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May13

Non-Race Report: Kansas City Triathlon

The circumstances and events leading up to and surrounding this race can only be fully understood in a review of the timeline of events similar to that of the Hollywood hit “The Hangover”.

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Pre-Season Planning

As I’ve mentioned in past posts (Season Schedule: The Frustration, Season Schedule: The Options, Season Schedule: The Results), this season has been quite a challenge to plan.  And since publicly posting my schedule back in March things haven’t exactly gone as planned, especially for this race weekend.  I, however, have tried to maintain the goals originally set out through all the trials  that have been put before me.

4 Weeks Prior to Race

To get the full effect of this story we really need to go back four weeks when things began to get pretty crazy.

On April 19th, during one of the many Minnesota Spring snow storms we had this year, I contacted the Race Director for the Blaine Triathlon.  At this time there was still probably 24-30 inches of ice on the lakes and things were not looking good for this race to remain a Triathlon.  In talking to the Race Director he indicated that they had contingency plans in place to re-sanction the race to a Duathlon but were planning to make that decision on May 3rd.  We both agreed that things were not looking promising though for this race to remain a Triathlon.  Given the purpose of the Blaine Triathlon in my schedule was to simply secure a USAT Nationals Qualifying spot I couldn’t afford to hope and pray for things to work out.

So in talking to a fellow triathlete and friend, W. Harvey Skees, who had the same Nationals goal as I had, we began to hunt for other options.  Through a number of messages back and forth on Facebook we came up with a list of potential races on that same weekend that were within driving distance and met the appropriate criteria.   Kansas City Triathlon in Kansas City, MO seemed to be the best choice.  After getting “permission” from our wives, this was important to maintain a happy homelife, we both paid the hefty $140 late entry fee and set about planning our trip.  Kansas City is a go!

2 Weeks Prior to Race

On May 3rd, more out of curiosity than anything else, I waited anxiously for the announcement from the Blaine Triathlon indicating whether the race was going to remain a Triathlon or be re-sanctioned to a Duathlon.  At about 9:00AM I simultaneously received a call and an e-mail.  On the line was Harvey and in my mailbox was a note from the Blaine Triathlon Race Director indicating that the race was going to remain a triathlon.  Harvey and I agreed that the swim conditions at Blaine were going to be uncomfortable at best.  Since we’d already spent the money to register for Kansas City and were likely get better race conditions at Kansas City than at Blaine…Kansas City is a go!

1 Week Prior to Race

On Saturday a week before our departure for this race I receive an emergency message from “Old Man” Harvey.  In it he indicated that while setting up his transition area for the Central Lakes Duathlon he threw out his back.  He said he immediately scratched out of the race and drove back home.  He was also concerned that the likelihood of recovering in time to travel let alone compete in a week was not good, but he’d decide later in the week.  In the mean time I contacted my brother (Nate) to see if he was interested in making the road trip with me.  When it became clear that Harvey was not going to recover from “Old Man Syndrome”/back pain,  my brother became the assigned travel partner/sherpa for the weekend.  Aren’t brothers awesome?  Kansas City is a go (for me at least)!

Wednesday Prior to Race

Having not made a very public announcement to my change in Race Schedule from Blaine to Kansas City, it came as no huge surprise that Minnesota Tri News had assumed I was racing Blaine (Blaine Triathlon Preview).  However, after a couple of back and forth messages with the Jerry MacNeil, who is the best Tri announcer in the business by the way, we got things straightened out.

Throughout the day, though, that conversation and one with my coach, Jason Digman (Dig It Triathlon & Multisport Coaching) made me start to wonder if I had made the right decision.  The stress of the situation must have weighed heavily on my face because it’s wasn’t long before my wife was questioning what was bothering me.  I explained that I was concered about the decision I had made to go to Kansas City and the additional cost of traveling when I could have accomplished the same goal at Blaine.

