Review: 2012 St. Peters Rec-Plex Spring Triathlon

One year ago I found myself in the middle of this local race, with no idea what it was. This year I entered it.

Update for 2013: See the Bike section below

Date

Sunday, June 17, 2012, 6:00 AM (first swimmer off)

Location

Rec-Plex, Saint Peters, MO

Distance

Official: 500 meter pool swim / 21 mile bike / 5 mile run

Measured (my GPS): 500 meter pool swim / 20.56 mile bike / 4.48 mile run

Put on by

Saint Peters Rec-Plex

Timing by Fleet Feet

Cost

$55-65 individual, $88-99 team

Individuals can also earn free entry through the Rec-Plex Indoor Tri Challenge (I did!)

Sponsors

  • Fleet Feet
  • Momentum Cycles
  • Precision Health Group
  • Hammer Nutrition
  • Valenti’s
  • Anthony’s Produce
  • Great Harvest Bread Company
  • Sederburg & Associates

USAT Sanctioned

No.

Swag

Short sleeve tech shirt.

It’s all on the event website, dude

Race Day Weather

Sunny, 80 degrees. A brief shower the night before had raised the humidity. The earlier start time (6 AM for first swimmer off) was appreciated, but the last swimmer would have been starting a little over an hour later so the weather was advantageous to the early registrants. My start time was 6:23:45.

Parking

Ample surface parking on the Rec-Plex north and south lots.

About the Race

The Rec-Plex Triathlons (there are spring and fall editions) have long been popular as first triathlons. Although the cycling and run legs are long for a sprint-type race, both are quite flat and therefore manageable for beginners. Many of the training programs in the area, such as those of Fleet Feet, Momentum Cycles, and the Rec-Plex’s own Indoor Triathlon Challenge aim at this race.

The Swim

Rec-Plex pool in 50 meter configuration

Rec-Plex pool in 50 meter configuration

The Rec-Plex is my home facility, but the 50 meter pool is normally split before so we don’t usually get an opportunity to try it out in it’s full length. The 500 meter swim was performed as a serpentine but with some differences from what I had experienced before. The pool was split into the usual eight full lanes. The first and last lanes were split by a smaller rope. So the first lane was down and back as is usual in a serpentine swim, except at the end you need to go under the small rope. On the next six lanes (the full width ones), however, you had the whole width and everyone in the lane was swimming in the same direction. At the end of the length, you switched to the next lane. The very last lane was done in the same way as the first lane. Since the order of the swim is established by the order of registration, and the swimmers start in 15 second intervals, there is a lot of pacing and this setup allows for a plenty of space. Of course, people like me are capable of getting passed in that first 100 meters and certainly the last 100 meters, so one hopes that slower swimmers stay to the right as usual. Additionally, it does mean you need to go under the rope on every turn, not the thing I am the most adept at.

The volunteers did a great job with the start. There is no start timing mat, so everything must go by the clock. Swimmer before you goes off, you plop into the water (don’t worry, there is a ladder option conveniently available), and then it’s 5-4-3-2-1 and off!

At the end of the swim, you may want to take the ladder. The Rec-Plex pool ends do not have an intermediate-level lip up to the deck (as the sides do), and it may not be something you want to deal with. Either option works.

Transition 1

The exit from the natatorium is right at the pool exit, it is all concrete to the transition area (I think there may have been some rugs as well) and I don’t remember any issues. It’s a short  trip to the transition area. Since it had rained the night before, there were puddles on the asphalt parking lot, so unless you were among the very first there, you get your choice of (1) being close to an entrance/exit, or (2) dry. There having been essentially no rain in St. Louis this summer, this was the first time I got to experience this particular phenomenon!

