The word epic entered in English in the 16th century as a kind of poem, like the words sonnet or haiku did. Like many other English words, epic has evolved to mean more. Webster’s synonyms include outstanding, fabulous or impressive. I had an epic experience at worlds.
I had an Epic experience, with a capital E, at this year’s Worlds Championships (WC). This year’s WC were my “A” events for the year, and nearly all my sponsorship money went to preparing for and participating in these grand-daddy events. Even though my son and I didn’t raise all the money that we needed, we covered nearly all of our expenses. For that, I am grateful!
I have been blessed to race in a WC in Spain, Switzerland, Canada and now Denmark. I love the physical buildup, the friendship with other athletes and the meeting of new people more than I like the race itself. However, nothing has ever trumped the fortune I received by getting to race this year with my son.
Both of us qualified to compete at this year’s Worlds by our performances at last year’s National Championships in Oregon. Since the Oregon event, both of us spent a lot of time training for this event. I did my normal thing of periodization training, scattered with test events throughout the year. Alex ran cross country in the fall and swam in the winter before curtailing his high school sports to focus on preparing for Worlds. Alex had a coach (not me), who trained him across all triathlon disciplines.
We arrived in Denmark on Wednesday morning, July 4th. I had a race on Friday (Standard Distance WC) and then again on Sunday (Sprint Distance WC). Alex had only the Sunday race. The first race is detailed here. The 2nd race we did together, starting only 6 minutes apart.
I was too jet-lagged to wake up early and ride a group preview of the course on Thursday morning, as both of slept in after our night flight across the Atlantic. I had only Thursday afternoon to acclimate to Denmark before racing on Friday morning. I had already decided to use Saturday to rest and recover in bed while watching the Worlds Cup. Alex didn’t have the same logistical situation that I did. He had three days off before racing, and he picked a different path. He reached out and met other TeamUSA athletes his age at organized socials in the days leading up to the big event. It did my heart well to see him ditch me and hang out with peers throughout the days leading up to the event. Yet, it wasn’t without drama. His group decided to do a training ride the day before the race to explore the course, and one of them crashed his bike. Two independent physicians each concluded that the boy had broken some ribs and there was nothing they could do to speed his recovery other than rest. Despite the pain, the young man demonstrated character, as he suited up and raced on broken ribs. All of us who knew what had happened to him were impressed.
Worlds started a little after 8 am on Sunday, Denmark time (that’s 2 am, EST), meaning we needed to be ready to race no later than 7:30 am. Fortunately for us, we could drop our bikes off in transition the night before the event and only needed to pick up our timing chips before the start. Also, the hotel breakfast buffet opened at 6:30 am, giving us ample to time to eat and start digesting our fuel before the starting gun. Traffic on the course delayed the start by a few minutes and added to group anxiety levels, but all those items of interest before the race are lost once the running and cycling start.
Before worlds, we both had our share of jitters. After all, there is nothing beyond a WC, as duathlon isn’t an Olympic Sport, and there are currently no plans to create and manage and Intergalactic championship. I shot this quick video of Alex moments before he headed to the starting line. He thoughtfully pondered all the people who had helped him train for and be ready for this day’s race.
Once the race was over, we headed to the athlete tent to socialize and get some recovery food. Alas, in the world of trying to please everyone, the race hosts pleased no one, as there they offered no sources of protein after the event to jump start the healing of tissue. Unlike other events, we had to find a restaurant to get our bodies refueled, and we shouldn’t have needed to do that. Shame on Denmark!
That said, I enjoyed interacting with folks whom I rode with during the draft legal section of the race. There was 4 of us in a group for the bike section: an Australian, a Brit, a Mexican and me. We took turns pulling in the front and riding the draft as we covered the 20K as fast as we could. Unfortunately, Alex and I both had to rent bikes from a local service in Denmark, and they weren’t as good as what we were used to, and they weren’t fitted for us. As we reviewed our numbers, both of us gave up ~ 2 mph on the bike, as a result. Had this not been a WC, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal. The cost of shipping our bikes to the event would have cost nearly $1800 more, and we didn’t raise enough $ to cover that much of an outlay. This impacted our final numbers. I came in the bottom quarter and Alex finished dead last. Neither of those outcomes would have occurred on our regular bikes. Such is life.
The next morning, we caught a train to Copenhagen and a flight to Oslo, where we spent a day or two with my friend Arne, a member of Team Norway in 2015, whom I met at the WC in Switzerland. He was a wonderful host and drove us to the Jotenheimen region of Norway where Alex and I spent 4 days hiking and staying in a log hut. This trip represented my graduation gift to him, as neither of us have any plan on returning to Norway, let alone visiting Jotenheimen. My oldest son got a trip up the Grand Teton for graduation. My youngest got a trip up Galdhøpiggen.
What made the worlds Epic? Surely, competing in a WC with your son is epic. Hiking in Jotenheimen and climbing the highest point in Scandinavia is also epic. Doing both, with the same person, is a once-in-forever sequence that we will likely not repeat.