The weekend of racing has officially come to a close! It was hot and sunny in both Mooloolaba and Thailand where members of the USA Triathlon National Team raced on Sunday, March 25th. The Americans showed that they are in good early-season form and looking forward to a long year of racing all over the world.
Friday night, the Mooloolaba Twilight 5K kicked off with a 4th place finish for me (Sara McLarty), a personal best time for Haven Barnes, and John Crawley beating Cliff English to the line by over 1 minute. Even as the sun set over the surf town, the humidity was still at a record high, making the hilly 5K course even more of a challenge.
Saturday morning started off with torrential rain storms on the Sunshine Coast. The roads were covered with 2 inches of water…making the 6 a.m.-high-speed-group-ride a bit scary! After a quick shower and breakfast, we loaded the van with 3 bikes and 6 people for a 9 a.m. departure. Nate Kortuem, Mike Orton, and Dave Messenheimer had to leave their bikes in the Mooloolaba Open Triathlon transition area over night…Joe Umphenour was visiting ITU staff…Haven and I had a 10:30 a.m. start time for the 1K Open Water Swim. After 15 minutes of racing: (quick recap: run with high knees, dolphin-dive, swim, turn a buoy, swim, body surf, repeat all that, and then sprint through the finish) I was the 2nd woman overall!
Sunday morning came early for the same group mentioned above…the Open Triathlon started at 6:30 a.m. and Haven and I tagged along as support-crew and cheering squad! Our men had strong races with Nate finishing as the top American. The Open Division was won by Greg Bennett (half of the legendary Team-Bennett) with a solid run. In the women’s race, American Mary Beth Ellis led from start to finish in front of fellow American Sarah Groff to claim the top spot.
By 9 a.m., the World Cup athletes were arriving at the race site to warm up and set up their gear. Laura Bennett, Sarah Haskins, Julie Swail, Becky Lavelle, Rebeccah Wassner, and Margie Shapiro represented the Red, White, and Blue on the starting line at 11 a.m. Mooloolaba elements did not make it an easy day for the athletes: large waves and choppy water in the swim, sunshine and hills on the bike, and then more sunshine and more hills on the run. Laura (the other half of Team-Bennett) was the top American woman, proving that the Sunshine Coast is her second home! On a sadder note, my roommate, Margie, came into T1 and realized her rear wheel was flat. She could not make it to a wheel stop to get a spare, instead she joined our cheering squad to encourage the other Americans still racing!
As I was sitting at a café table in the shade of trees with an ocean breeze, I didn’t think it was possible to be hotter. Somehow, the temperature continued to rise as the men lined up for their 1:30 p.m. start. Andy Potts, Jarrod Shoemaker, Brian Fleischmann, Joe Umphenour, Doug Friman, and Matt Reed were the 6 brave American men running into the Pacific with 74 other top triathletes from around the world. After a brilliant showing on the swim and bike legs, with Andy leading out of the water and Brian taking a bike prime, the heat took its toll as Matt Reed came from behind to be the top American man.
Slightly earlier in the morning on Sunday, Jasmine Oeinck, Matt Seymour, Tim O’Donnell, and Manny Huerta were racing in the Mekong River in Thailand. After slipping in T1 and slicing his foot on his wheel, Tim toughed out the pain and finished 4th overall and the top American. Jasmine was the lone American woman and after swimming with the current, biking with the lead pack, it came down to the run where she finished in 3rd place!
The Thailand people have returned to Noosa today as most of the World Cup athletes have packed their bags and departed for the States. In a few days, the 2007 Australian USA Triathlon National Teams camp will be officially closed. While a few stragglers will remain behind to travel to Japan for the next World Cup, the USAT staff and majority of athletes will soon be flying over the Pacific Ocean and heading home to their families and friends.
As for myself, I will be racing in Wellington, New Zealand this weekend and then returning to Noosa for a few more days of sunshine and body-surfing. Seven American athletes will remain at the Sunseeker Holiday Apartments for two more weeks before traveling to Ishigaki, Japan, the next stop on the 2007 World Cup circuit. The memories from this priceless experience will remain with me forever…and I can only hope that more will be made next year when we return for another season of training ‘down under’!
About USA Triathlon: USA Triathlon is the sanctioning authority for more than 2,000 diverse events ranging from grass-roots to high profile races in the USA. USA Triathlon’s membership is comprised of athletes of all ages, coaches, officials, parents and fans striving together to strengthen multi-sport. USA Triathlon is responsible for the selection and training of teams to represent the United States in international competition, including the world championships, Pan Am Games and Olympic Games. USA Triathlon's mission is to provide excellence in leadership, structure and education for the growth and development of the sport. USA Triathlon's vision is to set the standard of excellence as a world leader in the sport by promoting a healthy lifestyle and encouraging participation and achievement. For more information, please go to USATriathlon.org.