When she asked me which race I preferred,  I told to her that I was really looking forward to the olympic distance and larger field of competition that the Kansas City race offered. Her support of my decision was a tremendous help in reducing my stress level.  My wife and my daughters are my biggest fans and I can’t possible thank them enough for the support and encouragement they give me everyday to push the limits of my ability as an athlete.  Thanks guys, it means the world to me. Kansas City is still a go!

Day Before the Race

Saturday was the designated travel day to Kansas City but I had a pretty aggressive schedule to keep.  It consisted of an early morning swim, drive to Apple Valley to pick-up my brother, pick-up rental car, 6 1/2 hr drive to Kansas City, packet pick-up, hotel check-in, short run at race venue, dinner, and finally race day prep and bed.

My alarm went off at 5:30 AM, accompanied by thunder and lightening.  I was really glad I was heading to the pool for a swim instead of transition set-up in Blaine.  After a great swim I was able to get out of the gym right at 7:00 when I had planned.  It, however, was raining really hard making my drive to Apple Valley very difficult.  On the way I stopped to grab some breakfast and texted my coach about how happy I was that I had made the decision to race in Kansas City.

After picking up my brother we headed to the airport to pick-up our sweet ride for the weekend.  He had a complimentary two-day car rental so instead of putting the wear and tear on our aging vehicles he got us a 2013 Chrysler 300 (which came with all the bells and whistles you could think of  including heated and chilled cup holders, which are great for chilling your peanut M&Ms by the way).  The drive was fairly uneventful with the exception of Nate not being able to follow the GPS directions to packet pick-up.

This packet pick-up was one of the fastest I’ve been through and we were in and out in under 5 minutes and on our way to the hotel.

Now this is were this trip started to get pretty interesting.    My Type-A personality wouldn’t quite let me get away with the advice of finding a hotel when we arrived, so I did some searching and booked a room at America’s Best Value Inn for a whopping $59/night (I’m trying to make this an affordable trip).  Upon arriving at the hotel the first clue that I may have made a poor decision about our lodging accommodation should have been the sign advertising weekly rates at $169 but we carried on.  After checking in I got ready for a warm-up run.   As we left we passed the Housekeeper who looked like she was completely strung out on something and was smoking a cigarette as she went in and out of the supposedly non-smoking rooms.  I  started to really worry that my hotel choice may not have been the best.  But, we were close the race venue . . .

As we arrived at the venue I was quickly able to get a good sense of how things were being set-up and get out on a one lap run of the course.  The run was out on a park service road and back on a hard packed gravel bike path.  The course was pretty flat and seemed to be well suited for a fast run.  I did get slightly concerned about the two big black snakes that I encountered on the bike path.  Neither of them made any movement towards me while running passed so I was ecstatic to not get bit and have to suck venom out of my leg the day before a race.  After the run we quickly drove the bike course before returning to the hotel to clean up for dinner.

On Friday, Nate had put out an APB on Facebook for recommendation for good barbecue in Kansas City. The response came back overwhelmingly for Arthur Bryant’s so we set out on our journey for Kansas City’s best barbecue. On the way out we happened to pass the open door of what had to be one of the weekly guest rooms.  Inside clothes and junk were piled  from the floor to the ceiling and I immediately became further concerned about the safety of my race gear in the room as well as our safety as we returned, but continued on in quest for the best barbecue.

The closest of the three Arthur Bryant’s locations to our hotel was the original location and as we arrived we found ourselves again in an area of the city we weren’t entirely comfortable with and the armed security guard in the parking lot didn’t exactly put our minds at ease.  The barbecue itself was however outstanding and well worth the adventure.  But after a quick spin around Arrowhead Stadium and a stop at the grocery store it was back to the hotel to check on my race gear and  for what I hoped to be a good nights sleep. It’s time Kansas City!

Race Day

After a surprisingly good nights sleep (as well as no bed bug bites or a case of lice) I was starting to get pretty excited for the day.   We quickly got things packed up (and were relieved to still find wheels on the car) and were heading to the race by 4:45 in order to be there by 5:00.  As is traditional for me I was one of the first to arrive and got an end spot on one of the designated Male 35-39 racks.  I proceeded to get my transition area set-up and body marked before the masses really started to show up.

