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What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
CREATED: 09/08/13 by HappyRunner REPLIES: 21
HappyRunner's ravatar HappyRunner    JOINED: 1/15/11    POSTS: 281
What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/08/13 12:10 PM

Different people may have had different experiences, so I'm interested in what other people's experience was on the bike course?

For me it can be summarized in three words: definitely not safe..

I appreciate that Competitor Group is a for profit business and it purchased Nations Tri because it figured it could make some coin. But it also has to realize that as a destination tri for charity groups, there are going to be a lot of first timers, -- which is great -- but the course needs to reflect that.

Changing from the long straight shot out the Clara Barton Parkway to a double loop with lots of 180 degree turns and some pretty narrow sections surely saved lots of cash, but at the expense of safety. Not a good trade off, imho.

God's speed to those involved in the big crash on the 14th Street bridge. One athlete looked pretty bad off.

TDPrange's ravatar TDPrange    JOINED: 1/14/13    POSTS: 89
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/08/13 2:41 PM

I can't speak to the ride course from last year since this was my first time. The only places that it got a little hairy for me was on 395 in the no pass sections. It was worse the second time through as you had more riders out there. Since you had a large range in skill I think the faster riders got frustrated. Pretty much the only people I personally saw "breaking the rules" were the guys on high end/time trial bikes. Which would lead me to believe that they were relatively experienced guys. The only other wrecks that I saw were folks falling over at the mount line or shortly after the mount line.

What I did like about the course was the multi-lap format is that it was very spectator friendly. For folks like wife who is a good trooper only really gets to see you come by at T1, T2. this course was much better. I think she got to see me 4-5 times on the bike portion alone.

If they can find a way to tweak the course to get rid of the no-pass areas I think that would be a huge improvement.

vkanders    JOINED: 7/4/11    POSTS: 136
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/08/13 3:01 PM

I liked that there were very few narrow sections, so there was a lot of space to pass. The U-turns slowed me down, but being in Wave 29/34, they didn't seem to be dangerous, as there was a good deal of space on the course by the time I got out there. I can't speak for earlier waves, though.

As for those narrow sections, sure, I get held up a few seconds, but it's not like I was winning anything or setting any records. I just ate my snacks on those sections.

ashdash's ravatar ashdash    JOINED: 6/4/13    POSTS: 37
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/08/13 6:09 PM

I agree that it didn't feel very safe, and having to repeatedly dial back my effort while saying "on your left" and waiting to pass safely (or because of the no-pass zones) was frustrating. Being in wave 26, part of this might have been due to the way they ordered the waves - our first lap in particular was very congested as we were trying to get around slower riders in the waves ahead of us just as the M25-29 group was coming back around for their 2nd lap and trying to get past as well ... too many people with different speeds and handling skills on the course all at once. I also haven't done this race before so can't compare to the previous course, but it seems that a single lap would be safer and overall a better race experience for all.

SeanMC    JOINED: 1/5/13    POSTS: 8
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/08/13 6:14 PM

This was my first Ntaions and first Oly distance. I liked the bike route except for the no passing zones and the turn around on the Whitehurst. I'm definitely B group on the bike and could definitely tell more experienced riders were getting frustrated, especially on my second loop (I was in swim group 8). My friends and family definitely enjoyed the double loop. Just curious, it seemed like there was a lot of folks with flats, but I have nothing to judge it by.

TDPrange's ravatar TDPrange    JOINED: 1/14/13    POSTS: 89
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/08/13 6:40 PM

I noticed a ton of flats out there as well. Is that normal in a race this big? I don't think I have another flat on a course all year. To me the course looked pretty debris free as well so it makes me wonder what was going on out there.

pmart15's ravatar pmart15    JOINED: 12/14/09    POSTS: 149
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/08/13 8:09 PM

I saw a lot of injured people which led me to believe they wrecked. I saw a lot of flats as well, most ever in a race I think. Of course, I haven't ever done a two loop bike so that might explain it. I think management would know if there was a sharp rise in the number of injuries.

The no passing zones were irritating but I did the same as everyone, took in nutrition during these moments. The u-turns of course killed speed but whatever.

