USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals Olympic Distance: 8/12/17
First, I need to start off with giving a HUGE shout out and thank you to my parents, but especially my dad. He spent his 60th birthday watching me race on Saturday and his birthday weekend in Omaha supporting me. I’m forever grateful and words can’t express my appreciation and selflessness. Thank you!!
With the race venue just an easy 3-hour drive north to Omaha, I was able to work half a day Friday before driving up to get my packet, check in my bike and go back to the hotel and relax for the rest of the day.
I debated all the previous night when I should leave for transition. My race wasn’t slated to start until 9:19 am (men 25-29 was third from last wave to start), but transition was open from 5 am to 6:55 am. Last year was an utter disaster with the traffic. However, USAT claims they revamped it and traffic flow would be better. I ultimately left at 5:30 to drive the short 3 miles. Well, that was a mistake. Traffic was a nightmare and was at a standstill. I eventually got tired of sitting, so I starting taking side roads. I’m extremely glad I did because I know it saved me time but it still took me 55 minutes to go 3 miles. As I was walking to my transition spot, they announced that the race would be delayed 15 minutes, then a few minutes later that got moved to 20 minutes, and finally they decided on a 30 minute delay due to traffic issues. So much for the “revamped” traffic flow! I felt it was worse than the previous year. I got my transition set up, talked to Every Man Jack teammate (and defending overall champion) Todd Buckingham before going back to my car to relax for a few more hours.
I don’t even know where to start. I’m pretty disappointed in my swim. I started to the left of Todd and another local KC athlete, Chad Davis. When the horn sounded, I took off and almost immediately got swam over by the guys to my left. I had to slow up to avoid getting kicked in the face. I saw that Todd and Chad had clear water, so I took a hard right and tried to get behind them. I was on their feet before the group to my left, again, converged on me and I had to slow up. I just let it go and sat behind this group and got into my rhythm. It seemed like it took forever to get to the first turn buoy. I knew Todd and Chad were still in front of me and saw the blue sleeve of EMJ teammate Andrew Weinstein just ahead of me. I put in a hard 50 meters or so and got up with him. He towed me along and we closed the gap on Todd, which I saw after the second turn buoy to head to the swim exit. Right after this turn, water started to fill in my left goggle. I left it in there for a few strokes but it was completely full and I knew I had to empty it. So I flipped over, emptied it and got back to swimming. Fifty meters or so go by and same thing happens. So I flipped over, emptied it, smashed it against my eye socket and got back to swimming. Then, within 10 meters it was now pulling away from my eye socket, filling up (obviously), and coming back in place. This happened two more times before, annoyingly, I took off my goggles completely, repositioned them and got back to swimming. What I found out was the straps that should have been around or near the crown on the back of my head were all the way down by my neck. I have no idea how this happened. It’s never happened before in a race or pool or anything. Fortunately, I was able to swim the last 400 meters without any issues at all. Unfortunately, I lost both Todd and Andrew during this fiasco, but was able to close the gap on Todd and ended up coming out of the water just 2 seconds behind him.
Todd and I ran to our bikes together (we were both facing the same way on the rack with bib numbers just 2 apart) and started the bike together as well. Last year, Todd out biked me by a good minute or two, so I really hoped to stay with him for as long as I could. Unfortunately, my legs felt horrible for the first few miles of the bike and couldn’t match Todd’s pace. I hammered up the big hill we climb (6-8% grade) at 6.5 miles into the bike which seemed to almost wake my legs up because I started to feel really good. Prior to that hill, I was only holding about 270-275 watts. Now, I was consistently holding a good 40 watts more. I started reeling in people and moving up. I got to the turnaround in 27:58 and roughly 5th in my AG; Todd was only 10-15 seconds up on me. I knew the way back would be harder since there would be a headwind the entire way back, but being this close to the front was a good thing for me as all the guys in front of me were within range of catching. A few miles later, I caught up to the group Todd was leading. I knew I’d have to pass all three at once because there wasn’t room to slot in and I certainly didn’t want a penalty. We were about to start the climb, but I decided to put in a hard 1 minute to make the pass and hopefully drop them all before the climb. Only Todd was able to stay with me so I really hammered the climb again to try to drop Todd, which was unsuccessful. After a fast descent, I saw another guy in my AG just ahead so I went after him. After making the pass, I kept the pressure high all the way to T2 and ended up with about a 10 second lead on 2nd and 20 second lead to 3rd (Todd) entering T2. I’m definitely very happy with my bike ride. 5th fastest bike split of the day and only 16 seconds off the 2nd fastest. Huge shout out to Steve Mantell for showing me a new level of hurt on the bike and pushing myself more than I would riding solo.
