It has been several days since I returned from Omaha, after competing in my first USA Triathlon National Age Group Championship race and I still feel excited, unsettled, overwhelmed and full of energy. I have so much to tell you, from discoveries prior to leaving, mishaps with luggage, my bike and sleep, and how my perspective and knowledge about the race and myself changed from day to day.
A little background…
The only other time I competed in a USAT national event was in 2013 for duathlon, which is a run/bike/run event. It was in Tucson, AZ and I placed sixth in my age group and qualified for the World Championship/Team USA. I raced in Pontevedre, Spain the following spring and placed ninth in my age group and third American woman.
Lightbulb Moment #1 – Four Days Prior to Race Day
My coach and I discussed realistic race goals. She asked if I intended to go, should I qualify for the world championship. I told her I would most likely decline since it’s in the Netherlands and we are not made of money. I have spent more than my fair share on races over the last three years and, frankly, I’m not that excited about the destination. She asked me to reconsider saying I did not need to bring my whole family, just her. HA!
So, I looked up race results from the 2015 triathlon national race in Milwaukee, WI to see just how good my chances were for qualification.
There was no chance.
I did not know or expect this and yes, this was four days prior to the race.
Based on my best race time in the Olympic distance triathlon, I would have placed about 100 out of 120 women in my age group of 40-44 in 2015. Only the top 18 in each age group qualify for worlds.
I basically freaked at that point, called my best friend and cried. I did not want to embarrass myself at the race and started to feel as if I did not even belong there. I emailed my coach and she talked me down, begging me to not compare races and race times as they vary so much with weather and terrain and, that I absolutely belonged there as a top competitor. She virtually slapped me and insisted I get my mental game on point.
I did as I was told but it was tough.
Lightbulb Moment #2 – Arriving in Omaha
USA Triathlon National Championships is a big deal. I knew this when welcome signs were plastered all over the airport, host hotel and pretty much every local business had a sticker in the window welcoming “USATriathlon Athletes!”
This was not the case with duathlon. Not even close.
This may also be a good time to note that my luggage did not make it to our final destination. My husband’s did, of course, but not mine. I had packed all my race gear with me on the plane, but still.
My luggage was scheduled to be delivered to my hotel, when it arrived on the next flight, sometime after 11pm. The courier thought it was a good idea to call me, twice, at 2:50am to tell me it was at the front desk. WTF? So, my sleep that night was less than stellar since I did not answer the phone but was woken up by it, coupled with nightmares of not recovering my luggage at all. Good times.
Lightbulb Moment #3 – The Day Before the Race
I had a lot on the agenda the day before the race. I needed to be reunited with my bike, do a practice swim in Carter Lake and also a short bike and run to shake out the nerves and see some of the course. I also had my race registration packet to pick up, numbers to put on my bike and helmet and a mandatory bike racking at transition before 7pm.
I was excited and nervous as I set out to the venue by myself.
Shuttles were provided from the hotel to the venue and it was only about a 15 minute ride. I easily found the RaceDay Transport tent and eagerly stepped up to get my bike. The reps face dropped when I told her my name and said they didn’t put mine together. She then pointed to the large box that it was still in. Seriously? I needed to wait over two hours for them to assemble it, which was the total time I was planning to be there.
I was trying very hard to keep my shit together at this point. I was already so nervous about the race, my luggage had been lost (and found!) and now this?
Luckily, everything else went smoothly and, I was eventually able to do all three disciplines, before racking my bike in transition mid-afternoon.
Lightbulb Moment #4 – Race Day!
After another sleepless night, I walked over to my friend Caitlyn’s hotel. She is also coached by CRS, is from Connecticut and she and her husband drove to Omaha. They invited me to drive to the venue with them in the morning, instead of having to pile onto the shuttle, so I walked over at 5:30am. We made it to the race a little after 6:00.
Here is a fun fact about triathlon – – the race starts in waves to cut down on traffic jams and drowning in the water – – but the transition area (with all of our bikes and gear) closes before the first wave of competitors takes off. My wave did not start until 9:45am but transition closed at 7:30am so I had over two hours to
panic think about my race strategy.
