USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships happened to be in Cleveland, OH in August of 2018. Cleveland is about a 3 hour drive from our home in Northwest Ohio. My goal of qualifying for Team USA and representing the United States for the World Championships in Switzerland in the fall of 2019 was my ultimate goal, but I had to qualify from my performance at Nationals. So, this is how we ended up on the northern banks of Lake Erie in mid august. My race would be on Sunday morning, so I had a practice swim in a very rough Lake Erie on Saturday afternoon. Upon speaking with the local lifeguards, they informed me that a competitor had passed away earlier in the day during his race from the very rough rip currents on the northeastern corner of the swim course. Well, needless to say I was a little nervous about getting into the water for my practice swim. I had my wetsuit on, so I felt pretty confident, but the lifeguard informed me so did the guy that just drowned. Nonetheless, I waded in the water for a good warm up swim. The water wasn’t bad until I got to the aforementioned corner of the swim course and the current began pulling my legs sideways for quite awhile. You could really feel the power of the current. It was a pretty unnerving experience to say the least, especially since I have never experienced that feeling due to all of my open water swims are in ponds or small lakes. Some competitors swim quite frequently in large lakes and oceans with currents. Once onshore, I began sharing my experience with the other swimmers who had just completed the same swim course. They were also remarking on the weird rip current affecting them as well. After a quick trip through the vender area, we headed back to the hotel for a good pre-race meal and a good night’s sleep. It would be a very short night, since my wave was one of the first ones and I would have to set up my transition area in complete darkness.
Complete darkness greeted us at the transition area, but we could hear the huge waves crashing onto the shore a short distance away. After everything was set-up for the race, the race officials decided to scrap the swim due to the dangers of the rip currents and make the race a duathlon (run, bike, run). Once the announcement was made over the main speaker system, there was a collective sigh of relief from many of the competitors. Some were upset, since they didn’t feel the danger was high enough to completely change the format of such an important race. To be quite honest, I felt a bit of relief after knowing what happened to the other competitor the day before.
Well in finish out this little adventure, 11th place was good enough to earn a spot onto Team USA and we ended up traveling to Switzerland in the fall of 2019.