THE FINE PRINT: The following preview is written using the information available at time of publishing. Race organizers reserve the right to change the details, including route, sometimes without warning. That said, the details listed below may change come race-day. I do my best to avoid that whenever possible -- but sometimes it simply isn't possible. Thank you for understanding. Keep R/B/S'ing! -R3KC
updated Live streaming will be available for both Olympic-Distance (Sat 8/12, 7am CDT) and Sprint-Distance (Sun 8/13, 7am CDT).
EVENT QUICK INFO
PRE RACE PREVIEW
There are some pretty fantastic multi-sport events heading in to late August and through September. Beyond that, the season is over (unless you're one of them crazy winter-triathlon folk). But let's be honest: Really it's mid-August's USAT Nationals that mark the season finale for most. By now, triathletes have been racing the three sports since at least April, and Nationals often serve as the pretty bow on top of another [hopefully] successful season.
As is often the case, USAT Nationals events (duathlon, triathlon, winter tri, and aquathlon) are hosted by a town in a two-year cycle. And as this is Omaha's second year as host to Triathlon Nationals, this will be the final year (next year it's off to Cleveland). Though, if you attended Omaha last August, don't get too complacent: Things have changed a bit this year.
But that's why we're here: To cover said changes for returning athletes, and, of course, to welcome in first-time participants with a suitable preview of what's to come.
So let's get on with it, shall we?
Bike Check-In, Race Expo, Packet Pick-Up, & Pre-Race Briefing
Yes, a lot to cover in one section, but the first few are held in the same location, and the Briefing (and draft-legal clinic) are non-mandatory (though strongly recommended....READ: STRONGLY).
Expo & packet pick-up is the first activity on the schedule, beginning a full two days prior to Olympic race day, and three prior to Sprint. It is open to BOTH distances, and is located on the race-site, Levi Carter Park.
There's even a nifty venue map that USAT hath provided us. Check it out...
Mandatory bike check-in, on the other hand, is NOT available on Thursday, and does not open up on Friday until 11am (one hour after packet pick-up opens). Friday bike check-in is only available to Olympic athletes. If you are a Sprint-Distance participant, you must wait until Saturday at 3:15pm (and lasting until 5:30pm).
For those completing the Olympic-Sprint double? First of all, kudos. That's awesome. Second of all, organization claims to have addressed this (because, honestly, this was an annoyance last year), and sent the following email to registered participants...
...quite an ordeal. Hopefully it works out for everyone this year.
A pre-race rule briefing is also held at 2pm on the Friday prior to race day, with a draft-legal clinic available at 3pm (if you're in to that sort of thing). These are not on the race site, but held at the CenturyLink Convention Center in downtown Omaha.
Okay -- I have to soap-box it for a second. Skip down to the next section if you want to avoid it...
Attend the briefing, please. I don't care how many triathlons you've completed: Waaaaaaaaaayyy too many individuals, experienced and not, infringe upon the rules. In fact, it's more often the "experienced" triathletes that I see blatantly break the rules (not passing safely, trash on the course, etc etc etc) -- it's the "inexperienced"/"newbies" that err on the side of caution.
When you apply for USAT licensure, you check a box that states that you agree to the rules and regulations set forth by USA Triathlon (the rule book). You can't agree to something you haven't read. Really, many of the rules (such as trash on the course) are common-sense. I'll even link the rule book for you.
But some, admittedly, are obscure and/or easily forgotten. This is what the rules briefing is for. You WILL learn something at the briefing. If you don't, you're not paying attention (how long do you have to pass a fellow rider on the bike course? what distance behind a rider in front constitutes drafting? what action must you take if you are being passed? when is passing not allowed? what rules are stated in the rule book regarding your race bib?)
Okay, that's it. Sorry. I know many other share my frustration. So just go. I'll even see you there.
Race Weekend Schedule
Rather than type it all out, how about I just show ya?
This schedule is subject to change, and I cannot guarantee it will always be the most up-to-date. I will do my best to update on here it if/when USAT decides to revise stuff, but as a precaution, always visit the official webpage for the final say (you can just click the image to go there -- I've linked it).
Race Day Parking
Ah yes, parking is always fun. And last year no exception. The venue map above gives a good representation of where the parking area will sit in relationship to the rest of the venue, such as transition and expo. It's all pretty close. And, honestly, parking on race day wasn't bad at all (expo/pick-up was a little messy, though, just an FYI).
