Monday, July 30, 2012

Race Report: HITS 70.3 Triathlon Sterling

Where to even start a report like this is a big decision. The Chinese philosopher, Tao Te Ching said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. My journey was 70.3 miles, but a single step is probably as good a place to start as any.

As I mentioned earlier this summer, the HITS event in Colorado was moved from the original venue in Fort Collins to Sterling. I think there were several factors, but the High Park fire, which began on June 10 and burned for weeks afterward was probably what tipped the decision to move away from Fort Collins. Though the fire is out now, there was just no way to know what conditions would have been.

As a result of this, it meant getting a hotel room in Sterling and planning to trek up there the day before the race. The town is easily accessible via Interstate 76 and while distant, is not what I would call remote. It's just way out there. In fact, the nearest town to Sterling is in Sidney, Nebraska! Here's a little perspective:

As we arrived at the race venue, North Sterling State Park, I was surprised and a little dismayed to see that some of the bike course was going to be on a gravel road. More on that later. Check in was organized and went smoothly. This was a small field so nothing like the hordes of people that descended on Boulder Reservoir three weeks earlier. We had our packets and goodie bags and there was a little bit of time to check out the transition area and go down to the water before race before the pre-race meeting started.

Mark Wilson, the race director, has done this meeting 8 times now and it was apparent that he knew what he was doing. He's a very personable guy even going so far as to try and learn the name of every participant which is impressive in and of itself. He gave an informative briefing. He also dealt well with a few idiotic questions and stood his ground on the race policy. A few of my fellow-triathletes would do well to remember that when you sign up for a race, you are agreeing to participate on the terms of the race organizers. If you don't like them, don't sign up. Specifically, you rack where they tell you to in transition and you wear the swim cap they give you.

Mark's briefing took about 45 minutes including the Q&A but that's not bad considering the extra details that go along with a 70.3 and 140.6 race (both were being done on Sunday with the Sprint and Olympic having already been run earlier on Saturday). He finished by mentioning that local folks in Sterling had turned out in droves to support the event. That included the local Lions Club who were providing volunteers. I'll speak more about them later in this post.

I regret not taking pictures of the staging area, but take my word for it, this was impressive. HITS travels from venue to venue via a couple of semi-trailers that would appear to carry everything they need. Whether it's the giant finish arches or the orange cones, they bring it with them. That, in and of itself is a fairly amazing logistical accomplishment.

My brother was also participating so he, and of course our wives, were along for the trip. We booked rooms at the Comfort Inn on the edge of town. There were several other triathletes staying there. However, the hotel is less than a mile from the Sterling Correctional Facility which is a Level 5 (most secure) State Penitentiary. That means there were also folks there to “visit” their friends and family who were located nearby!

We had a nice dinner at a place called Gallagher's River City Grill as did several other athletes. After a brief stop at Walmart to pick up some groceries for the morning, it was back to the hotel, to prep, watch some Olympics and then try and get to sleep.

HITS is making use of the products of a company called TriTats which provides everything including your body marking via “wet-on” tattoos. In addition to those, there are stickers, or what my brother called a “sticker book” (LOL) which include tags for your bike, helmet as well as your race number:

There were extras for things like a support crew (if your event includes that) and to label your special needs bag in for those doing the 140.6 event. You also fashioned a wrist band out of one of the stickers which gave us access in and out of transition.

Sleep came to me quickly enough, but I awoke on several occasions. Partly because of all of the water I drank at dinner, partly because the A/C unit went on and off all night, partly because cars and trucks going down the interstate made some noise, and I'm sure, partly because of nerves. I'm going to have to figure out how to be a better sleeper.

Nevertheless, I woke just after 5:00 and felt rested enough. Then it was off to the race venue. Parking in the area was such that, we had to walk about half a mile to the transition area, but that was really no big deal.

I've read and seen Facebook posts about how nice the transition area for HITS races is and this proved to be true. Each space has a folding stool and small bin next to your wheel to keep things such as your bag. There's also lots of space between you and the next racer. It was by far the nicest I've ever seen and one of the things that is going to distinguish this race series from its competitors.

