IRVINE — And, that's a wrap. Or is it?
The USA Swimming National Championships ended for Aaron Peirsol without a gold medal, a rarity for sure.
The former Newport Harbor High standout got the job done, qualifying for the Pan Pacific Championships in the 100-meter backstroke and the 200 back, but there appears to be some unfinished business.
He finished second to Ryan Lochte in the 200 back, a race Peirsol called, "fun," Saturday at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center.
Lochte started strong and led from the first 50 and on, finishing in 1 minute 55.58 seconds to win his third event of the week. Peirsol, the world-record holder in the 200 back, completed the hype-filled race in 1:56.28, while Tyler Clary was third in 1:56.36 and Michael Phelps fourth in 1:56.98.
So just why was there so much hype surrounding the 200 back?
The race featured five of the top six backstrokers of all time, including Peirsol, 2008 Olympic champ Lochte, Clary, Nick Thoman and Phelps.
"I knew I had to go out fast and just hold on for dear life," Lochte said. "[This week's] been good, but I know I can go a lot faster, so Pan Pacs should be fun."
The Pan Pacific Championships take place Aug. 18 to 22 back at Woollett.
Peirsol, who competed in three events this week, wasn't ashamed to admit he finished the 200 back in pain. The competition in the 200 back, 100 back and 100 butterfly proved intense and took a toll on him.
After the 200 back, and after Perisol swam to cool down, a reporter mentioned that he appeared really tired when he got out of the pool after the race.
"Well that hurt, that hurt really bad," Peirsol said. "I can definitely use the two weeks [off before the Pan Pacs]."
Even though Peirsol was hurting after the race, he didn't think it was painful to finish without a gold medal at the National Championships.
"It's been a long time," Peirsol said of leaving Nationals without a win. "It's not something I'm too personally hung up on considering what's coming up in two weeks. I was close in the 100. Overall it was a fun meet."
It appeared Lochte had all the fun, beating out such grand competition. He took out the race quick and showed strength as he held off Peirsol over the final 50 meters. That's when Peirsol made a move to try to catch Lochte. However, Lochte's quick start proved vital.
"That's how fast we should've been going," Peirsol said of Lochte's race. "He probably did it the way we should have. I know he hurt pretty good the last 50. He swam that race, called our bluff more or less. I didn't see him until the second turn, but by then I was just playing catch up.
"If I would've taken it out fast, it would've really hurt."
Peirsol returns to his roots once again in two weeks, looking for an improvement. He grew up training at the pool while with the Irvine Novaquatics. Now he swims for Longhorn Aquatics.
It was only a year ago when he broke the world record, coming in at 1:51.92 when he won gold at the world championships.
"Epic," he said of breaking the world record. "Last summer at this time, I was feeling good. I'm going to try to find that again in two weeks. I know what I'm capable of."