This was my second year competing in the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships. Last year I drove out to Omaha, Nebraska to compete in the Olympic distance race. This year the event took place in Cleveland, Ohio, so I figured I would race both days and add the sprint distance race. Since I had to make the trip halfway around the country I might as well take advantage. And I’m glad I did.
Logistically Cleveland looked complicated, however I found that was not the case. I booked a flight arriving two days before the race, giving me plenty of time to get settled in. I was even able to attend a practice swim the day before the race. I used Tri Bike Transport to get my bike out to Cleveland. It was like a dream, I simply picked my bike up at the expo and walked it into transition to rack. Absolutely no worried about having to deal with transporting the bike.
I didn’t have big expectations for my races, as I’d be competing against the best in the country. I did, however want to perform well. My training has been off lately so I was simply looking to improve over last year. That said it was a difference course all together so I wan’t quite sure how I would judge my performances.
We arrived in Cleveland on Thursday afternoon. Once we got settled into the hotel, I ventured out to get in my workout. I needed to do about an hour interval run. The first thing I notice was that I could breath! Being at 500 feet sure made running easier! I knew that I was going to have an advantage on the run.
Friday I was able to sleep in and catch up on some much needed rest. Next, I needed to check in for the races and I wanted to attend the practice swim to get a feel for the water. We took a Lyft to Edgewater State Park to get checked in. The venue there was really cool. It was a big park, very nice and Lake Erie look huge.
The check in process went smoothly dispose a huge line initially. Tri Bike Transport was right there and I was easily able to get my bike and take it over to transition.
We were running a little late so I wasn’t sure if I would make it over to the practice swim or not, but it turned out there was plenty of time. I brought my transition back with both my wet suit and speed suit. The posted water temperature was 79° so I changed into my speed suit and headed to the beach.
The water was warm and the beach reminded me of the ocean although the water didn’t seem all that clean. Unfortunately the water was very choppy and it made swimming very difficult. I had planed to swim the entire sprint distance course, but only made it out to the first buoy and then headed back to shore. I knew then that I was going to be in for an interesting race. The water was so warm I figured there was no way the temperature would drop below 76° to become wet suit legal.
Day One Olympic Distance
Race morning I got up early and prepared for the day. Transition closed at 6:55am, however I was in on of the last waves schedule to start at almost 9am, so I was going to have a lot of time to kill. Lauren and I were able to find a nice spot on the beach to pass the time. Unfortunately, the race was delayed by 10 minutes so I had even longer to wait.
Because of the water temperature the day before I did not bring my wet suit as I didn’t want to carry the extra weight. Big mistake. The water temperature come in at 75° making it a wet suit legal race.
The water started off calm, but by the time my wave went it had started to get choppy again. We had about 5 minutes of warm up swimming that we were allowed to do. I got in a few stokes and could tell that the swim was going to be a challenging one.
As the swim started I didn’t miss my wet suit much. The temperature was comfortable and I felt that my swimming was good. The further we got out the rougher the water got though. Sighting became a bit of a challenge, not to mention that our swim caps were yellow as well as the buoys. I never felt crowded durning the swim which was a good thing given the choppy water.
Because of the rough water I didn’t push my effort in the swim much. I took it easy to get though. I felt like I was moving at a good clip though. About halfway thought the swim I did notice that other color caps were coming though. This is normal as I’m not a fast swimmer, but given the time between waves I was slightly worried about my time.
As I approached the beach I was excited to get out of the water and get onto the bike where I knew I could make up time. I didn’t look at my watch I just moved forward though the long run to transition.
I struggled a little to get my socks on and wipe the sand off of my feet, but I was still able to quickly get though transition and onto the bike portion of the race. I really had no idea what to expect for the course and I didn’t have the opportunity to pre ride it.
We started out up hill but I was able to carry a good pace pacing many people. Then we had a short turn around and headed down hill. Here I was able to pick up speed and get my rhythm.
The first part of the bike course was on the highway and we crossed the river over a big bridge which was probably the only real climb on the course. We headed into downtown Cleveland past the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was a very scenic course. There were some parts of the city that were very pretty. We went under a bridge that was covered in vines that reminded me of a typical east coast road.
As I approached the halfway point of the course I started seeing the guys in the lead heading back. I felt that I wasn’t too far behind them which was good. Unfortunately there was a lot more of the course that I had to get though before I hit the turnaround.
It seed like the second half of the course was fast! I’m not sure if there was a tail wind or what but I was moving. As I headed back into transition I removed my feet from my shoes and prepared for my dismount. All went well and I rant back to the rack. I got my shoes on and headed out.
Something felt off right as I was about to leave transition. I forgot to take my helmet off!!! I couldn’t believe it. I had to run back. It probably wasn’t a lot of time I lost, but still amateur move. I saw Lauren as I started the run course and gave her a quick kiss.
