Race Report: Best of the US Amateur Championships

Best of the US Amateur Championships – 6/2/13 – Hammond, IN

Overall: 7/688
Division: 5/44 (Best of the US)

Official Results

Swim: 17:56 (1:06)
T1: 1:31
Bike:  1:00:17 (24.7)
T2:  0:59
Run:   34:29 (5:42)
Total:   1:55:14


The Best of the US Amateur Championships was held in conjunction with the Leon’s Triathlon in Hammond, IN.  This course is billed as the fastest Olympic Distance Triathlon in the World and it didn’t disappoint.

I was super excited to recieve an invite to this race and be a part of Team Minnesota with Matt Payne & Alex Hooke.  I have a great amount of respect for the both of them and to represent Minnesota along side them was a great honor.  But given the cold racing at the Chain of Lakes Triathlon which lead to a sub-par performance and the collosial fail at the Kansas City Triathlon I was a bit unsure of myself heading into the race.

On the Monday prior I had a conversation with Jason Digman, my coach, in which he pretty much had to talk me off the ledge.  I am a super competitive athlete and want to perform at my best each time I step up to the line.  At this point in the week I had come off the weekend with a heavier training load and was feeling quite fatigued.  My training performances where also a bit down as well and it was causing me some serious doubt in my ability to compete against the high level of talent I expected at the race.  After a lengthy conversation though I was feeling better about myself and had a renewed sense of confidence.

As the week progressed my excitement for the race continued to build as Sean Cooley (Representing North Dakota), Matt, and I planned for our travel to the race.  As it turned out Sean drove down Friday night and crashed at my place for our early departure to pick-up Matt.  After some discussion at Matt’s place we decided to all cram into my ’05 Ford Escape with 315,000 mile on it in an attempt to save all of us some travel expences.  After loading two bikes on the roof rack, one bike in the car, as well as all of our gear and luggage we were off to the Chicago Suburb of Hammond, IN.

The drive it’s self went well.  Matt and I talked tri stuff most of the time and Sean who was prepping for one of his Medical School exams was geeking it out in the back listening to hour long Med. School lectures.  The only issue we had was that those two have bladders smaller than my wife & daughters so we had to make a couple of pit stops along the way.  After close to 7 hrs of driving and $15 or so in tolls we arrived at the host hotel and were gratiously greeted by Trudy Marshall, Best of the US Race Director.

Best of the US Group Photo

Best of the US Group Photo

That night we had the usual packet pick-up at the race venue and a special course breifing at the hotel.  The resume of most of the athletes in attendence were quite impressive but I did my best to remain calm and remember that tomorrow was just another race.  Shortly after the course briefing the three of us hit up the grocery store for a few breakfast items and Old Chicago for dinner. I’m not really picky about my pre-race dinner so it suited my fine and I even had a beer, which is pretty out of character for me, hoping it would help me sleep a bit more soundly.  I finished up the evening prepping my race gear and polishing my bike as my only real pre-race tradition.



As we prepped for the swim the weather quickly turned as a cold front moved in.  Unfortunately, the temperature instantly dropped 10-15 degrees and the winds started to gust 15-20 mph.  In addition to dealing with the pre-race jitters, all of us prepping for the swim now had to try and stay warm before the start as well.  I instantly had flashbacks to the moments prior to the start of the Kansas City Tri and hoped that we all wouldn’t be subjected to the same outcome.  Fortunately, one of the race officials soon marched through the crowd of athletes with a sign calling for the first wave of triathletes.

This race would be the first time I had an in-water swim start.  I was actually pretty excited for this kind of start as I thought it would lead to a slightly more relaxed takeoff then I’m use to.  As we lined up I quickly realized that it wasn’t easy for most to tread water in line with the start line and by the time the gun went off many were 10-20 feet in front of it.  The start did in fact seem to start off a bit calmer though, which I appreciated.  Within the first 100 yard I had my right google lens fill up with water and had to sit up and empty it out before I could continue.

Due to the chop from the wind on the lake it was difficult throughout the swim to keep track of where I was at within the field.  Everytime I cleared a group of swimmers and thought I was taking up the lead I’d find another group of feet.  As I got to the first turn which was approximately 700 meters into the race I struggled to find the line to the second turn bouy as the safety boats had drifted onto the course and obscured them from view.  Someone on the boat yelled to us though and I was able to get back swimming with only a brief pause.

As I rounded the final turn bouy I was greeted with the coolest swim exit banner I’ve ever seen.  It was one of those enourmous American Flags like you see at Perkins.  They hung it vertically over the swim exit and you could clearly see it from to the 600 or so meters out.  I totally ignored the guide bouys on the way in and only focused on swimming straight for the flag.  As I exited the water from what I could tell I was sitting somewhere in 5th-10th place.  I’d have liked to have been closer to the front but I was really happy with my split.

