My first tri, and an opportunity to start the season early!
Sunday, April 1, 2012, 9:00 AM
Washington University in St. Louis
Sprint: 400 yd pool swim / 12.73 mile bike / 5km run
Put on by
- St. Louis Bicycle Works
- Wash U Tri Team trip to Nationals
$30-$50 individual, $60-$75 team
Tech shirt with the cutest logo ever! I don’t know if the look on these little guys’ face is amazement, determination, anticipation, or oxygen deprivation. Any or all are appropriate. Or maybe they’re just stoned.
It’s all on the event website, dude
Race Day Weather
Sunny, 74 degrees, 67% relative humidity, wind 7 mph from the west. A nice August day, given it was April 1!
Freely available, especially in the big lot next to the Business School (south of Simon Hall, on the right as you turn into Olympian Way from Forsyth).
About the Race
This was the third year for the event, and the first year in which it did not rain. The event had been held in the past on the third weekend of April. Being on the first weekend now, to the best of my knowledge it is the first outdoor tri of the season in the St. Louis metro area. As such, there are a lot of people here who are new to the sport if they began their training over the winter. The tone of the race is very informal, it is inviting to newbies and the race advertises itself that way. That having been said, there are a lot of experienced triathletes here (who are just happy to be outside again!) and their presence probably is a big help to the newbies. As a beginner myself (in fact, my first outdoor triathlon), I found it comforting to have newbies like me as well as people I could learn from who seemed to know what they were doing. SInce the bike course is on the ever popular Forest Park bike trail, the organizers point out that if you are unable to dial it back a little, this is probably not the race for you (Note: bike route has changed for 2013, see below). This is a race to get your feet wet if you are new to the sport, and to stretch your limbs after the winter if you’re experienced.
This is not an age group race. The race generates interest within the Wash U community by being divided into undergrad, grad/faculty/staff, and open (i.e., outside the Wash U community), and split by gender.
Markings were on arm and shoulder, and there was a single bib (you’ll want a race belt), and bikes were unmarked.
The swim is located in the pool on the west edge of campus. It is a serpentine swim. Not unique to this race, but for someone who does open turns, the ducking under the ropes turns it into a bit of a slogfest for me! But that’s the nature of myself and serpentine swims, not of this particular race.
Racers start in the order of their expected swim times. Given that there are a lot of beginners, and the serpentine swim factor, some were better at guessing than others. The swim started on schedule and the racers started every 20 seconds as planned. We had the opportunity to warm up beforehand, and since the pool was split in half, you could warm up closer to your start time if you were one of the later starters.
You’ve got a ways to go! Here’s a clue: my T1 was 4:15 and my T2 was 1:38. When you enter the building and go to the natatorium, you go all the way to the right edge of the building, down a set of steps, through a set of doors, down a bleachers at one end of the pool, cross in front of the bleachers the length of the pool, then go down another short set of steps, which puts you at the finish ladder. How to do T1? You reverse the process. This is the reason you need to bring a towel; this area gets very slippery. And if you are one of the later swimmers, it will be fairly slick. A loose fitting pair of deck shoes to set on your towel is a good idea. And be aware, you are required to walk until you get outside.
(Note for 2013: The bike route has changed from 2012 when this was written, and uses the roads in Forest Park rather than the bike path. Click to see route.)
The route is twice around the Forest Park Path, plus to and from along Forsyth.
The route to the park consists of sidewalk to the south side of the campus, then east on the very wide sidewalk along Forsyth (so you never actually get on Forsyth). The sidewalk is very smooth and no problem for road bikes. You must honor the light at Forsyth and Skinker; volunteers take your number and the delay time is subtracted from your final time. I used manual start/stop on my watch, and the official time was close, actually 17 seconds shorter (maybe I’ll use that time instead!)
Once in Forest Park, we did two laps on the Bike Path. Note that these are clockwise laps, which is not the direction most people usually go when cycling Forest Park. So the north and the east sides are flat; all along the south ( alongUS 40) you are going to be dealing with climbs, especially the end up to Skinker. Skinker is then a long downhill, and you will need to exercise a bit of caution as it is busy, a bit narrower, and the tree roots are making some patches uneven. At the end of the second light, you then go back up the sidewalk along Forsyth to the on campus transition area.
Even for my first race, I can’t think of anything in particular to report.
The run is a two lap course that winds thorough the Wash U campus. You may find yourself surprised at your first mile time – until you find out that the first mile is all downhill. The biggest challenge to the course is that the length along Forsyth (which you also rode on the bike) is all uphill when you head west, and you get to do it twice, including just before the finish. There was one water stop, shortly after the beginning of the course, so you hit it twice.
Newbie Lessons Learned
- Serpentine swims are tough for those of us who do open turns. You need to duck under the rope on every other turn, and on the other turns I was just frustrated and discombobulated. There’s got to be a better way to do the turns but we don’t usually get an opportunity to practice ducking under ropes when lap swimming. Experienced swimmers who do tumble turns don’t have that issue.
- For this particular race, you are expected to bring a towel to the pool. You will want some deck shoes as well.
- When leaving the transition area to go home, check over your shoulder to make sure you didn’t leave anything behind. For example, those deck shoes I just mentioned that I don’t have any more…
- I noticed that since I have a Garmin 910xt “GPS Enabled Device” (you know, a watch that does everything except act like a watch), it gives me preference on the bike to hook the saddle over the rack instead of the brake levers over the rack. The reason is that, as I come in from the swim, I can transition the Garmin from wrist mount to handlebar mount without having to reach over all myself (“Ooops, I just cracked my helment. Is that a problem?”)
- You run slower when you’ve been swimming and biking first!