The run basically started on a big hill. I was able to move up it at a good clip though. I finally felt like my running was on point. The course was packed, but I was still able to maneuver. There were aid stations all though out which was great although I didn’t really need to use them.
The run was two loops and they went by quickly. Especially the second loop.
The final approach to the finish line was down hill, but we had to go over a flyover where we crossed paths with the swim exit. It was a short but steep climb that was awkward. I ran over it and approached the finish chute, always the best part of the race. And just like that I had finished day one or racing.
Unfortunately, I didn’t do all that great. I was in the top half of the finishers in my age group, but behind some of the guys I wanted to beat. My Bike was strong, but could have been faster. I was happy with my run, but the swim killed me. Over 39 minutes, it really cost me a good finish in the race. The swim course was long, but I need a better time to compete.
Day Two Sprint Distance
I was looking forward to the second day of racing. I could bring my wet suit, I would be familiar with the course and I was in the first wave so there wouldn’t be any waiting around.
As I got ready for the race I schedule a Lyft to take us there. It gave an estimated arrival window which was not ideal. I started to get a bit nervous about the timing of things, but wasn’t sure that there was any better option. When the Lyft arrived at the end of the window I was really nervous. When the driver got us lost and we went in circles I knew it was going to be almost impossible to get to the start on time. So after I got the driver directions to get us there I formulated a plan.
I would give Lauren my wet suit and swim gear and meet her on the beach. I would run to transition and get setup before it closed then meet her to start in the first wave. The run to transition was like a warm up right!!
As we got dropped off, I had 10 minutes left in transition and 15 until the start of the race. The ride share drop off was an 8 minute walk and the swim start was another 5 minutes. So I only had minutes to get setup. I also had to get my bike off the staging racks, up the race sticker on it and re-rack it in place.
I sprinted to transition and was able to find a chart that showed where my rack was. I grabbed my bike, and got it into place very quickly. I got everything setup and thought that I was actually going to make it. Just then an announcement came on asking all athletes to be at their bikes at 7am. This was when my wave was supposed to start so I wasn’t sure what was going one.
As I was leaving transition to get to the beach, everyone was coming back into transition. I stopped and asked someone what was going on. They said it might have to do with the death the day before. Then I got an notification on my phone that the race hand changed to a duathlon. I called Lauren and told her to meet me by my bike. Luckily it was on the last row and she could find me from outside.
Turns out the currents had shifted and the water was extremely rough again. It was not safe to swim in, or for the support to be out on the water. So they changed the race to a duathlon format starting with a 2.75k run, keeping the bike course the same and then finishing with another 2.75k run. All that and there race was only delayed a half hour.
All that rushing and now I had to wait again, but it was a good thing because I had time to relax before the race.
I had never raced a duathlon before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. They lined us up four wide and we had a time trial start. The guys took off hot sprinting from he start. My strategy was going to be to ease into the run, but that was quickly thwarted.
I did realize that many of the guys to sprinted from the start couldn’t keep pace, but I was able to. And as we approached the first hill I was able to power though and pass many of them. I was feeling good about this format.
While I wanted to redeem myself on the swim, I knew I was a stronger runner and I would have an advantage.
The run went by super fast, as it was a short course and I was running fresh. Transition was a breeze and we were back out on the bike course.
I was doing good holding my position and passing many. There were a couple sections where I wasn’t feeling so strong though. I’m not sure if my legs were tiered from the race the day before or it fit was the first run. All and all I felt good about my performance though.
As I headed back into transition to start the second run I made sure that I wouldn’t forget to remove my helmet this time. All went well and I was out on the run agin.
The college aged girls with starting their first run at the same time. Many of there were fast pushing me to run at their pace. I passed some, some passed me.
Overall the second run went well and I was able to hold my pace. Again we had the nice downhill into the finish chute which really helped keep the pace up. But as I rounded the corner I heard people shouting out. I didn’t know where I was place wise, but I didn’t want to loose a spot right at the rend. I picked up the pace as I wasn’t going to let anyone pass me. I hung on and finished strong.
I was very happy with my finish time, just under an hour. Not that I really knew what to expect with the run, bike, run format. Although when I checked my results I didn’t place very well and again was beaten by guys I was trying to be faster than. It looks like my bike was slower than it should have been. Not really sure what happen there. But my run was quite fast.
Overall it was a great weekend of racing. I got to celebrate my birthday and enjoy a new place. I’m not sure I’d every visit Cleveland for fun but I’m gland I went and gave it my all. I know I still have a lot of work to do when it comet to triathlon, and for the first time since starting I’m not improving as much. It’s a hard sport which appreciate, it keeps you honest and makes you really work for it.