Set up did not take long (this being my fourth race this year) and before long it was time squeeze into the wetsuit and head down to the shore where Mark was giving another short briefing. He gave us a few updates on the aid stations, reminded people about a few quirks on the bike course and then told us we had about 10 seconds until the on time start at 7:00. That was it, without any further waiting, he blew the air horn and my first-ever 70.3 event was underway!

The Race by Stages:

The Swim:

Many will disagree, but a swim is a swim. At least when it's in a lake and there are not factors like waves, it's pretty much the same wherever you are. This day was really no different. Because we all started at the same time (70.3 and 140.6 racers alike) it was a little crowded. On the other hand, we stared on the beach and the run though the shallow part of the water spread things out. It's a race, not a Saturday morning at Grant Ranch so more than likely, you won't be swimming alone. I was not worried about having a killer swim since, at most, that might give me a three minute advantage. That's huge in a sprint, but when your day will be over six hours long, it didn't seem all that important. I checked my watch at roughly the half-way point and was pleased to see that my average time per 100 meters was 1:33. This would be a good time to point out an important aspect of using the Auto Multisport mode. When you select it, you have to choose to “Start multisport” otherwise it just defaults to the sport you were doing the last time you used the watch. For me, that was swimming so the 910XT just thought I was out for an open water swim. As a result, it did not automatically change to T1 and then the bike later when I pressed the Lap button. I had to reset the watch.

As I emerged from the water, I was somewhat dismayed to see that the total distance was measured at 1.4 miles. That gave me a swim time of 38:39. I don't swim a perfect line, but I'm pretty sure that I didn't swim 0.2 miles out of my way either. The results bear this out as well. The fastest swimmer was out in 29:36, way slower than anyone I've seen at any race this year.

Much like the Boulder Peak, the distance between the water and T1 was pretty long. I took advantage of the wetsuit strippers who had me out of mine in seconds, even if I was a little Sandy and then it was on to the transition area itself. I got out of there fairly quickly, but with the longer run, and a little less urgency given to the longer race. T1 timed out at 5:08 which is fine with me.

The Bike:

The riding portion of this race is pretty easy for the first couple of miles. It's downhill or flat and I spun along in the low 20mph range. The hills at this point were longer, but not overly steep and climbing them did not tire me or wind me as I headed out. Indeed, for much of the bike, I felt pretty good. A series of turns down some county roads eventually found me out on Highway 14 where much of the race is staged. There's a net climb on the outbound portion, but I found it manageable. Truth be told, everything that happened on the bike was about what I expected. I ate a gel every 30 minutes and drank from my bottle of HEED in between. I took regular sips of water and it was easily replaced at aid stations. The volunteers at these stations were great. They were ready with whichever drink you wanted (HEED or water) and one told me to just throw the bottle on the side of the road and he would pick it up. That made refilling my aero bottle that much easier and I stayed hydrated throughout.

The one big hill on the ride comes right before the turnaround. You gain about 250 feet over the course of a mile and a half or so. It was slower, but really nothing I had not seen in many training rides. After the turnaround I prepared to shift into the big ring on my bike so I could gain more speed going back down. As I did so, I watched with irritation as the chain slipped off the ring forcing me to stop and reattach it. The last time this happened, the back derailleur came detached and the bike became unridable. Fortunately that was not the case here. It probably cost me a minute and some slightly greasy fingers, but I was back on and cruising down the hill to what would be my max speed of 36.6 mph.

It was mostly downhill from there and I made good if not great time until it was time to turn back north on the road that lead back to the park. These 10+ miles involve a net climb of only 200 feet or so, but there are several up and down hills including a 2% grade over 1.3 miles right before transition. That was a little tiring. I felt weak during those last ten and I was getting very saddle sore. I was wearing tri shorts rather than bike shorts and the reduced padding was starting to take a toll.

As I mentioned earlier, a short part of the bike (about 200 meters) was over a gravel road. It's not exactly fun to ride, but I and every other rider handled it fine. You just have to slow down and look for the packed areas. I negotiated it fine before hitting the last paved section leading up to the dismount line.

t's a smaller transition area and I quickly found my spot and got to actually sit down as I changed shoes. I would not recommend this approach for a Sprint or Oly, but for this long day, it was fine.

