On June 27th I raced for Team USA at the ITU Long Course Triathlon World Championships in Motala, Sweden. This represented the 20th time I have had the honor to race for my country. It is a great honor and privilege to have opportunities like this. It has been a drought of 3 long years since I’ve raced for Team USA so this experience was very much appreciated.
I qualified for the race by placing 3rd in my age group at the 2014 USA Triathlon Long Course National Championships in Grand Rapids, MI. I barely edged out Norman Kim by 43 seconds who placed 4th. One of my goals in Motala would be to beat Norman. We met up the day before the race and got to know one another. He’s a really great guy, but I still wanted to beat him.
The swim was supposed to be 4K in the Bay of Motala, but the water temperature was only 57 degrees so the day before the race they shortened the swim to 1.5K. On race day the air was sunny and warm, though, so it did not seem so cold jumping in the water. I wish they would have been more flexible on race morning because they very easily could have had us safely swim 2-3K. But for the safety of all the athletes, it was best that they shorten the swim. I swam conservatively and came out of the water in 15th place with a time of 23:43.
I had a terrible swim to bike transition (T1) as the safety pin holding the Velcro for my timing chip came undone. I was really clumsy dealing with that. Meanwhile 20 guys passed me and I had a tiny cut on my ankle. That’s right. Now I’m in 35th place to start the bike. Norman was one of the guys to pass me. I never saw him again.
The bike course was 3 laps of a 40K loop to make 120K (74.4 miles). Actually it was more like 72.5 miles. The roads were great and the course was mostly flat. There was a 1K climb towards the beginning of each lap. And we faced a mild head wind on the back half of each lap. Unfortunately there was a lot of drafting on the bike which is against the rules. I’ve raced enough in Europe to know the officials will look the other way, but I’m still going to play fair. I’m sure for some guys the drafting improved their times by as much as 10-15 minutes. I completed each of the 1st 2 laps in about 70 minutes, but the 3rd lap knocked the stuffing out of me as it took 79 minutes. Overall I was happy with my effort on the bike. My bike split was 3:39:50 which was 50th best, dropping me down to 49th place. That’s about what I predicted.
The run course was 3 laps of a 10K loop to make 30K (18.6 miles). It was a beautiful run course. Part of it was next to the bay and part was through a forest on trails. It was so much fun! I ran the 1st lap in just over 44 minutes and then the 2nd and 3rd laps I clocked 48 minutes. My total run split was 2:20:24 which was the 11th best run and it moved me up to 28th place out of 69 men in the 50-54 age group and 333rd out of 807 overall finishers. I was the 5th out of 8 Americans in my age group. My finish time was 6:36:24.
Despite some challenges, I still had a great time and am proud of my race. I believe I would have moved up a few places if the swim had been the full length. I am certain the change affected the podium standings in my age group. But the drafting on the bike may have had the greatest impact on the race. It is what it is.
Kyle Welch is a friend from many Team USA’s and he went into this race as the reigning World Champion in our age group. Kyle did finish 5th this year, but his race was over before it started as he was counting on the full 4K swim. The drafters really had an impact on Kyle’s race as he was 3rd after the swim, but dropped to 12th after the bike. On a properly officiated race that would absolutely not happen. Norman finished 12 minutes ahead of me to place 23rd. He voiced similar complaints about the drafting. Dan Redfern is an athlete I have been coaching for a couple of years now. This was Dan’s first time racing for Team USA as he had a great experience placing 50th in the 55-59 age group.
To see my race pictures, click on this link and enter my race #1210: http://www.sportograf.com/en/shop/search/3104
The trip was not all about racing. My wife, Laurie, and I also did some touring. The Stockholm highlights include visits to the Nobel Museum, the Abba Museum, the German Church and Old Town. We were joined in Stockholm by Kyle.
Prior to Sweden we travelled to Norway. While in Oslo we toured the Nobel Peace Museum, Viking Ship Museum, Folk Museum, Polar Ship Museum and the Norwegian Maritime Museum. I was particularly impressed with the Polar Ship Museum which housed the Fram and the Gjoa. The Fram was sailed on expeditions from 1893 to 1912. The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen sailed the Fram farther north and south than any other wooden ship. The Gjoa was the first vessel to transit the Northwest Passage as Amundsen completed that 3 year journey in 1906.
Living the life…