USAT Age Group Championships | Race Recap November 2012

USA Triathlon Age Group Olympic Distance Triathlon
August 17, 2012
Burlington, Vermont

Donna Smyers of Adamant was named Grand Masters Champion at the USA Triathlon National Championship in Burlington. The 55-year-old physical therapist completed the course which consists of a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run in 2 hours, 24 minutes and 30.2 seconds, winning her age bracket for the second time in two years.

VS: How many USA Nationals have you done?
DS: I’ve probably done a dozen. I kept promoting Burlington to the organizers since I’ve had to travel to places like Shreveport, Louisiana, St. Joseph, Missouri, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama; places with awful brown water and alligators.

VS: How does Burlington compare to other locations?
DS: I may be a little biased but I think it was one of the nicest places they’ve ever held the nationals. The only problem was some weeds at the end of the swim, but the bike course was really nice and we had beautiful weather both years, which is unusual. I would guess most participants would say it was one of the most beautiful courses we’ve ever had, but I have to admit I missed the years it was held at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho which might have been equally nice.

VS: What is your favorite leg of the Burlington course?
DS: I think the bike course was a work of genius. I didn’t have my best time there, although I did well last year. Closing Interstate 189 and including Dorset and Spear Street was just fantastic, particularly since those are the roads that many of our cyclists train on. It also didn’t appear to impact the traffic into Burlington, which I thought was a really good thing. I did better on the run which was also familiar because it’s part of the Vermont City Marathon. It was awfully nice coming in on the waterfront and it was a pretty easy run. Everybody groaned about Depot Street, but it’s only a quarter of a mile, maximum, at the beginning and then there are no hills.

VS: Were there any improvements on the course from last year?
DS: Breaking it into two days helped with the traffic back-up. That didn’t impact me since I was in the second wave, but last year I saw traffic back up into South Burlington. It didn’t affect us but you could see the drivers were irritated and we didn’t see any of that this year. The other change from making it two days was that we had a much bigger transition area. It wasn’t crowded at all although some people thought they didn’t put the numbers far enough apart.

VS: If you were in charge of the Burlington course, would you do anything differently?
DS: I would try to figure out how to not have people swim through weeds at the end of the swim. There was a lot of milfoil and it would have been nice if they could have harvested it. It was an OK exit but it would have been nice to have a cleaned up channel. I think they changed it the second day. Also, I would change things so you don’t swim directly into the sun. We started the swim by going into the hard waves and then made a 90-degree turn directly into the sun so we couldn’t see anything. I think they may also have changed that for the sprint.

I thought they did a fantastic job with the organization, designing the course and the venue set up. It would be great if Burlington could keep having a destination triathlon but Peter Delaney [Executive Director of RunVermont] said there wasn’t enough community support. That was sad to hear. I’d love to see them continue this as an event, but it sounds like it’s not going to happen. It’s great for businesses and the state and great for tourism. All the local hotels were sold out for the weekend. If you got people coming for the race, they’d see what a nice place it is to swim, run, and ride, and they’d come back for vacation. It would be a huge tourism boost. Look what happened to Lake Placid. They didn’t have all those triathletes in town until they started running races.

Phyl Newbeck

Phyl Newbeck lives in Jericho with two spoiled orange cats. She is a skier, skater, cyclist, kayaker, and lover of virtually any sport which does not involve motors. She is the author of “Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving.”