Sunday, May 22, 2011

Race Report - Summer Open Sprint

Yes you read that right. The Summer Open was changed from a triathlon to a duathlon. I learned this Friday when standing in line to pick up my packet. The heavy rainfall caused excessive runoff into Union Reservoir and the result was e coli levels that were four times the minimum safe level. As the race director put it this morning, it was not a question of if you got sick, just when and how bad.

While, of course, I don't want to get sick, I was still pretty disappointed. I've been training all of these months for a three sport event. Nevertheless, the race went on, so I did too.

It would have been a nice day for a swim. The sun was out, the air was warm but not hot and it just felt like the kind of spring day most of us have been waiting months to see.

We arrived at the race site just a little after 6:15. Parking proceeded smoothly and within a few minutes I was walking my bike over to the transition area. It was my first time in a transition area. In fact, it was the first time I had even seen one other than in pictures. The set up was good. Lots of racks and plenty of space to set up my area.

Like a lot of races, there was an element of hurry up and wait, thought that's really just the result of arriving nearly two hours early. The waiting was not bad.

Soon enough the pre-race instructions were done and the first two waves had started the two mile run which was the replacement for the canceled swim.  Being only two miles, it was fairly easy and I still had energy. There was one big hill included just to make things interesting:

My entry into T1 felt good and although I had not picked a landmark to identify it, my bike number came into clear view.

Just under a minute and a half later I was running out of transition toward the bike mount line:

As I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago I really like this bike course. I had been concerned about doing three laps, but the flat fast nature of the course made it a secondary consideration.

Plenty of people in the elite wave went by me, but I still maintained a good 19+ MPH pace.

It was a fairly bumpy ride in but I felt good as I dismounted and headed into T2:

Unlike some of the transitions during my bricks, the T2 actually went pretty well. I had my running shoes back on quickly and soon I was out on the 5K course. Like my bricks, the tightness, high heart rate and and a general feeling of exhaustion set in. I think this would have been the case even if the first leg had been a swim, but I also think that the second run was a lot harder.

The extra 1.1 miles of the second run consisted of a long drawn out hill. That was fine going down and my pace actually picked up below the 9:00 minute level. Not so true on the return. Indeed, by the time I turned in for the final 0.1 mile, I was pretty spent. No sprint to the finish for me:

I finished the entire race in 1:27:08 which is more or less on pace with my goal.

Generally speaking, I was fairly impressed with the job Without Limits did in putting this one on:

The bad:

Pre-Race Communication - My plans had originally been to pick up my packet at a triathlon shop in Boulder on Saturday. I was going to be up north anyway and it would have saved me the trouble of driving across town in rush hour traffic. At some point after the website went up, that shop was no longer a race sponsor and as a result, no longer a pick-up location. That sort of thing should have been communicated much sooner than it was.

Parking - The ability to park in the same lot that was being used for the transition area was advertised. It was said that the first 150 cars to arrive would enjoy this benefit. When we were sent to a lot further away, I figured there must have been a lot of people who showed up early and got those spaces. Much to my dismay, several late arriving participants and spectators were rewarded for their lateness by getting these spaces. It's important that, after you say what you will do, you do what you say. This was not a big deal, but I did get up very early this morning to ensure an early arrival.

The Good:

Transition - Lots of space and easy access without compromising security. I did see a few bikes get tipped over, but I think that was due to the carelessness of the participants, not the amount of space each of us had around our bikes.

Course - It was a challenging but very scenic run course. The view of the front range, with the sparkling lake in front of it, was remarkable. All the more so since this was on the return leg of the run and provided some extra motivation to finish strong. Additionally, the bike course was closed so I only had to keep an eye out for other riders. Cars were not a factor and that really is a plus.

Organization - Ignoring the fairly minor communication issue, the race--from packet pick-up to finish--was well organized. Issues such as informational announcements, course marshaling, and yes even porta-potties were handled well. Race day can be stressful enough so major kudos to the race directors for having their organizational house in good order.

Results - I would say less than twenty minutes after I finished, I was able to see my results on a multi sided post in the middle of the expo area. This was most impressive since they were obviously doing regular updates. Many races don't make optimal use of timing chips or they post results in a congested area where it's next to impossible to read them. Not so here. Another big shout out for that.

In summary, despite the disappointment of missing the swim--which was nobody's fault--I have a positive impression of this race. I'll be back next year and I hope for many years to come.

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