2015 Jefferson Sprint Triathlon
2/6 AG 18/136 Overall
July 11, 2015 – Being a UVA grad, Charlottesville is very near and dear to my heart. Given that I was going to be home alone on the weekend of July 11th, I decided to sign up for the Jefferson Sprint Triathlon there. This would be my first triathlon in Charlottesville, and it would take place at Fry Spring’s Beach Club via Charlottesville Multisports. I still cannot grasp the “Beach Club” portion of the name, because, while there is a 50 meter pool, there is no beach anywhere in the vicinity.
In preparation for the triathlon, I had reviewed the course maps and the prior year’s times for the finishers in my age group. Based upon the bike and run splits, I felt as though I would be competitive for a podium spot. In particular, there were hardly any 20+ mph bike splits in the entire field. I noticed that the bike course has some elevation changes, but sometimes its hard to get a good grasp on the topography by simply reviewing course profiles or GPS data. I knew that Charlottesville had some hills, but I guess I forgot just how hilly it could be in some places.
The night before the race, I strapped Blue to the back of my car, equipped for the second time with my new (to me) Zipp 404 wheels. The weather was nice at that time, but the forecast was calling for storms overnight. When I woke up the next morning, all hell was breaking loose outside – there were torrential downpours, lots of wind and even thunder.
As I headed up I-64 to Charlottesville, I continued to go in and out of areas of heavy rain. At points, I was travelling 45 mph or less just to be able to see the road ahead of me. By the time that I finally pulled in to the Beach Club the worst of the weather had abated, but steady rain was still falling. I sat in my car for a few minutes to see if the rain would slow, but since it showed no signs of doing so, I decided to go ahead and get wet while I set up my transition spot.
The transition area was in grass, which had basically turned into a giant puddle. In certain sections it was a mud pit. Thankfully, I had the foresight to bring a plastic grocery bag to put my running shoes in, but there was still little hope that they would stay completely dry. After setting up, I checked in at the main building, which was certainly past its hey-day in terms of age. The biggest concern for a lot of folks was the bathroom situation, whereas there were no portapotties outside. The men’s room in the building had two urinals and two normal toilets, but the toilets were not screened off, so privacy was totally lacking. I was thankful that I did not have a major bathroom situation to attend to on race morning, and the lack of portapotties was inexcusable.
Soon enough, it was time to gather near the pool for last minute race instructions and the National Anthem. It was pretty chilly standing around in the rain, but the water in the 50 meter pool was pretty warm. Thus, I was one of several racers who hung out in the pool during the announcements. By that time, the rain had slowed down, but it was still coming down.
Swim 6:33 (1:52/100 m)
The 50 meter pool had seven lanes, and participants started from opposite sides of the pool on the same end. You would then serpentine through three 100 meter laps, moving one lane closer to the middle of the pool at the completion of each lap. Swimmers from opposite ends would basically meet in the middle lane, and then proceed to the far end, for a total of 350 meters.
We were sorted by even/odd numbers, and since I was bib 55, I was about the 27th person in the water from my side of the pool. With a pool swim, your bib number is determined by the estimated swim time that you listed when you signed up, and there is always the chance that you will be surrounded by people who seeded themselves poorly, which results in a traffic jam. Thankfully, the people around me and I had all seeded ourselves correctly, and there was no passing or being passed during my swim.
I had previously encountered issues with my heart rate spiking at the beginning of swims, but I felt calm when I entered the water and tried not to over swim the first half of the course. I was feeling really good throughout the entire swim, and began swimming harder for the last lap and a half. Before I knew it, my 350 meters came to a close, and my watch read 6:28 when I hit the end of the final lap.
The timing mat was a few meters beyond the edge of the pool, and it took me a few seconds to get out of the water and to get across it. My official time was 6:33, which equates to 1:52/100 meters. I had swam 1:48/100 meters at the Groundforce IT triathlon a month or so prior, but that was a 300 meter course in a 25 meter pool. Thus, I was very happy with my swim time as I headed away from the pool and up towards the transition area.
The transition area was up a long hill away from the pool, and you basically had to run to the far side of transition to get inside. As such, I had a relatively long T1 of 2:21, but I certainly wasn’t dillydallying. The run through transition to my bike was essentially like running through a swamp, and I threw on my (already soaking wet) bike shoes without socks. On went the helmet, and off I went to the Bike Out area. Just prior to the exit of T1 there was a massive mud puddle, which was impossible to avoid. Muddy water went everywhere, but it didn’t concern me since the rain that was still falling would wash it off anyways.
Bike 40:26 (18.5 mph)
After coming out of the Fry Spring’s Beach Club, there was a fairly steep downhill portion to the main road. There were leaves and small branches everywhere from the storm, and water was actively running down the roadway, which I tried to avoid. I learned very quickly that the bike ride was going to be precarious because I was losing traction as I pedaled down that first hill. There were several “pucker” moments during the first descent, and I finally decided that it was too dangerous to pedal hard because I kept losing traction and I didn’t want my back wheel to come around on me. I basically ended up letting gravity do most of the work, and the course flatted out a bit after turning onto the main road.
