I was pretty excited when it was announced that Omaha would get the 2016 and 2017 Age Group Nationals (AGN). Milwaukee was great and one of my favorite venues, but Omaha is just a 3-hour drive versus 8.5 to Milwaukee. I planned to save vacation time for Kona and work until noon on Friday before driving up. Unfortunately, Friday ended up being one of my most stressful days at work, and I wasn’t able to leave by noon. I still made it to packet pickup before it closed at 6, but definitely not the ideal race prep from a stress management view.
The race was delayed 15 minutes because with only one road into transition, vehicles backed up very quickly. People were walking faster than we could drive. I decided to change things up and warm up earlier than normal with the hope of getting in a good swim warm up as well. After my run, I changed into my Roka swim skin and went to the starting dock with plenty of time. Usually, I’m rushing around and one of the last to get to the start. But, for some reason, I didn’t feel like doing a swim warm up, so I just talked to my Every Man Jack teammate Kyle Hooker instead.
Swim: 21:01. Best swim ever?
The start was a bit chaotic with so many athletes in such a small area, but luckily I didn’t get kicked or punched/pulled. I started next to EMJ teammates Kyle Hooker (crazy fast swimmer) and Chris Douglas (secretly hoped to draft off of) and found clear water. Well, clear water as in no athletes impeding me because the water itself was quite disgusting and one of the worst I think I’ve swam in. Kyle took off as expected, but I actually found myself swimming well and feeling great. I just kept my stroke smooth and strong. I could actually see Chris just behind me and off to my side early on when I would breathe. I was quite shocked because like I said, I was secretly hoping to draft off him. He beat me at AGN the previous year by 1:49, but I know I’m swimming better than last year. I just went with it and focused on my line and swimming as straight as possible to the first turn buoy. At the first turn buoy (rectangle swim course), I could tell I was swimming well and high up in my AG. I also saw that I was leading a decent pack. While I’d prefer to be in the draft to save energy, this was new territory for me and felt really cool. I got focused again on my stroke and line. This is the second straight swim of 1500 meters + (Muncie was the other) where I didn’t lose focus and felt really good the entire swim. I looked down and saw 20:58 on my watch after getting out of the water. I heard shortly after that I was 54 seconds back from 1st in my AG. I had a feeling this was Kyle Hooker since he was one of the faster swimmers last year and beat me by 3:09. To only be 54 seconds behind Kyle was incredible. The other amazing thing is I actually led Chris out of the water! This swim far exceeded my expectations and goals. The time seems slow, but this was a non-wetsuit swim in nasty 86 degree water. The most amazing thing to me is the place difference between this year and the previous 3 years in Milwaukee.
I couldn’t be happier with my swim. I’m so excited to see what I can do in Kona. Although, I’ve never swam in salt water or the ocean before, so that will be a new experience.
Very long. After putting on my Rudy helmet and sunglasses and grabbing my bike, I headed out toward “bike out”. Little did I know, we still had a good quarter mile (or so it seemed) to run with our bikes before the mount line. It was a bit annoying, but I guess everyone had to do it.
I felt decent early, but never really did find my bike legs. The roads were pretty rough with really just one major hill (but it was a big hill, 7-9% grade for most of it according to Strava). I got to the turnaround of the out and back course at 30:03 and knew I’d have a slight tailwind on the trip back to T2. Unfortunately, I just never felt great. I only averaged 4 watts more than I did at 70.3 Muncie a month ago which is not good considering the Muncie bike is just over twice as far as AGN (56 miles versus 24.8). I had 59:38 on my Garmin but somehow “officially” split a 1:01:17. My only guess is that most or part of the long run back to T2 was included in the bike split and not at the mount/dismount line like normal. I never heard the beep of the timing mat, so I’m not really sure where the mat was.
T2: I decided to take the time to put my Sock Guy running socks on. I typically don’t wear socks for 10k’s or under (used to not wear them in my 70.3 races either, but have last few years), but my feet typically get torn up, so opted to wear them and I’m glad I did. I had no blisters or cuts on my feet like normal. Slipped in my Saucony Kinvara 7’s, got the race belt and head to the “run out” sign.
I felt good out of T2. Around a half mile in, I checked my watch for the first time and saw 5:30 pace and was pleased. It was starting to get really hot and there was no shade on the run course, so I just tried to keep it steady and smooth. I ran 5:32 and 5:38 for mile 1 and 2, including slowing down at aid stations. I typically do not get any liquids (or maybe 1) at aid stations during 10k’s or under, but I definitely needed them and took in liquids at all 6 aid stations. Unfortunately, the aid stations were crowded and under staffed since they provided liquids for both sides of the road on the out and back course. After mile 2, I started to really struggle and held 5:50’s to 6:00 for the rest of the run. The selling point for this run course was to be able to run in the College World Series baseball stadium around the warning track. While it was a unique feature, it also made the run course long (I had 6.33 miles). With the higher than forecasted temperatures, running longer wasn’t enjoyable.
Overall: 2:01:14. 9th overall, 4th in AG.
I am quite pleased with 4th in AG and 9th overall, which is my best placing overall at AGN. Times were slow across the board, which is odd to me because on paper the bike and run courses appear to be very fast with very little elevation gain. Without a doubt, the highlight of my race was my swim. I still can’t get over how much more confident and better a swimmer I am now than in years past. I look forward to putting in more hard work in the pool and continue to progress (hopefully). It was a lot of fun to race with two of my teammates even though I didn’t see Kyle after the start and Chris after T1. They both had great races and Chris was 2nd overall and 2nd AG and Kyle was 4th overall and 3rd in AG. And they went 1-2, respectively, overall in the sprint distance race on Sunday!
Now my focus shifts to Kona.
Comments about race venue: I started off by saying how excited I was for AGN to be held in Omaha since it was closer to home for me. Unfortunately, that’s about the only positive I could take away from the race being in Omaha. Race morning parking was chaotic. Only 1 road was open to get to the parking and transition area. They had a great concept of shuttling people in from host hotels, but it didn’t work because the busses were stuck in the same traffic as all the cars. My initial plan was to take the shuttle so my parents could come over later since I wasn’t scheduled to start until 8:48 am. Fortunately, my mom talked me out of that and convinced me to go over to transition earlier than we originally planned, also a great call. I can only assume the 15 minute delayed start was because of the traffic congestion. The lake water was disgusting. The run with your bike was extremely long (compared to all other races) and included in your bike split. The run was boring, flat and a straight line which was not exciting to me. There were not enough liquids at aid stations (no ice by the time I got to the run and my wave was in the middle), and the run was long. No one, not even me, likes a long run, especially in hot conditions with no shade. The volunteers were awesome and supportive as I experience at most races, but this course is one of the worst regarding spectators being able to watch the race. We were spoiled with a wonderful venue in Milwaukee. Hopefully, most of the issues were first-year issues only and next year they’ll fix them because AGN is always a race I look forward to adding to my schedule.
Huge shout outs to all the Every Man Jack sponsors. Couldn’t have done this without the support from you all: Every Man Jack, Roka, Felt, Garmin, Purplepatch, Rudy Project, Louis Garneau, Enve, Saucony, NormaTec, GU Energy, Lululemon, Sock Guy, Boco Gear, and of course all my teammates, especially the ones racing at AGN.