Review: 2012 Tour de Kirkwood

New challenge: hills. And we finally get some rain!


Sunday, July 29, 2012, 7:15 AM


Kirkwood Community Center, Kirkwood, MO

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Official: 400yd outdoor pool serpentine swim / 12 mile bike / 3 mile run

Measured (my GPS): 400yd outdoor pool serpentine swim  / 12.53 mile bike / 2.99 mile run

Put on by

Big Shark Bicycle Company (Disclaimer: Big Shark is a sponsor of the St. Louis Triathlon Club, of which I am a member).

Timing by UltraMax Sports


$45 individual, $80 team


Basile Landscaping & Lawncare

USAT Sanctioned



Commemorative cotton t-shirt.

It’s all on the event website, dude

Race Day Weather

It began sprinkling just prior to the start of the race and drizzled throughout. This was the first rain in the St. Louis area ion some time during a summer draught. It also cooled things off such that the temperatures probably did not get much above the upper seventies before the finish.


Map of parking and transition area. There is a nice grass area just adjacent to the transition area.

About the Race

Kirkwood is a residential suburb in the southwest metro St. Louis area. The race begins and ends at the Kirkwood Community Center on the grounds of Kirkwood Park. The area is notable for having some hills.

The race has been around for several years but this is the first year that it was administered by Big Shark.

The race is chip timed (ankle bracelet) including T2 but not T1.

The Swim

The 400 yard serpentine swim is in the outdoor 25 yard pool, down and back in each lane then duck under the rope. Swimmers self select the start order by lining up along signs with estimated swim times on them. The signs stopped at eight minutes, which amused me because it takes me 10 minutes to swim 400 yards in a pool. The swimmers go over the start mat at 15 second intervals and are required to drop feet first into the water. At the end, you have the option of hoisting yourself out or using a nearby ladder.

Transition 1

The transition consists of a fairly short path up to the transition area. Bike racking is first come first served. Bike out is at the opposite end from swim in. Map of transition area.

Bikes and riders in transition area

Transition area before race.

The Cycling

The course is a two lap loop. The area around the beginning on the east side consists of small residential streets, while the rest of the course is mostly larger thoroughfares. As set up this year, there was a slight downhill coming out of the dismount area (while still in the parking lot), which of course means a slight uphill at the dismount.

The bulk of the first 3.5 miles of the course is downhill, with a steep descent beginning where South Ballas curves to the east. There is a left turn intersection at the intersection with West Adams, this is a fairly wide area so at my speed there wasn’t a great deal of difficulty (remember, it was raining for the first time after quite a long drought). Where many people had more trouble with the rain was at the right turn onto Dougherty Ferry, which looked more benign than it actually was.

After the turn onto Dougherty Ferry, you essentially undo the downhill until you meet up again with Geyer at the northeast corner of the loop. The path down Geyer is then generally flat or slightly downhill.

If you have (like me) been riding more of the rural routes in western St. Charles and southwest Illinois, you need to be aware that you will be dealing with tighter turns in an area like Kirkwood, needing to be more careful to avoid finding yourself in the oncoming traffic lane after a turn. And there will be more traffic to deal with in this environment.

Transition 2

The bike-in is on the southwest side and the bike-out is on the northwest side.

The Run

The run is a very interesting configuration. Since the transition area is east of Kirkwood Park proper, you begin by heading west along a path which has some downhill to it. After this, it is a three-lobed course, with a lobe to the east, a lobe to the north, and a lobe to the west (you should use the Player feature in the map above to get the idea). The lobe to the east is both the entrance and the exit to the course proper. The water station is located in the middle of the course, where all three of the lobes meet. This means you pass the water station every half mile, which could be quite handy if it were the usual 90 plus degrees! There is a hill going up into the loop on the north lobe, with of course the same downhill coming the other way. And as you exit the main course for the finish, there is another hill and a slight uphill to the finish. Beyond that, the course is quite flat.

View of finish area

View from the finish, approximately at the exit from the transition area, looking in the direction of the main portion of the court. You follow the path on the return to the finish.

Newbie Lessons Learned

  • This was the first time I didn’t obsess on my GPS watch pace during the run. I was happy to just keep going and let it make a reassuring buzz every quarter of a mile. Then when I finally looked at it at the two mile mark, I realized I had a pretty good shot at finishing with a good run. I’m going to keep with that concept.
  • In looking at prior year’s times, it looks like a moderate temperature with some rain sped everyone in my age group up by about eight minutes. Imagine that!


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