The flat portion didn’t last very long, and the out-and-back course was nothing more than one hill after another. I’d spend a few minutes pumping up a hill, followed by a speedy and dangerous descent down the other side. Basically it was up-down and then rinse and repeat all the way out to the turn around cone, and then the same thing in reverse order coming back in.
There weren’t a ton of people on the bike course ahead of me, but I did overtake several people. One or two guys blew past me in the early miles, and they seemed like incredible bikers. I was up out of my saddle quite a bit going up the hills, and I did my best to gain as much speed as I was comfortable with on the downhill sections. Again, however, I rode relatively conservatively downhill because I just didn’t want to tempt fate and crash on the wet roads. The entire bike course was littered with broken branches and leaves, and there were several areas of standing water that had to be avoided as well.
After what seemed like a lot more than 12 miles, I made my way back to the road that led up to the Beach Club. That road had been scary on the way out/down, and it certainly wasn’t a whole lot of fun to climb back up. After riding back up the hill, I saw volunteers waving me back towards transition, and then it was off my bike and back into the swamp of the transition area. My legs were pretty taxed from the constant climbing on the bike course, but I still felt like I had a good run left in me, and I was glad to get off the bike in one piece.
Overall, the 40:26 that I spent on the bike only put me at an 18.5 mph pace. The pace suffered quite a bit from the hills and my cautious riding on the downhill sections, but was still good enough for the 15th fastest split of the day.
At 59 seconds, T2 was much faster than T1, but primarily since there was no long run up a hill from the pool involved. My bike was racked, my helmet was removed and I threw on my (soaking wet) shoes sans socks. My bib was already attached to my race belt, which I grabbed and strapped on during my run out of transition.
Run 23:48 (7:56 min/mile)
Again, I lived in Charlottesville for four years, but I had completely misremembered how hilly it is. The first half-mile of the run course was relatively flat on Jefferson Park Avenue as we headed towards the UVA campus. After turning left onto Stribling Avenue, I ended up on a gravel trail outside of an electrical station. The trail had a very steep downhill portion, and I had to be mindful of taking it too fast and toppling over. I remember “braking” all the way down the hill, but once I got to the bottom, the real fun began.
The gravel trail ended and we crossed Route 29 near the Fontaine Research Park. Mile 2 was pretty much all uphill, and winded around past my old second year residence on Appletree Road, and then up to Stadium Road. I was determined to maintain a steady pace on the long uphill climb, and I was able to pass a few runners who had slowed to a walk. By that time, I had mentally set a goal of 24 minutes for myself on the run, which would have been no problem on a flat course. The hills, however, were definitely slowing my pace.
After reaching the crest of a hill on Stadium Road, I knew that the worst was behind me, and it was downhill to the right turn onto Maury Avenue, which then became Jefferson Park Avenue after crossing Route 29 again. From the intersection of JPA and Route 29, it was then mostly uphill all the way back to the Beach Club.
The brief downhill portion had allowed my legs to recover a bit, and I was able to pick up my pace going back uphill towards the finish line. In looking at my watch, I knew that it was going to be close for a sub-24 minute finish, and by the last few hundred yards I was running as hard as I could. I turned back into the Beach Club property and finished the run in 23:48 as I crossed the final timing mat – with 12 seconds to spare.
The rain had basically stopped by the time that I finished the run, and I milled around for awhile and waited for the results to start coming up. As the printouts began to be posted, I noticed that I was being listed as second in my AG. Since the results were preliminary, I told myself not to get too excited, because they were certainly subject to change. There could have been someone that started the swim well after me, but who still had yet to finish, and was going to knock me down the AG standings. After about an hour, however, I was still second in my AG, so I realized that I had actually made podium.
Now, this was obviously a smaller race, which probably had a reduced turnout due to the poor weather. Still, it was the first time that I’d made a triathlon podium, so I was pretty excited. In addition, there were several college triathlon club teams present, and my overall finish place of 18th meant that I’d beaten several of the young bucks, which made me happy. Thus, when the awards were handed out, I made sure to find a kind stranger to take my picture on the podium since I had no support crew. Not only did I get a cool glass, but I also won a $100 gift card for the 13th fastest bike split – which rolled down to me at 15th since 13 and 14 must have hit the road.
Overall, the Jefferson Sprint was somewhat of a character building event for me with the weather and topography. I’d had searing heat in Raleigh, followed by a raging river swim at Robious Landing, and now crazy amounts of rain and slick roads in Charlottesville. Thankfully, the temperature was nice, and even though it was a wet event, the wind had completely died down prior to the start. Not to worry though, because I had a seriously windy triathlon in my near future.
My final triathlon of the year was going to be the Half Iron distance race at the Richmond Rox triathlon in September. If the Ironman Raleigh 70.3 was my “A” race for the year, then Richmond Rox was intended to be my “A-” race. Little did I know, however, that it would be yet another interesting experience – primarily due to Hurricane Joaquin. That race would involve rain, heavy wind, a bike crash and being directed off course (again!) by race volunteers. In the short term, I fully intended to test out my second place AG glass.