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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Aqua Bike National Championship Race Report

"Know what you want to do, hold through firmly, and do every day what should be done, and every sunset will see you that much nearer to your goal." - Elbert Hubbard

 It was a long season. I did my first triathlon at the end of February and my last race was the Miami Man Aqua Bike National Championship in Miami on November 13th.

I cut back on my away races this year. The Miami race would be my only national championship.  I set a goal this year to win a national championship. I picked the Miami race with this goal in mind.  I am not the fastest athlete, but I am good at picking races.

This would be my third aqua bike race of the season. By doing two USAT sanctioned races I would have a chance to be nationally ranked.  Aqua bike is a swim followed by a bike leg.  I have been fighting tendinitis on both my ankles. I am afraid my running days may be numbered, so I have started looking for races without running.  I'll be ready someday if my CMT progresses to the point where I can't run.

The Miami race would be a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike. I had done the distance earlier in the year at the Toughman Wisconsin event.  I felt so good after the event, that I did not need any recovery.

I check race results for most of the national championship races. I noticed in the past few years that there were very few athletes for this event in my age group.  Most of the athletes complete in the Long distance triathlon which is held at the same event.  The long distance triathlon is a qualifying event for Team USA and the World Championship. That has not been the case for Aqua bike.

I signed up for the Aqua bike race thinking since it was not a qualifying race and there were few athletes in the past, that I would have a good shot at a podium finish and maybe a championship.

I signed up for the race and every few days I would check the participant list. For months I was the only one in the age group. One day one other woman had signed up.  I knew I would still have a shot at the top three.

Then a month before the race the USAT announced the Aqua bike race would be a qualifier for the World Championship in Penticton Canada.  The top 18 in each age group would be eligible for Team USA. Suddenly there were 11 athletes in my age group. At least I would have another chance to be on the US team.

By the time I got to the end of September I have to honestly say I started to get tired of biking. It seemed every weekend I had to do a long ride. Those rides got tough in October and November when the temperature was in the low 40s.  Every weekend was a 4 to 5 hour bike ride. I wanted my life back. I was sorry I had signed up for the race and was not looking forward to traveling. I was just ready for the season to be done.

As much as I did not want to go to the race and as burned out as I was feeling, I had a really great time in Miami.

I met a bunch of other female athletes at the hotel breakfast buffet. We just had an instant bond.
The topic of conversation was the aggressive cut-off time for the bike course.  All of us were in the 50+ group which was in the last swim wave.  If you were not finished with the 2nd loop of the three loop bike course by 10:12, you would be pulled from the course and given a DNF (Did Not Finish).

I would be on an entry level tri bike and was worried about making the cut-off.  There was an option to be put in the first wave. That meant giving up any age group awards and I thought a slot on the US team.

With the large group of athletes in my age group I decided to race in the first wave and switch to the Physically Challenged Open Division. I would be able to finish the race and not worry about my time.

As usual I arrived almost as soon as transition opened at 4 ish. I would have been earlier except for a few wrong turns getting to the race venue. The race was on Miami Zoo grounds and the address I used for my GPS took me to the front gate, not the park which was the race venue.

This was the morning of the super moon. It was a giant orange ball over the lake where the swim would take place. I wish my camera would have captured it. The swim venue was glassy calm.

I got set up and chatted with all my new tri friends from the hotel. Then I got out of transition and made my way to the swim start to relax.  As soon as race officials gave us permission, I went out and did my swim warm up. I was ready and chilled out by talking to other athletes.

I talked with a women doing the 1/2 iron distance without a wet suit. It was her very first triathlon and she had only gone to the pool a couple of times. She figured she could just tough out the swim. I hope she did alright.

The swim was two laps.   We had to get out of the water at the end of the first lap, go through the timing mat and get back in the water. There was also an Olympic distance triathlon going on. They did one lap.  This was not a great swim.  There were 2000 athletes and this is the most crowded swim I have ever done.  The water was pretty churned up with all the swimmers. Athletes were constantly trying to crawl over me. I am glad I have enough experience that does not bother me any more.  Still I felt strong and I was out of the water in 53:42.

My rented bike was not a great bike. Bringing a bike can be a hassle and I decided to rent from a local shop.  When I picked up the bike they looked at me funny when I asked if they were going to fit the bike. They agreed to adjust the seat.

Well the bike was not at all comfortable.  I rented a tri bike since I had used one in Cozumel without a problem.  Every time I tried to get in the aero position, my back and neck hurt a lot. After a short time I pretty much gave up on the aero position for the race.

The center of gravity was a bit different than my road bike. The first time I reached for my water bottle, I ran right off the road.  I rode it out and slowed down enough to get the bike under control and stop. Because I was so slow it was discouraging to see all the other bikes zoom past me.

The course was really kind of boring. Really flat farm land that kind of all looked the same. The course was well staffed and clearly marked. It got really windy on the last loop. It was hot and humid and I was starting to run out of gas at about mile 50.  Still I kept at it. I figured the only way to get back to transition was to ride.

My ride went better than some of the athletes. I heard someone put tacks on the road that caused flats for about 20 athletes. I talked with a woman at my hotel that said she dropped to 5th after getting a flat from one on the tacks.  My ride was over in 3 hr 34 minutes for an average of 15.1 mph.  On my own road bike I probably would have averaged about 18 mph.

Some races give awards for the PC Open division, some  do not. It just depends on the race director. Some are really great, others not so much. I had a couple of bad experiences last year.  I actually did not race PC all year due to the bad experiences last year.

I was eating lunch when the awards for the Olympic division were given out and the PC athlete did get an award.  I decided to wait around for the awards.

I had to wait about three hours for the awards but it was worth the wait. Not only did I get a 1st place award for the PC Open Division, but I was handed a National Champion jersey. In the past these have not been give to winners in the PC division. It is something I asked USAT to do and I am glad to see they are recognizing us as well as the age group winners.

I did not have a great race, but I had lots of fun and did win that National Championship that had been my goal at the start of the season.  It was an unexpected result, which made it all that much sweeter.  I think I am going to frame my jersey since I may not ever win another one.

I thought by racing in the PC Open division that I would not be given a slot of Team USA.  A few weeks after the race I got my invitation to join Team USA for the Aqua Bike World Championship In Penticton B.C. next August.  It may be due to the two other races I did.

More than likely I will not be going to Canada.  I have other races and travel plans so may decide to pass on the World Championship this year.  Still it was a another nice surprise and I did reserve a spot in case I change my mind.


Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT

Chris is a triathlete and long distance runner. She is a three time participant of the Boston Marathon.  In 2012 she finished 2nd at Boston in the Mobility Impaired Division. She was on the course in 2013 when the bombs exploded.

She has appeared three times at the Paratriathlon National Triathlon Sprint Championship. She was the 2012 and 2014 National Champion Paratriathlon Open Division Champion.

In 2014 she was the PC Open Champion at the Duathlon National Championship and at the Aqua bike National Championship in 2016. She represented Team USA at the Aquathon ITU World Championship in Chicago in 2015 and will represent the US at the World championship in Cozumel in 2016.

 In 2014 she represented the U.S. as a paratriathlete at the Pan-American Triathlon Championship in Dallas, Texas.  She has won state championships in cycling and triathlon.

She travels around the country raising awareness of CMT.

She is the author of the book, “Running for My Life” that details her experience as a CMT affected athlete.

You may visit her author page at:

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 207 members in 38 states. We also have members in Australia, England, Scotland, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland, Scotland, France, Poland, Iran and Sweden. If you wish to join us visit our web site; or

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.

Additional Link
Follow CMT affected Paratriathlete Timmy Dixon

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