There is one major caveat with this parking area: It will only be accessible from the west (to the east is along the bike course). Race Organization suggests using the following address in your GPS devices for navigation to the parking route in from the west: 1293 Carter Blvd, Omaha, NE. JUST KNOW THAT YOU CANNOT GET TO THIS ADDRESS THROUGH THE PARK (i.e. via Grand Ave or Carter Lake Shore Drive). Here's a quick map of the area.
From there, pull on to Carter Blvd east-bound (technically Grand Ave east of 13th, so really, pull on to Grand Ave) and keep straight to the parking area. There will be volunteers to help guide. Here's the route in anyways...
For more information on parking (including information on parking at CenturyLink Center for any of the events there, which we do not cover in this preview), go HERE.
On to the good stuff! ...
For more information on the course from the official website, go HERE.
Transition is oriented in a rectangular fashion, long-ways east-to-west. It is sandwiched between Carter Lake (to the south) and the parking area (to the south). Expo/spectator area, along with the finish chute, is just off to the west of transition.
Transition is fenced in, and in a grassy area, with no mats down (except for mats leading up from the swim to the transition Swim-In area). There are Pot-o-John's inside of transition, last year lining the north side of the transition fence. And speaking of that north side, last year there was significantly more open area to the north of the bike racks than to the south (i.e. in front of those Port-o's).
Rack space is assigned, so don't worry about arriving extra-extra early (you still should arrive extra early, though -- but just one "extra") for a favorable spot (last year I was in the southwestern-most corner -- i.e. the furthest possible rackspace from Bike-In/-Out...ugh).
Space between racks is standard for an event of this size and caliber: It's not too narrow between racks, but rack space itself is in high demand. So conserve your space and be courteous with your bags and what-not's. Also, mind the amount of space used in FRONT of your bikes -- last year USAT officials were walking around handing out warnings and penalties for athletes being too spread out, particularly in front of their bike (thank goodness). You don't want to be "that guy" anyways, so be efficient with your spacing. DON'T BE THAT GUY.
Also, mind the location of your spot. There are alotta' bikes out there. And you CANNOT (per USAT regulations) use anything to specifically mark your transition spot (balloons, guys? seriously???). You'll just have to have a good memory (age grouper trick: use a beach towel with a distinctive design or a specialized transition mat with a unique color/design...it works).
I have included a Google Earth view of the swim leg that also includes the orientation of the transition area, parking, and expo, as well as how the bike/run routes come in-and-out of transition (although, admittedly, the parking area was a bit more rectangular, the transition area was a bit wider, and the expo/spectator area was a fair bit larger). See that below...
The swim leg is held in Carter Lake. If you're familiar with Carter Lake, you'll know that it actually used to be a section of the Missouri River. Often when extreme bends in a river become too extreme, and the flow ends up choosing the straight path around the bend, the bend gets cut off. The water in the bend remains, and a new lake is born. This actually has happened for Carter Lake, and within the last 200 years. As a result, the state boundary between Nebraska and Iowa - which used to follow the original river bend - remains down the middle of Carter Lake. This means that, for this swim, the first few buoys that stray south of the lake's mid-line are actually in Iowa. When the swim turns back north, you arrive back in Nebraska. An inter-state triathlon!
Anyways, this is a simple loop-type lake swim with an in-water start. A temporary pier/dock will be put in place south of transition. Athletes will start (again, in-water) from the west side of this dock. Want a warm-up? you can do that to the east of the dock.
Note that the dock puts you dead-center of the lake for the start. So you will have to actually start with hands on the dock. The dock is a floating dock, so that means push-offs are impossible. And with no ground to stand on...you'll have to train in-water starts a little bit.
And the dock gets crowded, too. Our wave had people on top of each other, since everyone HAD to have a hand on the dock at the start. And once that blowhorn signaled the start...let's just say the first 50 meters were a bit tumultuous.
For Olympic: About 700m out straight (through Iowa), a right-hand, 90-degree turn for 100m, another right-hand, 90-degree turn back to the shoreline for another 700m. I have included a Google Earth view above of the course, including the approximate buoy locations. And the colors and shapes are accurate: orange sphere buoys for sighting, yellow pyramid buoys for turns.
