My first triathlon of the season, and my first since IM Louisville. This was my first time doing the Richmond Tri Club event, though I had signed up last year and deferred to this year due to not being ready last April. As it turns out, it was rainy and cold last year, but perfect weather this year, so that appears to have been a good call!
Original plans were to stay overnight nearby, but due to a late day in the office on Friday, and not having dug out any of my tri gear since it was put away in November, I ended up driving down the morning of the event. It was a 1-1/2 hour drive from Montclair, with no significant traffic, so not too bad. The event is held at the Collegiate Aquatic Center, and directions, parking, and packet pickup were all easy to navigate through.
The transition area was in the parking lot just outside the Aquatic Center. Many folks had flip flops for wearing in and out of the pool and for running across the pavement. I did not bring flip flops, and was fine without them, despite the fact that my feet are just as tender as baby’s feet.
I don’t do many triathlon’s with pool swims, and this was a pool swim, but one with a unique format. It’s a 400 meter swim, in a full Olympic-size pool, but with turn buoys and waves of 10 swimmers at a time. We were not permitted to push off from the walls or do flip turns, so it does closely mimic an open water swim. The wave of 10 swimmers did spread out fairly quickly on the first lap, but we were surrounded by fellow swimmers for the entire 400 meters. It was nice to have lines to follow, so everyone did swim straight, and it was also easy to “latch onto” someone’s feet to follow. I’ve never been graceful in swimming around the turn buoys, and having 180 degree turns didn’t make it any better! For anyone who’s spent time at a large pool like this, you’ll know that acoustics are not very good, so we really had to pay attention to what was happening with the start groups to be in place at the right time. It appeared that a lot of people were missing they’re start waves, but the progress of the waves did run pretty smooth.
The climb out of the pool (ladder or pushup on the end of the pool) was just beside the exit door, with a short run (across rubber mats initially) out to the transition area. The sun was up, but it was still in the low/mid 60s, so I opted for a bike jacket for the bike leg. The bike leg was 20k (12.75 miles) and is mostly flat, very similar to riding along the bike path on Route 234. There were some false flats with rising elevation, and one small hill that had folks gear down or stand up briefly for. There is traffic on the course, but there were multiple lanes and lots of room for cars to pass without getting close to the riders. I think the jacket was a good call, as there were a few chilly “patches” that we rode through. I’d guess that around 15% of the participant’s donned jackets for the bike leg… and most of us appeared to be the older (wiser?) age group participants!
Off the bike (and jacket put away) the run course loops twice around the Ukrops Park that is adjacent to the Aquatic Center. Again, relatively flat with a slight decrease in elevation for the first half mile (around ball fields), with a steady rise low in elevation for the next mile. The only hill was about 30-50 feet long and we ran down it to start the 2nd lap and then again into the finish shoot. Only one water stop just as you began the run, which you pass again when you begin the 2nd loop. We ran parking lots, a paved path around the ball fields, and then parking lots again (no traffic at all in these lots).
Post-race food and beverages were staged just beyond the finish area. The only improvement I have for the race survey is to move the water/Gatorade to a separate area, as there was a long line for food to wait in, even if you just wanted a water bottle at the finish line. The served egg casseroles (one ham and cheese, and one with spinach and other assorted veggies, along with potato’s, apple cobbler, and of course bananas.
I didn’t stick around for awards (maybe if they start giving out “anchorman” awards I will shoot for that). I didn’t check, but I assume I could’ve used the pool locker rooms to shower and change before returning home. I did my usual field expedient baby-wipe clean up in the parking lot, loaded up my bike and gear, and hit the road, returning to Montclair by 11:30AM. Like all Setup, then VTS/MTS, now Kinetic events, this was a well-run, enjoyable event. With the pool swim format, I’d recommend this venue for beginners working their way to gaining that open water confidence, as it really is a unique blend of pool and open water features. I plan to keep this one on my planning calendar for a likely return next season!