My pre-race bitching:
I first signed up for Rhode Island 70.3 because the timing was good for being after Eagleman and before Ragbrai. Thought it would be nice to get a big race in, and then relax into corn and porn in Iowa. Then details poured in, the race would be point to point, and then surprisingly, there was no information. It was odd as there was nothing more really posted than a couple maps of the swim, bike, and run courses and the possible need for purchasing tickets for a shuttle bus. A shuttle bus is never a good sign for a race.
Before I give too many negative points about the logistics of this race, let me say that the race itself was very challenging and the amount of spectators was unbelievable. It was pretty damn huge. I was impressed. I guess half of Providence came out to spectate. I do have to give some skid marks to some Brown students though. Those kids may be smart, but based on the ineptitude I saw of two different cars with Brown stickers on driving around, they might be book smart, but definitely street dumb.
What I can say about Rhode Island 70.3 is that they were really attempting on providing a top tier race, but they were so stuck in the details that they missed the bigger picture. Checking in took over an hour and a half. They might have underestimated that all 1700 athletes might want to check in on Saturday and they bottle-necked everything to two kids in a booth horsing around. I heard the line grew to 2 hours at one point in the day. They also went way overboard with the check in procedure, including a weigh in and a median income survey.
Then it got worse. Everyone had to pick up their packet, then drop off their bike at the swim start 56 miles away (meaning a 112 mile round trip). I'm sure everyone was planning on the typical 15 minute packet pickup, 15 minutes in the expo, and then an hour drive to the beach, and hour back, then kicking it for the evening. The two hour delay in packet pickup turned into a two hour drive to the beach because of traffic, then a two hour drive back to the race finish to drop off the running shoes for T2 (the T2 didnt open until late in the day, so you could'nt drop it off after packet pick up).
Liz and I had started our day at 9am and didnt get done until 6pm. We were the lucky ones. As we were wrapping up our day, other people were still heading down to T1 to drop off their bikes as they got really delayed by everything. I think the best solution to everything was just to have everyone drop their bike/run bags at the expo and then have a tractor trailer haul all the bikes that you would check in at the expo to the T1. All the racks are assigned anyways, so just throw the bikes down in the proper spot and drop the bag. It would have required alot less resources. Imagine 1700 people driving their cars 112 miles just to drop off their bikes. Even lets say that on the average two racers carpooled on the way down (some people had 3-4 people, some were singles, most were doubles, but lets say it all averaged out to 2). That would mean that a total of 95,200 miles were driven for this race. That's alot.
The morning off required a bus trip down to the race start. They were really inefficient in loading the buses. They would load one bus at a time and check tickets individually before getting on the bus. It took over a half hour at 3:30 in the morning, which is not a recipe for happy times. I think the best way would have just printed out Bus #6 on each ticket at it leaves at 4am. Find Bus #6, get on, hand in the ticket. Done. No huge line required. In the end it did work out and we arrived at the start with plenty of time, but it did create some uneeded worries.
The Race itself:
The swim was in a protected cove, so in theory it shouldnt have been bad. Today it was really windy and there were good 3 foot waves. The swim was the most difficult and challenging swim I had ever been in. There was chop, wind, and waves all at once. I had alot of practice in the chop of Lake Michigan, and this was a challenge, especially with salt water that gave you a bitter punishment every time you did something wrong when trying to breathe. I was lucking out on the swim because I was nailing the buoy line as the lead zig zagged the course for some reason. I actually ended up not too far off the lead at the end. What was really awesome though, was I caught a couple waves and surfed them in, totally dropping a couple guys I was with.
The bike started out with a little tailwind that pushed the average speed up to 26.1mph, but then it started going uphill and into the wind. The bike course was alot of rolling hills, a few climbs, and alot of turning. People were everywhere on the course camped out on their lawn chairs cheering. It was sketchy at times because there was traffic going in and out of parking lots, so I was always afraid of T-boning or getting T-boned myself. I did find myself amazed at how many traffic cones the state of Rhode Island had, as it seemed there was at least 20+ miles of coned off lanes. The last part into Providence was sketchy. There was high winds blowing me around everywhere, really bad roads full of potholes, and a crazy amount of turns. I seriously think I did irreparable damage to my bike on that last part of the course as I hit a ton of potholes and at one point knocked my chain off, which then got sucked into the frame and left a huge divet in the chainstay. (After the race, they guy next to me had his handle bars pointed straight down. I joked with him that he was in a REALLY aggressive position. He admitted that he hit a pothole so hard it knocked the bars down.)
The run was tough. I'm not sure I gave my all, as my legs feel pretty not trashed right now. There was huge climb 1 mile into the run that also came back at mile 7 on the two loop course. It was like running up a ski hill. The rest of the course consisted of long gradual ups and downs. My first loop was with Oscar Galindez (the men's pro winner) who was on his second lap. He gained two minutes on my within 4 miles. He was moving steady, but he seemed to only be slowly pulling away from me. I had been the 3rd amateur to come in from the bike, worked my way to 2nd amateur and was holding it. The second loop was rough. I felt sluggish and I kept on having to hold back mini-pukes (the "mukes"). At mile 10 I got zipped by a couple guys. One was 28, the other 31. Since the 30-34 had two waves, I could not tell if it was the earlier wave or mine. It didnt matter anyways, as I didnt have it in my to go with him. I tried, but there was nothing left. The finish was on the Rhode Island Capital steps and it was a very exciting finish. I ended up being close enough to the first amateur off the bike to be ahead of him due to the wave stagger, but the guys who had gotten ahead of me at mile 10 had taken me. I ended up 5th overall and 2nd in the AG. I felt I should have run faster, but again, it was a tough run course.
Overall, I felt the event has the potential to be a good event. I think there were growing pains to be worked out, but there definitely is support for it from the city of Providence and the state of Rhode Island. I personally feel that I probably won't put it on the race calendar for 2009 as the logistics were way too much for me. I prefer races where the race is the challenge, not getting to it. The good thing out of all this is Liz got a spot to Clearwater World Championships as a pro, which was a major goal of hers for this year. That was awesome!
ps. In case you were wondering, no, I did not poop my pants this time.