Earlier this month, I flew to Omaha, Nebraska to compete in USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals. It was my toughest (and longest!) triathlon yet between the travel, the heat, and the steep competition, but I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to compete on a national level. All in all, Nationals was a great experience to top off my 2016 tri season.
Traveling for triathlons requires a lot of gear. That Friday morning we (myself and OnlyAtoms model/triathlete travel buddy Sean/@whatlaudelikes) got up at 4:00am to catch our flight to Omaha, via O'hare. It is a miracle I was awake enough at that hour to move myself and my stuff onto a plane. Somehow though, we (and the gear) made it to Omaha in one piece and went straight to the race site to set up our transition areas.
In some triathlons, you have the opportunity to set up your transition area (where you will breathe between swimming, biking, and running) the night before the race; USAT Nationals was one of those races. Setting up your bike the night before instead of race morning (when you have also likely awoken at 4:00am) takes a lot of the pressure off. To help cut down on my ridiculous amount of gear I needed to transport to Omaha, I had reserved a bike from official bike shop sponsor of the race, Greenstreet Cycles. For anyone out there who wants to do a tri-cation (triathlon runcation? Bueller?) I would highly recommend renting a bike; It cost a little more than standard airline fees for shipping bikes, but I didn't have to completely dismantle and reassemble my road bike, nor did I have to also drag it in a giant box around the city. I picked up my bike from the Greenstreet tent, had them swap out their pedals for my Speedplays, hopped on the bike to make sure the seat height was ok and done!
After getting set up and taking our time relaxing in the Normatec sleeves (there was a whole tent full of them; Nationals = great race perks), we went out to an Italian restaurant for a nice, carb-full dinner. Not surprisingly, most of the other patrons were also triathletes- the GPS watches, tech-y sunglasses, and tri race tees are a dead giveaway. We picked up a few last-minute essentials (mainly snacks on my end as this was around the time I found out I would literally be the last corral to start on Saturday, 3 hours after the official start of the race) and went to our Airbnb. For bigger triathlons, instead of just a bib number to pin on your shirt and putting a sticker of your number on your helmet and your bike, you get temporary tattoos of your race number to put on each of your arms and legs (it seems like overkill by the time you put the last one on). These tattoos are very sticky. So sticky, in fact, that at one point our legs got stuck together at the tattoo when we bumped into each other getting additional stuff ready out for the morning- don't worry, we were able to free ourselves and did not have to attempt a 3-legged race. After I double-checked that I had enough electrolyte mix, gels, and snacks , and my goggles, swim cap, flip flops, towel, socks, bike shoes, bike helmet, extra tubes and air cartridges, sunglasses, running shoes, and water bottles were all ready to go, I went to sleep.
Race morning was another 4:30am wakeup as Sean was in the first corral. Plus, even though I would be the last corral to start, the transition area closes before the first corral even starts. The disparity in start times worked out really well- I was able to be support crew for him before his race, and he was literally done racing before I even started, so he was my support crew just before my start. Between open-water starts and stressing about whether you have all your gear in the transition area, tri's can be extremely hectic right before the start; having someone there with you who's not stressed out about racing (or already done) is the best. I stood on the edge of the lake and watched the first few corrals start their swim, went back to the rental car (rental car = major key for tri-cation) to nap and snack. Once I woke up, I attempted to French braid my hair, my go-to style for tri's, but between nerves, sleep deprivation, and the fact that I was using a rearview mirror to accomplish this, I couldn't get the braid tight enough on top. As a result of which I kept looking more and more like David Bowie from Aladdin Sane than an athlete. Finally on the 4th or so attempt I got it under control and left to start my race:
The swim was TOUGH. Water was on the warm side of bathtub water and very murky. Long story short, I didn't look up at the buoys enough and ended up swimming an extra 200 yards. Oops. At left, there I am running into transition, thinking I never wanting to swim in a lake again.
Normally I am able to crush the bike section, but between the heat from starting at 10:30am and having lost so much ground to my competitors via my bonus swim yardage, I felt really drained for awhile. Overall though I was happy with the time I was able to make up on the bike. The course was very easy to follow and flat with the exception of one hill that came out of nowhere. I made sure to drink plenty of water and electrolytes while on the bike to prepare me for the next challenge, running a 10K in 90 degree weather.
By the time I got to the run it was HOT out. Thank goodness I was diligent about my
hydration on the bike, because the first water station on the run course had actually run out of water by the time I got there (!!). There was zero shade on the run and I still have some pretty sharp tan lines to prove it. It was an out-and-back to and around the inside of baseball stadium- running the bases felt like a very patriotic thing to do. Because NYC Triathlon had been cut to an 8K run due to a heat advisory that day, Nationals was actually my first full Olympic distance triathlon!
After the race, I spent way too long in the ice baths (more murky water with a slight eau de feet smell as if to say, "you will get athlete's foot if you take these waters") and we had ice cold celebratory beers. Then we made our way back to our Airbnb, whereupon I showered, napped (passed out is a more accurate term), and eventually we went out for dinner and got to see more of Omaha than just the race course! It was a delightful evening filled with steak, bacon mac and cheese, and ice cream.