First, I want to thank Xterra Wetsuits for the free entry to the race.
As well all know, due to Mother Nature the swim was cancelled and the race was turned into a.... er... Di? Not a Du, since we didn't run/bike/run, so I'm not sure what to call it really. I'll call it a Di.
I'll start with the expo. I arrived at the hotel in Woodley Park shortly before it opened. Without question, I enjoyed this venue much more than the convention center in DC because of the availability of free parking in the surrounding neighbourhood as well as the complementary bike valet. I enjoyed the vendors (for the brief time I was at the expo - I had to leave for a Saturday race in time for packet pickup 150 miles away). Plenty of samples, great deals on equipment, and best of all, great volunteers helping with packet pickup. It was so smooth and easy to get my race number, waivers, and swag bag. I will say though, that having the t-shirt pickup on the other side of the venue was kind of odd, but hey, it still works.
The night before I racked my bike I got a txt from a friend who racked his bike, mentioning something about a Muddy Buddy. Crud. Mud? Weather happens. On my way back from my half-iron on Saturday I made it in time to rack my bike. I think it's great they allow racking up until 8pm to allow people plenty of time to get there. At the race site it wasn't TOO muddy, but it wasn't completely ideal. On a recommendation from a friend, I opted to rack my bike off to the side. This was recognizing that the center isle was going to be completely trashed with the other 3500 people stampeding through there and creating a muddy soup. My setup allowed me to run on the outside of the racks and out of most of the mud. Yeah, it took longer, but my feet were dryer and happier. I'd like to note that I was allowed to get dropped off AT THE SITE by POV, unlike at DC Triathlon where we were threatened to be DQed if we got dropped off the site. Thank you Nation's Tri for allowing this, it makes the racking stress a lot less... stressful.
I arrived with a fellow racer around 0530 when his girlfriend dropped us off (big thanks to Jack and Steph for putting me up in their house for the night) and the site was already swarming with people. A lot of people. And, as predicted, everyone walked down the center aisle and turned it into a mud pit fit for bikini wrestling. Awesome. I set up my run gear, set up my bike, and tried to go warm up with a jog. Did I mention there were a lot of people? It was so hard to move around at all because so many people stood around by the entrance/exit, sat in circles around the major moving areas, and generally just took up space. With time being a limiting factor in preparation, this situation was not ideal. After an abbreviated jog and acting as a lead blocker for some other folks trying to get past the masses into transition I set up my zone again, grabbed my helmet and bike shoes and headed to the corral.
We were set up in these gated corrals in our designated waves, but it was unclear how we'd be pushed through. There was a very vocal volunteer who shouted a lot (in his defense, he had a tough job) to pull the different groups in to the chute. We sauntered through the chute to the start line where we'd be released in groups of 15 or so every 15 seconds into the transition zone. Being allowed to have our helmets/shoes on ahead of time helped, but it was optional, so some folks donned their head/footwear at their bikes.
Dash to the bike, grab, go. Jump over mud. Once onto the pavement it was about 10m to the mount line where... there was a wall of people stopped AT the line trying to mount their bikes. Why, oh why, do people do this? I had to pick up my bike and hurdle cones to get past them, with Tuan yelling at me (or to me?) Good to see him there. There is no reason why this kind of mess should happen at mount lines. And I'd dropped my chain. Perfect. Got it back on and started hammering the pedals. The bike course started smoothly, passing lots of folks since they released 15 waves before me. Heading down toward RCP and the Whitehurst freeway, the course seemed fast. And it was. Once on Canal road, things started becoming worrisome. The volume of people in the tight space was dangerous. The volume of people (so much it's necessary to mention here) were riding so slowly on the left it was difficult to find a good pace. A group of us must have sounded like a broken record as we had to keep shouting "passing left, move right" because the slower riders wouldn't move right, mostly riding 2 (and sometimes 3) abreast. That, as well as rear-view mirrors sticking out from handlebars of bikes seems really dangerous as well, and I think should be removed during a race. I'm reminded of those blades on the wheels of chariots Gladiator movies. The bike course, however, was super fast, and on the more open roads it was super fun. There were some really high-paced folks that help keep my cadence up, and I enjoyed that there weren't 18950 turns like in some races. There were a couple choke points that also had potholes that really could have used some bight spray paint, but Ed Moser was there to help warn us. Thanks, Ed. Coming back into transition was good, a lot less congested at this point, but still muddy so I couldn't go barefoot when dismounting. Again, weather happens.
The run course was fun and fast. The volunteer support was energetic (Hugh, Steve, and others whose names I haven't learned yet, thank you guys for repping the club and helping out). Seeing so many DC tri folks out was great too, especially when you needed someone to pace with. I was very happy that the course was not underwater, and had a ton of aid stations.
Finish and festivities.
The volunteer support was great at the end. I got a medal and a Gatorade, exactly what I wanted. I was super thrilled to have access to Muscle Milk, more Gatorade, Clif Shot Roks, Q'doba food, and a place to sit down. Oh, and a massage, which didn't take long to get to. I think Nation's did a great job with post-race amenities. The DC Tri Club tent was there with seats and shade (and conveniently next to more food).
Speaking strictly about the course, I enjoyed how fast it was, helping me PR in the bike and run. It's a shame the swim was cancelled, but I completely agree with the reasons why. I'm appreciative that safety was a priority, and I think the organizers did a good job coming up with a plan to help keep the race going with minimal confusion. Great job guys. Some observations: Volume. A lot of conversation after the race was about volume. Too many people in not enough space made parts less enjoyable, and for some folks, much more dangerous. I know the swim cancelation and the new release format may have contributed to people being less spread out, but I'm just making an observation here. The run wasn't impacted quite as much (from what I experienced), so I'd say the biggest impacts of volume was on the condition of the transition zone (post heavy rain) and safety on the bike. Volunteers - wow, they were great. Thanks to all of them for their energy and support during the race. Without them we would have had a big mess on our hands. The Organizers did a great job with the conditions they were given, and we still had a good race. I had a lot of fun, came out with some good times, and good stories.
Happy racing, everyone!
Well done Trevor.
For the record, I was yelling because with that many people on bikes coming at me all the same time ... I thought it was Saigon 1975 all over again.
Trevor, I can't believe you raced after cramping at Patriots on Saturday! Good stuff, congrats on the PRs.
Thanks, man. It was rough, but somehow pulled out a good bike/run at Nation's. It was great having so many DCTri folks there. My hind quarter is still hurting!
Was you it you that asked about my secret as we came up to the finish line at Patriot's? Pain. It hurt, but I needed the finish. Using a Stick the whole ride home and a tennis ball at home really helped make things work for Sunday.
Also, I saw a pic or two of yours in the "uncoded" run photos from Patriot's. Check it out and you'll see more of your than what they had you tagged in.