I started out the 2014 season on a high note, taking a victory at the Westfields Sprint Triathlon. Below is a little recap of my experience at the race;
The race started at the crack of dawn, with a short pool swim of 275 yards, snaking our way through the 11 lengths of the pool at the Cub Run RECenter in Chantilly. The 127 participants started 5-10 seconds apart, seeded based on an entry time for a 50 (maybe not the best measuring stick for a bunch of slow twitch triathletes). I was fortunate enough to start first, so I escaped all the traffic behind me. After about the first four lengths I was able to open up a lead, and extended it through the rest of the swim to about 30 seconds.
After exciting the pool, it was a quick run on the fairly cold asphalt (it was in the low 40s at the start) up a slight hill to the transition zone, laid out in the middle of a parking lot. The rows were clearly marked, so it was easy to find the bike. I had a fast transition, and ran out to begin the bike segment. The route consisted of two loops, for a total of about 12 miles. However, this is where it was somewhat visible that it is still a young race, as the guidance on the turns was a bit below par (a couple of places, they were not quite ready, and were still moving the cones when I came by). The second lap was a lot better, and I don’t think most of the participants noticed this. I guess that is one of the things you must be prepared for when taking on the race from the lead. I had a great bike leg, with my fastest ever average speed (a new bike, and a very focused preseason paid off), but slightly frozen toes, as I had forgotten my toe warmers.
Heading into the second transition, it was pretty hard to spot the dismount line, which was just a chalk line on the ground. I then made the mistake to try to put socks on my frozen toes, so I had a pretty slow transition. The run was mostly on paths and sidewalk, and well marked. There was a well positioned water station, which we passed three times on the 5k run. The night before, a heavy rain storm had challenged the organizers a little, but with a few spare garden tiles the path was passable, although still a little soft. This could have been an issue if there was a lot of traffic, but the field was pretty stretched out at that point. I did not have much feeling with where the nearest competitors were, until the first off two turnarounds. I had a solid lead, but could also feel that I had not done much training at race speed, and really needed to dig deep to keep the lead. At the next turnaround, with about 1 mile to go, I could see I had maintained the lead, and got re-energized for the last push for the finish.
The finishing stretch was a bit uphill, making you work all the way to the finish line. After catching my breath, I could celebrate the victory, as the next finisher came in 35 seconds later. Unfortunately the timing system was not fully set up to capture the second transition and run time (just have a total) for the first three racers – it was fixed for the rest of the racers – so I am not quite sure about my run time. However, I believe it to be just under 20 minutes, which isn’t too bad based almost completely on endurance training over the winter.
From a personal perspective, this race was a really nice confirmation that I am on the right track for the rest of the season, and the next races that are coming up. I know what to work on, and I hope to be a lot sharper on the run next time around.
This race is great for beginners, as the swim is fairly short, the course is flat, and the competition focused on a friendly atmosphere. It is also good for more experienced racers, to get the season going in a relaxed setting. The major drawback that would keep me from coming back, is the lack of same day race packet pick up, which will limit the interest from anyone outside of the local area. That said, I plan on coming back next year, especially if the pre-race logistics are improved.