The Run:
A Couple of weeks ago, I went running after a 58 mile ride and it was brutal. I was hot, tired and I called it after going a mere 1.5 miles. This day started out much better than that. I'm sure a large part of it was getting a lot of water on the ride. I drank just about whenever I felt like it and was able to keep putting water back in thanks to all of the wonderful folks manning the aid stations. It's not like I was completely fresh, but I felt okay as I went out.

ou're greeted almost immediately with a steep hill, a steep down hill and then another really steep hill all in the first mile. Mark Wilson described it as “bumpy” but I think it was brutal. Still, I kept running until I reached aid station number one at the 1 mile point. I stopped. Yep, stopped, drank some water, put some ice under my hat, ran a cold sponge over my neck and then went on. This was, to me, not a standard half marathon. My approach was different and it was getting very hot outside. I stopped again at mile 2, going through the same routine and again at 3. By mile four, I decided I would walk for a mile and, except for one very short section, that's what I did. I picked it up again and ran from 5 to 6 where the course goes up a hill. Parts of this section were blocked from the breeze that was blowing and I walked some more.

At the turnaround for the run course, I got my usual ice, water, some HEED this time and the cold sponge before walking for about another ¾ of a mile. It was clear at this point that I was probably going to be doing the run slower than even my slowest goal, but I didn't care. The running and the heat were taking it all out of me. The course was one either gravel roads or sandy trails and while step to step was not that hard, the overall effect was tiring.

Run a stretch, walk a stretch, then run a smaller stretch was about all I could do. Just finish was what I told myself. Truth be told, I had a lot of company out there. Many people were walking and looking just as exhausted as I was. Though the breeze kept things better than a still day, it also probably was masking how hot and dehydrating conditions really were.

Just before the mile 12 aid station, I came across Rob Archuleta who is a friend of my brothers. I had met him that morning and figured he was way out of my league (he really is) since he had raced at IM Arizona last year. Even he was having a tough day. We walked and ran together sharing our misery. It was a nice boost to have a friendly face along the course and I enjoyed spending the last mile plus with him.

Rob is the founder of an organization called Addict 2 Athlete. His personal story is compelling. I won't rehash it here, but you should check him and his organization out here.

Rob and I decided that we'd run in the last little stretch of the race. If nothing else it made for good finish pictures and we looked good for our friends and family who were waiting for us at the finish.

I got my medal and then it was done. I was relieved. I wish it had been a faster race, but considering conditions, I don't see how I could have done any better unless I was being paced by an air conditioning unit!

The Race Review

My reviews of any event I do are, in all honesty, a review of the race director. That means I don't criticize events that are out of the control of that person or their staff. If something is listed as “bad” it means there was something that they could have done to make the race better. It could also mean they did something monumentally stupid, but that's rarely the case. Likewise, the items listed as “good” are aspects about the race that I really liked and would make me want to return.

The Bad:

Pre-Race Course Info: Not so much bad as could have been better. The race organizers had to scramble a bit after the venue was changed. It's understandable that it could even be a few weeks until detailed bike and run maps were posted. However, the run course info was not just inadequate, but wrong. Here's the map posted on the HITS website for Sterling:

I posted a Facebook message asking if the run course could be included on just as the bike course was. No, I was told, that was not possible because so much of the course was on the park trail. Using the results from my Garmin, here's the run course I mapped using

HITS held a camp out at the race site a couple of weeks ago that. I believe, included the run course. To create a map, all they needed to do was have someone run with a GPS watch and upload the map. I'm a planner and I like to know what my course is going to be like before I run it.

Lack of Info Prior to the Venue Change: Even before the High Park fire started, it was evident something was going on with the venue. The course maps were take down from the website with no clear explanation. Since I had registered (and paid) I would have appreciated a little more information about what was going on.

Disclosure about the bike course: 200 meters of riding on a gravel road would not discourage me from doing a race. But I would like to know about it. Again, even waiting until after the camp to say, we've done it and it's really fine, would have been okay.

Swim Course Distance: In era of GPS receivers being nearly everywhere, correctly positioning buoys ought to be a straight-forward if not easy. Folks who do Geo Caching find locations within the foot. It's worth a look for future races.

