2016 USAT National Sprint Championships

073s

This race was taking place in Omaha, Nebraska and all the reports had it being very hot. Water temps were in the low to mid 80’s so it was not going to be wetsuit legal. I had decided sometime ago that I was going to drive to the venue so considering that it was going to be about an 18 hours drive I knew I needed to get on the road a few days before the event so I could rest up before the race.

I arrived in Omaha Friday at about 10:30am and went right over to package pickup. They had iPads setup so you could look up your number and sign in before proceeding to pick up your packet. This whole process went so smoothly that I think it took me about 5 minutes to get in and out of package pickup. That gave me plenty of time to get my bag from the car and head over to open swim practice! This was going to give me the opportunity to test out my speed suit that I’d had for over a year and to this point hadn’t worn. They are legal to wear in USAT events so I was looking forward to getting out in the water in it. When I first jumped off the dock into the water it didn’t seem hot but it wasn’t cold either. As I swam out to the first buoy I swam in and out of warm and hot water. When I say hot I’m talking bath tub type temp. Because the water wasn’t moving around much in spots and the sun beaming down with only a little cloud cover it got heated up in spots. The outside temp was at about 85 degrees so being in the water at all was a nice change. I didn’t stay in long as I wanted to get in a ride on the bike (I put new smaller 20mm tires on the bike and hadn’t gotten the chance to test them out). I dried off and headed to the car to get changed, get the bike out of the car and put it together. Once I got on it I could tell that they were going to be harder at 115 psi than my 23mm tires at 120 psi. I just rode through the park, about 6 miles and practiced my dismount a few times. It was about 87 degrees now and I wanted to get in a run just to see how I’d handle the heat. I ran a 5k in just under an 8 minute pace and felt ok but I knew the heat was going to be a factor on race day.

I spent Saturday watching the Olympic distance race and supporting my friends that were in it. While watching the racers come in at the finish line one young man was being held up by 2 other racers. He was staggering and his eyes were rolling up and he just didn’t look good at all. But he didn’t want to stop until he crossed the finish line which was only about 50 yards away. Just as they got close to the finish medics ran out to him. One guy was going to pick him up and carry him but he didn’t want that, he was determined to finish on his feet (which were barely moving now). He eventually made it across the line with assistance then they quickly whisked him off to the medical tent. Not long after that a lady came running, well more striding than running, into the finish shoot. She was kind of slowly drifting from side to side. I could tell she was in a little trouble. She did make it to the finish line but I didn’t get to see what happened to her. Seeing this made me a little concerned because of my little dizzy spell I had after finishing the mini-Musselman race about a month ago. I think the heat got to me in that race and I might have been dehydrated. I’ve been really making sure I stayed hydrated all week long not just the last couple days before race weekend. I hung out long enough to watch my friends Dave Bladek and Stephanie Pianka come across the finish line. Dave is actually doing double duty and will be racing the Sprint also along with his wife Sue. After getting some lunch it was time to head back to the park to get one last practice swim in and rack the bike in the transition area which was enormous because of the amount of competitors in the races. I did a walkthrough of the swim in, bike out, bike in and run out just to get a mental picture of what I needed to do. It was time to head back to the hotel, get off my feet and chill.

Sunday, race day, I didn’t get good sleep at all. I fell asleep early and like normal I woke up early…2:30am early! I couldn’t fall back to sleep because my brain had already started running the race. I laid there for about a half hour but couldn’t get back to sleep. So I turned the TV on and watched some Olympics coverage. It was sometime after 4 before I fell back to sleep. I woke up at 5:15am (alarm was set for 5:30am) and decided to just get up and get going. After getting to the park and getting my transition area setup I got to chill for a bit. I didn’t feel tired at all and was somewhat relaxed as I waited for my 8:07am wave start.

Swim (16:54.5)

As we were sitting on the dock waiting to get in the water the announcer called the ladies who would be going in the wave after us. He said ladies 29 and under. We all said we might as well be prepared to get passed…lol. To start the swim we had to jump in the water and hold onto the dock and wait for the horn. I was still relaxed which seemed a little odd that I didn’t have my normal prerace nerves. The horn sounded and I started my watch and turn to get into my stroke. I put my head down and off I went. With 74 guys in this wave you’d think I get a lot of bumping but I only had 1 guy brush my shoulder about 100 yards out then nothing after that. I could see guys ahead of me but no one else. I swam alone for almost the entire swim. As I approached the shore I got passed by 3 ladies. After getting my swim time I was shocked to see an almost 17 minute swim. That was very slow for me. I can’t explain that swim…I hit all the buoys and stayed on course. I must have been too relaxed and fell into my lap swimming pace. As I sit here writing this recap that was probably the case because I can’t remember getting any tightness in my biceps which normally happens when I swim fast for an extended period of time.

