Sunday, September 11, 2011

Race Report - Tri Rock San Diego

Much as was the case after the Creek Streak, there's a bunch of stuff though talking about the expo yesterday ought to pare it down somewhat

Today's race day started like all of the others--early.

I rolled out of bed a little before six and began with a Mix1 shake and a bottle of Gatorade. I decided to forgo my usual early morning wake-up for a smoothie. In hindsight, that worked out just fine. By a little after six, my wife, sister-in-law and I were on our way south the the race site. It did not take me long to get into transition and into my own specifically designated space. As you can see, it was crowded:

I nevertheless got everything arranged. After having already done three multisport events, getting my transition area set is getting to be routine and not difficult.

I lingered around there watching a No Doubt tribute band called No Duh (funny, huh) until a little before the transition close at 7:30. From there it was a short walk over to the swim starting area.

It was nice to see the in-water start go a few times before it was time for my wave. Not much to it, but this is the first time I've done or even seen a start where you had to float in the water before the starting horn.

There was also live entertainment. This is a boat, of course, but it was also a stage for a band called Sum Mojo that was playing as each wave started. Very cool:

Time actually passed fairly quickly and before I knew it, my wave was in the coral and ready to enter the water. Ours was the first wave of the Olympic so we got a few instructions on the course but the emphasis was on few.

While not balmy, the water was basically cool and not at all unpleasant. Water in the bay is much warmer than in the open ocean and of course, the water was calm. Here's my wave right before the start. Can you see me? I'm the one in the black wetsuit and blue cap:

And then we were off on our 1500 meter adventure:

I felt pretty good during the swim. I tried to push it a little bit after swimming slower than I would have liked in the last race, but I was still fairly cautious considering the ride and run that would follow.

Things were going, well, swimmingly as I made the turn to swim back to the inlet where the start and swim exit were located. The sun was up, but not right in my face so I was able to site fairly well or so I thought. Not long before making my last turn, I started encountering oncoming traffic. Despite the best efforts of the safety people in the water, our wave was coming head on into one of the later waves.

The guy in the yellow shirt has the job of water safety, not course direction so I don't really blame him. Might have made sense to have a wider space between outgoing and incoming swimmers so there would not have been the collision.

No matter. I didn't collide with anyone and once I rounded the last buoy I was out of traffic and on my way back to the stairs that lead up the sea wall to the sidewalk that showed us into transition.

The transition area is really big so I ended up running for well over a minute to get back to my bike. I took my time getting the brand new wetsuit off considering the tear that resulted from my haste in the last one. I felt like I moved with reasonable speed and before long I was on my way out of transition onto Harbor Drive, heading south.

The ride was harder than I imagined. That's probably mostly because it was a three lap crit with a couple of short but steep hills that did much to slow down my speed. The original course would have had two laps so I hit the hills an extra time. Still, it went pretty well and I did not feel tired nor hot which is a very good thing.

My three laps went by quickly and then it was time to hit the final stage the run. As I mentioned in my report of the Creek Streak the run was the hard part. Heat did me in and I felt pretty awful by the time I finished.

I guess there is something to be said for cooler weather and running at sea level (about 6000 feet lower than my normal training altitude).

This is where things got a little weird. We were heading out of the transition area on  boardwalk that runs along the harbor. Not actual boards mind you, but a seaside sidewalk. That's fine. Tri's typically are smaller events than foot races so a road closure might not have been feasible. But how about a sidewalk closure? Nope. All the tourists, panhandlers, buskers and whoever else happened to be down at the harbor this morning and most were oblivious to the fact that they were walking in the middle of a triathlon course. Seriously. I had to dodge around people gawking at the Star of India, and pedicabs and throngs of tourists. That's not any of their fault, but it raises some serious questions about what the hell the race organizers at Competitor were thinking.

Frustrated though I was, the run was going really well. I was in the low 9:00 range and I felt good. The breeze coming of the bay kept me cool and I was drinking in oxygen at a much higher rate than high altitude.

So here's the breakdown of the race:

The bad:

Pre-race communication: I don't know why this is so hard but why can't a website have detailed maps of each stage, a race day schedule, and all of the other information that would be helpful. Yes, it did show up eventually, but not until about a week before. Seriously people.

Cost: I believe I got a discount, but this one still cost me something like $150 to run. That made it by far the most expensive race I've ever done including the 2006 Rock & Roll marathon. My entry fee was before my costs to travel out here. For that kind of price, I expect a much higher standard than the one delivered today.

Course: The swim course was great. It was even scenic which does not matter all that much but it was still nice. The bike course was pretty bland or just downright ugly since it was just a loop through an industrial area. I can forgive that a little bit because the original plan was to run us through the Navy base and that would have been cool. Credit for trying even though the threat level ended up scrubbing that. The run....the run could have been better if the sidewalk had been closed. Not sure how that would have been done or what the cost might have been, but that's also not my problem. Did I mention that I paid $150? The weaving in and out of pedestrians is something I might expect at a "mom and pop" event and in that case it would even be a little charming, For this event, it was just poor execution.

Expo: Expo's are not a really big deal to me, but since you have to attend this one to get your packet, it might have been nice to have more vendors show up. It would have been particularly nice to snag some free samples of Foggle or VeloShine.

The Good:

Venue: The convention center and adjoining park made for a great transition and start and finish area. Both racers and spectators had a nice place to hang out before, during and after the race. I enjoyed the time I spent there very much.

Swag: I got some nice stuff including a cool tech shirt in my bag and the bag itself is pretty cool. There was the usual garbage as well but I think only the BolderBoulder has better stuff.

Finish Area: Even though the sprint awards ceremony was going on as I finished, they still had a guy doing a finishers announcement as I came across the finish line. It was through an arch and in view of a big grandstand. There was also a stage on which an AC/DC tribute band was playing. Awesome!

Bands: From No Duh, to Sum Mojo to a few others I never learned the name of, the music on the course is perhaps the strongest aspect of Competitor's brand. It wasn't just that there was music, but most of them were pretty good. It's, I'm sure, not an easy gig but I hope they all know how much the athletes on the course appreciate the effort.

Remembering 9/11: The folks who put this race on knew that today was the tenth anniversary of that awful day a decade ago. San Diego is a big military town with lots of Navy and Marines around and they made sure that a proper observation of the day was done. It culminated with a parachute drop next to the transition area:

In summary, will I be back to do this next year? I don't know. It's hard to pack everything up and travel for a race and even with family in the area and frequent flier miles, the costs can add up. There are a lot of competing events going on back home including a Century ride at my Alma Matter in Boulder. I had a really great time and finished better than I expected. But I'm not sure I was so blown away that I'd do it all again. It remains, for the time being, an open question.


Swim:  30:51
T1:   4:13
Bike: 49:34
T2: 3:06
Run: 58:39
Overall: 2:26:24

And like that, my 2011 triathlon season is over. That brings a sense of relief and melancholy all at once. What an amazing year my introduction to the sport has been. How much have I learned and experienced? Well that sounds like a good subject for an upcoming post.

Thanks for reading and God Bless America on this day of days!

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