The Good:

On-Course Support: This was really second-to-none. Aid stations at ten mile intervals on the bike and about every mile on the run made a big difference. What's more the stations were well stocked with everything I could imagine, especially on the run. I forgot to wear my CamelBak and I ended up not needing it. Mark and his staff at HITS understand that long distance triathlons bring their own special requirements and they were up to the task.

Transition: Having been herded into corals at some races, the space and amenities at this one were like traveling first class. I don't think it would be the sole reason to chose a HITS race over a competitor, but it definitely tips things in their favor.

Environment: I felt welcomed, appreciated for my business and fully supported all weekend long. HITS has a strong customer service ethos and its evident in how they treat their athletes at races.

Results: Part of the mobile unit that goes from location to location is a technical unit. This means that even as folks were still out doing the full (140.6) course, those of us who did the half (70.3) had our complete results. That's praise-worthy. I would have been happy to wait until the next morning.

Pre-Race Communication: Lots of presence on social media including both Facebook and Twitter. Why every race director has not figured this out, I cannot say. These outfit has it down and they did a great job of fielding questions not only about Sterling, but about all of their events.

Volunteers: I could go on and on about how fantastic the folks from Sterling were. When the opportunity to host this event presented itself, they stepped up in fine form. People were not just present, but present in numbers. Even better, they were so enthusiastic and anxious to help. That's typified by this story. When my brother reached the turnaround on the run, he jokingly asked for a hot coffee. It was in the nineties in the shade. The volunteer he made the joke said no, but they were going to see if they could get him some! That's how much they wanted to help. A kid at the twelve mile mark grabbed about six sponges from the ice water and squeezed them over my head for me which was about the most refreshing thing I've ever experienced. Everyone was so nice, so supportive and so friendly, that they bolster the notion of small-town folks being friendly. I have never come across a group of volunteers who were so terrific in every way.

At the end of the day, the highest praise I can give a race is whether or not I'd run it again. I think HITS has a winning formula and considering that this is their first year, they're doing well. I feel confident that they will continue to learn as they grow and put on better and better events. It is very good to see some competition in this space. WTC. Rev3 and competitor should keep their eyes open.

As for this particular HITS event, it's not as easy of a call. As I just mentioned, the people were spectacular. The swim was on par with anything I've done and the ride was actually very nice. The run, however, was just brutal. That alone would probably keep me out of any future 70.3 events. I would consider coming back for an Oly however. I'd also like to see about either competing at another event in Colorado, should they have one or even racing at one of their out-of-state events.

For now, I'm very happy to have this one in the rear-view mirror. I'll have to think about what my next 70.3 event will be and where I'd like to do it. The next race is the Rattlesnake Olympic Triathlon on August 18. Between no and then I'll be spending a few days in the beautiful California wine country of the Napa Valley and I'll have a few posts from there.

Thanks for reading (and reading and reading). Have a terrific week!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Let's Do This!!!

For all intents and purposes the training is done. No swim, ride or run can make me more ready at this point. I've looked over the course done my best to estimate how long each leg is going to take me how I'm going to attack it. A swim is a swim. It's in a lake. There are no currents and unless it's terribly windy (not in the forecast)it's going to be a lot like swims I've done in other races only little bit longer. If I have a good day I ought to be out anything from 34:30 to 36:00. Could be worse but I'm feeling pretty good about the swim.

The bike has rolling hills but nothing like High Grade road the aptly named section of the ride up Deer Creek Canyon. It's actually shallower than my last long training ride. I am averaging around 17 mph which takes into account my pace on a tough day to my pace on a good day. I did a 40 mile ride on similar conditions to the race course at 19.7 mph. If I could split the difference between my fastest and slowest rides I think I would be okay with that. Keeping adequate nutrition on the ride will be key to success. I'll be eating gel at regular intervals.

