Triathlon, Travel, Racing

2018 ITU Gold Coast World Championships

Yikes! It’s been about 10 months since my last entry. In fairness to myself, I’ve been working like crazy finishing a more important writing project - my dissertation! Since my last entry, I successfully completed my 150 page, 40,000 word dissertation and graduated with my Ph.D in Exercise Physiology. So yes, I’m a doctor…but not the kind who helps people haha.

But enough about that boring stuff! I know you’re here for the triathlon/cinnamon roll stuff 😅

A couple of weeks ago, I got the opportunity to take a trip to Australia for the ITU Triathlon Age Group World Championships. The trip was a bit of a last minute decision for me…I didn’t even have a flight or hotel booked until about one week before I left! Thankfully, USA Triathlon was able to get me registered at the eleventh hour.

Now because I was going to Australia, my parents decided they should come along, just to make sure I was safe. How nice of them to travel with me to such a terrible place like AUSTRALIA ;) And my dad wanted to be able to carry all my bags (see picture above). Unfortunately, my brother wasn’t able to join, but he was definitely there in spirit.

Flying to/from Australia is interesting. Because you fly across the international date line, you either lose or gain a day depending on the direction you fly. So we left Michigan on Saturday afternoon and got to Australia Monday morning. Sunday didn’t even exist! Then on the way back, we left Sydney at 1pm Friday and got to our first layover in Dallas at 1:45pm…Friday! It’s basically time travel.

My first race was Thursday. It was a sprint distance (750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run) and draft-legal meaning you can ride your bike right behind/next to other athletes. I knew I had to have a good swim to have a shot at winning the race. The swim is usually my weakness and in a draft-legal race, you have to come out of the water with one of the lead groups to have a good race.

Swim- Ahhh what’s happening??? Oh, it’s over already? Time- 9:48. Place- 8th
I lined up on the beach behind one of my USA teammates, Shawn Parkhurst. He consistently beats me out of the water by a lot so I wanted to try and stay with him. As soon as the horn sounded, there were bodies thrashing everywhere. Guys were swimming over me and literally grabbing my ankles and pulling me backward. After a couple of minutes, things started to space out and I was actually able to get some clear water.

With the swim being so short, it didn’t take long. I had a good swim (for me) and came out of the water in 8th.

T1- Fast and furious
A fast transition bumped me up to 4th place and I started the bike with a group 4 Aussies.

Bike- Aussie Aussie Aussie Aussie…USA. Time- 30:14 Place- 6th
My race nearly ended right at the beginning of the bike. As I jumped to mount my bike, I put my feet down, my foot slipped, and I ran right into one of the traffic cones in the middle of the road. I was bracing to go down but somehow managed to keep my bike upright. I latched on to a couple of Aussies and then bridged the gap to a couple more. It was me and 4 Aussies in a pack (kind of) working together. I didn't strap my shoes for quite a while- until I caught the second group of Aussies. And my left shoe strap actually came out of the ring that allows you to cinch it down on your foot so I was riding the entire way with my left shoe unstrapped.

On the way out, I looked around and said, "Well, I'm kind of out-numbered! haha." I was still doing my part trying to keep the pressure on. I wasn't sure what place we were in until the turnaround when I saw the two Kiwis (Malcolm King and Andrew Lloyd). I told our group we had to try and cut down the gap but only one other guy (Troy Ruston) seemed to want to do any work. He was actually pulling our train for quite a bit of time. There were even a couple of times when I thought that Troy was going to drop me! He was hauling. We picked up a straggler from the 20-24 AG too but dropped a couple of our guys. Troy and I were basically doing all the work on the way back with a little help from Derek Mulhearn. Troy and I were talking and wanted to break clear from the stragglers because they weren't doing anything. We tried a couple times, but couldn't shake them.

T2- Got some work to do
We came off the bike with Derek leading the way, followed by me, and then Troy. We didn't make up any ground on the leaders. Our bike split was 30:14 and theirs were 30:17 and 30:18, respectively. And they weren’t even riding together.

Run- Now we get to have some fun Time- 15:50 Place- 1st
Coming out of T2, dad told me I was less than one minute down. I knew it was Malcolm and Andrew ahead of me, I just didn't know what order (go me for scouting the competition beforehand!) I'm not sure what happened to Andrew, but I passed him almost immediately after leaving T2. After that happened, I almost knew I was going to win. Malcolm is not a strong runner and I knew that I could make up one minute on him even in a 5k. I caught him before the first lap was over, maybe about 2k into the race.