The swim was not wet suit legal since the water was too warm. A wet suit makes you much more buoyant in the water and, therefore more efficient. This would be my first race without a wet suit for the swim. Cue the nervous laughter.
Shifting between terror and dominance in my mind, I looked out onto the water, ready to go. This was the moment I had been training for. There were 114 women in my 40-44 age group, the largest and most competitive group there, a point we were reminded over and over again. No pressure.
As we dangled our feet into the water, waiting for the signal to actually get into the water and hang onto the dock before the horn, we chatted. I met so many super nice and funny women, a lot of them from the east coast. In fact, I met a woman from Connecticut just before the horn sounded and she declared it was “good luck!”
I took off at a snail’s pace and stayed there. In my mind I was thinking “nice and easy” until the turnaround. I was very happy with my sighting and I felt like I was keeping an even, smooth pace. There was almost no kicking, grabbing, scratching or crashing in the water. It was the cleanest swim I have ever raced and I made it out of the water in 36 minutes, not even close to last.
The flatness of Nebraska was heavenly. There were two or three very insignificant hills but, astonishingly I saw people struggling up them! In fact, a woman I spoke with in my age group after the race was pissed saying someone told her the course was flat. Wait, what? She was from Texas. Bless her heart.
The bike was by far my most favorite part of the race and I felt like a rocket as I shifted and passed so many women in my age group!
The funniest moment was when I was passing another woman and she yelled “Go catch that guy up there! He’s so hot!” I literally burst out laughing and gave her a thumbs up. It’s very rare to have anything but business on the bike course and I loved this girl for making me laugh.
Notice the whopping elevation gain of 830 feet! The Northeast laughs at your “elevation” attempt.
Also notice the temperature in the bottom right. It went from 73 during the swim to 79 on the bike. You know what’s coming, right?
Other than the hot wind blowing both ways on the bike course, I was unaffected by the heat. That was about to drastically change.
As soon as I dismounted the bike and started running into transition I felt the full effect of the heat. I knew it was going to be a suffer fest for six miles and I was ready.
My husband was standing pretty much right out of transition when he captured this. I was not quite so happy on my return…
The course was flat but there was not one.speck.of.shade. I saw athletes getting sick, keeled over, sitting and basically succumbing to the elements.
I set a pace I knew I could hold for the first three miles then, if I had anything left, I would slowly build for the last three.
At each water station I took two cups, pouring one over my head and drinking the other. At mile three we ran inside TD Ameritrade ballpark and sped around the warning track, having our images displayed on the big screen. It was pretty cool but I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it wasn’t brutally hot…and I wasn’t running a triathlon race…and instead having a beer, sitting in the shade of the stands…but, details.
Once I hit two miles to go, I tried to catch and pass as many women as possible. I upped my pace and gave it everything I had.
I finished the run in 48:36 which is a 7:39 overall pace. My last two miles were 7:35 and 6:47.
The temperature reads 82 but it felt like 102.
I was never so happy to be done with a race and I think this picture pretty much sums it up. I look like the racing equivalent of a homeless person.
Lightbulb Moments – Results and Post-Race
Since my SIL Katie is a stalking genius in the best way possible, she texted me my race results about five minutes after I crossed the finish line. It was then I found out I finished in 39th place but, I had no idea how many of the 120 women slated to race in my age group, had actually done so. Once I found out there were 114 finishers and several DNF’s (did not finish) I felt a lot better!
First, I was very happy I did not finish in 100th place. After my husband did the math and told me I was in the top 34% of the group, I felt even better.
I have to remind myself that I have only just started in triathlon. In fact, my very first race at this distance was just this past May and this event was only my third ever.
My swim is obviously holding me back but, on the bike and run my times were very competitive and in-line with the top 18 finishers.
I definitely have my work cut out for me on the swim, have room for improvement on the bike and, who knows, maybe I can even get faster on the run?
