Sunday, August 17, 2014

2014 USAT Nationals Race Report

I raced the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals on the previous Saturday. As you may know, the race was held in Milwaukee, right the heart of downtown in/along Lake Michigan. There were 215 men in my age group. The course was flat and fast and there was lots of suffering to go around.

I had a great race. In fact, it was a personal best time of 2:03.11 for an "Olympic Distance" triathlon. That time was good enough for 7th place in my age group. With a goal of top 20, and a double-secret-tell-no-one goal of Top 10, I was ecstatic with my results after the race. I had finally put together two solid hours (+3 mins to be accurate. 11 seconds too) of essentially three time trials: a 1500 meter open water swim, a 40K bike TT and a 10K run. I had PRs in all three segments of a triathlon race and improved my Olympic distance time by over five minutes.

A top 10 finish meant standing on the podium. But to my cycling brethren, don't get too excited. Non-Pro triathletes are ineligible for cash prizes. What a podium meant was photo proof and a special plaque that I accomplished something. Pats on the back and handshakes would be plenty, too.

But several hours after the race, as I was starting to get comfortable with seventh place, I discovered that I had been assessed a two minute penalty on the bike course. I was like, what? Where? How?

The penalty -- errrr adjustment -- was simply tacked onto the live results sheet as if an afterthought. One moment it wasn't there, the next it was. There was no explanation, either. Just two minutes added on to my time. I clicked here and there for more information. Nothing.

As a result, I had suddenly slid from seventh to sixteenth place.

This is where I started losing my mind.

I searched in vain all over the race website for protest procedures, of where and when penalties were posted. I found nothing. It was infuriating. It felt like one moment I was happily humming a tune while skipping down the street, when somebody randomly kicked me in the nuts, and then disappeared without a trace. Something like that.

The best I could do was find a general email box to post questions about the race. I quickly sent them a note to ask when and where I could find more information about the penalty and to whom I should address a protest. I knew it would be several days before I would hear from them, but it was the best I could do.

It took six days before I heard back from USAT. But before I read their email, that same morning my friend and fellow triathlete Adam Little told me that he found the explanation of penalties on pages 91-92 of a 92 page PDF of all printed results. How could I miss something so obvious?

But finally, I had an explanation for my infraction: Rule 3.4.h: Abandoned Equipment.

In the first transition zone (swim to bike), I dropped my swim cap while pulling the goggles from my head. As it was, with dozens of caps, gels and gu packets littering the ground, I thought nothing of a 99 cent latex swimming cap. And though I had read about the abandoned equipment penalty several times before, somehow it just didn't occur to me that a swim cap qualified as such. For one, I had never heard of anyone being penalized for this before. Secondly, try telling that to one's brain while running and removing a wetsuit moments after going full throttle for 21 minutes in an open water swim. The swim cap shot off my head and was the least of my worries at that point.

I certainly would have picked it up if I understood that it would cost me a penalty. And a two minute penalty at that. Seems excessive? Yes, so do I. Welcome to triathlon.

After seeing this explanation, I went hulk (as in Bruce Banner) for a while. Fortunately, I didn't speak to anyone or HULK-CRUSH any stuff during this time.  After I cooled down, I exchanged correspondences with the chief race official asking for clarification about the rule, about when penalties are posted, protest periods, etc.

Though I disagree with the penalty, a rule is a rule. I was guilty of breaking it. I started feeling better after thinking about it some more and the exchange of information with the chief referee. I mean, I would have still been angry if I was flagged for something on the bike, because I was extra careful not to draft/block on a congested course. But I could live with abandoned equipment, and have since moved on and accepted the official 16th place finish.

But what truly made me feel best this past weekend was getting out on my road bike and riding with friends again: I entered the masters race at the Papillion Twilight Crit on Saturday and did the Corporate Cycling Challenge on Sunday.

Riding bikes always seems to help.

That's it for now. Happy Monday.

1 comment:

  1. Well let me say this about that:
    1. Someone now got a better place that they didn't earn
    2. You were 7th in your age group. Let the bureaucrats try to create an alternate outcome, but you were there.
    3. Shame!!!!
    4. You now have 2 minutes less to spend in purgatory
    5. I'd rather finish in 2:03 and be charged with 2:05 than finish in 2:05 and have an outside entity say it was really 2:03