Saturday, August 9, 2014

USAT Age Group Nationals Olympic Distance Race Report

This is one race report that is well over due!  I have been out of town for this race and then the stops we made after ward and am just now getting home and settled enough to write this report!  What a day it was and it was unlike any race I have ever done before!


Leading up to the race we had to make the 23 hour drive from Syracuse to Milwaukee.  We left at 9:30 in the morning on Thursday with plans to stop in Kearney, NE on our way there for the night and then go the remainder of the way on Friday.  We knew as it was that we were going to be cutting it close with packet pick up and bike check in, but it was the best we could do seeing as how work wise Ken couldn't leave any earlier.  We were leaving our hotel on Friday morning in Kearney at 4:00 in the morning, I had just put Belle, my bike, on the top of the car on a roof fork mount rack and we were driving out of the parking lot and BANG!  Ken hit the breaks and we immediately knew it was the bike.  Ken had not seen the low hanging arch that the hotel had over the exit to the parking lot.  My heart jumped into my throat as we both got out of the car to see the damage and Belle was just hanging from the rack off of the side.  We were able to get her off and from I could immediately tell, the aero bars were bent and the handle bars were much lower than they usually are.  I inspected the fork, and it was fine.  Ken wanted me to ride it to see if it was okay.  I rode her switching through all the gears and it seems okay.  Notice I said okay, not great.  The brakes were okay as well.  We then had to load her into the already crowded Jeep and my poor kids had to be right next to each other so we could fold down a portion of the seat to fit everything and now the bike.  The bike rack itself was obliterated, and the front cross bar had been ripped off as well.

We knew we could rush to Milwaukee and get to a bike mechanic in hopefully enough time.  We wanted the bike completely looked over and then we could make a decision if she was race ready or not.  Anyhow, long story short, we made it to the mechanic who made a few adjustments but otherwise said she was fine...WOW!  We barely made it to packet pick up (with 10 minutes to spare) and then I was able to get Belle racked for the night. 

The next morning we got to the race site early on the shores of Lake Michigan and it really was a beautiful morning.  I immediately noticed how people here are much more hard core than I am!  I saw a few that even brought their bike trainers with them and were warming up in transition prior to the race.  Seriously?  I have also never seen so many rear wheel disks and super bikes in my life! As if I didn't already feel completely out of my league!  I really didn't have a ton of time to get all ready and zipped up because I was in the second swim wave.


While waiting on the dock for the cue to jump in and get ready for the deep water start, I visited with other women around me.  They were pretty nice, which I note here because not everyone was. I had to laugh to myself though when one said her goal for the day was 2:15, though she knew realistically she could be faster.  Um, for an Olympic?  Wow!  That is smoking fast!  I then decided that yes, I wanted a sub 3 hour time, but my goal was really not to be DEAD LAST.  

Sheer chaos.  But, kinda fun as well :)
Before I knew it we were in the water and didn't have to tread for long before the gun went off then all craziness ensued.  I mean battle really.  I have never had a swim start like this.  Ever. Hit, kick, punch, over here, over there, you name it!  I realized that this was much more of the washing machine effect swim start that is typical of triathlons and of Ironman races, but I never had it to this extent.  And it wasn't just the first few minutes, it was like this most of the swim portion.  Just when it would start to thin out some, we would swim under a bridge, or round a buoy, or narrow in some other part of the course and it would get all crazy again with the hand to hand combat of making your way through it all.  I never had clear water on this swim.  I was proud of myself for not freaking out.  Even though swimming is my strength of the 3 sports, this was unreal.  I did a really good job (and the race organizers did for their awesome spacing of buoys) staying straight on the course.  It was extremely easy to immediately find the next buoy  to sight and stay on course.I also broke the rule of nothing new on race day and wore some new tinted goggles from Aquasphere and they were awesome with sighting into the sun as well.  It was a great swim despite the craziness, and I loved every second of it, as it was a very challenging swim and I liked that.  The swim exit may be the only thing I might complain about, it was a slippery medal ramp where if they  hadn't had volunteers to physically pull you out of the water, none of us would have ever made it.

Lake Michigan was awesome too.  Water temps were around 64 that morning, but with a full wetsuit, not bad at all.  The water wasn't nasty and it is simply gorgeous here.  LOVED LOVED LOVED this swim!

Final swim time: 28:38 (119/204 in F35-39) for one mile swim


They had apparently changed the swim exit making it slightly farther from transition than last year.  We had at least a 400 yard run to transition and then finding your stuff.  Everyone had longer than usual transition times than normal.  I was able to find my stuff fairly quickly and made the change as fast as I could to bike gear and I was off.  