The Cycling

Updates to the bike course for 2013

  • See the 2013 course map here
  • The course is about 2 miles shorter (19 vs 21 miles).
  • We will not be going along the north outer road towards the Mid Rivers Mall exit. This might be a permanent change, since this avoids the businesses along that stretch.
  • Instead, we will continue north on Executive Center Parkway until we do a bit of an east-west out and back “T”. I drove this and the outer road descent (outbound) and climb (inbound) of the outer road is replaced with a hill that starts at Mile 1 on the map (middle of the bridge over I-70), and descends for about a half mile. The hill ends short of the railroad tracks. Yes, railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill, obviously a place to exercise some caution. As best I could tell from my car, they appear to to be smooth and parallel, but suggest you keep your bike handling skills in mind. You should be able to see the tracks all the way down the hill (they shouldn’t be a surprise); there is a slight curve to the hill. On the way back, the climb ends at about a mile to go and the last mile is almost all flat or downhill, so that will give you some recovery before the run.
  • We will be going east/west on Premier Parkway/Salt River Road,  a lot of this is newly constructed.
  • Highway C is avoided altogether due to flooding, rather we do an out and back on Silvers Road (which was the return in the past.
  • As f Friday before the race, the turn at Mile 10 was still under water, so there may be either a further course modification or some less than ideal road conditions there.
  • Something to be aware of on Silvers Road. Some of the 90 degree turns, particularly around Mile 13, have residential driveways that T into the middle of the turn. These driveways are gravel, and you will have gravel which I’ve seen go across the entire lane. You probably won’t be going that fast (see “90 degree turn”), but be aware you will likely be dealing with gravel.

Original posting (2012) resumes

The route begins with a quick climb up to Mexico Road, and some more climbing as you cross over Interstate 70 and get to the outer road on the opposite (north) side of I-70. Heading west towards the Mid Rivers Mall exit will take you down a long hill where, if you are new to cycling like me, you might hit your PR for max speed (for me, that meant 30.4 mph). In previous years, the route would go over to old town St. Peters, but this year it turned at the Mid Rivers Mall exit such that it became similar to the route for the St. Peters Race to Recycling Duathlon.

The rest of the course is the flat course that one expects in this area. The volunteers and law enforcement did an excellent job on the course. The return was a bit of a surprise in that the ascent up the hill was not as bad as I expected. My average speed was about 0.3 mph faster than my best on this route. I suspect some of this may have been due to low winds with an early start time.

On the descent back into the Rec-Plex, you don’t really get a lot of speed built up as there are several turns to make.

The disclaimer for the race is that the times will not be corrected for time stoppages. It seems to me that if the Wash U Tri Team volunteers can adjust for the stoplight at Skinker and Forsyth in their spring triathlon, this ought to be manageable. That having been said, I have no idea if train stoppages have ever actually been a problem.

Transition 2


The bike-in is on the east side and the bike-out is on the west side.

The Run

This is my home course for running and so is very familiar to me. It is extremely flat, and well shaded. There is a little bit of uphill in the subdivision before the turnaround, but this gets undone around the turnaround.

The trail was well marked except for one location (the right turn on the trial split south of Sutter’s Mill was not marked on the outbound leg). Two water stations were provided and were available on the outbound and the inbound legs, but the volunteers only handled one side so you had to be careful if you wanted to use grab something while coming from the other direction.

Tip: During parts of the course, the overhead foliage is so dense that you may not get good GPS reception. So if your GPS device is reporting a strange pace, don’t panic!

The finish of this race is awesome. After cresting the ridge that crosses Boone Hills Drive (that’s where the “cross traffic may not stop” warning sign is located), you have less than half a mile and it is essentially all flat and downhill. Once you leave the last of the trees, you make a right turn and it is a straight shot to the finish, over a small foot bridge and the finish is right there. The awesome part is that there are actually people here cheering. Due to the fact that this is the first triathlon for a lot of people who have been working with the various training teams, there are a lot of friends and family members at the finish line and they cheer on everyone.

Newbie Lessons Learned

  • This was the first race I had done after an enforced week off (I was on travel as a chaperone for a youth group, so was on call 24/7 with no opportunity to exercise). My training prior to leaving saw me getting slower and slower while being more tired throughout. I did much better in this race.  It is indeed possible that one can overtrain, even as a beginner.
  • Part of why I felt so good was due to the flatness of the course. As mentioned, this is my home course, and was the flattest of any place I have run. It occurs to me that I need to get more hills in my training!

 

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