2019 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships

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We had an amazing time in Cleveland last weekend for the 2019 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, with Team FeXY! As we discussed in our previous blog post, it's been Wiehan's goal this year to qualify for Nationals, and ultimately to qualify for 2020 World's in Edmonton. Well, despite setbacks in the form of a calf injury and a head cold, he managed to scrape into the qualifications for Nationals at Kinetic Multisport’s Colonial Beach Triathlon.

He had a great race in Cleveland on Saturday, but his age group of male 30-34 year olds was one of the most competitive out on the field. He placed 51st in his age group and 307th overall, with a total time of 02:02:11. In order to qualify for World’s however, he would have needed to place 18th in his age group. Maybe next year!

The swim distance was cut in half, from the usual 1500m to 750m, due to rough water conditions of Lake Erie. Wiehan was very calm the night before the race. But come race day, he began to feel the stress when his race bracelet broke as we were leaving the house. Fortunately he was able to get a replacement, while setting up his gear at the transition area. But the stress didn't stop there.

After walking with the rest of the competitors in his age group through the race starting banner, with 9 minutes until his race start, Wiehan’s goggles broke! He was long overdue for a new pair, as this one was about 4 years old - yikes! We didn't listen to our own advice in a prior blog post, to bring a spare pair. He ran from the water back to the race banner, looking for me. Unfortunately, I didn't see him, though there really wasn’t much I could have done to help anyway. I brought goggles to Cleveland, but they were all the way back in my luggage in our accommodation. He asked around to see if anyone had any spares. No luck. As the clock ticked down in anticipation of the airhorn signaling the race start, he realized he would have to swim without goggles! But ultimately, he did very well in the swim. Having a wetsuit helped by providing some extra buoyancy in the water. He had an amazing ride on the bike course, but then his running fitness wasn't geared up enough to compete with some of the leaders in his age group. All in all, broken race bracelet and goggles aside, he enjoyed the experience so much!

We’d heard that the prior year’s Nationals course, also in Cleveland, was unsafe for multiple reasons. First, in 2018, rough waters, like that of ocean waves, made the swim reportedly more difficult than some half-Ironman swims, which are an additional 400m in distance. And sadly there was one fatality during the swim. Rumor has it that crashes occurred on the bike leg of the race, due to a miscommunication between the city and race organizers, regarding the onset of road construction days prior to the race. And the run course was designed in two loops, which meant overcrowding. The benefit of having Nationals in the same place two years in a row is that the race organizers can learn from the prior year and make changes accordingly. For 2019, that meant cutting the Olympic-distance swim in half, due to similarly hazardous water conditions, and stretching out the running course into one long 10k loop. The roads were also completely closed to automotive traffic. Having now seen several precarious races this year, Nationals looked incredibly well-organized, with all the safety precautions taken. As a race participant, Wiehan had only positive things to say. The weather was gorgeous and we had such a great time exploring a new city with teammates.

Be sure to catch our video from the weekend here! For those traveling through Cleveland, or those interested in our pre and post-race nutrition, we’ll leave you with a list of the food we ate throughout the weekend.

Featured Restaurants:
We ate an early dinner at Luxe with teammates the night before the race and they were able to accommodate our big group very well. Most everything on the menu that I would have considered eating had spice to it. Since I’m mildly allergic to peppers and gluten, my only option was a salad. I took the arugula salad, with fresh grapefruit, hearts of palm, castelvetrano olives, red onion and white balsamic dressing. The flavor was pretty punchy, and someone like Wiehan, who does not like olives, would not have enjoyed it. But I was pleasantly surprised. Wiehan went for the carbonara. He enjoyed it, but it was a little too heavy as a pre-race dinner, and he wished he’d ordered a burger instead.

On race day, after a shower, nap, coffee and a light meal, we headed off to the Cleveland Public Auditorium to watch the race award ceremony with teammates. Then a group of us headed to the hip neighborhood of Ohio City for dinner at Townhall Restaurant. We parked the car in the vicinity of Ohio City Farm, run by a nonprofit called Refugee Response. Had the weekend not been completely full of race activities, I would have most certainly wanted to spend a few hours exploring and photographing here. We waited about 30 minutes for a table at Townhall, and we were happily seated at an outdoor table. The atmosphere was great and the ideology even better, with a non-GMO menu. They cater to paleo and keto diets, so I was in my happy place. Wiehan and I ordered the keto pudding, which has avocado, cacao, coconut milk, protein, MCT oil, monkfruit, blueberries, shredded coconut and walnuts. It was delicious. Then we both had cheeseburgers, and I forgot to order a keto bun, so I ended up eating some gluten after all. It was also delicious. Wiehan was exhausted and in a lot of pain from the race, and it’s a wonder he made it through the evening. We headed back to our accommodation for a good night’s sleep. However, whenever we travel, we miss our Avocado Green mattress and pillows.

Featured Grocery Store:
We were fortunate to have Lucky’s Market very close in proximity to our accommodation. We went here twice for provisions, including a large bottle of water and more coffee grounds and lunch meat. With a lot of natural and organic options, they had many of the same brands that we have at our local MOM’s Organic Market in the D.C. region. However, in terms of produce, it was a lot like Whole Foods, in that there are both organic and conventional fruits and veg. And I was surprised, for example, to find Mexican cucumbers in the middle of summer. But otherwise, it sure beat a lot of typical grocery stores.

Premade Meals and Snacks:
I premade lasagna, mustard chicken and veg, presoaked rice and oatmeal so that we had plenty to eat when there wasn’t time to go out. Additionally, we brought apples, bananas, walnuts and coconut flakes for oatmeal toppings, coffee, coffee maker, raw milk, honey, Himalayan salt, avocado oil potato chips, Ayoba-Yo biltong, summer sausage, deli meat and cheese, lettuce, cucumbers, bread, avocado, grapefruit, Navitas blueberry power snacks, rice cakes, peanut butter, Clif bars, Ultima, Protein Powder, Tulsi Tea, and kombucha. It sounds like a ton, but we ate nearly all of it.

And I’m happy to report that we planned out the nutrition in such a way that Wiehan did not get a migraine after the race, and he didn’t experience any cramping during the race, both of which are often a problem. In case anyone is wondering for their own nutrition, he ate oats and coffee for breakfast, and then a Clif bar and a GU gel during the race, while hydrating with water and Ultima. Right afterward, he ate a homemade sandwich. And a little while later, he ate an apple and a rice cake with peanut butter. When we got back to our accommodation, he ate lasagna and had a homemade latte. And then, as mentioned, we had a great meal afterward. He also supplemented with magnesium in the days leading up to the race.

Cleveland receives a lot of criticism, often referred to as the “mistake on the lake,” but we were pleasantly surprised. It obviously has its struggling areas, but we had a really nice experience and can definitely recommend a visit for anyone traveling through.

- Christin

Tell us! Were you at the race too? If so, how was your experience?