Monday, September 18, 2006

Race Report: Best of the US Triathlon

What a fantastic weekend! We left Oklahoma on Thursday, stopped in NW Arkansas to switch vehicles and pick up Justin’s folks, and took off for Excelsior, Minnesota, for Saturday’s Best of the U.S. Amateur Triathlon Championships. We finally arrived after approximately 15 hours of driving (ugh…), and had some time to check out the race site, drive the run and bike courses, and look around town a bit before the pre-race meeting. We met up with Daniel, his mom, and his grandma at the race site as he was about to go ride the course. At the pre-race meeting, the race organizers, Jerry McNeal and Trudy Marshall, really started pouring on the “make you feel special” sauce – we were given temporary tattoos of the numbers for our body marking, temporary tattoos with the BOUS logo, temporary tattoos with our state flags, as well as our own little state flag to wave during the “parade of athletes” that was supposed to take place later. We sat through an informative meeting and then everyone drove to the race site for the expo and “parade of athletes”. The “parade” was more of a general introduction of the two athletes from each state (Jerry is the “voice of triathlon” in the area, and he did his homework on each athlete!), but it was pretty fun (maybe a little cheesy, but in a good way!).

The next morning, we woke up to rain and wind…a lot of wind (20-30 mph). We arrived at transition with plenty of time to get ready. It was windy and rather cool…overcast with light rain that fell off and on during the early morning. I got to see Justin start his race (there was a sprint that started an hour before the BOUS race) and come in from the swim before I headed over to the beach for my start. Daniel and I commiserated on the temperature of the water (“70 degrees” was way too optimistic – it felt more like 35!). Our swim course would take us away from the beach and then have us take a right turn and swim into the wind (and ever-increasing waves). The race director came down to the beach and made several last minute announcements (one of which would severely impact 39 athletes later…), including that we needed to get going NOW because the buoys were moving. He sent the guys off, and then one minute later, the women all took off. My swim was fine. The waves were surprisingly high and very choppy, so it was difficult to stay on course and see the buoys over the waves. Needless to say, I was well hydrated by the time I reached the shore. My feet were numb, but I managed to shuffle into transition and get out onto the bike. Justin had finished and was yelling at me that I was “right on plan” (I was thinking, “What the heck did that mean? Why wasn’t he telling me how many women were ahead of me?”). I took off on the bike into the 30 mph southerly and was pretty happy that we train in windy conditions fairly regularly here in Oklahoma. Several times along the first leg straight into the wind, a gust would hit, and I would be pretty impressed at how the wind affected the bike. The bike course was a two loop (one loop of 15 miles, one loop of 10 miles) course on good roads, although the course was not closed to traffic. I had a good bike ride, hitting my heart rate targets with no problems and took off on the run onto a super-flat, fast course. The run had been a concern of mine, though, as the last two weeks, I had been nursing a strained hamstring and have not been able to get in key workouts while I was trying to let it heal properly (thanks so much, Norman, for all of the help!). I had no pain or discomfort, but my legs only went one speed. Several women passed me on the run; from my perspective, I thought they looked like cheetahs! I was pretty happy to finish as the eighth woman in a PR time of 2:15:11 for a fairly accurate Olympic-distance course, although I found out later that I was one of 39 athletes who missed the last swim buoy, so I was assessed a 2-minute penalty. I had been 7th out of the water, and at one time was 2nd overall on the bike, but wasn’t as competitive on the run. But, it was still a good race for me, all in all.

I do want to note that Daniel had the most AMAZING breakthrough race – he was third out of the water even though he did the full swim course (the top two guys missed the last buoy, and a lot of folks followed them…but not Daniel). Daniel’s bike was awesome, but his run was absolutely phenomenal. Justin had the opportunity to watch everything, and he said that Daniel simply looked amazing as he took off out of transition onto the run course. It turns out that Daniel PRed the 10k by only about 6 minutes!!! Something clicked for him, and he ran a 34:xx! He ended up 6th overall for the guys in a pretty impressive field. His was a fantastic performance, and he definitely needs to be working closely with USAT, because he’s going places in triathlon if he keeps this up!

Daniel and I both received really nice individual awards for being top ten finishers, as well as a lovely Waterford crystal vase for each of us for being the fifth place team (I don’t even want to go back and figure out if my penalty cost us a place or two, but I might later when I really want to get annoyed at myself). We were both pretty happy with the day, but it was obvious that some of the other competitors were upset about the swim course penalty.

I can’t say enough good things about the race organization overall, though, and hope that I’ve communicated what a neat experience I had. This is the second year that BOUS has run, and while they’re still ironing out some logistics, it is definitely on its way to being a premier championship race.

Thanks so much to Tri-OKC for the support provided for this race – I was so happy to be able to attend for Oklahoma, and based on Daniel’s perpetual smile, I think he was, too!


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