CLEVELAND – USA Triathlon decided to cancel the swimming portion of the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships sprint-distance race due to strong currents in Lake Erie Sunday.
“We were speaking with the Coast Guard and looking out at the water and we had some rough currents over in Lake Erie so we made the decision, the joint decision, to cancel the swim portion,” said Caryn Maconi, communications manager for USA Triathlon.
Race officials adjusted the course to a duathlon, breaking up the running portion to create a run-bike-run event.
“We always have a contingency plan in place if that needs to happen; things like weather come up where we have to adjust and adapt so we’re pretty practiced at that,” Maconi said.
USA Triathlon says the course change won’t impact athletes’ ability to qualify for the world championships in Switzerland.
Athletes understood the decision and some who competed Saturday in the Olympic-distance race said it was a good call.
“I was really happy about it because yesterday I really had some trouble; I got a little water in my lungs,” explained Don Alden, an experienced triathlete who came from Boston. Alden was aiming to qualify for the USA team at the world competition coming up in Switzerland.
Alden said swimming in Lake Erie was much more challenging than expected. “I had no idea,” Alden said. “I was like, ‘oh, this is going to be benign, right? It’s a lake; how bad can it be?’” he continued. “It was like harder than an ocean because the waves were inconsistent and it was hard to time it with your breathing and sighting,” Alden said.
Hayley Ulmer said the last-minute change did surprise her, but she said half the battle in a triathlon is mind over matter.
“It was out of our control so there’s nothing we can do about it. I’d never done a duathlon before so that was a little bit of a challenge but so many other people were in the same situation so sort of an even playing field,” said Ulmer, an athlete who came from Indiana to compete.
The course-change didn’t matter for 64-year-old Sue Reynolds from Bloomington, Indiana. “I came in 6th in my age group today and qualified for the world championships so I’m really excited,” she said.
Reynolds' passion for sports developed four years ago. “I didn’t know that I even liked sports at all until I was 60 and at that time I weighed 335 pounds. I just lost 200 pounds,” she said.
Reynolds’ life has completely turned around and she now loves walking, running, biking and swimming. “Four years ago, I couldn’t tie my shoes; I couldn’t stand and talk. I wouldn’t have been able to do this interview for you,” she said.
The race brought thousands of athletes and spectators to Cleveland, many of whom have never been here before.
“We absolutely loved Cleveland; it was a real surprise. I’ve never been here before. We’ll probably come back on vacation as well,” Reynolds said.
The 2019 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships will be back in Cleveland next August.