Garmin Connect:


We had a rather long run to our transition area so I had plenty of time to get the upper half of my wetsuit stripped off in preparation for the switch to the bike.  I did fumble a bit getting my left leg out of my wetsuit but overall it was a pretty seamless transition, certainly better than I’ve had in the past.


The bike portion of this race was a two loop course that was completely closed to vehicle traffic and featured an out and back section on an abandoned freeway.  During the pre-race athletes meeting the Race Director indicated that the roads had a few rough spots and were swept.  Unfortunately, that was not exactly the case but I do have to commend them on getting all of the pot holes filled.  The course was also super flat which led to some impressive speeds which were quite fun.

Prior to the race my coach and I had discussed the relative level of output we had hoped for on the bike and settled on shooting for roughly a 270 watt avg.  I’m new to training and racing with power so to be perfectly honest I wasn’t sure what that would feel like in a race scenario.  I diligently kept an eye on my watch,though, to not dramatically extend myself above that goal.

I felt really good on the bike but ended up getting stuck behind Justin Metzler, who from what I can tell is a pretty solid collegiate triathlete.  He and I were biking at a very similar pace but I kept creeping up on him and getting dangerously close to the draft zone a time or two.  At the end of the first lap I had had enough and I made a strong surge prior to the turn around and kept on the gas with the wind at my back for the next mile.  I was able to create a good amount of separation between the two of us but now I had to start dealing with lap traffic.

One of the really neat aspects of the bike in this race is that they had a one mile speed trap setup.  Personally, I was focused on riding my own race and didn’t want to overextend myself.  Matt & Sean however must have laid it down during this section because they each won an award, 1st & 3rd respectively,  for the fastest bike splits in the speed trap.  The awards were old cranksets and were super cool.  Definitely something to be proud of.

As I approached the finish of the bike I began to realized that I couldn’t feel my toes.  I tried to move them around in my shoes but wasn’t getting any positive results. They had felt really good throughout though and I was excited, for once, to be transitioning to the run.

Garmin Connect:


T2 was again fairly efficient for me.  Bike in the rack, helmet off, shoes on the numb and frozen feet, race belt in hand, and out the door.


As I headed out on the run I realized how cold and numb my feet were.  I literally couldn’t feel my toes on either foot but I also needed to get on with the run.  In prepping for the race I had set a goal of starting out the first mile around 6:00 pace.  I was hoping for an average over the course of the 10k closer to 5:50-5:55 but I wanted to start out conservatively in hopes of building the effort throughout the run.

As my watch beeped signifiying the passage of the first mile I looked down to see a 5:38 split.  I immediately got concerned that I had completely sabotaged the run in this race.  Not only did I not go out in the 6:00 pace I had planned on but I’ve never run a split this fast in a race.  So in an effort to not implode I tried to pull back the pace and as my watch beeped again for mile two I glanced down and saw a 5:39 split.  Crap!!  What was surprising though, other than my feet still being numb, I felt pretty good.  But I didn’t believe the pace I was on was sustainable over the course of the 10k.  I again worked to raine in the effort in the 3rd mile but with very little success as the split came in at 5:42.

At this point, being halfway through the run I decided to screw the race plan and just see what I could do.  Things were either going to continue on a similar pace and I’d have a run split beyond what I could imagine or I was going to bonk bad.  Fortunately, I was able to hold that relative pace for the remainder of the run and cross the finish line with a run split and overall time that I didn’t think was possible.

Garmin Connect:


I couldn’t be happier with my performance in this race!  Not only did I exceed my expectations both from a performance and placing standpoint but I was able to finish the race with a run that I didn’t think was possible at this point in the season for me.  In addition to doing well personally Matt & I were able to take 1st in the Male State Team competition by a whopping 7:46. WOW! And to top all of that off having the ability to compete on a National Stage amongst some really great competition was a real thrill and honor.

It was also great to travel with Matt & Sean.  Beyond the race experience, in which the three of us and Alex were all able to finish in the top 10, we were able to do some other cool stuff like getting a tour of the Trek Headquarters in Waterloo, WI.  I’d travel with them again anytime.

This race has given me a lot of confidence as I move into the heart of my competitive season.  But with a good three weeks between this race and my next I’m looking forward to putting in some quality training and continue to improve upon this performance.

I really need thank all those that have supported me through the long winter of training.  My wife and daughters have been more supportive than I could ask for and always cheer me on to strive for my best.  To my training partners in the Buffalo Tri Club who helped push me through the winter and spring that never seemed to end.  And to my coach Jason Digman who has guided me into the best shape I’ve ever been in and for preparing me to perform at the top of my game every time I step up to the starting line.  Thank you all, I couldn’t do this without you.




Jerry MacNeil

June 21 2013 Reply

Great report, Marcus. You totally rocked. MTN would like to re-post your report next week. Okay with you? See you at Waconia.

    Marcus Stromberg

    June 21 2013 Reply

    You’re more than welcome to repost on MTN. Thanks for the support.

Jody Mullet

July 1 2013 Reply

WOW, What an awesome job! Way to represent!! You are very inspiring!!

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