US Open, Dallas, TX October 5, 2008 from Jason Ross
This is the 2nd year for this race, which I believe to be the best race in DFW hands-down. It offers two race distances -- Olympic and a "Sprint" -- and boasts one of the largest pro purses in all of triathlon bringing numerous pro's to town. There are several unique aspects to this race that make it stand out: the point-to-point format, wetsuit legal lake swim, all racers do the same 40k bike, and the finish in downtown Dallas. I would highly encourage everyone to put this race on their calendar for 2009.
Last year I raced in the Olympic distance at the US Open and turned in a 2:35 time. This year, however, I wanted to try my hand at the Sprint race here because it offers a unique distance combination for a "sprint" -- 800m open water swim, a 40k bike, and a 5k run. Because my run split is currently my weakest link, I figured this race set up well for me due to a longer than normal swim for a sprint and a much longer than normal bike for a sprint, which would theoretically give me an advantage over other racers (particularly slower bikers and faster runners). Turns out I was right. I took 1st in the 30-34 men's group. And it wasn't close really, as I beat out the 2nd place guy by almost 5 minutes. This is my first "1st" in a group, which has me stoked. I am also happy to have been top 10 overall (especially after being 12th overall at Tri-Rock).
Several notes about the course: The swim - Hartley and I estimate the swim was closer to 900m than 800m. We'd been swimming 800m in 14 minutes in the pool, yet it took both of us 17 minutes at the race without any traffic in the water and with calm water. This is an out and back swim, and the return leg is directly into the rising sun, so bring tinted goggles. Also, the swim start is done 4 people at a time, with each 4-person group going 10 seconds apart. This really cuts down on the congestion in the water.
The bike - they tinkered with the bike route from last year, but both years the first 5 miles were basically uphill and into the wind. After that, you generally have a helping wind pushing north to downtown. That said, the last 20 miles still has several large rollers and several turns that put you into a hurting wind. I averaged close to 24 mph by my computer. As with the swim, the course was longer than they said. I had nearly 26 miles on the computer, as did everyone I talked to after the race. If a cold front happens through the night before this race and brings a strong north wind, the bike will be extremely difficult.
The run - the run was very flat. Think Tri-Rock flat (but with adequate route markers). It is generally a northbound out and a southbound return--so you will run dead into the wind for half the run no matter the season. Most of the run was up and back on the well-kept Katy Trail, with a loop around the AAC for good measure.
The post-race events in Victory Park provided a fortunate opportunity to visit with US Olympic Triathlete Hunter Kemper. What a great guy, truly. Unfortunately, he suffered a hernia en route to his 7th place finish at the Beijing olympics and could not race the US Open in Dallas due to surgery this week. Nevertheless, he made the trip down from Colorado Springs to hang out at the race. (I'm excited to also report that I hope to be able to make an announcement in a few months about Hunter coming to Rockwall Cycling for a triathlon seminar. He was very receptive to the idea and is an Orbea sponsored rider, which also ties in nicely for us!)
Having succeeded at my goal for the Sprint this year, next year I plan to tackle the Olympic and try to break the 2:30 mark and medal in the age group. This is a great season-ender race, where you can really let it all hang out and tear your body to shreds.
Shoutouts to several folks - Scott Ervin for getting us a hookup for he, Hartley, and I to stay in a condo at Victory Park the night before the race. And to Zipp rep Ellen Jantzen for loaning me her rear sub-9 disk (okay, I am now a believer in the disk).