Tuesday, August 24, 2021

USAT Age Group Nationals- A Well Fought Race


" The most important thing is not to win, but to take part, just as in life the most important thing is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. " - The Olympic Creed

The USA Triathlon (USAT) National Age Group championships for Sprint and Olympic triathlon was held in Milwaukee on August 7th and 8th. The event would draw 7000 athletes from throughout the United States.  This is the only National Championship race outside of para-triathlon that has qualification requirements. This year I met the qualification criteria for the USAT age group race and the Paratriathlon National Championship.

Milwaukee is my hometown so I was super excited to welcome everyone and meet people I had interacted with via zoom call or on Facebook.

The race would be a different matter. My car accident in May really put a dent in my training and two weeks of vacation in Dallas the two weeks before the race also did not help.

I had qualified for the Sprint race and also signed up for the Open Water swim race. The Sprint race would have spots on the line for Team USA. The top eight women in each age group would be offered a spot on the team.  There was also an Open Wave for the Sprint with no team spots, that offered a Physically Challenged Open division.

I know from doing the AG race three times in Milwaukee how rough the swim can be. The swim start is like being in a washing machine. Fighting for position with a couple of hundred women is  like swimming with sharks. I've been there and one that. I wanted a more sedate experience.

So I decided to switch over to the PC division in the open wave. There were actually 25 athletes signed up. I recognized the name of a women from the Chicago area and we are pretty evenly matched. I was looking forward to racing against her.  I was more comfortable in this wave and not physically having to fight in the swim wave. I really just wanted to race and to enjoy the experience since there was no chance at a Team USA spot.

I also dropped out of the  Friday open water swim. I woke up with a sore throat the day of the race and out of caution I dropped out. I did not want to be too careful during COVID. I also cancelled out of a Foundation Ambassador meet and greet the same day.  I was fine by the next day.

I had missed out on volunteering on Thursday since my flight home from Dallas did not get in until 2 am on Thursday morning. I really needed rest so I could not volunteer.

So Sunday was my chance to redeem my race weekend.   One thing different about this race is I would not be wearing my Team CMT uniform.  I also race for the USAT Foundation this was one of the races I was committed to racing. Team CMT member Cheryl Kearney would be representing Team CMT at the race.

I did not get any sleep as is usual. I got up at 4 am and was down at the race site at 4:30. The good news is I got street parking really close to the event. I think I was the first one in transition at 5 am.  I was not even sure the race would take place because we had thunderstorms all night. It was still raining as I pulled into my parking spot. At the very least the transition area which was on grass would be a muddy mess.

It only takes mere minutes to set up my site in transition. I walked down the swim in, bike out, bike in and run out.  I had plenty of time to kill until my wave at 9:15 or so. I just found a nice shady sport and relaxed. I put everything in different plastic bags in case it rained any time after I set everything up. There was a chance for rain all during the day. The bike stuff went in one plastic bag and run stuff in another.

I saw triathlon friends from the Wisconsin Senior Olympics but did not see Team CMT member Cheryl Kearney until she came to line up for her wave. She was in the age group wave right before mine.


The swim takes place from the dock at the Discovery World museum on the Milwaukee harbor. They have a nice floating dock.  We were given time to get in on the right end of the dock to warm up and get used to the water. Lake Michigan can be cold, but this day it was 68F.  I had the long sleeve wet suit and was a bit worried about getting hot. It turned out all of the PC athletes except me were Team Triumph athletes in boats. I saw the boat pullers lined up in my wave at the dock and wondered who they were. They all looked like elite athletes.. Tall and fit, not like me. All of their athletes were waiting in boats they picked up when we entered the water.  It was a little tough as I hung on the dock waiting for the start trying to get the boats from blocking me. Kayla the PC athlete I know from Chicago did not show up. I was the only ambulatory athlete, which is often the case.

The swim went well. As usual it seemed to take forever. It was nice being the last wave and not having swimmers run over me. I was fast enough I passed swimmers from the two waves before me.  The Milwaukee course was a 750 meter swim it a sort of long rectangle. The water was calm due the protection of the harbor breakwater. I think I did the swim in about 22 minutes. That is slow for me, but considering all the swim training time I missed this summer I will take it.


Since I was the last wave, transition was a muddy mess. I was able to miss the worst sports for both T1 and T2.  Everything was pretty mud after the race and took some major clean up post race.

I used my road bike since the course goes up and back over the Hoan Bridge. This bridge goes over the Milwaukee harbor. It never allows bike traffic so it is a treat to be able to ride it. I think the elevation change was about  76 feet over a slow gradual climb.  The view of the harbor and the Milwaukee skyline makes the climb worthwhile. Because it is so high it is always windy on the bridge.

Because I was the last wave, there was not much traffic around me. I was worried I would be the last racer. The other PC athletes were being pushed by the elite athletes.  However I did beat a couple of them and the swimmers I passed.  The 12 mile bike ride was over pretty quick and was pretty routine. 


Once I make it to the run the celebration begins, The swim always feels risky to me since I am not a strong swimmer. A couple times fear has caused me to drop out. 

The bike always has the risk of flat tires or other equipment issues that can end a race. 

But with the run, I feel like I am home free. It is just 3.1 miles between me and the red carpet of the finish line.  I started my racing career as a runner and have probably 30 years of running races. This part of the race is so routine. It was in the high 80's and humid. All that race experience means I know how to manage my hydration.  I was hot but comfortable as I cruised along. I talked with one of the male athletes that was walking because he had such bad muscle cramps. That happens when your body loses electrolytes on a hot day. I gave him some advise as I passed. Before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line of my fourth AG triathlon national championship.

Well the total time of 1 hr 57 minutes was not stellar. But I was glad all things considered to just be at the race. I was thrilled to cross both the starting and finish line. Just being out there again after COVID cancelled so many races was a thrill.  On to the next one!


The author and Team CMT member Cheryl Kearney at USAT AG National Championship Milwaukee

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 2015i, Cozumel in 2016 and Denmark in 2018. In 2018 finishing 5th in the 60 to 64 age group.


 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 as a senior Olympian. In 2017 she placed 2nd in her age group at the Winter Triathlon National Championship, earning a spot on Team USA for the World Championship.


In 2020 she was named a National Ski Patrol Subaru Ambassador and a USA Triathlon Foundation Ambassador.


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 and the book “Soup Sundays, A Journey Toward Healthy Eating”.



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 CMTWe currently have 233 athletes in 41 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, England, Finland, Vietnam, Iran, Scotland, France, Turkey, Poland, Norway, Mexico, Wales, Ireland and Sweden!. If you wish to join us visit our web site; www.run4cmt.com or www.hnf-cure.org


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.



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