It is once again that time of year – time for another triathlon report from TPMHTDM! I know my faithful readers have been waiting for a full report, and while I will attempt to blame external forces, the delay in the writeup for this race is mostly due to laziness.
The months leading up to the race were not marked with the greatest in training regimens by me. I did train some, to the point where I was not expecting to die (always a bonus!), but my heart was just not in it. I don’t know if it’s just that the race has lost some of its “novel”-ness, or lack of time, or desire, or what, but my regimen was definitely half-hearted. One possibility would be to move up to a higher distance race, but I’m not sure that will do it for me either.
In any case, you may have heard of the 7 P’s. The way I first heard it was Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance (which I know is only 6 Ps – click the link if you want to). In this race, we will instead prove its corollary, Poor Planning Produces Poor Performance.
But enough of all that mumbo-jumbo – let’s get to race day! I have to say, having all these detailed prior year race reports is very handy for race day planning. For instance, I knew to set my alarm to 4:30, and knew all the things I should bring.
I slept much better than I did last year, but just like last year I did end up waking up on my own about 15 minutes beforehand. So I got up, got dressed and packed my standard race-day breakfast of peanut butter bagels. Again like last year, I had sufficiently “carbed up” with donuts the day before
Due to the empirical data, I could better analyze my route towards Oxford. Last year I took 275, which measured 30 minutes and 23.3 miles. This year I took the Lateral to 75 to Cross County, which got me 25 minutes and 19.7 miles. Sounds like a clear winner! Though it does produce the odd effect of starting out an hour long trip to the northwest by taking 71 SOUTH!!!
After getting over to 75 and starting to head northwards, I passed the “lovely” aromas of the Jim Beam plant. When I was in college, I interviewed for a co-op position with a company called DataBeam. My roommates always refered to it as “Jim Beam” even though I’m sure they’re not related at all. So anyways, I didn’t get a job with them and a year or two passed. One of my out-of-town friends called me up out of the blue. She was studying something along the lines of environmental cleanup or something and was wanting to get a job at Jim Beam and asked if I had any references. I had to let her know that I was NOT going to be able to be very helpful at all!!
Whenever I’m doing a race like this, I keep a notebook with me to write down snippets of things I want to include in the race report. Otherwise I’d clearly forget them. I’m sure this speaks to some strange side of my personality. Unfortunately, since the route to Oxford is pretty much the same every year, I tend to end up with a lot of recycled jokes, which I then have to filter out. Can’t remember the name of the town between Cincinnati and Oxford? Done. Talk about how I used to geocache here? Yup, did it already.
But one geocaching thought that I did have was some good memories of Electric Shavers, who was a guy who lived up in Hamilton who favored the “quantity not quality” method of hiding caches. And when I was really into geocaching, I always liked to keep my “list” of close caches clean. So that was really the last time I did much traveling up here. Had some good memories of that, even though the caches were not always the greatest.
So what does Jim Beam and shaving have to do with this race? Uh, nothing. But that’s what I’m all about! Continuing with my non-race jibber-jabber, I did notice a few things on the drive up to Oxford. It’s interesting since I only ever drive up here once a year (at least for the past 4 years) to see the new things each year. Some things I noticed on this trip – the speed limit was only 45 mph north of Millville – that seemed new. And also, there was a center lane through McGonigle (not to be confused with McGonagall). I know, I know – fascinating stuff….
Okay so onto the real race stuff. I managed to find a place to park on a street that did NOT have a Parking by City of Oxford Permit sign on it, unlike last year, so no parking tickets for me! I made my way with my bike over to the natatorium to pick up my packet, only to find it completely empty. Apparently they moved the packet pickup station to tables out in the lawn. So I went down there to check in. Except there was a brief problem in that it was still dark, so awful hard to see anything in there! Eventually I got checked in, and then got my timing chip (slight delay as I was there so early that they hadn’t set those up yet). One interesting thing I was told was that the swim caps were mandatory this year, which I thought was odd for a pool swim. I mean for an open-water swim sure, makes sense since you want to make sure you don’t “lose” anyone, but in a pool it seems odd.
One of the downfalls of planning enough “buffer time” is that when nothing actually DOES go wrong, you have a lot of time to kill. So after I got everything set up (on the “prime” end of row location, of course), I wandered around a bit. I checked out the parking garage that is right near the transition area to see what the deal was with that (i.e. if it was free). It appeared to be $5-10 to park there, or what we in the “business” refer to as the “sucker’s price” for parking.