T1 (1:41.6)

My transition went great…no issues at all. The swim out shoot wasn’t as long as last year but it did have an uphill run out of the water which got really slippery during the race the day before so I was looking for it to be the same way but was fine when I came through and they had put some extra carpets down to cover the bad spots. I got my speed suit off, helmet on and was off running with the bike with no problems. I made sure my shoes were secured well this time so as not to have any problems with spinning shoes like I did in my last race. It was a long run to the bike mount so I was a little worried about them coming loose.

Bike (35:11.4)

As I got to the mounting point I took a quick peek down at my shoes (still good). As I hit the mount line I jumped on the bike, held both feet up, sighted my shoes then placed both feet on them at the same time (perfect). I had a big smile on my face as I started pedaling because this was one of the things my brain was working on when I couldn’t sleep. Well that smile went away quickly when I reached down to slip my feet in my shoe and realized I neglected to loosen the straps. Now because I had to un-strap the Velcro, loosen it then put my feet in it was going to cost me a little time as it would delay me getting up to speed. While fiddling around with my shoes I drifted over to the left of the lane (when not passing you have to stay to the right of the road) as a guy was coming up behind me. He yelled out “On your left”. So I moved over to the right to let him go by then finished getting my left shoe on. I caught back up to him before we got out of the park. As we made the left out of the park I passed him and yelled out “Sorry about that” as I went by. He said “No problem” as I pulled away. Because I was in the 5th wave to start there was no shortage of racers to pass on the bike. So I had no clue where I was position wise. I got into a bike battle with a young lady who would pass me on the hills but then I’d catch and pass back by her on the flats. We went back and forth for a good portion of the second half of the course until about a few miles to go after which I pulled away. Coming into the park my bike computer had my average speed at 23mph. I was really happy about that. I got my feet out of my shoes and got ready for my running dismount. There was a guy who was stopping to dismount his bike. I was worried he’d be in my way but he gave me plenty room to get by. So I stepped off the bike with my right foot then planted my left. I instantly felt the heel bruise that I’d gotten 2 races ago. My official bike pace was 21.3 mph, they must have added that run in and out of transition to hour bike times!

T2 (1:44.2)

The bruise was bad enough to get me up on my toes while I was running across the pavement. It wasn’t as bad when I got to the running platform they had on the ground though a portion of the grass and felt even better when I got to the grass. I took the time to un-clip my helmet while I was running which normally I wouldn’t due until I got to my transition area. I think this saved me a few seconds so I’ll have to remember to do it from now on. I got to my area, racked the bike, took my helmet off, put on my running shoes then grabbed my race belt with bib and took off. I’d had another great transition time.

Run (23:26.3)

I just couldn’t seem to get going on the run. My heel wasn’t bothering me and I felt OK but I felt slow. I guess a 7:32 pace is respectable but I have to do much better. When you’re competing with the best in the country 7:32 is SLOW! The run course was very flat and I just couldn’t seem to take advantage of it. It was a little hot but with the time being just after 9am it wasn’t as hot as it was going to get. I had a half hearted sprint across the finish line where I was greeted with a nice cold wet towel to put on my head…that was a nice touch from the volunteers!

After packing up and getting my bike out of the transition area I noticed that my water bottle was practically still full. I should have drunk more water while I was out on the bike course!

So I finished the race in 1:18:56.1 seconds…nowhere near my goal of going under 1:10 but I didn’t factor in those long transitions and my swim didn’t help. My finishing position was 100 spots higher than last year. I finished 44th in my age group, up 16 spots from last year. I have to wait and see what my USAT points are going to be to judge how my performance in the race shakes out. Till then I have to get ready for my first Olympic distance race in a few weeks in Lake George. It will be a big test on how well I manage my pacing and nutrition with it being twice the distance of the races I normally do. But before that I get to test my leg speed in the Turning Stone races, 5k on Saturday then 10k on Sunday!

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