Tuesday, November 15, 2011

USAT Worlds Long Course Race Report

I had great intentions of writing this race report while in Las Vegas, but I just wanted to enjoy the rest of my trip by relaxing and spending time with my dad, his girlfriend Sue,  and Ron….and not think about triathlon for a few days. ;) Don’t get me wrong, I still love the sport, but it has been one long year (actually three years) of Ironman training and my body is screaming for a much needed break! So, I did just that….I took off a week of exercising, did some gambling, enjoyed some adult beverages, ate greasy food, and slept in almost every day. Guess what…….I loved every minute of it! J
My final triathlon of the season was USAT Worlds Long Course in Henderson, NV. I qualified for this race at the Halfmax in Myrtle Beach last year. I’m not quite sure why Worlds long course is longer than the half iron distance. I found out a few months before the race that the distances were a 2.4 mile swim, 75 mile bike and 18.6 mile run. Hmmm, how did they come up with those distances?? When I heard that, my goals for the race changed. There was no way I was going to be able to train hard for this race after training hard all year for Ironman Louisville. So, my goals for this race included: 1) Enjoy the experience of being on Team USA 2) Take in the beautiful scenery on the bike course 3) Finish without getting more injured. I accomplished all three!  Although, goal number one started off a little disappointing.
Thursday before the opening ceremonies was the ‘Parade of Nations.’ Typically, from what I hear, this is when all the countries get to walk in parade fashion, wear their team/nation’s colors and get a proper representation. Well, USAT gets a huge FAIL for this part of the experience. The ‘Parade of Nations’ consisted of all teams sitting together at dinner (which they did not have enough seating for and apparently ran out of food by time the last people got to the pasta line), and then each country getting a shout out with two representatives walking down the middle of the convention room with a flag. Well, to get the so called ceremony started, the USAT director asked that each country send two members from their team to the back of the room to be the representative and get their flag. The director proceeded to botch certain names of countries, forgot to name a few and laughed about it once he was aware of it, and then didn’t even have flags for every country  that had athletes racing. This was utterly embarrassing and unacceptable! The announcer also tried to give a shout out to about ten athletes who were supposed to do very well at the race, but had failed to contact them before the event to be sure they were present for their acknowledgement. One out of the ten athletes was in the room when he called their names. Once we got to the mandatory athlete meeting, I was so annoyed that I just started tuning them out. They couldn’t even get that part organized. The woman who started out didn’t know what she was talking about half the time so had to keep turning it over to the race director. The race director (Silverman race director) is amazing and he should have just handled the whole ceremony and meeting himself! I was really looking forward to this kickoff event and hoping it would get the excitement and adrenaline pumping for everyone. It did the opposite….USAT didn’t make the US look good, it was embarrassing to be a part of, and from the comments I heard, everyone just felt annoyed and disappointed leaving the room that evening.
The race was Saturday morning. I wasn’t really nervous, I was more worried that I would hurt my neck swimming 2.4 miles and feel like crap doing it since I couldn’t swim much because of neck pain two weeks before the race. Plus, it was going to be cold!! When I woke up the temperature was in the low 40’s. Brrrrrr! Since T1 and T2 were in different places, I had already dropped off my bike/run gear the day before so didn’t have much to do to get ready in the am. We got some really cool tattoos to put on for our numbers, age and gender. I didn’t really get a good picture of them though since I was so bundled up for the race. USAT told us we could wear clothes over our uniforms and compression gear/tights. So, I wore my long sleeved DC Tri jersey and kept my compression socks on for the whole race just for warmth. I usually only wear them for recovery purposes. When I was heading to T1 a woman I was walking by told me the swim was canceled. I thought she was joking so just laughed and told her wouldn’t that be nice. She told me she was serious and I let out a big cheer…..I was saved from the swim!!! That seriously would probably have been one of my worst swims ever! Whew, a blessing in disguise! Normally, I’m a bit disappointed when the swim is canceled (even though I don’t really enjoy it) because, well, that’s what makes it a triathlon. But, since this was not an ‘A’ race for me, I had been long ready for off season, and was still struggling with my neck/hammy/back irritations….I was all about the swim being canceled for this race!  Plus, it was freakin cold out there! My phone said it was 39 degrees when I was walking into the race site, so the temperature had gone down since I first looked this morning. This is ironic since it was just in the 80’s a few weeks before the race! I like cool races but not winter like cool!
Luckily, the changing tent at the start had a heater in it. All the female athletes were hovered around the heaters drying out wet clothes that had been sitting in the cold rain all night. It hardly ever rains in Nevada, but unfortunately, it rained the evening before the race. This is also what caused the water temp to plummet over night. The start ended up being a time trial start from oldest to youngest. Once they called your group of numbers, you had to stand by your bike and then hike up a hill to the start where the race director greeted everyone with high fives as they went by. He’s a cool guy! My friend Amy, from Iowa, started right behind me. It was nice to have a familiar face close by. We chatted a bit while in line (teeth were literally chattering!) and finally it was time to start. It was nice that they didn’t have us start out going the opposite way and got a little bit of a warm-up before we started climbing out onto the course. The day before I had gone the opposite way for my pre race brick, and was a bit worried when my heart rate soared to zone 4 right away starting with a nice long hill. A few minutes into the race start, I rounded the first corner and saw my dad, Sue and Ron. I felt bad for them because I knew they were probably cold waiting for me to start too. (Luckily, I found out later that they were entertained by watching some fool attempt to climb a palm tree like a monkey and then ask how he was supposed to get down. Ha!) I was so happy they were there to cheer me on! This was going to be a very challenging race!
