Just a few observations from the 2014 Age Group National Championships in Milwaukee last weekend. I qualified for the Olympic distance last summer so I had an entire year to prepare (read worry) for this event. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect as this would be my first really “national stage” event but I was pretty confident that I would be over matched. I was not disappointed.
USAT and the city of Milwaukee did a fantastic job. Blue bird weekend, great venue and really pretty course and city. For those of you who have not been to Milwaukee recently it is a great place to visit during the summer. We stayed downtown, parked the car and walked everywhere. I was very impressed. Fantastic lake front with the Art Museum and Discovery World, great downtown with River Walk with lots of restaurants and bars. It was fun seeing the town literally invaded by mobs of highly fit athletes with blue and red wrist bands and body markings. My brother and I had a great prerace dinner at The Smoke Shack bbq restaurant. Consider it recommended.
"Unbelievable" is the only word that comes to mind. The buzz at the expo was that due to this being the qualifier for the 2015 ITU Age Group World Championships in Chicago, that the field was larger and more competitive than ever. To my eyes, the difference between this event and the local and regional events that I had previously participated in was huge. First was the size. Over 3100 athletes started the Olympic triathlon. Transition on Saturday morning with 3100 bikes and athletes getting set up was quite the sight. Second was confidence. In most other events I have been in there are quite a number of newbies, first timers and other nervous people about. Not here. These were 3100 “pointy-end-of-the-stick” athletes who were highly confident, highly calm and very relaxed. I am a body language watcher and there were none of the dazed “what am I doing here” looks that you see so often before a start. They were also incredibly fit. If there was an extra pound of body fat anywhere I did not see it. As expected, the equipment in transition was incredible. As these are the fastest of the “go-fast” guys, the fast bikes were out in force. For those of you who have done this and can relate, the impression was the same as walking through the barns prior to the Kentucky Derby and feeling and seeing the pent-up horsepower just waiting to be let loose.
Great Fun. Best and most fun triathlon I have done. Excellent swim venue and the most relaxed, fun swim I have had to date. A personal PR (powered by Carb Boom! Energy Gels) of over 10 minutes and I finished exactly where I belonged in my age group. Just missed qualifying for Worlds (by 60-70 places!) but very happy with my results. The overall event was won with an incredible time of 1:50:58, my age group (55-59) had 136 finishers and was won with a time of 2:05:06 and the first 30 were under 2:20:00. Just incredible! I now have to qualify so I can do it again!