Fresh from Omaha and my very first USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships race, I’m excited to share with you my top five recommendations for newbies to get the most out of your weekend experience at nationals!
I’m from the East Coast (Connecticut) and did not have high expectations for what this Midwestern city would have to offer. However, as soon as I stepped off the plane, I was hit with what would be the standard of overwhelming hospitality, by the city and people of Omaha.
The Omaha airport was lit up with screens welcoming USA Triathlon Athletes to the city. The host hotel was literally covered in a welcome sign and even our Uber driver was hip to what was happening, and enthusiastic, about the upcoming race weekend.
Number One: Travel
Omaha is an easy destination from almost every aspect. The airport is small and allows for quick arrivals, security checkpoints and departures.
My husband and I used Uber to get from the airport to our hotel (about a 7 minute drive), and throughout our stay when we needed to travel further than walking distance.
Buses were provided to and from the event venue at Carter Park and were mostly reliable. I say “mostly” because there was an issue of traffic on race morning since there is really only one way in and out of the park. As a result, the race was postponed by 15 minutes. I’m sure this will be corrected for next year!
I highly recommend using Raceday Transport for bike shipment. My bike was shipped directly to the race venue though their easy and affordable service. It was assembled when I arrived, and post-race, I simply walked it over to their conveniently located tent, where it was disassembled, boxed and shipped back to me.
One last tip is to pack and carry all of your race day essentials (gear, clothing, shoes, etc.) on the plane with you. My luggage did not arrive with my plane in Omaha, and although it was couriered to my hotel the following day, I didn’t stress knowing I had everything I needed to race.
Number Two: Accommodations
We stayed at the Hilton on Cass and 10th street, which was the host hotel. We were welcomed with a huge sign displayed on the lobby entrance and the hospitality of the staff could not have been better.
In the ice machine room on each floor there were two big cardboard boxes filled with towels and linens labeled “for USA Triathlon race use,” there was complimentary coffee when I headed out to the race at 5 a.m. and everyone seemed very enthusiastic about us being there and were more than accommodating.
Number Three: Food
My husband, a non-athlete, and I have traveled all over the world for my races. The Old Market District, which is in walking distance to most all of the hotels, had some of the best food we have had!
Some of my favorites include:
The Twisted Fork - Casual dining, delicious food and plenty of beverages! A perfect choice for a large group or just one or two hungry athletes. Highlights: cucumber mule drinks and the grilled chicken and Parmesan risotto.
Upstream Brewing Company - Local brews, some of the best and unique pizza and a variety of delicious appetizers. Perfect for post-race celebratory beers!
The Grey Plume - Farm to table perfection. More expensive (and a quieter atmosphere) but worth every single bite. The must-have item on the menu, hands-down, is the duck fries.
801 Chophouse at the Paxton - Because you cannot leave Omaha without having a steak!
You can also walk to Cubby’s for all your pre-race breakfast needs but, get there early for bananas!
Number Four: Race Venue
Not only was Omaha beautiful but it was very clean and very flat! Carter Lake park was wide open and laid out well for the athletes.
Swim: We were able to swim in the lake at a specified time on Friday before the race. The water is definitely green and murky but otherwise clean and remained calm throughout the weekend.
The race start is in the water but we were able to hang onto the dock until the horn sounded. There was plenty of space for all the swimmers. In fact it was one of the cleanest swims (in terms of hitting, elbows, kicking, etc.) I have ever experienced, and I was in the largest wave of women, which was the 40-44 group.
Bike: As I said, I’m from the East Coast so to me, the bike course was mostly pancake flat. There were a few hills, but in my perspective they were very small. My Garmin declared the elevation gain to be around 850 feet, which is more of a molehill in the Northeast. However, one competitor I spoke with from Texas was complaining to me afterward that the course was absolutely “not flat!”
Run: It was a very hot day for a run in Omaha! And although the run course was indisputably flat, there was not one speck of shade. A highlight was running the warning track of TD Ameritrade stadium and having your picture displayed on the jumbo screen, but be prepared for a hot one if the temperatures do not cooperate.
Number Five: Race Hard but Have Fun
I am in the 40-44 age group, which was the largest and most competitive group there. I know this because it was announced over and over prior to our swim start at 9:45 a.m. No pressure. As such, you might expect an air of elitism, ego and self-indulgence but what I experienced with this group of women was quite the opposite!
As we waited on the dock there was a lot of laughter and chatter. I spoke with a few women from the East Coast, and it felt more like a social gathering than a national competition. I witnessed a group of strong women working together to calm each other’s nerves, to wish one last “good luck” and found inspiration in our collective competitive drive.
My overall experience in Omaha at the National Championships was nothing less than stellar. I cannot wait to go back in 2017, with the lofty goal of qualifying for the world championship triathlon Team USA!
Find more coverage from the 2016 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships at usatriathlon.org/AGNCcoverage.