On August 9th I raced the USA Triathlon Olympic Distance National Championships in Milwaukee, WI. Nationals was the lone qualifier for the 2015 World Championships in Chicago – this would be the big prize. 25 slots per age group were going to be awarded. Typically Nationals has about 125 guys in my age group. On August 9th there were 229 on the start list and they were all qualified to be there. Every age group had numbers like this. 2014 was going to be the most competitive Nationals ever!
I was born and raised in Glen Ellyn, IL which is 25 miles west of Chicago. I’ve had my eye on qualifying for the Worlds in Chicago ever since it was rumored 2 years ago and officially announced 1 year ago. Every single day for 2 years I have thought about this race. It’s impossible to put into words what it would mean to me to race a World Championship in Chicago. No pressure!
My wife Laurie and I flew into Chicago on August 7th. Laurie was going to race the Ironman Steelhead 70.3 in Benton Harbor, MI. Meanwhile my 93 year old Mom, who still lives in the Chicago suburbs, joined me in Milwaukee. Both Laurie and my Mom have been my best supporters forever. Having my Mom with me calmed me and put my head in the right place. She’s 93. As much as I wanted that qualifying slot to Chicago, I wanted this time with my Mom even more.
Race morning got off to the right start. I got body marked by Miss Wisconsin!
The 1.5K (0.93 miles) swim was in a protected Lake Michigan harbor so there were no waves or chop. The water was clear and very comfortable. My strategy was to be extremely aggressive all day long. I was very pleased with how my swim felt and my swim time of 22:37. This was a great swim for me. Only 8 guys broke 20 minutes so I was not very far off the pace. Thankfully I was not aware that my time put me in 42nd place. I should not be surprised, though, because I knew this race was not going to be a picnic. The margins were going to be very tight between success and failure.
The 40K (24.8 miles) bike was mostly flat, but it did have a few moderate hills on a single loop course. Flat courses are a big problem for me because I just don’t have the power to pedal with the bigger guys. My bike split was 1:05:58 which gave me a 22.7 mph average. I was thrilled with this. I biked great! Thankfully I was not aware that it was only the 95th best bike split on the day. And I’m especially thankful that I did not know I had dropped down to 61st place after the bike. 6 guys went under 1 hour on the bike. Like I said, the competition was brutal.
The 10K (6.2 miles) run was pancake flat along Lake Michigan. Obviously I had a lot of work to do on the run, but I was going to give it everything I had. The good news was that there were a lot of guys only a little bit ahead of me. The question was – how many could I pass on the run? In triathlon the body markers put your age on your calf so it can be easily identified if another competitor is in your age group. It takes a lot of energy to read the back of someone’s calf. I mostly just focus on myself and the task at hand – trying to run fast. I figured I passed about 20+ guys on the run. I had the 5th best run on the day as my split was 37:50. Only 16 guys managed to run under 40 minutes. Low and behold, I had passed 39 guys and finished 22nd out of 192 men in the 50-54 age group to finish in 2:10:31.
Once it was over I knew I’d had a great race. Everything went as well as possible. I could not think of any mistakes or bobbles. I gave it everything I had right through the finish line. Now the waiting would begin. The 25 slots for Chicago will be based on our ages in 2015. I always knew those were the rules. I would find out at the Awards Ceremony that night how many guys had aged out of my age group and how many guys had aged in based on our ages in 2015. That night I learned I was 27th based on my 2015 age. I was still pretty happy with that as it meant that only 2 guys needed to pass on the slot and I would get to race in Chicago.
To see my race photos, click on this link.
On September 16th I was notified by USA Triathlon that a spot had rolled to me. It was a bit anticlimactic to be awarded the spot more than a month later, but I’ll take it any way I can get it. The two most high profile races every year in triathlon are Ironman Hawaii and the Olympic Distance World Championships. I’m so excited and proud that I will get to race the Olympic Distance Worlds back home in Chicago! This will be the 21st time I have raced for Team USA in a World Championship, but it will, by far, mean the most to me.
God has blessed me in so many ways!
Living the life…