I knew I had ridden well when I approached the dismount line and heard my parents cheering for me with a shocked tone and told me I was in 1st in my AG. I was fortunate to have a great bike rack position right near the bike in/out arch, which meant I didn’t have to run very far with my bike in transition. I quickly racked my bike, took off my helmet, put on Sock Guy socks (wanted to minimize the risk of blisters since I was racing tomorrow too), put on my Saucony Kinvara’s, grabbed a water bottle I left myself and took off. After running 30-40 yards I realized I didn’t have my race belt. Seriously?!?! How the hell do I forget my race belt? I immediately turned around to go get it and noticed Todd was about ready to leave his spot. I yelled at him to grab my race belt as he took off. He had already passed my spot by the time it registered (it is quite an odd request mid race) but he stopped, turned around to grab it and threw it to me. How awesome and selfless is that? He could have easily ignored it or said sorry and kept going, but instead, adds time onto his race to help an idiot teammate and competitor. I’m so grateful and I’m personally extremely glad my error didn’t cost Todd in the overall or AG placing (theoretically, at least). After putting on my race belt, I tried to stick with Todd through transition, but that didn’t work and left T2 now in 3rd place. Ugh.
Right away my legs didn’t feel great at all, which was likely because of a “harder than I’m used to” bike, but I remained positive and had both 1st and 2nd in sight. My pace was decent (5:46, 5:47, 5:44 first 3 miles), but I just couldn’t turn it over any faster. I tried several times to get down to what I felt I could handle, but it didn’t last. It was definitely much cooler than last year; however, I was still struggling with the heat and humidity. I was getting water and Gatorade at every aid station hoping it’d also help me feel better (leg wise) and help with my turnover and pace. At the first turn around (2 loop course, out 1.5 miles then back and repeat), I was roughly 40 seconds behind 1st and 2nd. I kept telling myself to keep them in sight and one of them would pop off the back and I could go chase them down. After lap 1, I was now 50 seconds behind Todd and only 30 second back of second. Perfect! This definitely gave me a bit of a boost in motivation. Just after I started my second lap, Evan Culbert came by me starting his first lap. I’ve raced Evan several times this year and knew he’d be a top 24-and under competitor as well as the overall placing. I tried to go with Evan but it didn’t work. Unfortunately, miles 4 and 5 were not what I wanted (6:00 and 6:02). I had my chance to close the gap and go after 2nd and just couldn’t. During the last mile, I knew I’d finished 3rd in AG, but pushed it hard all the way to finish because I knew my overall placing could be impacted if I eased up. I ended up running a 5:40 6th mile and 35:50 10k.
Overall: 2:00:12. 7th place overall, 3rd in 25-29 AG.
Overall I’m very pleased to finish 7th OA and 3rd in AG. I made some mental errors that definitely cost me some time, but I have a lot of positives to walk away with. I think my bike split and power is definitely something I can build on and continue to develop in the future. I now just need to learn how to run fast off a super hard bike.
AGN Sprint Distance: 8/13/17
I woke up race morning feeling pretty good. Sore, sure, but excited to race again. I did a nice warm up run with some builds in there to see how I was really feeling, to which my body and legs were responding well. There was a light rain falling with more expected to come during the race. Fortunately, it was just rain and no lightning so the race wasn’t delayed.
