10 months ago, I set my sights on racing at USAT Nationals in Omaha. My focus on speed in my training came along very nicely throughout the season in the lead-up to racing against the Country’s top Age Group Athletes. A couple overall victories at some local race, a few PR, and some great results in WO had me feeling very good about the prospect of making Team USA in 25-29 Age Group to race in Rotterdam next September.
Looking at past year’s results and my personal experience at USAT Nationals race, I knew I’d have to be right under 2 hours. In Milwaukee, I had race a 2:08 for 50th, winning time was 1:52 so I was hoping to shed 10min. This year USAT move Nationals to a new venue in Omaha for a 3 year stint on the Nebraska-Iowa border at Carter Lake north of the city.
First thought that comes to mind when you hear Nebraska and August is: HOOOT!! And that it didn’t disappoint. In the weeks leading up the race we were getting emails and notifications about water temps being at 85F; days prior the Midwest had a heat wave taking temperature into the 110F range with heat index. I also knew based on the last 2 years, starting Championship Races in August in the later 25-29 age group waves, there would be no sheltering us from the mid-day heat that we were certain to encounter with a 9:30am start in Omaha.
The last few week of training, I did extensive heat training running in the middle of the day in the sun, all while making sure fluids and calories were going in. Almost 300hrs of swim, bike, run training this year and managed to stay fairly injury free so I’m very thankful of that!
Tori and I travelled to Omaha for a mini 4 day vacation. I got my Chamois Butt’r taken at TSA, when it’s never been an issue before. I was pretty mad, but new I’d probably find some at the race. We arrived early Thursday, walked around Omaha, visited the botanical garden, and enjoyed some of the Old Market area. Our friend James arrived a few hours later and Him and I talked about what our race day schedule and transition/bike gear check would be in the morning after we reassembled our bikes in our hotel rooms.
On Friday morning we got up and did a shake-out bike to run brick. We scoped out the bike, transition, and run courses. Nearing the end of the ride after a few accelerations to make certain my bike was ready to go full throttle in and out of turns, I ripped my rear derailleur hanger bracket right off the frame. Until this point I had been noticing some odd clicking sounds but decided I would take a look at it after the ride. It turns out the bracket had been damage during the fight even though I had packaged and padded the new bike in the travel bag. That clearly ended the ride.
I was lucky that James was with me and it was still early in the morning so we called the Sleep Inn Hotel courtesy shuttle, awesome the whole weekend BTW, and we had the Green St Cycles to hopefully get a replacement bracket. Luckily they had not opened yet and I was second in line, they were also a Specialized Bike retailer so they had the part on hand. I was also able to get Chamois Butt’r for the race, which is essential to a happy ride. 30min later we were out of the store and back to hotel to finish our pre-race run.
We then rode our bikes over to packet pickup/transition area, checked out the athlele village and racked our bike overnight. James and I had a slow 2 mile walk back to the Hotel all the while wishing we would be racing on this nice towpath around the periphery of the lake instead of a dusty industrial out and back street the venue had selected; compared to Milwaukee, we both thought the run course was nothing special. We all got an early dinner in the Old Market area at Spaghetti Works and heading back to watch some Olympic coverage before hitting the sack for an early start!
Race morning we had scheduled a 6:30 shuttle to the race site. James was in the first 7:30am wave and I was to start at 8:48am. As it turned out, the race had to be delayed 20 minutes because too many athletes weren’t at the site yet. This made me a little mad, hitting the run course when it would be that much warmer out, and the run course was a death march/no shade type of course that would get very crowded.
As I got into transition, I setup my area fairly quickly, I inflated my tires that I had deflated the night before and noticed that with the morning dew that was covering my bike, it’s seemed that I had a slow leak, little air bubble trickling out between the rim and the tubular on my front wheel. I put as much pressure in it and headed over to James to tell him. I was ready to just race on it, but when we returned a few minutes the tire was completely flat.