Since I didn’t drive the course at all and kind of zoned out at the athlete meeting, I didn’t have much of a mental vision of where the course went. That didn’t bother me though and I knew that it was just going to be up and down the whole time anyway no matter what. All I knew, was the last 20 miles were going to be the hardest and that part of the course included three steep hills right in a row called the ‘Three Sisters.’ So, I tried not to wear myself out too much before getting there. I also knew that I was not in my top Ironman shape anymore, and had only done a few long rides, so knew I had to watch myself with all the climbing and stay within  limits of my training. There was no racing hard or pushing the limits on this course. I knew if I pushed it too hard on the bike course, I’d really struggle on the hilly run.
The first 55 miles of this course are breathtaking! On the first really long decent, you see Lake Mead out ahead with its crystal clear, bright blue water and the mountains all around. I know I said ‘wow amazing!’ out loud several times. It really was a beautiful site and looking around helped get me through the constant climbing. I do not think there were any flat sections of this race. It really wore me out and by time I got to the ‘Three Sisters’ I was so ready to be done. Right after that section, you are on a paved bike trail for quite some time. Then, the course started heading back into Henderson and I just couldn’t get my speed up. My legs were definitely starting to drag. Finally, I start to see runners and knew T2 was getting close. After handing off my bike to a volunteer I ran into the changing tent and took my good ol time! I knew it was going to be a long 18.6 miles and it wasn’t going to be as speedy as my marathon at Louisville. Just like the bike course, this run course was no joke! I took a quick stop at the porta-potty, waved at Ron, my dad and Sue, and headed out to the course. The first few miles felt pretty nice and speedy…..that’s because they were downhill. I soon found out that this course consisted of a little over two miles down hill and a little over two miles uphill…..times four! Ugh, talk about needing to keep your mental toughness. It definitely helped knowing I’d see my wonderful cheering section twice each loop around.
There were a lot of fast athletes on the course since it was Worlds. Normally, the run is where I start passing a lot of people. Not this race. I was getting passed quite frequently. There was one woman out there who amazed me. She was in the 50 year old category and she passed me when I was going about 7:40 pace like I was standing still! I saw her several more times throughout the race and she still kept booking along at the same pace. I’m sure she finished at the top of her age group. I hope I can be that fast when I’m her age!
I have to admit that I walked a little bit two times on the long hill at the back of the loop. Just enough to get some lactic acid out of my legs after the water stop and get going again. I kept telling myself that off- season starts at the end of this race so the faster I go, the faster it will be here! Finally, when I was on the last mile, I started to kick it in. Ron was playing one of my favorite songs on the Bose he brought and that made me smile. After I crossed the finish line, the announcer said, “Well, I see somebody got their nails done for the race.” I gave him a thumbs up and laughed as I staggered to the finishers tent. I never do my nails so it was funny the announcer pointed that out. ;)
All in all, the race was a decent experience. I’d like to do another Worlds course in a different country someday to see what that experience is like. And, actually train hard for it. For some reason, we didn’t get finisher medals at the end of the race, so another disappointment. I am definitely going to write to USAT to voice my concerns about the pre race activities and about not receiving a medal. Who doesn’t give finisher medals after a race like this, especially after they mention it in the athlete guide?!  If Worlds is held in the US again, I hope USAT gets more organized. Athletes spend a lot of money to participate in these events, especially, traveling from different countries.
After the race, we stayed for three more days and enjoyed ourselves. We went to the Cirque du Coleil, ‘Love’ show, toured the Las Vegas strip and enjoyed a day at the Hoover Dam. Off season has begun and this Friday I’m meeting my mom in Orlando. We will celebrate Thanksgiving and her 60th bday together next Thursday. Then I spend a week in Clearwater for work. Not too shabby of an off season start and then holiday celebrations begin when I get back!
Beautiful view of the dam and new bridge
Speaking of holidays, check out this article in the online Tri magazine page, 16 http://bluetoad.com/publication/?m=16599&l=1  . I give a few holiday tips and answer a few questions in their, ‘From One Age Grouper to Another’ section. Thanks to my coach, Mackenzie Madison, for asking her athletes to reach out to the editor and answer her questions. Also, a huge shout out and congratulations to Mackenzie for finishing 2nd (pro) at Ironman Florida! I’m so proud to be one of her athletes and I am truly inspired by her abilities and dedication coming back after a big surgery earlier this year!

Hoover Dam
Getting a beverage to go on the Strip
We found the guy from Saw on the Strip!
In front of New York, NY Casino

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