KCtransitionsetup

I began my warm-ups for the race with a run on a portion of the course and along the way I found the Holy Grail for an endurance athlete… a lone, clean potta-potty with no line and no other athletes in sight.  After taking care of my nervous bladder it was back to transition to check on things again and prepare for the shake down ride on the bike.  At this time the weather was really pretty good and the slight wind was dying down.

The bike rack that I was on was filling up but there were still a few spots in the middle to be had.  I however needed to get the bike out for a ride and make sure everything was in working order.  As I returned however I was surprised to find that someone, in my mind, had committed the ultimate triathlete sin.  While I was out on my shake down ride someone came in moved all my stuff including my wetsuit holding my spot to take the end position.  I was pretty upset and stood around for about 10 minutes to try and find the perpetrator.  It was getting close to the start of the swim warm-up though and I couldn’t afford to delay my race plans anymore to bust some idiots chops so I proceeded to get my wetsuit on.

As I finished donning the wetsuit I glanced out to the west and the clouds were really starting to darken but I didn’t think too much of it.  But as I made my way down to the lake I did however feel a few drops of rain.  Swimmers were beginning to enter the water however and I was making my final preparations as well to get in.  At about 7:10, 20 minutes before the race start, a bright flash of lightning and loud clap of thunder could be heard and the announcer immediately called for all of the swimmer that had entered the water to exit immediately.  At the same time it started to rain pretty hard.  Race management immediately congregated under the announcers tent to assumingly discuss the weather and what they were going to do about it.  At 7:25 the announcer got the attention of the congregated athletes and announced they were going to wait 25 minutes to see what happened  with the weather and make another announcement at 7:45.  In the mean time I made my way back to the spectator area near my transition spot and found my brother standing under a tree trying to stay dry.  We talked for a few minutes about the hilarity of the situation and about the jerk that moved my stuff in transition.  As the announcement time approached I made my way back to the swim start area for the Race Directors announcement.  At 7:45 the Race Director came across the PA system and fairly unceremoniously announced that the race was being cancelled due to weather.  Kansas City is a no-go!

At this point all I could do was laugh.  Here I had planned for trained for months, planned through many obstacles for weeks, traveled 6 1/2 hrs, and in the span of 35 minutes the situation went from “let’s get it on” to “let’s go home”.  I felt like the Groom of the expensive mail order Bride who just got left at the altar for getting the cheap Honeymoon Suite.  All I could do now though was pack my things up and head home.

Conclusion

I wish things had turned out differently this past weekend, but it is what it is.  The unfortunate part, for me, is that without making further significant changes to my Race Schedule this was my last guaranteed opportunity to qualify for USAT Nationals this year.  Sure there are opportunities at some of the races I have planned to switch from the Elite wave to the Age Group waves but at this point I’m done trying to force the issue.  Every time I’ve tried to do that so far this year it’s come around to bite me in the butt.  I’m ok with it all though and actually have some peace to be able to move on, there is always next year.  I guess in the end it was great to spend some quality time with my brother and we did have some GREAT barbecue!!

 

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3 Comments

Randy Braley

May 22 2013 Reply

Sorry to hear you traveled so far to only get the opportunity to practice setting up your transitions – twice :-) This was going to be my first tri. So needless to say I was a tad dissappointed but will live to race another day. Next up for me will be the St. Louis 5150 at the end of June. Nice write-up and I’ glad KC treated you well.

    Marcus Stromberg

    May 22 2013 Reply

    Thanks Randy! Despite the struggles I’ve had I really did have a good time and it’s made for one heck of a story. Just wish it hadn’t been so expensive. Good Luck on your first Tri, got to warn you though they are addicting. Pretty soon you’ll find yourself traveling hundreds of miles to race.

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