Another key piece to my race planning was the post-swim towel placement. In previous years I had placed an extra towel on a set of bleachers that was placed near the swim exit. Basically the idea is that when you get out of the pool, on the way to the building exit (and path to transition area), I would stop, get this bonus towel and begin the drying process a few crucial seconds earlier. Two problems with this though – first, last year the race guy pointed out this bleacher and said you could put towels there, which led to it being a lot more crowded than it used to be. And secondly, the bleachers are not QUITE on the way to the door. So you have to detour a bit to get the towel, perhaps costing you the seconds that you gain.
So this year, I found a new spot – along the railing of the path outside that leads from the swim building into the transition area. Originally I was going to just put it in some bushes, but I found a pretty good spot along the railway that was tucked away somewhat out of sight. The idea there is that I didn’t want a) some race folks seeing it and deciding that it was not allowed and taking it and b) another racer seeing it and deciding “ooh! free towel!”. Later on as I was inspecting the area, I did see several other towels nearby.
Another thing I did pre-race was look for someone. My friend Kent who raced with me last year was not able to do it this year, due to recent birth of twins, but he had passed the info onto Brett, who I also knew somewhat (though not very well). Brett and I had exchanged a few emails about things and said we’d look for each other before the race. So I was trying to keep an eye out for him. Unfortunately, while I thought I would recognize him once I saw him, I was not really sure what to look for other than someone who was tall . But I spotted him before too long and we headed into the pavillion area.
We talked for awhile, and then as we were about to kick off the race, I was mentally prepping for what I would need to do, and realized I had left my goggles back in the transition area. So I had to race back there to get them. When I got there, they had already started up the timers on the pads at the entrance / exit of the transition area, so I had to walk around. Back at the race meeting, it went pretty well. One interesting thing was a note saying that the race organizers had tried to work with CSX to route the trains around the race course but they were un-responsive. And in fact, CSX apparently would not even provide them with a train timetable. They said that they had volunteers at the tracks and a plan to compensate times if it came to that, so that was…interesting and I filed that away.
So after awhile of waiting and watching the first crazy-fast swimmers go, Brett went down to take his turn, and around half an hour later, I went down too. I once again subscribed to the belief that because racers were “seeded” on their listed swim time, it’s better to put down a time that is faster than you actually are. My thoughts are that it a) might help you to swim faster as you try to stay with the racers that are around you and b) it’s faster and less taxing to be passed by people than having to pass people.
While I was down in line, waiting for my turn to start swimming, I was chatting with a few folks near me in line. Even though the original talk was that swim caps were required, later I heard that they weren’t, but I just kept mine on just in case. While we were chatting and such, we noticed someone swimming the wrong way in a lane. With a serpentine / pool swim, you swim down Lane 1 for 50m, then back the other way in Lane 2, then back down in Lane 3, etc. until you are swimming back in Lane 8 and then exit the pool and building. So at the end of each lane, you have to duck under the lane ropes. Apparently when this guy got to the end of Lane 1, he didn’t make it under the ropes into Lane 2and started swimming back in Lane 1. So we’re all trying to shout at him, like we’re in Planes, Trains and Automobiles – “YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!” but he couldn’t / didn’t hear us because, of course, he was swimming (“Ah he’s drunk – how would he know where we’re going”). So after he passed us and it became apparent that he was not going to change directions, we all watched him to wonder what he would do as he got to the end (errr beginning?) of Lane 1. Would he make it under the ropes and start swimming the wrong way in Lane 2, or would he realize his mistake and drop under 2 lanes and start swimming in the correct direction in Lane 3. And the answer is…. c) none of the above. He just turned around and went back in Lane 1. When he got to the end of Lane 1 again, he must have figured it out as he correctly ducked the ropes and got into Lane 2. So I guess for him it was the 500 meter swim!
As it came to be my turn and I got ready to jump in, I readied my watch to start my time. But as I crossed the mat and started my time, my stopwatch wouldn’t start. I tried to fiddle with it and “hit buttons” but I quickly came to the same place I did when my goggles broke back in the 3 Little Pigs triathlon – either keep fiddling or just GO. So I just went. Later I realized that due to the fact that it was Carolyn’s watch and I was not familiar with it and I was just not hitting the right button.
The swim went fine. Nobody passed me till the end of Lane 2, and even then, because of the way the serpentine course is designed (i.e. you pass on the left, but at the end of the even numbered lanes you turn to the right), I passed right back because I had a shorter turn (being on the inside). They passed me right back at the start of Lane 3, and I was periodically passed by folks. Still, it was good, given my relative lack of swim training – I didn’t really feel in trouble and I was able to freestyle swim the whole way.
