After spinning like crazy in my 34T single chainring mountain bike and getting smoked by a few fast dudes with TT machines at the UNC Wellness Center Sprint last week, I decided to dust off my road triathlon bike for the Rex Wellness Center Sprint Tri in Raleigh, NC. The event is produced by FS Series, a company that offers a fresh alternative to SetUp Events for NC Piedmont multisport athletes.
The event started off in the Rex Wellness Center of Wakefield swimming pool with a 250 yard swim snaking through five lap lanes. Spectators and racers lined the pool area to watch the action unfold.
As with last week, swim seeding seemed a little questionable at the front of the race. The race director noted that unfortunately with pool swims, “everyone in the race is seeded wrong,” since seeding is based on self-reported 100 meter pace estimates, and urged all swimmers to yield if tapped on the feet. Several swimmers I talked to were shocked that their 1:10 pace put them 50th or worse in line. In reality, only a handful of racers actually swam under a 1:10 pace for the 250 yards. Fortunately, the race organizers were pretty flexible with switching around the order right before the race, and it was a big relief for many truly fast swimmers to move to their proper position, and a courteous gesture on the part of the overestimaters to slide down to avoid collisions.
Even with the last-minute reshuffling, there was still some uncomfortable passing. I didn’t mind as it added a bit of action to the swim, although it was nothing compared to an open-water mass start. From there, it was a pretty quick dash out of the pool to the transition area in the parking lot.
Over the last several races, I’ve vacillated between putting my shoes on in T1 or clipping them into the pedals and strapping them on after a running mount out of T1. I’ve found that for me, the time it takes to put them on in transition is usually less than the time I lose soft pedaling while trying to strap my shoes firmly in place while on the bike. In XTERRA, the risk of crashing is also high if the single track starts right away out of transition. This problem could be solved by getting tri-specific shoes that are easy to get in and out of, but I can’t justify the expense when my current shoes work fine otherwise.
Today, I chose to put my shoes on after getting on the bike. I failed. Miserably. After jumping on my rig and taking a pedal stroke with my feet on top of my shoes, my chain immediately dropped. I backpedaled to see if I could shimmy the chain back on, but this just made my left shoe drag and fly off the bike, sending my insole flying off out of the shoe as well. With a steady stream of hundreds of athletes on my heels, I moved my bike over to the side of the road to get out of the way, then ran back across the street to pick up my shoe and insole. I pulled my right shoe off the pedals, put both shoes on standing just off the curb, and finally remounted my bike feeling like a complete imbecile.
Having raced on a relay with triathlon legend Conrad Stoltz earlier this year, I picked up a lot of sage advice. The most applicable at the time was to have “no memory” in a race. Forget anything that happened prior to the immediate present, and focus only on executing the best race possible going forward. Fortunately, this was a very casual, fun local event with nothing on the line, so it wasn’t hard to do, but I’ll have to keep that in mind for the fumbles and missteps that go along with off-road triathlon.
After the mishap, I hammered on the bike and made my way to the front of the race. Yet another highly appreciated touch by FS Series was a truck leading out the front of the bike race. With a lead truck coordinating with the Sheriff’s department on the radio, the experience felt very safe for a course that was mostly open to traffic.
I didn’t have any more shoe dropping fiascoes heading into T2, but my transition troubles weren’t over. Somehow, one of my elastic laces on my running shoes got jammed in the plastic tension adjuster. I fiddled with it for a while, and then decided to just run as is. After a quarter mile, I got fed up and finally was able to fix it. The rest of the run was quite enjoyable. For the first time, I had a lead bike escort me the full length of the run course. It was great to see so many folks, of all ages and athletic backgrounds, having a good time out on the course.
After a post-race warm-down run and cheering on fellow racers as they stormed through the bike and run, I made a bee line for the delicious and healthy post-race Mediterranean food provided by Neomonde.
The post-race atmosphere was great. Scores of racers congregated around the various tents and feasted on the amazing food. Kids had a blast in a bouncy castle. The coolest tent was a that of an NC State research team using body scans to investigate athletic performance. As a fellow math and physics geek, I happily offered my body to science.
Last but not least, a huge thanks to Rex Wellness for graciously letting racers and their families use the restroom facilities. This made for a much more relaxed and pleasant race experience for all comers than last week’s race with its less-than-adequate port-a-johns.
Next up, I’ll try to get to western North Carolina as much as possible to prepare for the serious climbing that awaits at the XTERRA National Championship in Ogden, Utah.