Friday, August 26, 2016

USAT Age Group Nationals in Omaha, NE

Lee Turner, Brad Metcalf (also with One-on-One Endurance), me,
Coach MarkT, and Darcy Ytterdahl

This is my latest most procrastinated race report EVER. This entire year has been one of those extra crazy busy times of life and it's not looking to let up anytime soon. I'm typing this up from my mom's new house, a 411 mile drive from mine. I'm determined to get this posted before my next race.

Anyway, I was looking forward to a change in race venue for Nationals after three great years in Milwaukee, but I confess that I had to look up Omaha on a map more than a few times to remember where it was. It's along the border with Iowa, pretty much smack-dab in the middle of the country.

I arrived Thursday of race week where athletes were greeted by inferno-like temperatures of over 100 degrees. Athletes were a little panicked but the forecast promised "cooler" temps in the 80s for the weekend. I didn't fret about it but just focused on staying hydrated. We'd all be racing in the same conditions. 

The hotels in the area were plentiful but none were within reasonable walking distance of the venue at Carter Lake. Most people relied on cars, hotel shuttles, and the event shuttle to get back and forth. With one main road in and out, it made for a big traffic jam Saturday morning that delayed the race start by 15 minutes. (Advice: leave yourself plenty of time to get there race morning.)

Packet pickup was smooth and quick on Thursday and the expo was in full swing! TriSports had a big shop with plenty of other booths including the major sponsors (Garmin, TrainingPeaks, TYR, Rudy Quintana Roo, etc). The venue itself was nicely compact with transition, the Expo, and swim start all in close proximity. 

Lee and Coach Mark Turner of Houston, TX and Team MPI

Friday I assembled my bike (shipped to the hotel via BikeFlights, of course!) and took it to the venue for a test ride and for mandatory bike check-in. The shifting sounded a little grind-y so I took it by the QRoo booth where I found out that they are happy to take a look at any and all bikes in the QRoo family!

With the bike set, I turned my attention to the practice swim session. This was my first Nationals or Worlds without a wetsuit and I relished the low-80's water temps! I found the lake to be far less imposing feeling than past venues. It was a quiet little lake rather than a major harbor or boat inlet or alongside a towering building or pier. There was a long temporary pier built out into the water from which we'd do an in-water dock start (one hand on the dock). I was HAPPY to swim here!

The most wonderful part of Nationals is the people! I see friends year to year, connect in person with folks from the tri community who I have interacted with online, and I always meet new people. This year I was very excited to meet Bob Babbitt of Babbittville Radio. I have probably listened to 95% of his podcasts over the last five years, they are fantastic!!

Bob wasn't just there in a token role. He raced hard and earned himself a spot for Team USA for Rotterdam next year! 

Before I talk about the race, I'd like to mention the next most important thing, which would be FOOD! I was pretty happy with the food scene in Omaha, particularly because most of it was concentrated in the Old Market Business District. You could walk just a few blocks and find whatever kind of restaurant/food you wanted. The city itself seemed clean, quiet, and very welcoming!

On to the races!

Race morning I got set up in transition pretty quickly and then spotted Coach MarkT in his officially ref-ing capacity. Then I finally got to meet Coach Amanda Leibovitz of Team MPI! She's amazing - a full-time student working on a PhD in Sports Psychology, training/racing a full schedule, and coaching accomplished athletes. 

With Coach Amanda Leibovitz

I raced the Olympic Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday. I am pleased with my performance for both: I raced to my potential, and I stayed strong, focused, and happy!

A few highlights, tactical decisions, and strategies 

Swim Start: In the past I've gone out conservatively assuming swimmers who went out aggressively were faster than me. I've learned that is often NOT the case. This time I pulled my feet up to the dock and pushed off hard to get to the front as quickly as possible then let things sort themselves out. Good decision there! (It's always so fun to see and hear Tim Yount announcing at the swim start, he's our "Mike Reilly" at USATAGN!)

Swim: The course layout was such that in advance, you could figure out your line to the first turn buoy and from the second turn to the finish, knowing which side of the sighting buoys to target. I felt I swam straight both days and I caught an awesome draft in the Sprint! 

Bike: The bike course was generally flat (with the exception of one short hill I enjoyed on the Olympic) with a good surface and never annoyingly crowded. There were a lot of refs on the course and I did not see any willfull drafting taking place. My Normalized Power was pretty good for me: 202w (22.1 mph avg) for the Olympic and 213w (22.9 mph avg) for the sprint. I was glad to see that even on tired legs I cranked it up for the sprint. I felt a "go for broke" aggression on the sprint bike and had a blast!! If interested, here are the Garmin files for the Olympic and Sprint

Run The run was a bit warm! My plan on the 10k was to hold back on on the first 5k and hold or ramp up on the second. My mile splits were 7:21, 7:29, 7:38, 7:42, 7:41, 7:33, and 7:32 pace on the last .34 miles. I was just happy that I didn't fade in the last two miles. It was a long 10k but it's because our turnaround was the infield of the Ameritrade Stadium which was pretty cool! I stumbled onto a new strategy for the last two miles of the run -- I compulsively spelled the word "technique" as I went, one letter at a time as my right foot landed, over and over. I did that to keep up my rhythm and remind myself to maintain my form! I did the same thing in the Sprint where my paces were 6:59, 7:07 and 6:56. This time I spelled B-E-L-I-E-V-E. I'm easily entertained, but it worked. 

I was 12th out of 114 in the Oly, and 8th out of 53 in the Sprint. I am pretty sure I got Team USA slots for  Rotterdam for both but I don't know for sure yet. Full results here

I had a super fun race weekend and despite my apprehension about Omaha, it was a very welcoming and wonderful city! I look forward to next year!

Thank you THANK YOU to Coach Jim McGehee of One on One Endurance who has had his work cut out for him coaching me through this tumultuous year. Thank you to my mom and sister for their understanding as this race weekend happened to coincide exactly with my mom's move (which had been delayed). I'm grateful to my kids and husband for allowing me the time to train and race. Gracias to Sherpa Bryan for help with logistics and equipment details and for sponsorship by Solar Connexion.