On September 17th I raced the ITU Sprint Triathlon World Championships in Chicago. Racing Worlds in Chicago was a dream come true for me as I was raised 25 miles west of the city in Glen Ellyn, IL. I qualified to race by placing 14th in the men’s 50-54 age group at the 2014 USA Triathlon Sprint National Championships. As much as I was looking forward to racing in Chicago I knew the flat course would not be in my favor. I’m light so I thrive on a hilly course. My realistic goal for Sprint Worlds was top 40 and my pie in the sky goal was top 20.
My race started at 12:30pm and it was very warm, especially waiting for the race to start while in my wet suit. The temperatures were in the mid to upper 80’s. The sweat was rolling off me as I cooked under the hot sun in my wet suit. I made a big mistake and the race had not even started. I should have brought a water bottle for the final 30 minutes prior to my race. To improvise I scrounged and drank from 3 water bottles I found on the ground. I was so desperate!
There was no swim warm up permitted. I jumped in Lake Michigan as soon as they would allow it. 63 degree water never felt so good! But I only had about 3 minutes before my race began. The swim was a 750 meter point to point route. We swam into a small chop, but the bigger problem was the glare we swam into. Instead of looking into the glare to sight, I simply kept the shore about 50 meters to my right shoulder. That worked well. I swam the best I could despite the heat and somehow managed the 21st best swim split – 12:47. Under better conditions I would have swam sub 12, but I’ll gladly take this result.
The bike course was 3 laps for a total of 11.6 miles. The bike course was very flat and fast, despite 6 U turns. The biggest challenge was 2 huge bumps in the pavement. There were plenty of other bumps, but these 2 really stood out. I did my best to bunny hop the bumps, but just after half way my bike took the full brunt of the biggest bump. I was amazed I did not crash, but my aero bars slipped a full inch. My bars appeared to still be tight, but it would be a major problem if they slipped any more. I had no choice, but to slow down on the final lap as I went through the bumps. It probably cost me 10-20 seconds, but it did help me recover for the run. My bike split was 31:30 (22 mph). It was the 60th best bike split and I dropped down to 40th place.
The 5K (3.1 mile) run was 1.5 laps. I was flying, but I was also dying from the heat. I had the best run split on the day by 15 seconds. My run was 18:52 and my finish time was 1:09:24. If only the swim and bike had been cancelled, I would have been World Champion.
I stayed at the Congress Plaza Hotel and was joined by my Mom who is 94 years young. Our hotel was only 2 blocks from the race course, but I figured it was still too far for my Mom to push her rolling walker. But she was determined to see her boy race. I had no idea she was spectating until I saw her when I flew by during the bike and run. For Mom covering the total of 4 blocks had to seem as far as an Ironman. My Glen Ellyn friends Paul Winans and Bruce McNair also came out to watch. Words can’t describe what their determined support means to me.
For the next 3+ hours after I finished I figured I had a good race and probably finished around 30th. Another Glen Ellyn friend, Scott Davis, who now lives about 2 miles from me in Carlsbad texted me that I finished in the top 10. I did not believe it until I saw it for myself. I had finished 9th out of 118 men in the 50-54 age group for my best World Championship result ever. I was the 3rd out of 24 Americans in my age group and 309th overall out of 1,906 athletes. I was shaking as I read the results. I still can’t believe I finished in the top 10! A great result is one thing, but sharing it with my Mom meant everything to me.
Team USA had a great day. We won 36 medals – 16 gold, 10 silver and 10 bronze. 23 countries were represented. One of our newly crowned World Champions includes Robert McKeague from Villa Park, IL. Robert won the men’s 90-94 age group with a time of 2:20:49. Forever young!
To see my finish videos by the gorgeous Buckingham Fountain, click on this link. The “Before Finish” 25 second video shows me approaching the finish line 15 seconds into the video. And the “Finish” 20 second video shows me crossing the line 9 seconds into the video.
Living the life…