One of these days, I’m going to do a cold weather triathlon, where I need to wear a neoprene cap and dance around on the beach next to a solar-powered space heater while waiting for the race to start. Age Group National Championships was not one of those days. Middle America, specifically Omaha, Nebraska, boasted temperatures in the mid-90s when I arrived on August 12th.
The August 12th 4pm arrival was nearly a full day later than the original plan. My and Herb’s original flight for Thursday evening got cancelled and replaced with a three-segment flight the next morning. Should all connections go smoothly, I’d still miss the warmup swim and I’d pick up my race packet 2 hours before closing. Tears were shed en route to the airport when I learned the news. I wasn’t the only triathlete from NYC affected, but some of my friends were placed on a two-segment flight, while others bought direct flights for the next morning. After a lengthy conversation with Delta, a budget in mind, and some blind faith, I had no choice but to accept the new plan of a triathflight (word credit: Ross), from LGA -> CVG (Cincinnati) -> MSP (Minneapolis) -> OMA.
All three flights were on time just enough. I tried my best to keep the stress to a minimum. I truly believe, and this article elaborates on it, that keeping non-physical stress to a minimum is a huge part of the equation for optimal performance; it’s not just about how fit I was at the time. Stress is stress is stress is stress!
We touched down in Omaha at 4pm and got to the race site about 20 minutes later – it was less than 2 miles from the airport! I had enough time to pick up my packet, bike, ride for 15 minutes, and run for 20 minutes. The hay was in the barn, as they say. My pre-race routine has one goal – shake out the cobwebs.
The following morning, I set up transition in the dewy grass field at 7am. A surging Uber ride later (there were shuttles from nearby hotels, but even those were stuck in traffic and took 45 minutes to go 4 miles!), it was announced that all waves would be pushed back 15 minutes due to traffic. This meant I started at 9:30am and finished closer to noon.
Swim (25:32 for 1:33/100, 110th woman, 28th in AG [age group])
The swim was in an 84 degree lake, so it was non-wetsuit legal. I borrowed a one-piece CityCoach uniform knowing that the lake was going to be warm. From the gun, I got swallowed up by the pack and had trouble finding feet. This was my weakest leg of the race and I had a hard time staying engaged. Sighting for the buoys was difficult, because 9 times out of 10, I’d see a bunch of heads instead of a buoy.
Getting out of the water onto dry land is slightly disorienting in itself (all of the blood rushes to your legs), but we competitors had to navigate a set of stairs with slotted steps followed by a slippery blue carpet upon getting out of the lake and into T1. I had to walk up the 3 steps and looked like Sasquatch with my ape-like walk and bent wrists! Luckily for the entertainment of this post, Herb caught my slipping and sliding on video!
Bike (1:09:25 for 21.4 mph, 41st woman, 11th in AG)
There was one hill on the bike course, as you can see from the elevation profile below. Otherwise, it was flat and one-third of it was through cornfields, which made me feel very Field of Dreams-y. The hill was nothing compared to the 4 Ranger Station hill repeats Coach Cane assigned to me the weekend beforehand. On the ascent on the way out and back, I caught several people, which made me realize that I could increase my power output on the flats. I yoyoed between two competitors I’ll call “Tat Sleeve” and “Leopard One Piece.” Tat Sleeve and Leopard One Piece helped me wake up every time they passed me on the flats! If you blow it, they will come.
The Run (40:53 for 6:35/mile, 6th woman, 3rd in AG)
This run was an out-and-back in blazing sun with a cutesy lap around a baseball field in Ameritrade Stadium. (Nothing like Smashmouth’s 1999 hit “All Star” to get you pumped halfway into it. Not. This song is the worst.) In my last two hot races, NYC Triathlon and Pride Run, I started cramping towards the the races and felt revived after taking salt after the race. I expected to give the medical tent staff a full run down of my history before getting salt, but instead, each time, I was casually handed two tiny salt packets, the kind you’d get with takeout!
Knowing it’d be hot, I grabbed the two most ordinary salt packets from a deli and grabbed them when I grabbed my bib belt. I tucked these into my bra and later into my shorts, where they got sufficiently sweaty. I took one at mile 2 and mile 4, and because of the massive sweating, I have no idea how much actually got into my system and how much stuck to the inside of the paper packaging.
It’s a great thing that I did take some salt, because the race had run out of Gatorade and gels on the course! “Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me…”
The Finish (2:19:11, 12th woman, 3rd in AG)
This was my highest overall place (Last year I was 17th and the year before I was 66th) and highest AG finish (I was 7th last year and 10th the year before)! I was absolutely clueless about my placement during the race, so hearing the announcer say I was the 3rd woman in my age group brought me to tears, which you cannot see in my finish video…
…but you can sort of see it here:
During my fantasy cold weather triathlon, I will also take a before-and-after of my transition area. At least I grabbed a picture of the after this time.
Herb, Ross, Jordi, and I went to awards to collect our hardware. Ross placed 9th in his super competitive 30-34 age group!
I mention the hardware, because this trophy I received for third in my age group was cool and historic…
…and it was made to come apart so it could fit in a box. However, the TSA did not appreciate the historical significance as much as the ones who designed the trophy, because this is what it looks like out of the base:
Thanks to the kind and understanding folks at the TSA who let me take this on my next two flights!
Lessons learned: walk stress-free and carry a big stake.