Now it was time to scramble to find another wheel and I had 4 minute before transition closed. At this point, I was thinking to myself: ‘maybe you just aren’t meant to race today, the broken derailleur hanger yesterday, now the tire not holding pressure’…but I wanted to race, I wasn’t coming to all the way to Omaha and have all my training go to waste. I hurdled the transition fences with James following and headed straight to the only remaining service tent. Everything was put away, everyone was gone. I found the only mechanic left and told him that I needed a wheel to race on and transition was closing in 2 minutes. I didn’t know if I could make it.
He was awesome and kindly lent me a Shimano alloy wheel for the event. I thanked him immensely! I asked him if he needed any deposit or ID and he just said looking at my shirt: ‘I’ll remember you’re the Cheez-It’ guy, just bring it back when you’re done!’ That’s right I said, I had bit of a smile on my face despite all the stress this pre-race running around was causing me. Now I had to get backed fast. I hurdled the 400m back to transition to install the wheel and inflated the tire just as transition was closing. Couldn’t have made it any closer!
I was pretty mentally exhausted after all of this, but knew I wouldn’t be racing for another 1.5 hrs and just had to get back in the race mindset. James’ wave 1 went off, and Tori and I waited to catch him heading out on the bike course. I then did a 15 minute run warm-up with strides before getting into the water. The water had cooled down but was still around 82 degrees so it was a No Wetsuit swim. I continued my warm-up in the water on the opposite side of the race pier for 5 more minutes with some acceleration. At 9:20 the horn went off.
Comparatively to other Nationals, all started in a line with a hand on the pier. The swim was an out and back 2 buoy swim. I went out fast, glanced at the watch at after the first turn at was right on 10minutes in, I was on a great pace! The return wasn’t as perfect; the sun’s reflection in the water made it difficult to sight well even with UV reflective goggle lenses. In the end I ended swimming about 90-100yds more coming out of the water in 22:45, so 1:30 slower that what I’d hoped. I ran through transition, my front loaner wheel was still inflated!
Heading out onto the Bike I realized I’d hit ‘Stop’ instead of Lap on my watch. I had decided to race with a second watch just in case to not be racing blindly like an earlier season duathlon. I got out of T1 in 1:51 and headed on the bike course. The race official had decided to put a 20 minute buffer between us and the previous wave to help thin out the swim and the bike course for us since the 25-29 is typically the most competitive at Nationals. I my opinion this did very little, the bike course was crowded during bike legs. Sometime 3 wide, trying not to go over the double yellow line proved difficult. The major obstacles were 2x 10percent hills that ended making most of the field slow down considerably. The bike course ended being 24.85 miles which could have easily been made to exactly 24 miles on an out and back course. Came off the bike in 1:04:18 (24miles in 1:01).
I know coming into 2nd transition that this wouldn’t be a sub-2hr day, I was feeling pretty good, I think I was 16th. I knew I just needed to hunt people down, working a steady pace. Unfortunately half mile in, my hydration efforts started working against me. I had about 20oz water and carbs on the bike and they just weren’t sitting well in my stomach. Every stride became a struggle, feeling like I was punched in the gut and getting the wind knocked out of me. The run was also an out and back course alone an industrial road that the day prior James and I had been blasted by dust by passing trucks. By the time I hit the run, it was 85F with heat index close to 100F and all in the sun. I struggle through the first 4 miles trying to keep the pace up around 7:10, my 5k was a 21:55. I slowly started feeling better by mile 5 and really pushed to finish around 5:40mile pace. In the end, was a 42 minute flat for a total time of 2:12:18 for 32nd place in my age group.
Key take-aways from this race are that I was very lucky to even make it to the startline on this day given mechanical issues days and minutes prior, my health has been great throughout my race season and I’m so very thankful for all the support from family, coach, and friends far and near. I know the course was about 6.5 minutes slower than previous years based on the winner time comparatively and I wasn’t able to deliver on the run, so when all those stars align I will get my sub-2hr race! I was disappointed with my performance but nothing a box of Cheez-It’s can’t help you get over…
I haven’t decided yet what is on the schedule for 2017. I’ve decided to close out the season with a Half and will be hammering for the next 5 week to build on Olympic speed. I also have to get caught up on the food blog/Cheez Mealz section, so stay tuned for some of those throughout the fall.
2:12:18 (S: 22:45 T1: 1:51 B: 1:04:18 T2: 1:25 R: 42:01)