After that, I was just trying to make sure that nobody ran me down from behind. I'm not sure if it was actually 5k because I ran a 15:50 which would be a 20 second 5k sprint tri PR and only 10ish seconds off my open 5k PR. Either way, I crossed the finish line 59 seconds ahead of Malcolm with a 59:03 (Gahhh! I couldn't just go 4 seconds faster to break 59??) Draft-legal sprint triathlon world champion!

Finish Time- 59:03
1st Place
25-29 Age Group
7th Place

I didn't let myself get too excited after the sprint because I still had the standard race on Sunday. The non-draft standard race was my key race of the two. BUT I didn’t come all the way to Australia to just sit around my hotel. So on Friday, we went to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to hang out with some cool animals.

Back to the race…Most of the guys doing the standard also did the sprint so nobody would have an advantage with fresh legs. The standard is twice as long as the sprint so it was a 1500m swim, 40k bike, and 10k run.

Swim- It’s a straight shot! Time- 20:19 Place- 10th
We had a bit of a wait in the water before we started so the announcers told us to stay calm, maybe tell a joke to the guy next to you. Well, of course I had to bust out a few of my favorites:

What do you call a unicorn’s dad? Pop-corn! 😂
Two balloons were flying through the desert. One balloon said to the other, ‘Watch out for that cactus.’ The other balloon said, ‘What cactuSssssss’ 🤣

(After the race, one of the guys even told me he used my cactus joke! Yessss!)

The standard swim start was a little tamer than the swim start on Thursday. I jumped in one of the first groups but Malcolm dusted us all again. He swam 18:34 and I swam 20:19. I had a lot of trouble seeing the buoys. There weren't enough site buoys for our point to point swim so I had no idea how straight I was going. I was just following feet in front of me. I was 10th out of the water, but there was a 10-second gap between me and the guy ahead of me and 20 seconds to the next.

Before the race, the ITU officials told me I needed to swim between the yellow buoys to exit the water. However, when I got to the swim exit and swam between the buoys, two kayakers blocked me and told me to keep swimming passed the buoys. Grr...get it together ITU team! Shawn Parkhurst beat me by just over one minute today and it was only 15ish seconds yesterday. Bummer. I came out of the water in 10th in 20:19. My watch still isn't working in the open water swims so I have no idea how straight I swam or if the course was actually 1500m.

I had another good swim by my standards, but still came out of the water with almost a 2-minute deficit. This wasn’t unexpected because Malcolm is a fish. 🐟

T1- Not fast enough
Nice and quick but I still lost 5 seconds to Malcolm.

Bike- I can’t go any faster! Time- 56:43 Place- 1st
The good news is that I didn't have the fiasco with almost crashing but I did still have a problem with my left shoe. The strap came undone again. This time, instead of leaving it undone and unstrapped, I strapped it but it still wasn't tight on my foot.

I had toe warmers on my shoes because it was a bit chilly at 6:30 on Sunday morning. At the beginning of my second lap, I came up behind my Every Man Jack teammate, Alan Horton. I said, “Coming up behind you, buddy.” I passed him but he quickly passed me back. This was good for me because I knew I could be pushing harder, so I re-passed him and didn’t look back.

I was riding really good even though I didn’t have my foot tightly strapped. I had the fastest splits at each of the four time checks on the course except the last one. I had the fastest bike in my AG at 56:43 and the 6th fastest overall, but the course was a bit short (only 24.22 miles). I didn't make up any ground on Malcolm, though, because he rode 56:47.

T2- I guess I need to work on my transitions!
Oh my gosh. What a mess this was. I came off the bike pretty fast and my crank arms were still spinning. My right shoe hit the ground and jack-knifed my bike in the air but I was able to corral it. I tried to keep the bike off the ground a bit so it wouldn't happen again. Unfortunately, it did. This time, it jacked up and turned right in front of my body. It was very reminiscent of my bike accident 2 years ago before the USAT National Championship. I was ready for it this time, though. Once the bike jack-knifed and spun in front of my body, I grabbed the top tube and picked it up. The rotation of the bike caused me to do a 180-degree spin, though. It was only 180 degrees because my rear wheel hit the fencing and spun me back around. It's a miracle I didn't bite the dust. I was carrying it for a while but it was awkward so I set it down and kept running with it. My chain fell off as I was getting to my transition spot and I thought "Thank goodness this didn't happen earlier!" I came out of T2 in second place, less than 2 minutes down from Malcolm, but lost another 6 seconds in T2.