For Sprint, your course is identical, save for the distances: About 200m out (yes, you get to go to Iowa, too), 90-degree right to 100m, 90-degree right to 200m to the shoreline. Buoy shapes and colors are the same as Olympic: use orange to sight, yellow to turn.
As always, USAT rules state that you ARE allowed to rest with a hand on an aid kayak if you need to. You will not be penalized. If you GET IN to the kayak, that's a DQ. But no one is going to fault you for needing a rest.
Though there are some rollers about 8k in, the course is mostly flat, with one, big, exception. I call it Ponca Hill. On Strava, it's known as Surfside Hill.
But more on that in a second. Step one is getting out of transition. Note that the mount line is NOT just off the northeastern corner as the route maps (including mine) would lead you to believe. In fact, there is a fenced-in extension off of the northeastern corner of transition, which is matted, by the way, that extends all the way from the grassy area to the main road (Carter Lake Drive). Once you reach the road (about 100m from the corner of transition), it's about another 30 feet to the actual mount line. Last year there were inflatable arches marking mount/dismount. It's quite a jaunt, especially if you strap your bike shoes on off the bike. Also of note are those mats: They are felt(-ish) mats over grass, and it's a little lumpy. Running over the mats with a bike, your bike tends to hop around left and right quite a bit. Same goes for Bike-In.
Levi Carter Park sits just west of Eppley Airfield (Omaha Airport). The bike portion continues east out of Levi Carter Park towards the airport, and around the outskirts on 12th. A left on to Abbott Drive turns in to the Arthur C Storz Expressway. A right on to 16th St, followed by a quick left on to John J Pershing Drive, and you're on the main stretch -- keep on this road all the way north to the turn-around. The first few turns are within the first 5k of the 40k route, so remember on the return that the last 5k will be technical-ish.
A mile after turning on to John J. Pershing gives a little uptick in the road, but not enough to be considered a significant climb. And though there are a few rollers as you head north, the only real climb comes 7.5mi in to the bike, right at the Ponca Road intersection (hence my name). At over a half mile and up 5.8% average grade, it's not terrifically steep, but it will present a touch of challenge.
The real challenge comes when climbing the hill from the north slope: Starting at 15.3mi in to the bike, it's not the grade that is punishing so much as the length, at nearly a mile and half. Southbound Ponca Hill is divided in half by a quarter-mile flat, although even that in spots marks it as more of a false flat.
Make no mistakes about it: This is a midwest race, yes, but it can be as punishing as you want it to be. I, personally, love tackling the hills (much to my late-bike-leg chagrin), and found the ever-so-slight rollers approaching the airport to be a struggle. Those that took the climbs a bit more slight may have found those final 8k a bit less a challenge.
On approach to transition, mind that dismount line, as far as it is from actual transition. And if you're like me, and leave the cleats on the bike after dismount, remember that lumpy run-in...last year one of my shoes wedged between the bike and the ground after a big "bump" and launched the bike in the air, nearly toppling me over. It would've been hilarious, I'm sure.
I have a wonderful on-bike video of the course. It will be posted in the next week or so. Though it's been clipped of any extra non-useful video, I think I may have kept in the bumpy transition in/out. So you'll hopefully be able to see what I mean. Keep an eye out for that soon.
I'll have my usual Google Earth image replacing the official map above in the coming week (about the same time as I post the video, prob).
For 2016 participants, this has changed for the 2017 year. It's sort of a bummer: Olympic-distance athletes got to run through the "new Rosenblatt" stadium last year (around the warning track on-field, in fact) at the 10k turn-around. This year organizers nixed that. Claiming better spectator viewing, the Olympic-distance is a double-out-and-back of the 2016 5k route. Honest, it IS probably better for spectators to keep everything inside the park, but it probably is more to the effect of not having to secure extra permits.
At any rate, tired cyclists will find comfort in the fact that the 10k run leg is flat, with an average gradient of under 1% for the whole course. No significant climbs to speak of. South on Carter Lake Drive (to the west of the lake, rather than to the east, like the bike), turn around, come back. There will be signs approaching transition for the Olympic-distance turn-off. Then, rinse-and-repeat.
I may be a bit biased, having been born in Omaha, but I had a lot of fun last year. Omaha is a fantastic town. Sure, it's a bummer about the run course change, but I'll allow for benefit on any doubt -- it IS easier on spectators. Regardless of your opinion, it should be a fun challenge to notch on the belt.
See you on the start line (or, more accurately, at the dock).
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