They said at the swim start that there were only 500 people signed up for the race. I don’t think it sold out this year. There were at least a few other DC Tri folks racing that I saw in transition that morning.
The swim… not my favorite. The water temperature was 82 degrees (which I found comfortable). I think there were a few wetsuit being worn, but I didn’t wear one. It felt like I was going again the current the entire time. After the race, I was told that there was almost no current this year, but there was a lot of chop. This made breathing and sighting tough. I took in a mouth full of water a couple times during the course. The James river is brackish. Zero visibility and a face full of river scum for the post swim photos. The river was really really shallow near the shore. Before my wave started, I watched some swimmers in each group walk almost out to the first buoy. I’ve always been told that swimming is faster than walking in the water, but on my way back in I saw people walking faster than I was swimming, so I stood up and walked the rest of my swim in.
The bike… a fast course. The course was flat to rolling hills. It was possible to stay in aero almost the entire race, but I had not trained well and my body was not going to spend 3+ hours in aero position that day. There were a few hills where I stood up, but that was mostly so I could get off my butt for a bit. The scenery was pretty; mostly farmland and wildlife preserves. This was a two loop course. I was slow coming out of the choppy water, so most bikers were already on the road. I saw/passed very few people. And since it was a loop, there was no one coming back the other direction. I didn’t bother me, but it was a very quiet bike course. I was told from someone that had done the race previously that there is generally no wind, but we had a head wind this year that never seems to turn into a tail wind. There were only 3 water stations on the 58 (yes, 58 not 56) mile course. I had finished both my bottles before I reached the first stop. If it had been a really hot day, I would have needed to carry more fluids with me. The roads were open like all VTS races. There were very few cars in the morning, but by the afternoon, the roads were filling up. There were a couple of times I had to hit my brakes because there was no shoulder and cars were backing up due to a slower biker in front.
The run… off roading! If you like trail running this is a great course. The run was also two loops, but you don’t loop back all the way to the finish line, so it’s not so bad. At the half way turn around they give you a plastic bracelet that is your pass to the finish line on the next loop. I did spend a fair amount of time thinking of how to get a bracelet on my first loop! I saw a ton of people on the run, especially on the first lap. The parts of the course there were in sun were hot. But once you got on the trails it was nice and cool. The run was mostly flat and about half trails. There was a water stop about every mile. I’ve got to give VTS credit, they had a water stop out on trial and it stayed fully stocked the whole race.
Overall, VTS puts on well supported races. The toughest part of the race is the weather and we lucked out that it was decent weather for September. I liked the race, but I didn’t love it. And since this is the same weekend as Nations, I am not sure I would so this one again. But if you are looking for a fast local ½ IM between Eagleman and Patriots.. Patriots no question.