This July was my fifth year (attempting) racing this event. My first attempt (my first triathlon) back in 2015 was cancelled mid race and in 2017 I had to withdraw following my bike injury in the 2017 Rev3 Triathlon. So this was my third finish. The weekend is split into a sprint triathlon on Saturday and an olympic distance triathlon on the Sunday. I was entered into the olympic distance event. I’ll sum this up quickly….it was HOT but I finished!!!
It had not done much pool or bike work since last year’s event and it did show at the beginning of this training cycle. However, I was signed up for IM70.3 Atlantic City this coming September so I was using this as part of my training on my journey into the half ironman. Having completed the Los Angeles Marathon back in March I took April easy and started my triathlon training cycle in May this year. The goal was to use a 12 week training plan into this race and roll into the half ironman training for the balance of the cycle.
Going into race week we were in the middle of a sustained heat wave in the area. I kept looking at the temperatures hoping that there would be some relief. A couple of days before the event the race director sent out the following announcement:
“IMPORTANT EVENT UPDATE
We are excited to have you compete with us at the 2019 New Jersey State Triathlon. It’s set to be a hot one this year! Due to the warmer-than-normal conditions forecast this weekend, our operations team will be implementing the following course changes in consultation with local public safety officials:
Sprint Distance – Saturday, July 20
No changes to the swim and bike portions. The run course will be approximately 2 miles. The event will begin as planned at 7:30am.
Olympic Distance – Sunday, July 21
Athletes will complete a 750m swim, one loop of the bike course (13.5-miles) and a 5k run. The race will also start at 7:30am.
We sincerely appreciate the understanding and cooperation from all of our athletes as your safety is our paramount concern. Additionally a comprehensive heat plan will be instituted above and beyond the extensive medical support we have always provided on site.
We’re here for you and the whole New Jersey State Tri team are ready to support you having your best event yet! Good luck this weekend.“
Phew….Essentially they halved all the distances for the olympic triathlon.
My goal for this was to complete the distance. The weather was not going to be conducive to a hard effort and I was not in any danger of pushing anyone of a podium place. I’d use this as planned as an organized (and well catered) workout on the road to my half ironman.
On the day before the race I drove up to Lake Mercer (in Mercer County Park) to pick up my race packet. It was so hot. All the volunteers out in the sun were amazing for their dedication. Race packet was quick and easy (I had registered for the correct event this year) and I also took opportunity to register early for next year’s event. There were some iPads set up for early registration. Unfortunately they were left in the sun and were hot to touch…the one that still worked that is. I took advantage of the early discount for registering for 2020 and signed up for the olympic distance again, only to find out when I came home that we have family plans…luckily a quick email to the race director rectified my error and I was adjusted down to the sprint. Crisis averted. It was so hot I was literally dripping with sweat under the tented areas. It was dangerously hot. The New York City Triathlon was held on the same weekend and it had been cancelled completely for the safety of the athletes. We just had our distances cut back. I was good with the downgraded distance.
Early on Sunday morning I headed down to the race site, got to body marking and made my way into transition with enough time to set up my gear and have time to hit the bathrooms before transition closed. With my age group placing I was not due off until after 8am and the race started at 7:30am. Transition closed around 6:45 so I had plenty of time to walk around before the race. I took a Hammer Gel, some salt tabs and some water before heading out. It was still warm. The race was too warm to be wetsuit legal although that wasn’t really a factor as I’ve never used a wetsuit for this event. It’s usually too warm this time of year.
Finally my age group was called and we went across the timing mat and into the water to the sounds of ‘The Who’ blaring over the speakers. And then we were off.
I did my usual routine of watching everyone go, counting to ten and then setting of myself. The water was warm and visibility as usual was pretty much zero. I sighted pretty well but got bumped and battered a bit on the out part of the swim course. As I was on the back straight of the swim course I started to be passed by some of the faster female swimmers in the group behind but no major incidents. No one dug their fingernails into me this year!!! Once down the home straight I set my sights on the buoys marking the route to transition. Although the swim felt okay I didn’t seem to be making much progress to the swim exit but eventually I reached the swim exit and made my way to transition. Another example of my lack of training was that I pushed the stop button on my watch and not the lap button to move my GPS into transition mode. I noticed that before I jumped on the bike so I missed a couple of minutes but nothing major. My swim time was 22:09 (a 2:57/100m pace). Much room for improvement.
Transition was 6 minutes. I’m not going to move away from Injinji socks any time soon but that does take time each event trying to get the toes in the right place with damp feet 🙂 . At least this year I remembered to apply sunscreen before heading out on the bike. I grabbed a Lara Bar on my way out of transition and downed a couple more salt tabs before making my way out into the heat. I headed out on the bike course for what would now be one loop. I felt okay going out but towards the last couple of miles my legs were getting tired. It’s a flat course so there was nothing serious in terms of effort was required. I put this down to the heat. I was drinking plenty but I’m sure I was losing more than I was drinking. At this point I was happy to be done on the bike. Bike split was 52:25. Not my fastest. Time for the run.
Before I headed out to transition I took a couple more salt tabs, downed some more water and made my way out to the run course with my 20oz hand held water bottle. It was here with the current heat conditions that I was most grateful that the course had been cut in half. The normal 10K run starts with an out and back going left out of transition and the run for the most part is shaded as you approach the turnaround but with this heat 5K was enough for me.
The course winds around the boundary of the park and as it was close to the transition areas and finish lines there were crowds on this part of the course. Within the first mile volunteers were handing out towels soaked in ice water. Welcome relief for sure. I took a towel and squeezed as much water over my head as I could and placed it around my neck as I ran. Turning the corner I saw a trash can full of towels so naturally I thought we had to throw them away. Little did I know that there was another ice station ahead where we could re-wet the towels. Oh well, lesson learned. This part of the course is also an out and back. On the way out I could see that on the other side of the course cold showers had been set up for runners to pass through if they so wanted to cool down during the run. I’d think about it as I ran further out.
The volunteers on this side of the course were offering to throw water on our heads if we asked for it. I was stopping at each aid station for Nuun electrolyte fluid which during a 5K I would typically skip a couple of aid stations. Not today. I don’t recall seeing hoses spraying runners out on the course as in previous years but I’m writing this so long after I may be mistaken. Certainly they were very accommodating for the runners, trying to keep us cool and healthy.
After the turnaround you retrace your steps until you reach the finishing chute. I was so happy to see this and pumped to cross the finish line. Based upon the pictures below you can see I was more than relieved to be done. Run time 33:30. Let’s just put that down to the heat shall we?
Water was handed out to us as soon as we crossed the line. The race also had a mist tent beyond the finish line. Essentially a big tented area spraying cold water on participants. Let’s just say it was very well utilized. While we stood in line for the food tent, volunteers were handing out ice pops to all participants to help cool down. I grabbed my refreshments and headed back to the transition to sit for a while, catch my breath and try and cool down. Not easy.
As I was sitting in the transition area with the remaining participants who were still there we heard a ‘pop’ and someone pointed out that because of the heat, tire tubes were beginning to over heat and explode. Yes, it was that hot. I took my time to pack up and then made my way back out to my car where, once my bike was racked and my gear stowed, I sat in the car with the air conditioning blasting on me for about 10 minutes before I attempted to leave for home.
CGI Racing put on a great event every year and their focus on runner safety is respectable. I’m a fan of their races and as already pointed out, I’ll be back again in 2020.