The last time I had been to Omaha was driving through, almost exactly 10 years ago, when I was driving my truck and horse trailer part way back to Wyoming with my mom and moving to Washington DC…so I was excited to return to Omaha. It all started with qualifying for Age Group Nationals last year, my first year of racing, and then deciding I may actually want to go to Nationals, too!
This is the very first time I’ve ever traveled for a race, and I can’t really decide how I feel about it. It’s expensive, but it wasn’t as much of a hassle as I was expecting it to be, which was nice. That said, I shipped my bike “fully assembled” using TriBike Transport, which was well worth the money. If I traveled more for races, I would probably learn to assemble/disassemble my bike on my own. But I don’t, so I paid to get it trucked across the country so I could just arrive and pick it up! I’d highly suggest this route if you are concerned about flying with your bike, or if you don’t like putting things together (raises hand…I HATE assembling anything).
Is a vacation-race in our future now that DH also races?! Time will tell, but it’s not a bad idea 🙂
Anyhow, let me start with the end here: this race did not go as planned but I still had a great experience and would definitely return to Nationals in the future, if I can qualify again (both my early season races, where I did qualify again, still counted to 2017, not 2018, unfortunately).
Omaha: Omaha is incredibly welcoming and we had a great time exploring downtown. It is very cute, and there are a lot of restaurants, breweries, and a candy store. Priorities, priorities. It’s easy to get around, but critical — because it is not a big town — to acknowledge that an event like the USAT Nationals brings in a lot of people. In other words, cars and hotels. Reserve early. We did not have restaurant reservations and did have to wait about an hour the first night. No big deal, we needed to make a snack run anyway.
Tip: While a bit out of the way of downtown, The Drover served me the best steak I’ve had in a very, very long time for those omnivores out there. A good, very old school, meal.
Check-in: Really easy, no more work than a normal event. Picking up packets was quick and easy, I grabbed my bike for a quick ride on the course, and then put it in transition. It really was simple, and the distances you had to walk were not huge.
Tip: If you don’t use the USAT’s preferred bike transport provider, you had to walk about 2 miles to get your bike. That seemed a bit unnecessary, considering…but good to know.
Race Day: Yowza. USAT still has some work to do on understanding traffic flow. The race was delayed really significantly–like an hour, at least, if I remember correctly. Because you could not get into the race site. It is a two lane road and it was slow. We eventually got out and walked about a mile, along with most other athletes. That’s all fine if you have someone else to drive the car, but some people don’t, so I do appreciate them delaying the race to ensure everyone got a fair shake to get there. Everyone was SO, so nice in transition, excited for the day to start and happy to help with air pumps, etc. Really, really, great experience with lovely people.
Tip: Carpool or bring a sherpa. That way you can walk if you need to!
Course: The swim course was lonnnngggg (I had 1730 yards, most people had somewhere between 1700-1750 yards) and for some reason, I was SO slow. Swimming is my strength and I guess that was a good indicator of how the day was going to go. The water was freezing – I am highly suspicious of their over 80 degree temperature reading, considering it they reported it much colder just a few days prior. Lots of teeth chattering, that is for sure. The bike was interesting, with a big climb that got very crowded and you couldn’t really maneuver, a wild turkey that almost hit me, and some headwinds. I also hurt my hamstring half-way through, which nixed the “race” part of the day for me. A bummer, but I’ve moved on. The run was pancake flat and I had fun cheering for everyone, young and old.
Tip: Next year is in Ohio, so doesn’t matter!
Post Race: I hung out in the med tent, where the guy was kind of a jerk to me and told me it was my equipment. It wasn’t, as later diagnostics and evaluations would show. Anyway, they wrapped me with ice and sent me on my way. I wasn’t that hungry, but there was plenty of food as well as little ice baths if you wanted one. I was panicking that I wasn’t going to get to Ironman Maryland, so a lot of this afternoon is a blur of limping and whining.
Tip: Dropping your bike off fully assembled may be a bit pricey, but seriously is the easiest and was very unstressful.
Overall, I learned a ton about my racing-self and how to travel for a triathlon this year. While I didn’t have the day I wanted, the day I had in Omaha (which was by far and above the worst race of my season) is still probably better than my BEST day in 2016. Which is pretty darn exciting.
And if I ever go back to Omaha, I’m buying that gummy party python. YES. Tank, edible rocks and all.