So all in all, a little more dangerous, lots of bumps on the bridge, lost a water bottle on one of them, too many sharp turns for newbies.

nelsb7p0's ravatar nelsb7p0    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 441
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/09/13 10:38 AM

Overall, it was great seeing everybody out there and this is really what makes this event so fun despite it being such a logistically nightmare. Even with my feedback below, I am VERY gracious that Competitor Group/Events DC puts this race on. I know that there are many individuals working/volunteering for them that are truly trying to do their best and who work tirelessly to make this event go on.

I agree that the "no passing zone" entrance/exit to the HOV lane was extremely unsafe considering the amount of people on a two loop course.

While I realize that it would be costly, I think the main change that I would suggest to be made in the future would be to close down both of the HOV lanes (you would exit the HOV outbound lanes around the same as the turn around point, make a left go under them and left to re-enter on the in-bound HOV lanes). This would have elevated that section (i.e., the "no passing zone"). I do know it would have also required to shut down the inbound 14th street and much easier said than done with permitting, costs, and all.

My other beef is the (1) amount of glass and debris on the course considering the high number of regular car accidents in the area and (2) the no bike support. I did speak to who I believe was one of the race directors in charge after the race. For #(1) he said they only got the course an hour ahead of time, not leaving enough time to street clean the course. My point was that it could have been done the night before, so my feedback was graciously accepted by him. For #(2) he said it was simply a safety concern getting bike support out on the course, even if the bike support was was on motor bikes. He said they did indeed consider it prior to the race.

I really bring up these last two points because I flatted for the first time ever in a race (this was about race #50 for me), and had noticed a decent amount of glass/debris prior to flatting throughout the course. It was (of course) also the first time that I decided not it tape a can of pit stop (a.k.a. fix-a-flat) to my seat (yes, I know my mistake). I flatted coming around for the second loop and tried to ride it out, but a mile later I realized that wasn't happening. I thought my race was done, but decided to run the mile back to transition with my bike (after a futile effort to ask passer-bys for help), where I had pit-stop and my pump in my bag. The USAT official allowed me to leave my bike and chip (to avoid crossing the T2 timing mat again) with her at the bike out to get the pump/pit-stop. Fortunately it worked and while I was loosing a lot of air, I was able to salvage my race. Lesson learned, always be prepared!


bcfrank's ravatar bcfrank    JOINED: 3/23/09    POSTS: 1098
What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/09/13 11:42 AM

My opinion of the bike course is a bit biased because I was in the first wave so my first loop of the bike course was essentially me and like 10 other guys. So it was a wide open course for us. I can empathize with people in later waves though as I did think the 395/14th St section (especially the No-Pass Zone) was very narrow and I imagine very horrible for the later waves. But I do agree with Brady in that the course was in desperate need of sweeping. I was very surprised I did not wind up with a flat.

I thought the course itself was fair. I was in aero position for about 90-95% of the time except for the U-turns and then the climb from the Potomac River Freeway up toward the tunnel on E. St. Aside from those times, I was able to stay in aero the whole time. Even on my second loop, though I still imagine that my second loop was not nearly as crowded as it was later in the day. I will also admit that I was one of the guys on the TT bike that broke the rule and passed someone in the "No Pass Zone" but that guy was riding like 10 mph.... or so it seemed.

The U-turns were not that bad. Looking back to when I did the Washington DC Triathlon back in 2011, that one was also a double loop course and had 5 U-Turns per loop. I thought the U-Turns at Nation's were way more manageable than the ones back in 2011. The E St. turn was really just two left turns back to back. Very easy to maneuver. The Whitehurst ramp U-turn could be tricky but is manageable with good handling. But with all U-turns, I did the turn and then was back cruising at 26-28mph with a few seconds. Very easy to recover off of them and plenty of road space (aside from the 395 stretch) to pass. E St., Whitehurst, Rock Creek and Independence: with at least two lanes at all times, I had plenty of room to pass by riders. But yes, 395 was close quarters and tricky to maneuver. I would agree that using both sides of the HOV would be awesome if they could arrange that.

The one section that I was very worried about was the merge section of the first and second loops, but they coned off at least a quarter mile from the mount line to separate those two. I always worry about the wobbly racer trying to clip and veering into the pass thru lane. It probably did get bad later, but I was very happy that they coned it off for such a long stretch to attempt to keep the two separate.

The only other thing I concluded about the bike course, and this is nothing to do with the race itself, but "oh my god, the city of Washington DC has absolutely no clue how to pave a road." For a city that wants to raise $6 billion to bring the Olympics here in 2024, they need to take $5 billion of that and repave the roads. For a "world-class" city like DC, it's shameful and embarrassing to have roads as badly paved and potholed and torn up as we do.


wbdowntown's ravatar wbdowntown    JOINED: 3/28/12    POSTS: 131
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/09/13 12:42 PM

Admitedly I was one of the early critics of the new course design. I wasn't looking forward to the two loops. After completing, it I'm left with a more positive outlook. Street cleaning would have been great. I said a silent prayer ever 30 secs or so, "please don't flat, please don't flat." Even in Chicago and NYC I've never seen so much glass and debris on a course. 90 degree turns, weren't that bad. The no passing zones were aweful. I too broke the rules and passed a few folks who seemed to be standing still. For me to slam on the breaks at 25+mph would have been more of a hazard to the folks behind me than the slow moving folks ahead of me. Ultimatley, the other factor in play is the shear number of partcipants out on the course. Capping the number of people out on the race course would also cut down on congestion. All in all, not the best race course, but not the worst either.

siehndel's ravatar siehndel    JOINED: 11/25/05    POSTS: 1104
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/09/13 12:55 PM

Hi everyone,

I was just logging on to ask for feedback on the course. I'm not surprised that the discussion had already started and I'm glad it did. Most of all, I'm appreciative that much of this is constructive because it is something that I can package up and share with CGI for next year. I can't necessarily respond to every point raised above because I'd be here all day but I'll try to make a general answer to most of the points. I'm also happy to answer individual questions as much as I can. In the end, I'm just a volunteer for Nation's and I don't speak officially for the race. But I've been attached to the race at a high level for most of its existence and have a good understanding of how things work. <disclaimer> Please accept any comments here as my own and nothing more. I'm only a conduit from DC Tri to Nation's and CGI but I don't speak officially for anyone but myself. </disclaimer>

First, Nation's Tri is our race. We need a race in our Nation's capital and this is it. I was really proud of the number of volunteers that participated this year and extremely proud to see so many DC Tri members racing in their kits. Especially the flat chest girl racing in the halter top that flashed me. (Thanks for that, Brady!) ;-) But seriously, there are a lot of ways to take ownership of this race and this year we did it. Without the DC Tri Club, this race probably wouldn't happen and your support, comments, criticism and participation all make this race a great race. This support that the club shows is extremely influential to the organizers of this race and in return, they absolutely listen to comments like these.

Keep in mind that when course changes happen like this, it is rarely because the event organizers are sitting around thinking, "You know what, we should change the course to two loops." It is almost always due to external forces. If CGI was in it solely to make money, they would do the least amount of work for the maximum level of profit. If that was the case, this race simply wouldn't have happened this year.

HappyRunner- I know there are fond memories of racing out Clara Barton, but don't forget about the two-lane, no shoulder section of Canal Rd. that gets you to the Pkwy. That is about as dangerous as it gets in a high volume, high speed crash. The new course allowed us to place more volunteer marshals to control the course and its safety. I don't know the final numbers on crashes but talking to race staff post-race, I don't think it was anything beyond what would have been expected in other events, regardless of size or course.

TDPrange- Your first couple of points are good to know. We had hoped that people would have appreciated the improved access for spectators. I'm also glad that you played it safe on the 395 ramp.
I expect that for next year, the feel of the course will remain similar to this year but I expect that there are already people working to tweak the course to improve for next year and hopefully remove at least some of the hairy spots. But not much we can do about dismount line crashes. That's always a funny place to watch a race if you like to see bloopers.

vkanders- I like your outlook. Eating snacks is always a good way keep your eye on the positive.

ashdash- Thanks for including your wave number and concerns. Those things are useful in looking at how to improve for next year. And thanks for dialing back even when you didn't want to and keeping it safe for others.

Brady- The first idea for this course involved the northbound lane but that didn't happen. I know that we asked for those lanes and it didn't happen but I can't say with certainty why not. However, having seen that version of the course, I personally was very concerned about the turnaround going from south to north. It's a downhill, sharp turn on rough pavement and would have been another no-pass zone even though it would have been a wider lane with one-way traffic.
Bummer that you flatted but I'm glad you were able to make it happen. I hadn't heard any complaints about debris on the course. Maybe if there are more complaints like this we can do something about it.

Which brings me to my final point... PLEASE, fill out the post race survey. Good or bad, your comments do make a difference. Every year, Nation's has addressed the top concerns that arise from those surveys. Sometimes we can guess what they are and sometimes it's a total surprise once we see what starts to get repeated in the survey.

Thanks for your input and thanks for your dedication to making this a great race. I love being part of this race and one of the main reasons is because it allows me to see, literally, hundreds of my DC Tri friends that I may not see for another year until the next Nation's. And if you raced or volunteered, say thanks to Karen Willard. Your weekend definitely benefited in some way or another from the amount of work she put in to this event.


dsgrunning's ravatar dsgrunning    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 1481
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/09/13 1:50 PM

I'll shine in from the perspective of someone who spent an hour+ at the bike mount line volunteering. I probably saw the last 15 swim wave athletes mounting their bikes. I was there until they shut down the bike mount area.

The merge of the second loop bikers, people mounting their bikes, and run out were really hectic. I was surprised that there weren't any accidents in that area because there were quite a few folks mounting their bikes like drunken sailors merging into the lanes of the runners and speedy second loop bikers. I helped a few who fell down while trying to mount. I also pushed a few away from merging directly into the paths of second loop bikers.

Perhaps next year, they can have the runners run further along the grass area and away from the bike mount/loop 2 merge area. Three groups coming together at the exact location is kinda dangerous. Move the place, where runners currently merge with the bike mount, away from the mount area a little bit so as to allow the bike mount area to be 2 lanes instead of one. During the more hectic times, one fall or near fall would take out a bunch of folks trying to mount. It was also backed up a bit at times, due to the bottleneck effect. Two lanes might resolve some of those congestions.

I'm not going to fill out any surveys. The CIA already reads everything that I write. There is no need to replicate my work, especially when I can tell it directly to the official representative of the Nations Triathlon ... Travis Siehndel


siehndel's ravatar siehndel    JOINED: 11/25/05    POSTS: 1104
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/09/13 2:26 PM

Thanks, Tuan. But the CIA had already forwarded me your thoughts before you typed this out. They are getting really good.

chucifer    JOINED: 3/14/13    POSTS: 6
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/09/13 5:50 PM

I was also in one of the early waves and while loop one was okay, the second loop got a bit dicey on 395. People not holding their line on the U turns (big point for me), the glass, and the people riding at 10mph in the No Pass Zone were all major concerns. The only time the congestion really impressed me is when I got on the run and saw a constant stream of people in both lanes zipping past. I age up next year and starting later and later is a definite consideration.

Incidentally, the No Pass Zones could have been made significantly shorter as there was way more than enough room to pass after the super narrow section. Hell, sections of Clara Barton were as narrow as that No Pass Zone in previous years.

I'm undecided as to wether or not I'll continue to do this race as a participant, but there are relatively few Oly distance races in early September.

HolliMarie's ravatar HolliMarie    JOINED: 6/21/11    POSTS: 264
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/09/13 7:27 PM

I've done Nation's the past 4 years and I enjoyed this year's race and course just as much as I've enjoyed any of the others. The past 3 years I've started in the last or 2nd to last wave (about 2 hours into the race). I didn't mind it too much any of those years and I was happy to compete for age group podium spots with fellow competitors. Here are some of my thoughts on the this year's race:

This year, with the new bike layout, I decided it to race in the elite wave. I was in wave #2 and as long as I remain eligible I'll race in the elite wave in Nation's from here out. Overall the bike course way exceeded my expectations. I loved the previous bike course, and was bummed that this new course may slow me down. Admittedly my desire to ride fast was a main factor in deciding to race elite/start in an early wave. I can't say it slowed me down at all.

I found the mount line to be hairy thanks to males trying to do flying mounts and missing and basically crashing and losing shoes before they're even on their bike. There's not much to be done here except get USAT to add a penalty for improper bike mounting.

The course started out wide, smooth and flat and I found my rhythm quickly - head down, cadence up. This was great until I apparently was in a no pass zone. There was one male in front of me riding in the left of the no pass zone, so I, unaware we were in a no pass zone kept yelling on your left. He moved just in time to avoid a collision and yelled back that we were in a no pass zone. I was more aware the next time through and was able to hammer before entering and find clear road (partly thanks to starting the bike before most racers were even in the water). My suggestions would be a) try to eliminate no pass zones as much as possible or b) signs 1/2 or 1 mile out from the no pass zone to give better forewarning so athletes can make passes where it's safe.

The last hairy area on the course was the early signage for 2nd lap and finish. 'Finish Keep Right" signs seemed to start about 1 mile away from the finish. I was torn between keeping right and passing slower athletes on the left. It created a strange debacle of "well they're slower and they're riding on my left but I've also got a slow person in front of me - now do I pass on the right of the first person and left of the 2nd? But I think passing on the right is illegal....etc, etc. Here, I'd actually say to not have the signage so far out into the course, or begin coning off the course into two distinct lanes where the signage begins.

As for the swim and the run - the swim was fun and I didn't see any sharks. And in wave #1 and #2 you get a mass wave start instead of a time trial start. The run was great, I always love running a course I know like the back of my hand. The out and back past Jefferson was a nice way to mix it up, and I think surprised those people who didn't look ahead at course maps. My final suggestions is to athletes - if you qualify for elite and you prefer a clear course over AG competition try racing elite.

hmb0908    JOINED: 5/9/13    POSTS: 1
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/10/13 12:14 AM

I'm a newbie (this was my 2nd tri ever and 1st Oly) so I have nothing to compare it to. I was going slow enough that the turns really weren't a problem (about 14mph). Although I was probably one of those slow people in the No pass zone! I was also in wave 26 and am a slow swimmer too - by the time I got out there it was not too crowded (I hit the bike course at 0945 or so).

The only place I thought was a problem was the signs leading up to the start of the 2nd loop/finish. As HolliMarie pointed out, the signs were a little too far back. I moved to the left when I saw the sign but I am slow so then people were passing to my right and it was a little confusing until I realized we still had a while to go and I moved back over to the right. Although it was not crowded at all when I was there so it wasn't too much of an issue, just confusing.

At the end of the day, I had a blast! Looking forward to doing more of these.


RJohnson1979's ravatar RJohnson1979    JOINED: 9/13/09    POSTS: 82
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/10/13 10:01 AM

Two thumbs up! I went into it thinking it would be a cluster but loved it. The layout and increased technicality made it more interesting and there was more room to pass (multiple lanes in many parts) compared to the old course. I loved being downtown the entire race. The no pass zones were annoying but necessary. I see it as an improvement!


mina's ravatar mina    JOINED: 12/7/12    POSTS: 59
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/10/13 12:48 PM

I was one of the last waves and by the time I got to the bike, everyone was on the course, at least for their second loop!

I had people who were slower than me in front of me and then super fast TT cyclists who were passing without any "on your left" on my left. We had a few close calls in the first loop. on the part that it was finish on the right, second loop on the left, I had scenarios with 4-5 people besides me. It was a few times that was very confusing how to pass people in the line of 4 in front of me and two of them were even talking to each other.

I didn't race last year and I can not say it was better or not. But, very crowded on the first loop for me. I had to stay safe instead of racing it.

ysc2k    JOINED: 1/27/12    POSTS: 38
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/11/13 12:59 PM

I think technical u-turns made the race more fun.

No passing zone would be my biggest complaint. Sweeping of the roads would be my second.

I thought minimum speed and enforcement of the no passing zone might be helpful? Not enforcing no passing zone made it seem ok to pass on no passing zone, and might have rendered it more unsafe since people are expecting that there would be nobody behind you on a narrow road.

I think it becomes more or less fair when everyone knows that the line would be moving at certain speed like 12 or 14 MPH, etc. like highways having minimum speed of 40. Now, everone knows that they race elsewhere, and they are just staying safe for equal portion of the road. Also, the situation got dangerous enough to throw penalty for ignoring the no passing zone to take the rules more seriously. It is extremely tempting to pass on no passing zone when the competitors who are at similar speed break the rules, and not penalized. It was all for fun for me, but fair and safe games are more fun :).

siehndel's ravatar siehndel    JOINED: 11/25/05    POSTS: 1104
RE: What did you think of the new Nations bike course?
POSTED: 9/11/13 7:17 PM

Hi folks,

Thanks again for all of this feedback. It is good to have a mix of the good/bad/ugly to report back to CGI. There are definitely some good ideas on how to improve the course for next year.

Seriously, I expect that you'll be able to see the results of this feedback in how the course is laid out next year. I think I mentioned before that my gut tells me that the basic footprint of the race will probably be the same but we can definitely make improvements to how it works and hopefully remove a few of the less favorable areas to boot. Thanks for the crowd sourcing!


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