Then there's the run. This is the biggest mystery of all. I surprised myself at the Boulder Peak with an average pace of 8:27 and finishing just over a minute behind my BolderBoulder time. However, we're talking about her more than twice as far and long on the bike. It will also probably be about 10° to 20° warmer which means it will be hot. I did a short run after a 58 mile ride recently and was pretty fried. Granted, it was a little bit later in the day and I had less hydration on the ride that I expect to have Sunday. I am about 90% sure at this point that I'll be strapping on my Camelback waist pack so that I can have ice cold water on demand. That might slow the pace of summers but I don't think I'll be going fast enough for that to be a factor. Walking part of the run course is just about a given. Having the heart rate monitor ought to give me a clear indication of when to slow down and recover a little bit. At the Horsetooth Half Marathon back in April, I walked half-mile or so stretch and felt much better afterward. I'll need to make sure I get my rests in as my heartrate demands of them.

As for my head I feel like it is in the right place. I have a desire not so much to be done, but to be out there on the course doing it. Finishing will, of course bring its own satisfaction but I am not allowing myself to think about that now.

Enough waiting. let's do this!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Anxiety before a race, especially a big one is normal. Some of it—most of it—is self-manufactured. I’m especially good at worrying about things over which I have no control. It’s a talent that runs in my family.

How bad will the heat be? Logically, I know it does not matter because absolutely no one can control the high temperature on July 29. Odds are it’s going to be hot, but it could also be rainy, windy or both. It doesn’t matter because it is going to be what it is going to be. I’m trying to put this out of my mind.

Have I trained enough? I can ride over 56 miles and still have something left. I’ve put something like 1000 miles on the bike since mid-March and closer to 1700 since I decided to commit to a 70.3 back in October.

My average running pace has improved from the mid 9:00 to the mid 8:00 range in the last three months. I’m also about 10 pounds lighter than I was in the early spring. I’ve done interval runs up to 10.5 miles at 8:37 pace. I’m also fully prepared and expect to run/walk the run portion of the race.  Nevertheless, I’m still worried about being overheated and then overwhelmed on the run portion. I have terrible visions of it taking me over three hours to complete.

What about mechanical problems? My tri bike recently broke down on a training ride. The threads on the derailleur hanger stripped out and the derailleur came detached from the bike. It’s been in the shop since last Saturday though I’m hopeful that it will be back with me by this weekend. But I’m still worried about something else going wrong. Check out this DC Rainmaker post about losing a crank during a ride.

 What if the race sucks? By that I mean, what if they, in their first year of doing this, are totally disorganized and ill-prepared to stage a race? I just got the Athlete Guide this week and it’s actually fairly impressive. That reduces the concern quite a bit Just like a mech problem, there’s nothing I can do, but I worry because I’ve invested money and a lot of time.

Okay….I’m being a little pathetic. Poor Paul, he has to worry about competing in a race he couldn’t have come close to finishing just two years ago. Here’s the world’s smallest violin playing the world’s saddest song for me:

At this point, I’ve done all I can do. I’ll ride a time or two more, I’ll run at least once more and I have a couple of open water swims planned. But none of that is going to make me more prepared. Nope. The time has come to race, ready or not.  My biggest whine: waiting. Getting out there and racing may be a relief just because the anticipation will be over.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Boulder Peak Triathlon

With a 70.3 race on the calendar, it's easy to overlook the importance of the first Olympic distance race of the new season. I was worried I might be guilty of that, but overall, I'm pleased with how I did.

Threatening weather seems to be a theme with my races this year and, unfortunately, this one proved to be no different. Our state has suffered under some of the worst wild fires I've seen so it's hard to complain too much when we get some much needed rain. However, I'd be a liar if I wasn't hoping for a brief respite during my racing window.

Boulder is only about 50 miles from Parker, but with transition closing at 6:30 on race day, I made the decision early on to stay the night in town rather than lose an hour of sleep driving. So with that, my wife (and chief blog photographer) arrived at the reservoir which is the race venue and also the site of the expo.

I expected no less from a 5150 event, but I was still glad to see that the check in process was organized and efficient. I went through a series of tents signing my waiver, picking up my shirt, numbers and timing chip.

The expo was pretty much part and parcel with any other you might expect to find. Expos are rarely a big deal for me, but there were some event-appropriate vendors present.

And of course, everything was ready to go. The 5150 series is a travelling show so the trucks were there to set up the course, transition area, check-in and so on. There's some quiet anticipation about a race venue the day before.

