This was a race that I never even thought of when planning the 2017 race season. The invitation was very last second and I finally decided to sneak it into the race lineup making 4 weeks in a row of racing. Although I knew this would be hard on my body, I also knew that Omaha would be an event I would always remember. I left Thursday morning and made it to the race expo that evening. I arrived shortly before it closed and walked around a bit. There is just something about a race venue that says “USA” all around you that lights a fire in you and gets you excited. After I ran the course to wake up the legs, I went to the hotel and checked in.
The next morning, I headed over to the race venue to see all of the vendors at the expos and check my bike in. The first thing I did was check the gears and dumped the bike in its spot so I had one less thing to worry about. After that it was straight to the Normatec booth to see what all that fuss was about over these compression boots. WOW were those amazing. After the recovery session, I went for a quick swim to test out the new TYR Torque i received. The skin suit felt great and I was ready to hit it hard! I returned to the hotel for a quick meal before the rules briefing. All I could think during the rules briefing was “wow, these USAT guys give out penalties like free candy!” IRONMAN rules was over twice as far behind for the drafting so I wasn’t too worried about draft zones. then it was back to the hotel room to finish resting and set everything out for the next morning!
4:30 came slower than usual and I had a great night of sleep. Transition was open 5-6:55A.m. and the first wave left at 7. I figured since I was at 9:39 ill just get there around 6 and not sit around too long. after putting 3 of my race numbers on i got all packed up. i was about to put the 4th on when i realized... i put my number upside down. After correcting that mistake I left my hotel at 5:15 and headed to Lake Carter Park. Still 2 miles out I hit stand still traffic. This caused a little panic but I assured myself these were all racers so if they were here too I was fine. After 20 minutes there I found an alternate way, I made it to 1 mile out when I hit standstill again. It was now 6:00 and I was getting worried. I needed to set up my transition before it closed or I was in big trouble. After 20 more minutes I was still .75 miles out. At this point all the athletes were emerging from their cars and walking to transition while their significant others or Sherpas drove the rest of the way. Unfortunately, this is one setback of traveling alone. I was stuck. I made a deal with myself that at 6:35 I would park asap and run. My GPS told me to turn left and go an alternate way and at this point I figured why not. Bless that GPS because it took me through a back road right into the heart of the park!! I quickly parked and ran to transition until I heard over the loud speaker “in case you haven’t heard because of traffic all waves are pushed back 10 minutes.” I was relieved and went to set up. During setup I heard it was now 20 minutes, then 25….then 30…. At this point I was getting more worried about the heat since we were the last wave to leave and will be racing around the hottest time of the day. Finally at 7:30 the first heat went off. I sat around until 9 waiting to warm up. Before I knew it I was in the murky water with hundreds of the best athletes in the nation.
The water was nice, but extremely cloudy, At full extension I couldn’t see past my elbow during my stroke. I noticed this during warmups the day before and the morning of and I knew it would mean a lot of pounding from other athletes. We heard the heartbeat start…. And then the horn. Off went the most ambitious group out there pounding each other through the waves and splashing. I got socked a few times and immediately fell behind. Half way through the swim I noticed something was wrong with my stroke. I was going much slower than usual and as I sighted I saw I was hundreds of yards behind. I had my work cut out for me today. About ¾ the way through I stopped to look at my watch. Way behind. Not even close to what I wanted. Others were already off to their bikes by now and i'm hundreds from the finish line. I went back to thrashing away and tried to get to shore asap. When I felt that dock I have never been so happy in my life… until I looked at my watch… almost 29 minutes for the swim. I had planned on no longer than 26 or I would be out of the running to place top 10. I knew I was 10 minutes behind the leaders and I had just put up the worst swim of my life. I stripped my skin suit to my waist and ran to my bike. After putting on shoes and my helmet I took off to the bike out. Half way there I noticed a weird rubbing sound as I ran. After looking down my heart sank. There on my hips sat my skin suit. It was so light and felt so nice that I didn’t even notice it was there. I sprinted back to my spot, took it off, and tried again.
Once I clipped in I said goodbye to everyone I was around, I shouldn’t have been back where I was and I knew I could out-bike anyone around me, I made sure every pass that I executed, I did so that no one was going to hang with me and try to ride together. I rode on the left for a majority of the way out, passing hundreds of bikers. Head down and laying it all out there I knew I had to make a huge move during this or I would never have a chance. I threw caution to the wind and let my legs open up. Hitting the biggest downhill of the course I let go and didn’t dare look down. Reaching over 55 mph I was hunched over hugging my handlebars as I have seen so many amazing athletes do and I had practiced just for this occasion. I few by 20 riders just using that momentum and I continued to ride as hard as I could toward the T2 entry. 2 miles before t2 I saw a cluster of college riders. Despite the possibility of a huge penalty, they were all drafting and riding together taking turns with the wind. I smiled. I took one last sip of Gatorade, took a deep breath, and put the hammer down. This group was going along at 22-23mph so I knew I had to get by fast or they would latch on. I went by at 28mph and kept pushing hard until I was well out of reach. As I went by I heard a lot of them talking and try to get something going to stay with. As I approached t2 I saw them round the corner behind me. They had all tried to attack but were too late. I was in MY element now.
T2 was much better than the first, I was quick in and out but assured myself I had all I needed. I ran out of the chute and knew I had to lay down a great run and try and secure one of the 18 spots for team USA. I had a decent run, but knew I had crossed the line on the bike. I was a little zapped of energy and pace was slowing. My Garmin had died so I had no indication of pace but I knew it was slow. First lap of the 2 lap course was okay. i had left the college kids behind me but was not on my best running pace. I started feeling good and clicking off people. On the second lap I saw Kaila, (a fellow competitor I had briefly talked with before the race) we gave each other a high five and parted ways. Just this small recognition of a semi-familiar face and a high five is nice at races when you are there alone, it was all I needed to get to the finish. just under half way to the turn around on lap two, I heard someone running up behind me and at the turn-around I looked. It was definitely someone in my age group and he was coming fast. I dug deep and lengthened the stride. I never looked back and never saw him again. The last lap flew by and before I knew it I was in the chute! It was an amazing feeling but my body was more than out of energy. The previous weeks of racing, especially the MDH crashes, had taken a toll and I was not feeling well. I went to grab my race receipt with my times on it and just as I suspected they were slow.
Overall it was an amazing experience on Omaha, and next year Cleveland lands right in the perfect spot for when I need one last prep race before south Africa. I will be better prepared and MUCH more rested for USA Age group nationals next year. And ill be coming for results not experience.
Finisherpix coming soon!