Race Report: 2014 USAT Age Group Nationals, Milwaukee

I’ve always wanted to give Nationals a crack. Short, fast race in a competitive field – it sure fits the bill. But given that it usually involves a cross-country flight, it just never happened. When Vinny told me he was thinking about doing it in Milwaukee this year, I thought, sure, why not?

And of course we had a Brewers game and a night on the town lined up for afterwards, so if nothing else we’d get to see for ourselves why Milwaukee was known as brewtown. The race went fine, but before and after was a circus.

Brewers Stadium

Panoramic view of the incredible Miller Park. And Vince’s face.

Exec Summary:

61st overall, 15th AG

Swim00:23:25; 735th  Roughest, most physical “washing machine-esque” swim I’ve ever done. “Commit to the swim,” was the advice from M2 – swim hard early to keep on the group.

Bike00:59:02; 96th  After spending the first five miles hoping to get a flat because I felt zero energy, I snapped to and had a great ride.

Run00:33:44; 7th  Vinny and I hit T2 together and it was go time. Per usual, I ran down as much of the field as I could to overcome a very meh swim.

Pre-race: When SWA lost my bike for a day:

The age-old tri-geek debate of flying with or paying to ship your bike bit me in the butt at this race. I opted to save money and fly with it, on a direct flight. Southwest managed to not get my bike on my plane and wasn’t able to tell me where it was for about 24 hours. Did I mention it was a direct flight?

These guys had me ready to roll on a beuty - PRsix with Di2.

These guys had me ready to roll on a beuty – PRsix with Di2.

Slowtwitch came to my aid and I worked with the guys at the Quintaroo tent to get fitted on a sick Di2 PRsix. Alas, my bike arrived at the 11th hour and I was able to race on my own ride.

But lack of sleep due to being on the phone and dreams of my Peggy never coming back to me had me in a regrettable headspace that I had to bounce back from.

Race Song:

Vince fired up some Deadmau5 before the race. Sounds good to me! Let’s roll.

The Swim:

Photo credits: Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

Photo credits: Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

The group waded and waited at the pier in a cove on the Lake Michigan shore. Vince and I got ourselves into a spot that would allow us to hop onto the group with a concentrated hard effort without getting too swallowed up. That was the plan anyways.

This was, hands down, the most intense swim I’ve ever done in a triathlon. I’ve swam at other championship races, but there must have been a particular air of competitive drive for this one because no one was giving an inch. In fact, guys were straight up aggressive, and I was getting pretty beat up, swallowing a good amount of water – more on that later.

But if I’ve ever learned a thing in triathlon racing, it’s that not being calm is the worst response you can have in a rough swim. So despite constant clubbing over the head and a rocketing heart rate, I swam like I was the only one there, standing my ground and breathing as normally as possible.

On the turn around, I made the error of targeting the wrong buoy line. It wasn’t hard to do given the colors and placement, and Vince did the same thing.

He exited the water a minute before I did and as is the case, the chase to the rest of the race was on for me as I got out and saw the clock.

The Bike:

In a race where every second matters, I was a bit peeved when a guy in front of me opted for a flying mount, only to fly over his handle bars. It was as bad as the YouTube videos, and caused me to get off my bike, step around, and remount.

Snapping out of it

Snapping out of it

As I got out onto the out of the first out and back, I just wasn’t feeling it. I told myself that I would snap to at the turnaround and – after watching another guy crash in front of me at said turnaround – couldn’t shake life into my legs. Not exactly the situation you want to find yourself in at Nationals after giving up big time on the swim.

At mile 5 I snapped into it however and really started to cook. We climbed the highway bridge out of downtown, which was actually a significant sustained climb. After a fast descent, I found myself playing cat and mouse with a strong rider – within legal distance, of course. As we made the turnaround to come back in to town, I put down a couple of strong surges. I was really feeling it now, and the final one proved to be too much for my new friend to keep pace.

Milwaukee 1st, 2nd half power

My normalized power was 4% higher on the second half of the bike than the first. I drove the final climb and flew back to transition in a respectable 59:02, which I was happy with after a slow start.

The Run:

Vin and I hit the racks together, time to do work.

Vin and I hit the racks together, time to do work.

I hit the rack and new that it was time to fly. I’d ridden off the minute that Vince put on me in the swim and as I ran out of transition, yelled at him to “come on!” But he was still holding his bike and wasn’t able to find his rack. Someone had thrown their wetsuit over his shoes. Huge bummer and it cost him time/leaving with me.

Hoping he’d catch up to me in a second or two, I jetted out of transition. The first part of the run is flat along the water and I pushed the pace, catching guys early. Though Vince was 20-30 seconds behind, it always feels like we’re running together, so after the turnaround I picked up the pace again, hoping he’d try to close.

Giving the USA kit and wind-styled hair a spin before worlds.

Giving the USA kit and wind-styled hair a spin before worlds.

After getting up to the main road off the water, I settled into a quick pace. For the first time in recent memory, I heard a pair of feet keep pace after passing. I continued my hard pass, but this guy was able to hang. Heading into the next turnaround, I put a surge on and dropped him.

At about 1.5mi left I had a gut check. One or two brief moments of “less-than-awesome” sensations can make it harder to keep pace. But that’s when you bank on experience, miles, and positive thinking to get you through even faster. I became even stronger, passing supporters with signs – half a mile, quarter mile, 200 meters. Finally I was able to go up on the toes down the chute and cross the line hard.

The Finish:

I was happy with how the race went considering a very rough swim and a delayed charge on the bike. But I thought for sure I had come in under 2 hours and I was actually surprised to find out I was at 2:00:13. I raced better than that and was looking forward to a sub-2 hour time. Vince crossed the line and we embraced – he was definitely bummed the transition mix-up cost him a better result.

Post-race: Out in Milwaukee, in to the ER:

Grilled cheese for me and cheese curds for Vin. Baseball in Wisconsin!

Grilled cheese for me and cheese curds for Vin. Baseball in Wisconsin!

3 complimentary beverages at the end of the Miller brewery tour. Perfect recovery.

3 complimentary beverages at the end of the Miller brewery tour. Perfect recovery.

Sorry to disappoint, the fun night out was not related to the ER trip. We did have a lot of fun in Milwaukee including a tour of the Miller Factory, a brewers game, and hitting up the bars downtown (there’s a theme there). It was so fun and worth the trip to Milwaukee alone – GREAT town!

However we weren’t feeling so hot when we landed in SF, and knew that it couldn’t have been from the previous night’s festivities. Turns out that we – and many others – suffered from swallowing something in the Lake Michigan water. We got sick. Really sick. After getting sick in front of my building after going to buy gingerale, I knew I had to go in. At 10pm on a Sunday, the ER it was.

Not sure what can be done to avoid things like this – open water is tricky – but I was out for the better part of a week. Definitely not a good situation to find yourself in regardless, but especially when you have a two week block before two world championship races coming up.

Summary:

Despite all of the pre and post-race drama, I consider the race a success and Milwaukee was a blast. The race was perfect timing to kick off the two week block before ITU and 70.3 Worlds. All I had to do was recover from the water bug and I was on my way.

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