This was my first Nation’s Triathlon, and, despite the organizational challenges, I think I’ll do it again.
Yes, I agree with everyone that the pre-race organization was a bit scary and frustrating. Read the website? It had conflicting information. But, face it, we’re spoiled by Vigorito’s precision and experience. The Nation’s Triathlon “safety briefings” were anything but, the parking and porta-potties were a pain (unless you were “in the know”) and the “Expo” was the pits (except for the free racebelts).
The important thing is that the race itself was well run – the transition area was roomy, the roads were in fabulous shape, there was no congestion on the bike, run or swim despite almost 3000 of us, and it was totally cool to swim under the Memorial Bridge next to the Lincoln and run along Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues with no traffic. It was a great finish and a finish area filled with free stuff—no shortage of pizza or fluids.
One thing I’d never seen before – the penalties were posted next to the results. The race officials apparently don’t tell you on the course, they just act as silent assassins! You finish and find out you’ve been disqualified or had a 2 minute penalty assessed. No problem for me, or for most of us, but I’m used to seeing people being penalized on the course not after the race.
Here’s what you need to know for next year: (1) park north of Constitution Ave., near the State Department. Plenty of parking, it’s free and fairly close to the transition area. You just have to walk past the Lincoln. (2) There were “hidden” porta-potties in the north side of the transition area….the transition area that really never closed. Short lines, plenty of essentials for those who don’t bring their own supply (like Nancy and me….).
I suffered through the safety briefing on Friday (nothing about safety…nothing about the course, but I was reminded not to forget my helmet); picked up my packet and got out of there fast. Saturday bike check was a bit chaotic, but this is, of course, Washington. Chaos is fairly typical. Traffic was heavy, but traffic happens. The practice swim opportunity in the Potomac was great. Didn’t see a single e-coli float by.
I arrived Sunday about 5:30 a.m., parking near the State Department. A short walk to transition – after getting set up, I found myself (like Nancy) with a lot of time to kill. I was in Wave 23 – kicking off at 8:28 or something like that….the elites were already on the run by the time we got out of the water. But, I actually enjoyed the time before the swim start – the weather was good, the lines to the porta-potties got really short after 8 a.m., had plenty of time to stretch, and I had a nice long chat with Don Klein – and a pleasant short chat with Marty Williams before he took off for his swim wave.
Swim: 29:53 (9/68).
How often do you get to swim in the Potomac without meeting DC’s finest? Almost never! It’s a quick way to get arrested, quicker than driving a tractor into the Reflecting Pool and claiming you have a bomb! But not this weekend.
This swim was a pleasant loop upstream (almost no current) under the Memorial Bridge’s second span, returning through the fourth and climbing out on a ladder/dock platform. The only downsides were: 1) very hard to draft when you can’t see past your wrist due to the murky water; and 2) very hard to sight coming back due to the sun.
I had nightmares that there would be crowds lined up at the dock ladders to exit, but not the case. My swim seemed a bit labored, particularly coming back—I thought it was slow, not smooth. Didn’t draft for more than a few strokes, so I had to do most of my own work. (I hate it when that happens.) In retrospect, I’m pleased with the AG place and think the slow times may be more due to where they placed the timing mat---all the way back at transition, skewing the swim splits and making transition times look much faster.
T1: 2:12 (10/68).
Trying to simplify my transition – skipped the bike gloves – no flying mounts with my piriformis muscle strain, but 2:12 satisfies me for now.
Bike: 1:04:15 (1/68, 23.2 avg mph)
I feared the crowds here since I was coming from Wave 23 with 2800 people or so starting ahead of me, but there weren’t any pelotons to skirt! The roads (with two minor areas near the Tidal Basin and Lincoln) were in super condition – clean and smooth. Cyclists were spread out and for the most part kept to the right. It was an absolutely delightful ride up Clara Barton and back. I pushed it reasonably hard and, most importantly, had NO FLATS. (I was carrying 2 tubes and 2 cartridges anyway …. I still wake up at night with cold sweats thinking about my 3 flats at Lake Placid).
T2: 1:25 (4/68)
Just a shoe change – had to sit down to ease the back strain while I switched, but I put on everything else as I was running out. Haven’t broken the minute mark yet, like some of our colleagues, but I’m getting closer.
Run: 43:53 (1/68, 7:05 min/mile avg)
This was a brutal run (although not as bad as Eagleman). It took me about a mile for the legs to loosen up – the course is almost completely flat, so it should have been easier than Columbia. For some reason, it wasn’t this year. Probably the heat. I missed my goal pace by almost 30 seconds a mile – likely due to the heat and because it’s hard to run well after pushing it on the bike leg.
The finish was pretty cool – good crowds and it is great to finish along Pennsylvania Ave. The finish area was crowded, but lots of free stuff – including pictures. Met Linda and Jeanine while waiting for the age group awards to be announced. Post race, I walked back to transition and appreciated it – it was a great recovery walk. Screw the shuttlebus!
There are a lot of good races in September, but I think I’ll probably do this one again.
For next year, if anyone wants to avoid complex transportation and logistics from the Howard County area, I live near the Glen Echo turnaround. First come, first serve – I have an extra bedroom in the basement available gratis (and you can’t hear my four kids from down there).