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Racing the Best of the Best
14 and 1/2 hours. That’s how long it took the three of us (John Neiers [45-50], Gregg Gordon [40-45] and myself [30-34]) to drive back to New York City from Milwaukee on Sunday after competing in the 2013 USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals. But the ride didn't feel half that long because large portions of it were spent recounting each and every detail of our race, looking up the time and splits of those we knew and going over what went right and wrong. The weekend lived up to and exceeded our expectations.
We arrived Thursday night after the long drive and went straight to dinner with friends at Wolf Peach (great vibe) and later found our way to the Ambassador Inn a few miles from transition. Friday morning we headed to the Expo at 10 a.m., right as it started. The Milwaukee Art Museum provided a dramatic backdrop for the swim start, which we scouted after quickly picking up our packets. We couldn't believe how protected the swim would be and remarked on how smooth and calm the water looked. A set of Garmin Vector pedals was nearly purchased at the Expo by one of us but second thoughts were had later on. Perhaps next time. Back to the hotel to relax until 2 p.m. when we dropped off our bike at transition, again, very smooth and easy with great signage and helpful staff.
Dinner was at 5:30 at an Italian restaurant packed with other triathletes. We New Yorkers are chummy with our compatriots from across the river and we had dinner with some of the fastest (and nicest) people in New Jersey — Shane Arters and Doug Clark, eventual winners of their respective age groups on Saturday, and James Chesson, who scored third in my own age group. They ate twice as much as me and probably weighed 20 pounds less. Intimidating but very fun. This set us up for an early bedtime and early wakeup.
Race morning was beautiful and transition check went very well as we all chatted with friends we knew and tried to shake off the jitters. My wave wasn't until 9:30 (9:45 with a 15 minute delay) so I had a lot of time to kill. I finally found myself in the water with some of the fastest 30-34-year-olds in the country and the vibe was loose and friendly. Before we knew it, we were underway.
As a swimmer, I'm used to clearing the crowd early and seeing daylight but not this race. Contact most of the way but the sighting and buoys were great, and it resulted in my fastest non-current assisted swim ever. T1 into a fast but often windy bike course led me to a bike PR as well with minimal hills and nice roads. I've never seen so many officials; they were everywhere and it seems everyone behaved themselves.
The run is my weakness and despite fluctuating between 178-183 BPM heart rate for all 6 painful-but-flat miles, I was only 30 seconds short of a PR for that leg too. Despite the late hour the crowd was still pumped as I rolled into the finish, spent but very happy. Starting this tri-journey in 2006, I never imagined racing with the best of the best. As expected, it pushed me to new levels, showed me exactly where I still need to put work in and was an overall great time. I'm already thinking about 2014 and hopefully another PR.