Soon after we went and drove the bike course. I had already done a practice ride on it, but I also got some news that the road had been chip-sealed recently and wanted to see conditions for myself. It looked pretty good and after having done so much training on rough bumpy roads, the prospect of riding on fresh (but not too fresh) asphalt appealed.

We returned back into Boulder and checked into our hotel. That was when the rain started. At times, it really  poured and even partially flooded the parking lot. That let up, but a steady shower was with us all evening. 

I slept fine when I wasn't waking up which meant I didn't sleep great, but I didn't awake feeling totally fried either. When I peaked out the window, there were still drops of rain hitting the puddles in the parking lot so I just crossed my fingers and hoped the weather would let up during race time, just like the forecast said it would.

The car loaded up, we made our way out to Boulder Reservoir. This is a venue I've gotten to know pretty well over the years. Though I went to college in Boulder, I never made it to the reservoir during my four years there. That changed when I did the Boulder Backroads half marathons in 2005 and 2006 and then started making regular trips there last year for the Stroke & Stride swim run series. This means I've swum in the lake and run on half of the race course. In addition to my practice ride, I knew pretty well what I was facing.

The pre-race video (which very smartly was made available on You Tube) explained that they were pushing the start time from 6:30 to just aver 7:00. That meant my wave (the first half of the 40-44 year-olds) were slated for 7:55. In other words, I had some time. That was okay, however since there's usually a lot to do including setting up my transition, getting body marked, waiting in the porta-potty line and in my case, getting a strap for my timing chip since mine did not have one.

All of that taken care of, it was time to don the wet suit and watch the other waves go. A positive note at this point was that the rain had stopped, the sun was shining on and off and what would have been temps in the eighties for even nineties a week earlier were now more like mid sixties. Nice.

The swim is a single loop (as I believe it should be in a race) with orange buoys on the way out leading to a larger yellow buoy where you make the clock-wise turn, swim the shorter width and then swim back with green buoys guiding you back. This made sighting and navigation much easier. The sun was shining at the camera so it made this shot a little difficult but you can get a sense of the course here:

Though the wait was nearly an hour, it didn't seem like that long. I got a short warm-up lap in and then it was time to kiss my wife goodbye and go get in line. They were not overwhelming, but I felt some nerves. My last Oly was way back in September at the TriRock. I've done all of the distances and then some, but I was still nervous, or perhaps just anxious.

The starter/PA announcer put us in the water about four minutes before the wave start. A nice touch is to call out someone who put an interesting tidbit on their registration form. That included people who had lost tens of pounds training for the event, and one Bronze Star winner. Pretty cool.

Finally, after much waiting and four weeks since my last race, it was time to start. The field was every bit as crowded as the typical Stroke & Stride, yet I didn't seem to be bothered by it. In fact, as I turned, seeing others around me swimming was kind of cool. Not even the cameras that follow Olympians in the pool can give you the same perspective of swimming with a couple dozen of your peers in open water. There's no way I'd be taking a camera with me on a swim, but sometimes I wish I could.

I swam what I think was a fairly straight line, a little bit outside the guide buoys. I know I'm not going to stand on the podium in a race like this and I'd rather avoid the groping/getting groped process that is an open-water race. 

That worked and I swam closer to the markers on my way back.

I pushed it, but not too hard since there were still more than two hours of racing ahead of me as I exited the water.  

It's a little more than 0.1 mile from the water to where my bike was racked. That took me longer than I might have thought. I also had trouble getting my bike out since the rack was so low that I had to tilt it to fit it under  the bar. Race director's requests aside, next time I have rack like that, I'm hanging it by the bars.

I think I did okay getting everything changed out. I'm getting better and better and taking off the wetsuit and I opted for socks before the bike so that I could transition to the run faster when I got back. 

I don't know why, but I had the hardest time getting clipped in. My shoes just kept slipping on the pedals. It took four or five tries 

but I was finally on my way....

Advice I got from both the pre-race video as well as a friend who has done the course was to spin easy on the way to the very big hill on Olde Stage road. To give you an idea of what I mean, here's the elevation profile as measured by my Garmin:

The fun really starts at mile five, but it's a fairly steep climb to get there, up almost the whole way. So with that in mind, I spun easy and made sure my HR stayed in the 130's. Past experience told me it would shoot way up once I was on the hill. Past experience was right.