I do know this – – I absolutely deserved to be there and I definitely can compete with these women. My goal for 2017 will be to go back to Omaha and qualify for worlds!…of course, first I have to qualify for nationals again.
[Tweet “Lighbulb moments for this age group #athelte at @usatriathlon #nationals 2016!”]
I also want to thank my village, once again, for their tireless support! From my husband (who keeps me sane by knowing nothing about racing and triathlon) to my dad and stepmom (who enthusiastically took the boys for days!) to my entire family, close friends and all of YOU. I say it all the time because it’s true – – you motivate and inspire me and I absolutely could not do what I do without your love and support. Thank you!
More posts to come on Omaha (loved!), USAT and the event itself. Stay tuned!
Have you had any lightbulb moments lately?
I LOVE THIS SO MUCH.
And I am your husband (which reminded me of what I read ages ago about Mia Hams mom. She worked HARD to learn nothing about soccer so she could simply cheer and support.).
Oh and Id also for sure definitely be that other woman on the bike.
Oh I know you would!! Love that so much about you 🙂
I echo Carla – I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!!!! After all those hiccups, you came out like the champion you are. And I have no doubt you will be back next year to kick some more ass. You raise me up!!!! And I’m interested to hear about Omaha – who knew?!?!
Thank you Angela!! And yes, Omaha was such a great, clean, fun and delicious place. More to come on Friday…
I’ve been waiting for this! I am so happy and excited for you. You emerged out of the race like the champion and boss you are. Congrats on such a positive and successful race.
Thank you so much Hollie. I know you can relate to all the mental gymnastics you sometimes go though before a big race. Wish you were closer so we could swim together 🙂
Looks like you had a great time, and great times! Way to go girly!
Yes I did! Thanks so much Rachel.
You are an amazing woman!!! Congrats! And you know what? There’s been MANY times I have felt “I didn’t belong” or “deserve” to be in a certain field or race. But that’s all nonsensical garbage. We ALL work our tails off. You are a pillar of strength. Awesome lightbulb moments. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Thank you so much for saying that Jess!! I really appreciate it!
Those paces at the end of your run were amazing! Yes you definitely deserved to be there. Great job!
Did you catch the hot guy?
LOL – thanks Wendy and, I looked but did not see hotness. Those one-piece kits are kind of a huge turn off 🙂
Even if they have them unzipped down to the navel?
HAHA – I guess it depends on how much body hair they have 🙂
This is seriously amazing… I am in awe…. You are so inspiring!!! And this was you got a PR in your first national tri. (I don’t know if the term PR is still used for tri’s)… And I want to know what Wendy wants to know… did you catch the hot guy?
HAHAHA!! Yes! I totally forgot to add that it was a four minute PR and yes, that is still the appropriate term 🙂 I did not even see the hot guy…those one piece kits are just so un-hot, I can’t…:-)
Wow! This was one of the most captivating recaps EVER! I am so proud of you Allie! You are so amazing. I had NO idea that all of those insane things happened right before your race! But you still pushed through 😉 I love the lady that told you to chase the hot guy. That would have been my cue to GOGOGO! lol 🙂
Thank you so much Nellie! As you know, the lead up to the race can be a journey in and of itself!!
Her comment was just so hilarious but, unfortunately, I did not see any hot guys anywhere :-(( Except of course my hottie husband at the finish 🙂
Holy CRAP that HEAT!!! I can’t believe all the stress you had to deal with! I’m so glad you packed your gear on your carry-on. I’ve always done that too! You just never know. Congrats on such a great race. You are so strong. My hero!!!
Thank you so much Suzy and YES packing all my gear with me almost saved the day and cut down on a lot MORE stress 🙂
First of all, you are amazing. Second, I can’t believe you thought you couldn’t compete with these women! You are incredible and bust your ass so hard every day!! I’m so happy to see you had an amazing result and now it looks like you know where to concentrate your efforts going forward. Third, with all off the things that went wrong in this post, it reminded me of the first day of my trip to the Azores! One thing after another, but you pushed through. SO proud of you for this amazing accomplishment! I agree with your coach, though – I really think you should go to the Netherlands because that sounds amazing.
