This weekend was my final hurrah for the 2013 triathlon season as I completed the Tri-Rock Lake Geneva. This is a Chicago Tri Club event so there was a group house for the weekend and a number of athletes going up to race.
Overall, I did fine at this event, and got more experience with racing on a hilly course. But there were some major concerns with this event in that the race organizers did not implement fairly standard safety & security precautions.
- I hadn’t really been thinking about this race too much since my big race of the season was done over a month ago. I had signed up for the olympic distance race for Tri-Rock, but was really looking much more forward to a fun weekend away from Chicago.
- I picked up my packet in Chicago
- Mike & I headed out of Chicago ~ 4 PM on Friday as soon as I was able to duck out of work. Traffic was horrendous, and we took a “not the smartest” detour to avoid construction on I-94, only to find more construction on the 1 lane state road we had to go on for another 30 miles.
- It was great once we got to the weekend house. I love these group houses… it’s like one big slumber party for the weekend!
- Even though it was 96 degrees on Tuesday in Chicago, the high for Saturday in Lake Geneva was supposed to be 67. The temps at 6 AM (race start was 6:30) were 45. I wasn’t too concerned because for the swim because the water temp was still 72. But getting out on the bike after that? That made me nervous. I hadn’t really considered that while I was packing, and didn’t bring much in the lines of cold weather cycling gear.
- We biked 2 miles to the race from our house at 4:45 AM. It was 41 degrees. We were riding in the dark & cold. Headed downhill.
- We made it all safely to transition, and began setting up. While I’m getting my stuff ready, they announce they’re delaying the race start due to the cold temps. “You’re lucky ‘cuz you get to stay in your warm car for another 45 minutes!” was how they announced it. So all 9 of us worked on getting into Charlie’s Ford Focus. He drove down since he was responsible for providing the snacks for CTC post race. The delay did not help my concerns with riding in the cold after the swim.
- When we got out of the car to head toward the Olympic start, I decided to drop down to the Sprint distance event. It’s more important to me to have a good experience at this event as I didn’t have any particular goals that were based on time or completion.
- I felt so much calmer once I made the decision to drop down into the Sprint distance. I got in the water to warm up a bit, and given that the water was warmer than the air, stayed kneeled in the water while I watched the rest of the waves go off before mine.
- I got out right when my wave assembled, and seeded myself toward the left and middle/front. (Water current was pushing people from the left side toward the right, so I would not have to swim against the current to stay on the correct side of the buoys).
- START. There were a lot of newbies at this event, or people who didn’t know how to seed themselves. I spent a good bit of the first 200 meters gliding among people (because they weren’t really fighting, they were just going slowly or breaststroking) pretty easily. The water was clear, so I could see very well if I was coming up toward someone, and adjust before I got to them.
- The swim course was 3 right turns for a box shape and it played well to my strengths. I felt pretty well on course the entire time.
- Out of the water, I took a few extra seconds to make sure I dried off as much as possible. Getting out on the bike I felt good, and it was starting to warm up more.
- There’s a hill you climb a little less than a mile into the course. I was surprised that I was passing people on this hill, since that’s not my forte. I passed a guy who had an intense tri bike with a disk wheel, aero helmet. I figured he’s in the Olympic distance and is just conserving energy.
- I felt pretty good and pushed it when appropriate. One advantage of the sprint distance: you don’t have to think about nutrition quite as much. I drank gatorade mostly to quench thirst than to keep up my electrolytes.
- There were cars on the course. In my mind this is unacceptable from a race management perspective. Everyone I talked to later said that this was an unsafe bike course. I didn’t even realize I needed to consider if the course would be closed.
- There was also a team of Special Athletes (note this is different than paratriathletes) called Team Angel. Teams of 3-4 volunteers led the athletes through the triathlon, pulling the athlete captains through the swim, pulling them in carts on the bike course, and running them in stroller/chairs. I didn’t have any issues with them on the swim or run, but I did encounter a very unsafe situation on the bike course where I was going up a hill and the team was riding 3-4 abreast. It wouldn’t have been that big of an issue except for the fact that other cyclists are slowing down, and there’s also a car trying to pass us on the hill. I admire helping the challenged athletes be a part of social triathlon events, but I do resent how the race did not take precautions to make it safe for everyone.
- The course was longer than a standard sprint… approximately 15 miles. Had I read the athlete guide, I would have known this but I didn’t realize this would happen until I was already at 12 miles and knew I wasn’t that close to the bike finish. I was starting to get tired as I gunned miles 10-12 thinking it was a sprint to the finish (but just not for me).
- The finish of the bike course was down a steep hill back into transition. This was somewhat fun, but I was also concerned about whether other cars would pull out onto teh course. I rode the brakes. There was no one to announce to slow down and prepare to dismount.
- I was happy to be off the bike as I assumed the run course would be safer, or at least I am more in control (and not moving quite as fast as on two wheels).
- The first mile has two big uphills. I was tired from the bike and walked the first up hill. I employed walk breaks when necessary, never walking for more than 30 steps.
- The course is an out & back that wound through the neighborhood. I never really saw more than 2 blocks of course at a time, but I knew we were headed upward on teh big hill that I had just ridden down.
- I was keeping pretty well in line with other people who were running. Not sure if they were olympic distance or sprint triathletes.
- I heard a weird noise and thought there was a car coming up from ahead with car troubles. No, it’s just Charlie, the CTC athlete doing a huffing & puffing. Closer I realized he was doing a 3-4 count lamaze-type breathing. I decided I should try to get to that effort level too on the way back.
- I realized I don’t love the windy course, but I’m OK w/ the hills.
- Then there is actually a car on the course! I saw it drive right through at an intersection that does not have any volunteer directing traffic or athletes. WTF.
- I keep picking up speed. First mile was slowest, but I get faster each following mile. I hit the lamaze breathing. Slow down as I head toward the final turn since there are some technical spots where the sidewalk is very narrow & also shared between the out & back.
I would not pay for this race again. There were logistical issues with what they said regarding para triathletes, and what they were willing to deliver on. The bike course was unsafe. Transition was never secure and they did not monitor in any way who was taking bikes out, or whether it was even only athletes going in. Out of the swim, there was about 100 yards that we had to run on cobblestone (barefoot). I saw later that there was tons of carpeting not used under the Tri-Rock truck. Why wouldn’t’ they use it? I guess I should also ask, why wouldn’t you make a safe bike course?
I had a great weekend hanging out with triathlete friends, but the Tri-Rock race itself has a lot to do to make it on the same caliber as… pretty much every other triathlon I’ve ever done. Lake Geneva seems like a cute area, and I’d definitely be back to train or to enjoy the weekend, but this was not a race that met my expectations for the finesse of race logistics.
I am working on figuring out my big race for next year, and enjoying fall!