Our trip began on July 31 in a way most familiar to anyone who has ever raced an event with a cold water swim. Fitting our luggage, gear and bikes into the back of our van felt eerily similar to jamming your body into a wetsuit, taking advantage of every nook and cranny available. Much like making a race day plan, we finalized our travel plans. Now it was time to implement them.
The first leg of our trip went from Gainesville to Panama City, Florida. We were able to fit in a sunrise swim session in the Friday morning dawn before departing for Tennessee, leaving our dog in the care of Miki’s parents. Our excitement for the trip to the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships is building.
Upon arrival to our friends’ home in Brentwood, Tennessee, I noticed a paved multiuse path in their neighborhood and made a mental note. I decided I would go for a short ride the following morning. What I discovered was remarkable. The trail system in this city is the most impressive I have ever seen. The paths are perfectly manicured and the scenery and natural wildlife was breathtaking. I encountered a couple of fellow triathletes who were in the midst of an 80+ mile ride and rode with them for awhile before peeling off for fear of getting lost. The sense of community and acceptance of one another has always been one of my favorite aspects of triathlon. Miki had to forego any training that day as we couldn’t fit it in. We had more friends and family to meet and children to entertain. We were able to make it to two of our favorite Nashville restaurants, McDougal’s and Pancake Pantry, and enjoyed time spent with the kids, friends and family.
Sunday was another long day of travel as we drove from Nashville to Chicago. We encountered some rain and construction delays as well as 44 of the 50 states in the license plate finding game.
We arrived safely with little arguing between the boys. Unfortunately this was a second day of no training for Miki. Although Chicago appears to have ample training opportunities, she is not a big city girl and uncertain about venturing out alone to the Lake Shore Drive paths or to the beach for a swim in Lake Michigan. She does, however, plan on a marathon of shopping down Michigan Avenue. Does that count for training?
We anticipated that living out of luggage on a long trip with children while trying to keep them entertained would be a challenge. What we didn’t quite anticipate is the equal challenge of eating a reasonably healthy diet while on the road. The opportunities for pre-race carbohydrate loading with french fries are plentiful! Not having our own kitchen and a grocery store to pick up our typical meal supplies has greatly increased my respect for professional athletes. I don’t know how professional athletes can remain in peak form while on the road constantly having to eat out.
We were able to make it to the Robie House in Chicago, which the kids really enjoyed. Miki went out of her comfort zone and went for a run while the kids played on the shores of Lake Michigan. Tomorrow we will make it to the top of the Willis Tower and take part in an architectural boat tour of Chicago.
We are both very excited to visit our friends in Neenah, Wisconsin, before heading on to Milwaukee. The excitement for racing with the incredible athletes who will be on hand this weekend and meeting up with several of our fellow G3 Tri Club members in Milwaukee is building. The butterflies in my gut are already fluttering. Our journey to the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships continues.
If you missed Part 1 of the Castaldo Chronicles, read it here now.
Visit usatriathlon.org/agnc14oly to learn more about the 2014 Olympic-Distance National Championships.