This race was the best organized race of the last two seasons and highly recommended for next year. The course was beautiful, the event fun, and the schwag excellent. This was the second year for the event and the first year for the half option, yet the staff put on a flawless race. Allow me to regale you with it's awesomeness:
The longer swim than most olys at just a tad under a mile begins at a sandy beach into a smooth, clean lake that was just cold enough for wetsuits, just warm enough for not. Course has clear sightings throughout with good buoy cues and lots of distinctive shore features. The clearly marked exit is just past the dock with silky soft yet surprisingly firm sand all the way to T1. And T1 is a freakin miracle. No long alleys with your bike stuck at the back, just three perfect rows and plenty of room. Did i mention a place to put your bag that's just to the side of the transition area? Yes, beautiful. Very gentle uphill out of T1 and then a flat to step into your shoes.
The bike course is constant hills for 24 miles with few turns, only one more than 90 degrees. Perfect hills that aren't just bumps, but aren't mountains. There is even a water bottle hand of at mile 15. Exceptionally smooth roads for most of the ride through brilliant countryside. Sightings just long enough to see a few riders in front. You are never alone with regular cops directing you and people shouting from their homes. Coming into T2 has obvious warning markers well out from the dismount line so you know when to slip out of your shoes. As it should be, you enter the opposite side of T1 so no one has an advantage in transition racking.
The run is brilliant. Lake M is a closed community so the rolling lakeside hills are all yours for 6.2 of fast asphalt. Glimpses of runners ahead just through the trees drives you onward. Are you stuck with an out and back? No! A two mile loop turns you around nicely for a mostly downhill return to the finish. Views coming back briefly show you the swim course now silent. Poetry. The turn to finish like every turn in this course is well marked and the arch of the finish line bounces in and out of view straight ahead.
Finish line! fruit and cookies and drinks and PIZZA and showers. OMG hot showers. Four masseuses! And what do you get for all this trouble? A tech T that isn't a plastic bag (it's really very nice.) For the lucky few, a large-format beer of Starr Hill Reserve Ale and an engraved pint glass. The winners get a sweet watch from Audi.
And the most unbelievable part of all this, the oly and the half are run simultaneously without disaster, no crossing paths, no transition disasters, no start line foul ups. Spread out evenly, this means you are never alone, but never bunched. It was like some sort of miraculous miracle. The people were great with a lot less nubes than Setup races of the large DC tris.
Okay, so you don't believe it was all good? Fine. Here are the bad parts. Some of the run water stations only had Heed (WTF is that stuff?) The swim is in lake water so it is murky. Hotels are a bit far (30min.) You wont be able to get in next year b/c everyone will read this report and sign up before you.
So more personally, this was my first race of the year and my goal was to go balls out as long as possible and then just putter in after I broke. I had a good swim and good bike until about mile 15 when it hit me, but I kept at it and finished the bike well. What really got me was the run, which normally is my specialty. I bricked just fine and within about 200 yards was done with that. What got me was my legs weren't warmed up. I kept running with some awful sort of disjoint prance waiting for them to kick in and they didn't until about a mile from the finish. This was super disappointing. Does anyone know how I can break into pace earlier coming out of T2? Run the day before? I had about a mile warm up that morning.
tl;dr; You need to do this race next year!
I did the half and i agree with everything, a very well executed race, the rolling hills in the run were very challenging, hill after hill it is something im not used to, but overall excellent race. And it was crazy cheap for a half $125
I also did the half... enjoyed the race tremendously, and the weather being great helped also. My only complaint was the glitch in the chip timing system, that delayed the releases of the official results as well as the awards ceremonies, and I still don't know my splits...
I would do this one again too!
I did the half this year and the oly last year. I really like that venue and its hills for training. Lots of hills, especially on the half run course. Two thumbs up.
Great race indeed. Low key but mostly very well organized. And the half run course is indeed very hilly!! It was a nice 13.1 hill repeats workout.
Glad to hear folks had a good day! The venue was quite nice, I agree.
Overall though, I was NOT impressed with this race. From the ridiculous wait to get our packets, to the fact that there was ONE portapotty in transition, the lone (probably over worked) very kind massage therapist who was working on volunteers after the race while the half racers hovered around in the hopes that she could help, to the fact that the post race drinks were calorie free, it seemed like there was just one thing after another that hadn't been thought through.
I also would have appreciated the race director sweeping the gravel from that dangerous descent into that hard right turn where there was more than wipe out requiring an ambulance.
Every other half I've done, I've walked away with very few (if any) complaints, but this isn't a race I'd do again.
oh yeah. i would agree, there should have been more porta potties at transition. It was a glitch in my routine for T2.. and messed with my run a bit. That is my second complaint.
My two cents:
Those who know me know I often pick my races based on what kind of food will be at the finish line. Papa John's pizza has never tasted so good. It was actually hot, which I found impressive.
This was my second Half Ironman, and I signed up for it based on a major lesson I learned after my first: Don't race this distance in extreme heat. To that end, the weather was near perfect -- overcast and high 60s/low70s. (A 20-minute sprinkle and some wind gusts on the bike weren't enough to ruin the conditions). I credit both the weather and the fact that I actually adhered to a nutrition plan this time for my PR finish.
Overall, I had a great experience, but I echo several previous comments.
-It's a very casual atmosphere. That cuts both ways. I enjoyed that very few fellow participants were freaking out or in hyper-competitive mode before the race.
-It's small, which I loved, but it was almost lonely on the bike course during the second loop. I also worried that I might take a wrong turn, because the course, though marked, wasn't blindingly obvious.
-The swim is great; calm, 68-degree waters. A few more sight bouys wouldn't have hurted. (And buoys are on swimmers' right, unfortunately for those left-sighting swimmers, like me.)
-You gotta love hills -- on both the bike and the run -- to sign up for this race.