I qualified for the World Triathlon Championships in Lausanne Switzerland help on August 31st, 2019 by placing in the top 20 of my age group at Nationals in Cleveland the previous summer. This earned me a spot on Team USA. I have known several local Team USA members who had competed for Team USA in previous World Championships in England, Australia and other exotic locations. My wife and I had always wanted to visit Switzerland, so I set a goal of qualifying for Nationals & Worlds with the hope of traveling to Europe the following summer. Once my spot on Team USA was secured, my wife and I decided we wanted to spend the following week after the race traveling through Italy before flying home.
Day 1: August 29: We landed in Geneva after an overnight flight from Detroit. There was a train station in the basement of the airport that took you to Lausanne. From the Lausanne train station we used an Uber to take us to our hotel. We stayed at Hotel Discovery, a short distance from the downtown area. The hotel took some getting used to in their relationship to the environment. European countries are much more eco friendly than any place in America. There are recycling containers for different plastics and refuse every time you turn around. The room lights turn off all the time unexpectedly and there was no AC. When asked, the front office said they just use refreshed air, since it is better for the environment. With all that said, it was still a nice hotel, but most importantly for me, it was the staging area for the main rental company I would be renting my bike from for the race. I lucked out with the bike, it happened to be one of the owner’s own personal bikes and was a very nice ride, while the disc brakes proved invaluable on the descents on race day.
Once we were settled into our hotel, we headed downtown near the event and explored the downtown Lausanne area. We went to the triathlon expo and got some authentic food then participated in the Team USA photo shoot before walking in the Parade of Nations. The Parade of Nations was such a cool event, similar to the Olympics where the teams from each county parade in front of a grandstand at the finish line. This was a great opportunity to meet other Team USA members as well as hang out with the ones you already knew.
Day 2: August 30: The race organizers opened up the swim course for athletes to practice in Lake Geneva. The shallow area was littered with large rocks, but once in waist deep water, you began to realize just how far you could see down into the water. At the deepest point of the swim course, you could still see the bottom of the lake through the chilly water. This was totally a new experience for me and probably most of the other triathletes completing. Usually in open water swims you cannot see much more then a few feet down, but not 20-30 feet of clear water to the bottom. After a trial run on the swim course and a quick walk through a small part of the run course, we took a boat cruise down the north shore of Lake Geneva.
The cruise stopped every few miles to either let passengers off or on at various docks in each little town. These stops were in perfect synchronicity as you would expect from anything associated with Switzerland.
The views of the wineries and mountains were breathtaking from the vantage point of the boat cruising along the north shore of Lake Geneva.
Once we disembarked from the boat, we headed to Chateau Chillon for a tour of the medieval castle. It was everything you envision in every storybook ever read. It had everything and it wasn’t just some Disney castle, this thing was hundreds of years old and was still a living and breathing castle. As you can see, I really enjoyed our time going through the castle and being taken back in time to medieval days of yore.
Someone had told us to take the walking path from Chateau Chillon back towards Montreux and catch the boat back to Lausanne from there. We were glad we decided to walk this way back and enjoyed the beautiful views of Lake Geneva, but also the many flowers and vineyards along the way. This was a highlight of our time in Switzerland.
Freddie Mercery was born in Montreax and this statue of him is right on the shores of Lake Geneva. There are many people who leave flowers, notes and cards for him and it seemed this was very soon after the movie Bohemian Rhapsody was released.
After a nice long relaxing dinner, we met our boat at the Montreax dock for a beautiful sunset cruise back to Lausanne for the evening. Dinner in Europe is an experience, not to be rushed. Usually the waiter will leave for long stretches of time and not wanting to bother the guests. It is definitely a change of mindset for Americans where everything is rush in and out and be done eating in 30 minutes. We ended up walking over 10 miles that day. Not exactly what I had in mind the day before by biggest race ever, but you only get to go to Switzerland once in a lifetime. It wasn’t like I was going to win the thing or finish last, so I was Ok with walking that much. It really was a beautiful walk with the scenic overlooks.
Day 2: August 30: Race Day. Another morning of getting up from a not so restful night of sleep without AC. Yes much of the EU doesn’t believe in AC, so our normal room temp in the summer back home is set to 68 degrees at night, the room temp in Switzerland was like 75 degrees and not exactly good sleeping temps in my eyes. Not even a fan to blow the hot air around.
Nonetheless, my wave start time was first at 7:15 a.m. As you can see from the bike coral, the sun was just starting to come up prior to the start of the first wave. I had to use a headlamp to set my transition area in the dark.
Prior to this race, I tried to prepare for the hills of Switzerland, but there is absolutely nothing in this part of Northwest Ohio that would even give me a hint of the climbs I would face on this bike course. The main hill hits a gradient of about 20 percent going up, but the hill in the picture below is one where the bike course comes down. It is probably only a 15 percent gradient but during a race the athletes are hitting some pretty high speeds coming down that hill before trying to slow and avoid the barricades at the bottom that they had padded up once the race started.
All smiles after surviving the bike course without crashing. The cycling course was a draft-legal event, which is fairly new to me, so that took some getting used to especially with the tight quarters of all of these athletes so evenly matched. I would classify the bike portion of the race as white knuckle the whole time. I found that the run course was much more difficult than I had anticipated. At one point on the run course near the Olympic Museum, the running path turned into running steps due to the steepness of the climbs. I was frustrated with my overall run time, but in comparison with my peers, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. It was most definitely the toughest 5K race I have ever run in my life, let alone after a swim and bike against some of the best triathletes in the World. The overall triathlon course was insanely difficult, from the craziness of the swim in Lake Geneva, to the white knuckle draft-legal racing up and down steep hills, to the hilly and difficult run course. This course kicked my butt! I did happen to place 45th in the World in my age group though. I even got this little medal to prove it.
I posed with my finisher medal and slapped a huge Henry County Cycling sticker on the front of my uniform just to be funny and show some love for my guys back home.Upgrade your plan to use this premium blockUpgradeWorld Triathlon Championships’s #1 Fan from Mexico
During all of the various waves of athletes there are many people you meet along the way. This gentleman was from Mexico and he would cheer for everyone and even ask other people were they were from and then start cheering for their friends/family members. We met so many genuinely nice people from around the World during our time in Switzerland.
After a good meal and a few drinks, we just sat and watched the later waves of triathletes try their luck climbing up the steep hill on the bike course. Some of the older female athletes had to push their bikes up the hill due to it being so steep. We visited a couple of the local shops and purchased some Swiss chocolates and souvenirs, while meeting many people from around the globe. Now that the race was over and I wasn’t maimed or injured on the bike course, we both began to enjoy ourselves in Switzerland and began looking forward to what Italy would bring the following day.
After 3 very eventful days in Switzerland for the World Championships, we were ready to pack our bags and head out for Venice in the morning.