Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Race Report: Highlights from ITU World Championships

Triathlons #49 and #50 are in the books. Among the F45-49's, I finished 15th in the Sprint (out of 88), and 30th in the Olympic (out of 78). Thursday's sprint was a decent race for me -- Saturday's Olympic/Standard, not so much. (I had a sore throat starting Friday that turned into a cold over the weekend so who knows if that played into it or not...excuses, excuses.) It matters not. I gave what I had on the day and loved being a part of the ITU World Championship week!

Who needs another race report about being pummeled in the swim, keeping up watts on the bike, or the final kick into the finish line? Not me. And considering my races occupied a fraction of the 4-1/2 days I was in Chicago, I thought it might be more fun to share some of the (random) highlights that come to mind when I recount the whole experience.

Team USA Photo. This is always fun! Jackets on, jackets off. Sprint only. Now Olympic. Now both together. Regular camera, now iPhone! Rich Cruse directed us from the lift and turned this:

into this:
I can't find me, but I'm in there. 

The Parade of Nations heading into the opening ceremonies is pretty awesome too. I have a photo album from that on Facebook

Starting Last. Being in the last of 27 (sprint) or 31 (standard) waves, and starting 2-1/2 to 3 hours after the first wave kind of sucked :-( To me, the earlier the better. A 1 pm start on Thursday and 12:40 pm start on Saturday (that was then further delayed) was tough for me, as well as for most of my fellow F45-49'ers. It would have been nice if we were not last in both races. Mix it up, race organizers.

Pink Equity. Perhaps you are aware of my feelings toward pink, so it was refreshing to see that the pink swim caps were distributed equally among men and women. My new gender equity issue is now focused on the "unisex" race tshirts that were distributed, which is basically a man's tshirt that women "get" to wear. Why not supply women's tshirts that men "get" to wear? If you don't like that idea, then offer both!!

No Towels means NO Towels.  As I remembered from London, ITU said no towels in transition, and they were very serious about that. A washcloth hidden in my bike helmet beneath my race belt was confiscated and found post-race with about a hundred other sneaky little terry cloth bits. 

Number Matching. When I got to transition Saturday morning, competitor 2224 was in my 2222 spot. An ITU official was called to relocate the bike and gear. The athlete must have had a case of premature "race brain."

Escaping pontoon. Saturday I lined up in my wave for the swim start and noticed the line stopped moving. Pretty soon I heard the rumor that the pontoon we were to jump off of had come loose and detached from the lake wall! We were supposed to swim north, then turn back and head south to the finish. After a delay, officials decided we would jump in from the wall and complete a shortened sprint-distance swim just to the south. Half of the swimmers were very happy, half were not. Try to guess how I felt:


Subterranean Biking: We were not able to pre-ride the bike courses, and based on my observations of Chicago's drivers, I had no interest in cycling on open roads. Plus I don't have a horn on my bike, and it seems like to drive in Chicago requires a LOT of honking, often for no reason at all, other than to add to the chorus of urban honking.

Much of the Standard distance course was the underground portion of a multi-tiered road (Lower Wacker) and on a bus lane adjacent to train tracks. There were lots of turns and you just had to gamble on how fast you could safely take them and then accelerate like heck coming out. The changes from light to dark were tricky, and photo-chromatic lenses left the view a little darker than I'd have liked. But hey, it was fun and different and I felt like a Matchbox car! One tip for underground courses: don't plan on relying on GPS or distance numbers. Go by time.

Multi-lap run. The 10k runs were 3-3/4 laps (someone doesn't understand fractions because the athlete guide called it 3-1/2). The finish line split off from the course and went for maybe 50m, which meant you had to run right past the finish chute three times, watching the people who were done, and knowing you were not done. Quite a number of people diverted a lap too early, and had to go back out to finish. I was able to count up to three - three times past the fountain before finishing.

One upside to the multi-lap run meant having spectator friends to look forward to seeing on each lap (thank you Sue and Glenn Jankowitz and Bryan Walsh for the high-fives and encouragement).

Team Kits. While the Team USA clothing has gotten much better, the Mexican and Italian Tri Teams still looked the best - mainly because they seemed to have an entire wardrobe: cycling jerseys and shorts, tri suits, jackets, tshirts, tights, etc. Runners up in the fashion category would be Great Britain, New Zealand, and Japan.

Bike shower. The sprint bike course was SO bumpy and rough on the south end. My drink bottle is open at the top for refilling on-the-fly and the mesh sponge that is intended to be the baffle had been pushed to the bottom. As a result, my sticky drink splashed every where, making a mess of my bike. The bike got a thorough cleaning in the shower - first time ever - which worked better than I expected!

Meet the Pros. I had an opportunity to meet up in person with some of the fortyninegroup athletes including ITU pro Joe Maloy who raced in the elite event and two-time USAT Collegiate Nationals winner Rudy von Berg who raced in the U23 event.

When I met with Joe (photos above) I was wound a bit tight waiting for my race later that day. He really helped me to get some perspective and think about the "calm focus" that he looks to carry into his events.

Paratriathlon. One of my favorite events to watch is paratriathlon. Seeing the athletes and the innovative adaptive equipment that enables them to swim, bike, and run is fascinating. And in case anyone is thinking that paratriathletes are somehow slower, let me set the record straight. The top paratriathletes are extremely strong, fast, and extremely competitive and can kick my butt and your butt several times over. (Read USA Paratriathlon Head Coach Mark Sortino's article on "Prepare to be Impressed") 

I think that concludes my race highlights! 

Before I go, I would like to send HUGE thank-you's to Coach Jim of One-on-One Endurance for excellent and attentive coaching for more than six years! Thank you swim Coach Tom for helping me to really enjoy swimming (even if I am still glad when it gets cut short!). I'm extremely grateful to Equipment Coach, chief Sherpa, and sponsor Bryan Walsh of Solar Connexion for supporting my racing in so many important ways.

My family is awesome for letting me bug out for days at a time to enjoy this sport! Thank you Oma for feeding and driving kids and to my parents for cheering and supporting always.

I am very fortunate to work with the fortyninegroup and all our pro athletes and coaches who sent their well wishes and congratulations. I could not work with a more incredible group of people!

Now it's time to wrap up this season with one more race before I start planning for 2016 and ITU Worlds in Cozumel! (ok, maybe I have already started planning just a little)