The climb up the hill mountain on Olde Stage road is rough. I got passed by some of the hotshots, but went by quite a few others including several who had opted to dismount and walk up the hill. At my slowest, I was down to 5 mph, but only for a moment and when I reached the false summit (not yet the top of the hill) I picked back up. It was humid enough at this point that my sunglasses were pretty foggy, but once I picked up speed they defogged.

The down hill side of the road is steep. Very steep. In fact, so much so that the race officials put a Boulder County Sheriff's'vehicle near the bottom of the hill with a radar gun. Anyone going over 35 mph would be DQ'd. Not a warning, not a penalty, you're done. It was a good safety point and the speed zone was relatively short. 

The best part of this course is that once you're over the hill, it's a lot of downhill or flat the rest of the way. In fact, I actually picked up more speed after I turned on to the still steep, but not as steep Left Hand Canyon portion of the course. Through this section and the next good down hill on Nelson Road I was dropping more people than were dropping me. 

As I reached the last few miles, I decided it was a good time for some nutrition. I've felt a little low-energy on some of my longer rides lately. Though this was a shorter ride, I still had the run to consider. So I took more of my energy drink and a gel. I might get tired and out of breath on the run, but I wasn't going to bonk.

It's occurred to me on more than one occasion that I might speed up my T2 by getting out of my shoes before the dismount. It might, but I also knew a race was no place to practice. So I got off at the crash line, ran into the transition area. For a moment I got panicked and thought I was in the wrong row. Then I looked down and realized I was standing right at my spot!

I put my bike back in, bars first, and was into the running gear quickly. It was an easy transition out and I was out on a run course I've done half a dozen time before.

Probably one of the best things that has happened this season is the ease with which I've been going from the bike to the run. That's not to say it is easy, but unlike last year, I don't feel like I'm going to die when I start. Such was the case here. 

A half mile in I decided I was getting bad readings from my Garmin because there was no way I could be running at that pace and keeping my heart rate that low. But it kept up that way. By the time I was through two miles I was feeling good about the run. I can't really point to any one thing I've done, but it's gotten a lot better. This course is pretty flat so while there are a few slopes, it's hard to call any of them a hill.

A run at an average pace of 8:31 is better than I could have hoped. Combined with my other events, I finished in 2:50:44.  And since we were in Boulder, my wife and I enjoyed an evening out!


The Bad:
There's not much here, but there are a few things:

Bike Racks: I don't know anything about the costs of things like bike racks. I have no idea if a tire-based rack is more difficult to transport than the type from which you hand the bike by the seat. Nevertheless, these things don't work well. I actually tipped the bike next to mine (though fortunately not all the way over) and needed help from a guy on the other side. My brother had similar problems at Lake To Lake a couple of weeks ago. WTC is a major name in the space and 5150 is a growing brand of theirs. It's time to step it up and start using better racks.

Results: These may improve but as of now (more than 24 hours after the last finisher) the results are pretty basic. Just a name and a time. No splits. I'll take this section down, but only if I see the more detailed results. Late this evening detailed results were posted. Better late than never.

The Good:

Pre-Race Info: This was great. The website was up to date months in advance and the week of the race, they posted a You Tube video that was basically a pre-race meeting. It's a great idea and I hope more races adopt this practice.

On-Course Support: Water and energy drink were offered at two places on the bike course and at every mile on the run. That's what I expect, but more than I have seen from other races. The organizers also had both the Boulder PD and County Sheriff's office out in force. Intersections were effectively closed to traffic when they needed to be. The were was also good marking and mileage indicators.

Value: I registered early for $100. That's pretty good for an Oly. This came with a good swim venue, a great bike course, and what I consider to be a good run course (fast and flat). I got a nice tech shirt and a tote bag that my wife will probably use for groceries now!

Volunteers: There were lots of them and they were all great. No race can make it without an army of these folks and I can't begin to express my appreciation for all they do.

It's hard to say what my race schedule will look like in a year. But scheduling would be the only issue I would have with doing this one again. It's a great race and I must say that WTC did much to enhance their reputation with me this weekend.