LOL – thanks so much Danielle! And, with ALL the crazy traveling you do, I cannot believe you don’t run into more problems, more often.
You are amazing. There’s not much more to say than that. After all those mishaps (OMG I would have been losing my shit and probably would have thrown an epic tantrum), you rocked it. And in the heat! Congrats friend!
I’m not saying I didn’t throw a tantrum, it was just internal! Thanks so much Christine 🙂
You’re inspiring! Enjoyed the post. From the looks of your Instagram feed, you enjoyed your time in Omaha while not racing, too. See you in 2017?
I really did! I will be writing a recap, about all the great food and fun my husband and I had when I wasn’t racing, on Friday. And YES I will absolutely be returning in 2017! Thank you 🙂
To echo everyone above – you are amazing as an athlete and as a person. You were just so composed and focused despite all of those hiccups! Also after watching the Olympics I cannot get over the sheer amount of distance you swim. It’s crazy in an incredibly impressive way. You are so strong. And you’ve only just begun in the tri – I can’t wait to see all that you accomplish with how much you’re accomplished already!
Oh Laura, thank you SO much for appreciating the swim!!! It is insane for me and, I sit and watch the Olympics and tell my husband how long it takes me to swim the same distance…usually it’s double!!
Oh, wow, super cool! Looking good out there so many great runners in this race.
Thanks so much and yes, there were 3,300 athletes in total, and all of them were incredible!
You 100% deserved to be there! This race seems like ti was one big “Teaching Moment.” And yes, you “were taught,” but you also served it up, lady. It is so hard to get mentally and then physically challenged like you did before and during the race, and you should be SO FREAKING PROUD of yourself!
Thank you so much for your words! Yes, absolutely was taught and have learned and will continue to grow which is what it’s all about, right? Onward!
WOW!!!! I loved reading this so much, despite my anxiety reaching a level 100 while reading it. Seriously your adventures and lightbulb moments were amazingly intense. So much to digest just as a reader!!! I can’t imagine not having my stuff show up or having to wait 2 hours for bike assembly, but I can certainly relate somewhat. It just awesome how you totally rocked that race, so inspiring!!! If this is you just beginning triathlon, then the world better watch out cuz you about to take over!!! I intend to dominate AG 75-80 later on.. I like long term, attainable goals
For real you are awe—some!!!
LOL – so glad it was a suspenseful read 🙂 and I love that you “intend to dominate AG 75-80” me too!! Thanks so much Danielle.
Congratulations on the amazing Tri!! You killed it! I’m sorry you had some nerves going in, but you absolutely deserved to be there!
Isn’t the Omaha Airport so tiny? Reminded me of the Harrisburg Airport.
Thanks so much! Overall it was an amazing experience and we do need to learn to improve, right?
Congrats Allie! You totally deserved to be there! What a great job! Also, your reaction to the woman about hills is hilarious. Running in heat is no fun, so glad you made it through!
Thanks so much Britt. I was stunned that anyone could think the course was anything but flat. So crazy how you get used to your environment. I’ve always been happy I live and train in the hills!
This race report is just what I needed to read to today as I prep for my race on Sunday!!!! Loved hearing all about the ups and downs (and the hills ha!) of how you were feeling and the emotions and everything. You are so awesome and I am so proud of you and can’t wait to see you and to celebrate our accomplishments soon in VT. Congrats on an amazing finish Allie!
And I love that I’m reading this (again) after you killed the Timberman, once again and finished strong!!! I cannot wait to hear all about it and give you a huge congratulatory hug when I see you in VT!!!! Well done my friend!!!
Congrats on a great race. I loved reading your recap, takeaways and how much you enjoyed Omaha. Really strong bike and run out there, especially with the weather. The swim is my weakest link although the bike is my least favorite of the three sports. Way to keep killing it out there. xo
Thanks so much Jesica! Thank God I’m a runner because the heat was brutal and I saw a lot of athletes just fall apart. I agree with the swim but I’m really loving my time on the bike…of course having a great bike also helps!