Made my way out of the swim area and grabbed my (carefully concealed) towel which was right where I left it. Sped through the transition time, putting on my shirt, socks, shoes, shades and helmet and went off on the bike. The bike course was the same as it has been the past 2 years, and I could definitely tell that my timing was not as good. Whereas last year, I was clipping around 16mph heading out, this year I was struggling to make 14. There was a bit of a wind going, but I don’t think that was most of it. I passed a few people and again was passed by some as I anticipated the big bad hill at about mile 3.5. It actually wasn’t that bad – I mean it was big, and hard to go up, but I biked the whole thing and passed about 5 people who were walking it.
The rest of the course was more of the same – rolling hills. The 2nd big hill was more of the same – I biked the whole way up and passed a few people walking. A little bit after that, at about mile 9-10 I heard the train whistle. I got a bit worried but figured that there was plenty of time for the train to go through and I was right – when I got back to the tracks it was clear. But afterwards I talked with Brett and he said that he hit the tail end of it. As he got to the tracks there were about 15-20 people lined up there and he had to wait, though only for about 15 seconds. I’m not clear if they adjusted his time or if so, by how much.
In any case, I made my way back to the transition area and went to put my bike on the rack. Final totals for the bike were 19 passed, and passed by 38 people. Having secured the end of rack spot, I was just scanning for my stuff, but I couldn’t find it! Eventually I figured out that someone had put their bike in my spot and I just put my bike on the rack next to mine and headed out. I have a fast transition time reputation to uphold!!!!
Run wasn’t too bad – it was definitely slower than last year but I felt good and felt like I was going at a pretty good pace. I was kind of expecting to see Brett coming back as I left, but he was apparently much faster than me and had already finished. Run is usually one of my better events, at least after a swim and bike compared to others – last year I passed about 30 people and was only passed by 1 person. This time I ended up passing 10 and being passed by 8. Final kick into the corral and finish!
I found Brett and we talked a bit. There was a table with some snacks / goodies but it had some of those pre-packaged cracker snack packs in it, which struck me as quite possibly the worst possible snack option! I mean, come on race organizers, I’m parched from just exercising for the past 1-2 hours and you think CRACKERS are the way to go?!!? There were also some apples and oranges, but what I really wanted was a banana, which I saw a few folks walking around with. Eventually I dug through the bags enough and found one.
Since the after-race party which was so awesome the first year I did this has progressively gotten crappier and crappier, I didn’t hang around and instead just left pretty soon after the race. And then…. the waiting began. Finally, Sunday night, they posted a version of the times up on the website. I was in 376th of 600 participants (555 finishers). Splits were 11:55 for the swim (which includes the time from when you get out of the pool until you enter the “official” transition area, 1:41 for T1, 55:59 for the bike and…. nothing for the run. Apparently they were still “working out some issues” with the run times and that along with the train adjustments would be up on Monday. The foreboding music of doom from last year began to reprise, just a little bit louder….
Naturally Monday came and went, with nothing. Then on I think Tuesday or Wednesday, they posted final race times, with no transition times at all, and a time of 58:24 for my bike, and 26:14 for the run, overall total of 1:36:34. I emailed to complain, and to ask if the transition times were going to be put back in. The response, from James at HFP:
The transition times are actually included in the bike splits. We had some battery issues with one of the timing boxes, causing some of the transition and split times to be incorrect. So, we included everything together to make it all accurate.
Uhhhhhh I’m not sure how you can say under any possible meanings of the word that just lumping that time into the bike time makes it more “accurate”. Since I’m definitely a complainer, I wrote back:
I’m not sure how you can say that lumping those times into the bike make it more “accurate”?!? As you may already be aware, this is now the 2nd year in a row where HFP “issues” have caused mistakes / omissions from the race times at the MUSF race.
I am not an expert or professional racer. I have limited funds to devote to triathlons, and typically do only one race per year. I have done the MUSF triathlon the last 4 years, and I have to say that it has gotten worse every year.
After last year’s debacle, HFP gave me a 50% coupon to apply to this year’s race. But now, after 2 straight years of HFP equipment malfunctions, I think I have to start looking for another race.
Do you have any kind of assurances that you can provide that we’re not going to see more of the same issues again in future races?
It’s unfortunate that there are limited triathlons in the area on Saturdays, and the only other one I know about here in Cincinnati is at Coney Island and ALSO run by HFP. So we’ll see what to do – but in any case, until I hear otherwise, I’m going to just combine the 2 versions of the times and give myself final splits of:
* 11:55 swim
* 1:41 T1
* 55:59 bike
* 0:45 T2
* 26:14 run
* 1:36:34 total
Thanks for reading, and (maybe) we’ll see you here again next year!!!