Men 29 and under was the first wave to start and as I walked down to the dock, I saw Evan Culbert so I lined up next to him. Neither of us wanted to get in the water for a swim warm up and it ended up being the correct call. We chatted for a good 10 minutes while waiting for the race to start. Eventually two kids (16-17 years old) came over and sat by us and we talked to them. Never have I felt so old at 28. After a few minutes, one of them was shivering uncontrollably. I felt really bad as I’ve been there many times and it’s definitely not an ideal way to start a race, especially a sprint distance race. The horn finally sounded and I knew staying with Evan was unrealistic, but I did want to use him to gauge my effort. Even though it’s a sprint, I didn’t want to overdo it and ruin the rest of the day. Swim was pretty routine; no goggle issues (yay), felt pretty good and pushed it hard, but within my limits.
I felt really good early on. The power numbers were what I was hoping to hold, and I was definitely excited. I had some work to do after the swim and went to work closing the time I lost in the swim to the faster swimmers. Unfortunately, it had been raining off and on all morning and was still raining during the bike. The roads were wet and I saw a guy slide out and go down around a corner. I instantly became more cautious and didn’t take any risks going around corners. At the turnaround just over 6 miles into the bike, I was in 12th place and saw Evan was leading with a good group behind him. I was just over a minute back of Evan but had plenty of guys to key off of on the return trip back to T2. With about 4 miles to go, I was going down a slight hill. The road surface was transitioning from smooth blacktop to concrete. Well, the transition wasn’t all that smooth and had a small hump. I didn’t realize this, hit it and it sent my body forward. My elbows slid off my elbow pads and my chest hit my water bottle that I have between my aerobars. I was extremely fortunate to not crash and lucked out that my forearms were able to slide against my aerobars and I was able to stay up. So, couple that with wet roads and I became even more cautious and conservative. Approaching T2, I could see up ahead that I was in 9th place, still about a minute down from the lead competitors.
T2: routine. Definitely didn’t forget my race belt!
I started the run with another athlete who took off like a bat out of hell. I felt like I was running a decent pace, but he made me feel like I was out for a recovery jog. After a minute or two, I looked down and saw I was running 4:58 pace! Two things went through my mind. 1) This actually doesn’t feel horrible. 2) What on earth pace is that guy running?! (Turns out, 4:30’s. He ran 14:14 and won overall). Right away I started passing athletes and was now running in 7th about .75 mile into the run. I could see up ahead a steady line of athletes and this is when I first realized that I could catch them all (besides 1st). I went through mile 1 in 5:15 and felt really strong, which is surprising since yesterday I could hardly run anything faster than 6:00 pace. I passed 6th shortly after the first mile and 5th around 1.25 miles. As we approached the turn around and half way point, I was able to finally get time checks on 2nd through 4th. I was about 15 seconds behind 3rd and 4th and 30 seconds back of Evan in 2nd. Before the race, I joked with Evan that I REALLY hoped I would see him later (he was 6th overall in the Olympic and I’ve raced him several times before). He’s a super-fast swimmer, so the only way this would happen is if I caught him on the run. His response was, “I expect to see you at 2.5 miles into the run.” I passed 4th and 3rd at the same time right at mile 2, which was 5:13 for me. Now it was just Evan in front of me that I could catch. Sure enough, right around 2.5 miles into the run, I passed Evan. I put in a hard move to try and discourage him from latching on and staying with me since we’re so close to the finish. The move definitely hurt but I was able to break away and ran mile 3 in 5:13 and kicked hard to the finish line. Turns out I’m glad I did as I just barely snuck under 16 minutes (15:59) for my run split and just under 60 minutes for my overall time (59:53) to finish 2nd overall and 1st in 25-29 AG.
Immediately after finishing, I had an USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) rep tell me I have been randomly selected for drug testing. I was actually kind of excited because I’ve never been tested before and I’m not worried at all about testing positive.
Overall: 59:53. 2nd overall, 1st AG 25-29 National Champion
I’m extremely happy with my race. I feel like I executed well and felt really good (in a painful way that only sprint triathlons can do) the entire time. I’m glad I was able to put together a great run split after being a bit disappointed the day before in my 10k. Overall, it was a very encouraging and fun weekend of racing that I can build on leading into 70.3 Worlds in Chattanooga in just a few weeks.
Huge thank you to all the volunteers and Every Man Jack Sponsors.
Don’t forget, you can use KDENNY17 to get 25% off online orders at Every Man Jack
Picture credit: my mother.
Olympic Distance pictures:
Sprint Distance pictures: