Eager to reacquaint myself with the triathlon community as I settle back into North Carolina living, I signed up for a couple of short local races. No pressure, just a fun opportunity to get to know some other locals in the sport. First up was the SetUpEvents UNC Wellness Super Sprint on Sunday, August 10 at the UNC Wellness Center at Meadowmont in Chapel Hill.
While “super sprint” now has an official USAT definition which is a very cool two-circuit format, “super sprint” is still used to describe most triathlons with swims shorter than 750 yards. Here’s the low-down on this particular event:
The Swim – 250 yards:
To make the event very first-timer friendly, the race features a time-trial pool swim with individual racers pushing off ten seconds apart. Seeding is done in order of self-reported swim times, with the fastest swimmer starting at 7:00 am. Racers swim down and back in the right-most lane of the pool, then duck under the lane line, go down and back in the adjacent lane, and repeat, snaking all the way to the left end of the pool. The pool only has five lanes, it’s only a 250 yard swim – five times down and back. You’re free to use a swim cap, but the race organizers don’t provide one. Once you hop out of the pool, you run straight out the door of the pool area, along a sidewalk and into the parking lot towards transition.
The Bike – 9 miles:
After exiting transition, the bike course meanders through the the suburban Meadowmont neighborhood roads, some with bike lanes and some without. The course isn’t pan flat, but doesn’t have any hills to speak of either. Riders gain a bit of elevation in the first half, which includes several sharp turns and speed bumps on residential roads. The second half is mostly flat and downward sloping on straight connector roads that lead to NC 54, a large arterial road. Fortunately, the police cone off the rightmost lane of NC 54 for riders during the event to keep everyone relatively safe.
The Run – 5k/3.1 miles:
Runners leave the second transition and follow an out-and-back route on the sidewalks of the Meadowmont neighborhood. The course is mostly flat, with several sharp turns and one hill to run down in the beginning and back up as you near the finish. While there’s nothing especially technical about sidewalk running, you do need to duck under several trees and hedges hanging over the sidewalk and be courteous to the other 400 runners sharing the same narrow path.
Word of Caution:
There was a bit of a shortage of available restroom facilities, with 10 or so port-a-johns in the parking lot available for upwards of 1,000 people including 300+ racers, their families, and race volunteers. About fifteen minutes before the start there was an enormous line snaking around the parking lot. Although I understand it’s the club’s prerogative to keep the club facilities closed to race participants, it seemed a bit ridiculous that there was this enormous line of people in the parking lot while there were something like 50 unused toilets off-limits inside the building, particularly since the UNC Wellness Center is the title sponsor of the race.
The swim was short and sweet. I started in second position at 7:00:10 and managed to pass the first swimmer on the last lap. On the bike leg, my mountain machine was an asset in the first mile or so, with lots of tight turns to rail, but I was soon outgunned by some strong riders decked out with time-trial road bikes, teardrop helmets, disc wheels, etc. With a decent run, I ended up in fourth place on the day with an overall time of 48:34. Throughout the bike and run, volunteers and the occasional group of spectators were keeping spirits high with their enthusiasm despite the rainy weather.
Before and after the race, I enjoyed communing with fellow competitors and their support crews. UNC Health Care is a major employer in the region, so it was no surprise meeting several inspiring doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and coaches.