This was quite a 2 day adventure and my first Nations Triathlon. The whole check in/bike drop off process was a logistical nightmare. I spent over 5 hours Saturday dealing with everything. A good portion of that was my fault, but the process just does not work for people who drive to the area. I live in Ellicott City and relied on a GPS to get to the hotel, and that didn't go well. Who designed the roads in DC anyway? And why is traffic so heavy on a Saturday? I finally got to the hotel, and I could barely find a parking place in the garage.
The check-in process was fine and the expo was OK as far as they go. I was expecting something bigger though, and for all the effort required to get there... Oh well. Parking cost $10, which was reasonable (I guess) only I thought I was going to be paying the advertised rate, so I hurried to get out of there in an hour. Otherwise the normal rate for over 2 hours was $36?! When I left, I realized it was only $10 to park for race people (Nations Tri made no mention of this) and I don't think there was a time limit.
The recommendation was to ride our bikes to transition and take a shuttle bus back to the hotel. No thanks. I was already a bit frazzled, so I wasn't doing that. I don't feel safe riding in cities anyway. So I drove to transition, which took about 8 miles via GPS for a 4 mile trip (again who designed these roads?). I parked in the wrong place and wasted more time. Finally I found the correct spot and dropped off my bike. Once I finally got to transition, it was like a small victory. 2 minutes after I got back to my car, the monster storm hit. Fearing for my bike, but knowing lots of more expensive and uncovered bikes were there too, I left. Then, the real traffic nightmare ensued. It rained hard the whole way home. It took almost 2 hours. I rode through water 8 inches deep on DC 295. What a nightmare! Honestly, Saturday was tougher on me than Sunday doing the actual race!
At the info booth on Saturday I asked where I should park Sunday, and was told "north of Constitution Avenue." This was great info, but I did not find this anywhere on any of the information sent by the Nations Tri people. They wanted Maryland people to park by the hotel and take the shuttle. I did a GPS to the Albert Einstein Memorial, parked on 21st and Constitution and walked a mile to transition. That was perfect.
Transition was awesome. A sea of bikes. Never seen a transition area that big. But here is the problem. They push you out of transition at 7:00 and some people don't race for 90 minutes! I was in wave 14 and really got tired of standing around. There were over 30 waves! It's just too long.
I am a fairly good swimmer. I have done 26+ in the past at the Columbia Tri, but this was not my day. I did not train at all, but that was not my problem. There were just too many slower people in my way. I was fighting people the whole swim. It was non-stop. I was kicked and swatted and the whole swim was just annoying. I came very close to getting a kick in the groin. I only got a graze but still very close to being a major problem. I guess there are just too many people in the water? Would a staggered wave start be better? It's hard to say. But this was by far the worst swim I have experienced. No wetsuit. That was fine with me. When the water is that warm (81), I don't want any parts of a suit. Looking back though, if I had waited until the wetsuit wave (the last one of the day), I am betting my swim would have been less hectic.
Bike (20.1 though my bike computer says 20.7)
Best course ever. Mostly flat. Some slight inclines. Roads are closed to traffic. You could never ride these roads like this otherwise. There were some bumpy parts, and some deep manhole covers. I really hit one hard. Too much bike traffic. I felt like I was in the peloton for awhile being forced to ride in a group during a narrow stretch. There was one stretch where riders going opposite ways were only separated by cones. I didn't feel safe there. Too much traffic, and too many guys passing others not announcing the pass, and too many passes too close to the cones. I did see one bad wreck. There was a guy laid out in the middle of the street. I was very happy with my ride, but I could have gone faster. I was a little tentative because of unfamiliar roads and there being so many cyclists.
Run (9:54/mile pace)
I am a terrible runner, but this was my best 10K in a triathlon. The course was great, and almost all flat. On the swim and bike, I was constantly passing people, but on the run people were constantly passing me and that gets really annoying after awhile. I did not train much for running, so this performance was a pleasant surprise. I was really slowing for the last 2 miles but managed not to fall off too much.
A PR by over 11 minutes. Lots of room for improvement, especially in transition and running. Despite all the complaints, and the high cost of the event, I will likely do it again next year. I'll definitely handle the check-in differently. I may pick up the packet Friday via the Metro since I work near DC, and then take the bike down on Saturday. That seems like a better option.