On September 19th I raced the ITU Olympic Distance Triathlon World Championships in Chicago. This was the 22nd time I have raced for Team USA and the 11th time I have raced the Olympic distance event. I give thanks every time I get to race, but especially so on the very special occasions when I get to represent my country. And racing a World Championship 25 miles from where I grew up (Glen Ellyn, IL) is beyond my wildest dreams.
My realistic goal for this race was top 60 and my pie in the sky goal was top 30. God blessed me with another great race as I placed 29th out of 117 men in the 50-54 age group. I happened to race well, but the real joy was sharing the event with my Mom. Mom is 94 years young and has probably seen me race in over 40 triathlons. Nowadays she uses a rolling walker and/or a cane to get around. Our hotel was 2 blocks from the bike and run course. That sounds short, but it is a long way for Mom. Despite her challenges, Mom was out there cheering me on. Years from now, not even I will remember how well I raced. But I will always remember sharing this race with my Mom.
I had a couple of other spectators. Mom was joined by my sister Debbie and my nephew’s wife Tera and her little boy Patrick. We had rain and high winds the night before the race, but race morning was beautiful. By the time my race started at 12:15pm the temperature was in the mid 70’s – good for me and perfect for the spectators. I raced the Sprint Worlds on September 17th, but I felt re-charged and ready to go 48 hours later. There would be no excuses.
The 1.5K (0.93 mile) swim was in Lake Michigan. I swam well. I made certain to appreciate the beauty of racing in Chicago. There is nothing like swimming in the lake and looking up at the skyscrapers – epic! My time was 23:28 which put me in 31st place. The fastest swim time was 20:06 – so fast! I actually came out of the water with Michael Smith. Michael is the 2x USA defending National Champion and one of the favorites to win the Gold medal. I said goodbye to Michael when we jumped on the bikes because I knew I’d never see him again.
The 37K (22.9 mile) bike course was 2 laps. The Olympic distance bike length should be 40K so the shorter course was good for me. I would estimate that 25% of the course used Lower Wacker Drive which is underground. Conditions were very fast on Lower Wacker as there was no wind and the road was smooth. But the lighting was dim so visibility was a challenge. I much preferred being above ground because it was a gorgeous day. I biked well for me. My bike split was 1:03:01 (21.8 mph) which was only the 85th best bike split on the day. The best bike split was 55:04 – that’s smoking! These guys are so fast at this level. I dropped down to 60th place to start the run. At least I was still within the range of meeting my realistic goal.
The 10.5K (6.5 mile) run course was 3.5 laps. The Olympic distance run length should be 10K so the longer run was also in my favor. I ran great! It was so fun running by Mom, Debbie, Tera and Patrick. We ran around Buckingham Fountain on each of the laps. Sadly, at the end of my 2nd lap an American woman stumbled and face planted on the cobbles by the fountain. I was only a few feet behind her so I saw her tumble from start to finish. She was running so hard that she could not put her hands up in time to protect her face. There were enough officials in the area and I was not going to stop for anything or anyone. I imagine she did finish, but with a bloody chin and a headache. Worlds will do that to you; motivate you to race faster than your limit. My run split was 40:55, good for 3rd fastest. Only 1 guy broke 40 minutes. The best run split was 39:48. I passed 31 guys (same as the Sprint race on 9/17) and finished 29th to achieve my pie in the sky goal. My finish time was 2:13:55.
Team USA cleaned up. Across all the age groups we won 16 Gold medals, 20 Silver and 15 Bronze. We swept the medals in 6 of the age groups. Over 520 athletes raced for Team USA, making this the largest Team USA to date. Unfortunately Michael Smith was disqualified because he mistakenly only ran 2.5 laps. But an American named Adrian Mackay did win a Silver medal in my age group.
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Living the life…