vermont at USAT Nationals, 18 athletes per age group will qualify for Team USA that will head to London in 2013. As a first-timer in this year-long process I thought I'd share a bit about how that worked, at least this past year.
Nationals - At the evening awards ceremony we found out if we had earned a spot and then we were asked to "claim" our spot. Officials posted a list of the top 18 by age group for the following year using the "age up rule." That means you are compared to all the racers who would be in your age group a year from then, since it is a year until Worlds. In my case, last year I was wrapping up my year of 40-44 so I was compared to all the racers who would be in the 45-49 age group in 2013 (44-48 then).
I signed my "intent" on a clipboard but I don't think you actually have to be there. I believe they contact athletes from the top placing down and then over the following weeks, "rolldown" slots are offered to to the next ranked athlete to fill available spots.
Fall (can't find when exactly) - Paid a $50 deposit to USAT to really secure my spot and received information on travel packages. In November I made hotel reservations with a group traveling there from my area.
December - Began receiving monthly "Team USA" newsletters with information and reminders. Met with a Team USA veteran, Mike Morris, and put together a budget for the event.
Spring - Secured airline ticket (thank you Hyperion Consulting, LLC). The group I am traveling with arranged for a post-race hiking tour. Started work on my "Cort the Sport" Team USA fundraising, still in progress!
July - Paid $385 to register for the race. Received confirmation that my "National Federation" had then officially registered me. Checked to be sure my passport was current (it is!). I also paid a deposit of $200 for the post-race group hiking tour.
August - Received information and ordered a Team USA uniform. Many options are available (1-piece, 2-piece, a few syles) and each comes with a team hat, team shirt, and two boxes of Gu. After verifying that the suit fit, I can send it back to get my last name screened on, which is part of the purchase price.
September - Will send tri suit out to have sponsor logos added which will cost a few hundred dollars for the custom screen printing. There are very specific ITU rules on sizes and positioning.
October - Travel to Auckland!
I'm fortunate to have friends who have been Team USA members multiple times and have helped step me through the process. I'm looking forward to the whole experience and I'll be among those at Nationals trying to punch my ticket for London in 2013!