Run- Time- 31:25 Place- 1st
I was in 2nd place starting the run (1:48 down from the leader who was Malcolm) and thought I would be just fine after making up one minute on Malcolm in the sprint on Thursday. The run was two laps again so I knew where I would be after the first lap. To my surprise, I was still 1:00 down from the lead. It was going to come down to a photo finish unless I really kicked it into gear. I crept closer and closer the second lap but still had a bit of ground to make up. Finally, with just under 1.5 miles left, I caught him. Unlike the sprint race, though, I wanted to keep pushing hard because I wanted the overall win too. I crossed the line 40 seconds clear of the age group win and managed to snag the overall win by 22 seconds. But seriously, 1:52:01?? I couldn’t go 2 seconds faster to break 1:52?! 😅 This was also the second time in two races that I missed having the fastest overall run split by 1 second. Guess I need to keep working on it!

Finish Time- 1:52:01
1st Place 25-29 Age Group
1st Place

My brother recorded the video below (make sure your sound is on!) If you look closely and are good at reading lips, you can see that I yelled, “TYLER!” into the camera 😁

From left to right: Malcolm King (NZL), Gaby Bunten (USA), Kristelle Congi (FRA), Me (USA) :), Rachel Mensch (USA), Troy Ruston (AUS)

And if you think the men’s podium looks familiar, that’s because it is! Same 1, 2, and 3 in both races!

After the race, I took a trip up to northern Australia (Cairns) and went to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. This was such an epic trip and I just have to thank Alan Horton and his family for letting me tag along with them for a little bit. They were essentially my chauffeurs for a couple days. After I bugged the Hortons for a day, I went off on my own. Take a peek below at some of the fun things I did.

After my time in Cairns, I flew down to Sydney to meet up with my parents. I got to run around the city and even picked up a few Strava KOMs while I was at it. I think these might have been more impressive than my WCs 😜 For you Strava nerds, here are the files: Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House (and again and again). But for real, the Sydney Harbor Bridge has been run almost 150,000 times and the Opera House has been run over 120,000 times and I’m #1! Pretty cool.

Needless to say, I had a blast in Australia. Sunrise runs, seeing old friends and making new ones, and spending time with my parents. What a great trip!

And of course I ate some delicious treats after my races! 😋

Now, this was the age group world championships so I wasn’t competing against professionals. And I know that I'm not the fastest age group triathlete in the world. Far from it. I got beat by a lot of guys at the USA Triathlon National Championships back in August (Justin Lippert, I’m looking at you!) I'm just the fastest who could afford to take time off work and pay for a trip to Australia. I know I can only race against who shows up, but I also know that many of the actual worlds best weren't there. When my friends and others make such a big deal out of it, I just try to smile and say thank you, but in reality, I don't feel like I've earned the title of world champion. I'm not fishing for compliments because I honestly feel this way and to show everyone that just because you're fast doesn't mean you don't have insecurities and doubts too. Aaaaanyway…

Thank you everyone for your support. It’s been incredible. The newspaper at home did a story about me (read here), one of the gas stations back home put my name up on their board (that’s a big deal in Big Rapids!), and I was asked to be on a couple of podcasts (coming out soon). Pretty cool just for exercising at high rates of speed! 😂

Thanks to everyone who sent me a message or reached out to me in any way. I didn’t have much service in Australia so I’m sorry if I didn’t respond to you. I got hundreds (maybe even in the thousands) of messages and notifications which was completely unexpected. It’s pretty humbling to know that many people care about me. Thanks to my Every Man Jack teammates, especially Alan Horton and family, for motivating me to be better. I’m just trying to keep up with you guys! Thanks to Coach Barb for getting me ready for both races even though we didn’t decide to do it until a few weeks beforehand. Thanks to my mom and dad for going with me and making everything 100x easier for me. I know I can be high-maintenance and snippy before races sometimes (okay, most of the time) and I appreciate you being there for me anyway. And thanks to my brother who, even though he couldn’t be there, was cheering me on from home and sending fast thoughts.

My triathlon season is likely finished for the year unless I get a strong urge to do another race down south. I will likely do a 5k Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, but that’s about it. Tomorrow morning, I’m hopping on a plane and heading to Hawaii for the Ironman World Championship to cheer on some of my EMJ teammates who are racing. I’m really excited to be going to such a big race and NOT racing. Race week is always pretty stressful when I’m the one racing so it will be nice to just kick back, relax, and enjoy my time in Kona.

Aloha, everybody! 🤙🍍🥥🌴

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