Final T1 time: 4:05:07 (193/204)  Not great, but considering how far we had to run, I don't think it is that bad either.


Now came the real test to see how Belle was really doing after her near death experience.  I got on and pedaled away from the bike mount area and noticed she was in the small ring.  When I went to shift into the big ring, the chain dropped.  WTH?!?!  Not even 100 feet into the race!  I got off praying this was not an omen of things to come and got it back on fairly quickly and was off again.  They say that this is a flat course.  Though it is not the Triple Bypass, it is not flat either.  They had a small hill to go up at the beginning and then you had to do Hoan Bridge.  There was also a lot of the course that seemed to be a false flat as well.  I never seemed to find and keep a good rhythm or pace on this ride. The bike didn't feel right, it was far from a good fit with the quick adjustments the mechanic made, it shifted rough, and it was far from ideal, and made noises I'm not used to.   However, no more dropped chains and she was rideable, so I'll take it.  I had people passing me left and right!  I had to keep reminding myself that when you take the top podium finishers from around the country and put them all at a race together, the old front of the pack is now the new back of the pack, which is where I would spend the rest of my race.  I knew that I was doing my best under the circumstances, but it is very humbling to race with some seriously talented and FAST people!  I was amazed watching them out there all day today!

The bike course goes along the lake almost the entire time, we had the road to ourselves, and other than some issues with the road condition on the bridge (it was crap, hence, why it is under construction) it was an awesome course.  Very pretty, scenic, challenging, and I really enjoyed it.  There was a lot of community support and people our cheering us on.  That is always fun.

Final bike time: 1:23:30 (197/204 F35-39  Told ya I was BOP!!  I am not happy at all with this bike time, but my bike was not performing as it normally does, so what could I do?

Coming out of T1

Fairly uneventful.  Was glad to be done with the bike portion, racked Belle, then threw my running stuff on and was off.

Final T2 time: 1:52 (142/204 F35-39) for 25 mile bike


As if I wasn't already humbled at this race, then came the run portion.  I just simply found a comfortably hard pace and stayed with it.  The run course was gorgeous. It was all along the park and beach there by the lake and it was a very pretty out and back.  It was also sunny, flat, tons of crowd support, and I loved all of it.  I knew that I felt good, no cramps, no feeling like death, it wasn't too hot, and for me, this was a good run.  I talked with some of the people around me, mostly the old men that were running with me at this point.  USAT puts the fastest groups as the last swim legs so that the course is cleared sooner.  The wave immediately after mine was the male 60ish wave.  Hence, they were all up with me on the run.  They were all very nice, very encouraging, but it does mess with you a bit to have the old people passing you!  I looked down at my watch and realized about 2.5 miles before the end of that if I really pushed it, I could make my sub 3 hour goal.  I started skipping the aid stations and went as hard as I could maintain.  Before I knew it I passed the finish line and it was awesome!  I was so glad to be done!

Final run time: 1:01:06 (190/204)  for 6.2 mile run


Not much to the after race other than I got my medal (a very cool one at that) and hooked up with my family.  We had to wait forever for them to open transition for us to get our things while people from the other waves finished, then we left.

Final race time: 2:59:14 (193/204) YAY for sub 3!!  And I wasn't dead last!  Mission accomplished!!


This race was something else in so many ways.  I loved the location, the course, the organization, the cool swag, the weather was perfect, etc. It was stressful leading up to it with the travel involved and the bike incident.  It was humbling for me as I am no where near where the other competitors in my age are.  I am used to being at least middle of the pack when I race, and front of the pack for my swim, but not when placed among these types of giants, and that is just fine!  It was a good race for me, and in some ways the strongest race I have had all year, other than Icebreaker, when you only compare it to MY performances, not everyone else's.  I am happy with that.  I found it amusing that my run was stronger than my bike was for this race, if you go by how I ranked in my division!   And, I accomplished all of my personal goals for this race, so I am very happy with that as well!  I am very glad that I did this race for the experience, and I would like to qualify again in the future to say that I did, but I don't think that it will be a huge priority to come and race it any time soon, especially with next year's IM :)

 So what's next?  I am very happily in my off season now!  This is my last race for this year!  It is pretty early to be done for what I normally do, but I am ready for the break.  I am going to focus on my running big time, and I am going to get Belle checked out and fixed before she gets ridden again.  Plus, school is starting very soon, so that always makes things interesting when I go back to juggling my training with working full time and still being wife and Mom!

But I will still keep posting as the IM journey continues, so happy racing and training all!

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