ScottIronman Wisconsin (North American Sports race organaizer)
http://www.ironmanwisconsin.com

EveryMan Rating: 1 Brewskis

Rating Scale (based on the amount of beer needed after race)
• 4 Brewskis So excruciatingly painful and lame you’ll need a full year of recovery just to forget this race
• 3 Brewskis The best thing said and remembered about race is; I finished
• 2 Brewskis Challenging race in a masochistic I’d could do it again sort-of-way given enough time and Ibuprofen.
• 1 Brewski Good solid race that exceeds your expectations
• No Brewski A must-do annual event for both friends and family

The Race:

This race (over the past three years), unlike any other North American Ironman in recent history, has been defined by the weather.

2005 --- So hot that you could fry an egg on your disk wheel, and so humid that you could poach the egg simple by standing over it and wiping your brow.

2006 --- So cold that for the first and only time in Ironman history the Coke provided on the run was actually cold, and so rainy that the aid station volunteers did not need to fill up the water cups, but just let mother nature fill them from the great water hose in the sky.

2007 --- Pretty near perfect conditions except that the clouds did block out the gentle and warm sun in the mid afternoon for a few fleeting minutes.

2008 --- ?

You'll have to take this review with a grain of salt as I raced IMMOO it in 2007 and my experience was most certainly and all together different from those who raced in 2005 and/or 2006. In any Ironman race the weather is always the silent and often critical variable that either makes or breaks a race. For me in 2007 the weather Gods smiled and I swam in a dead calm lake, biked under a gentle sun, and ran with the aid of fluffy cloud cover. It just doesn't get much better and you can read my race report HERE and HERE.

The Racers:

Let's face facts. On the whole when it comes to IM race weekend we Ironman racers tend to be a nervous, selfish, self-absorbed, worried, tense, gitty, confused, slap-happy, eager, crabby, panicked, terrified, and about a hundred other emotions that can drive your average hotel concierge bonkers. 

What makes IMMOO such a great race can be summed up in two words: the "Volunteers" and the "Locals". It is the volunteers and the locals that make this race so special. Unlike any other Ironman race that I've done, it is these folks that will bring the smile to your face when you arrive in Madison.

The fine people of Madison really treasure this race and it shows. It shows in the TDF like gauntlet of fans that line streets in Verona between the first and second bike loop.

It shows in the thousands of spectators that crowd the streets near the capital building as you exit the transition area.

It shows in the thousands of students that get drunk in the racers honor as you run through the University area of Madison.

But mainly it shows in the hundreds of volunteers and locals that never cease to smile from the moment that you register to the moment that you cross the finish line.

This is a race that's much loved by the locals and so by association are the racers. This is especially important when you are having a bad moment or two as you will certainly have before, during, or perhaps after the race.

DqswimThe Swim:

Two-loop swim in Lake Monona in downtown Madison.

For me the Swim was by far the worst part of the race.

Not because:

- The swim was cold: It wasn't, the water was near perfect for a wetsuit swim.

- The swim was rough: It wasn't, the water was glass-like calm and very easy to sight the big buoys.

- The swim was confusing: It wasn't, the course is two big and lazy loops that I could swim in my sleep.

No, the real problem with the swim is that it is perhaps too easy.

Here's a fun fact that you may not know. The average IM swim is about 1:20 to 1:25 in duration. So if you happen to swim the 2.4 miles in about an hour and twenty minutes you are right in the heart of the biggest IM bell swim curve. This means that you have the most athletes around you trying to get to the exit of the swim. In fact you, and several hundred others, are one big rat moving down the stomach of the snake toward the end of the swim.

For me this meant that I was was unable to get one clean swim stroke during the entire swim.

Some of you may think that I'm exaggerating a wee bit here, but I'm not. Everywhere I tried to swim I hit somebody or somebody hit me. I could never get into a comfortable swim rhythm, and I paid the price by having my slowest IM swim of my career.

But that's not what cost this race a perfect No-Brewski rating. What cost the race the perfect score were the hundreds of "athletes" who cut the corners and the fact that the race officials did nothing about it.

I know that it may seem reasonable to cut the inside of buoy when you are with hundreds of other athletes heading for the same corner, but when you do this seven times at seven buoys  (the first time by a few feet until you are cutting buoy corners by yards) you shorten the swim from 2.4 miles to 2.0 miles. And that's cheating plain and simple and a DNF no matter if, how, or when you cross the finish line.

More importantly, in my book, when the race organizers look the other way when hundreds of athletes cheat, the cost is a perfect Everyman No-Brewski rating for the race.

TransitionTransition:

Unlike any other race I know of IMMOO is held in and around the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison. This means that transition (the changing area at least) is inside a carpeted and air-conditioned building while the bikes are waiting for you in the outdoor parking garage.

Monona Terrace was designed by Frank Loyd and it is pretty spectacular (at least as convention centers go).

Because of the unique design of the convention center you get to run up and bike down these large spiral parking ramps coming and going in and out of transition.

You also get to change in the cooled and carpeted rooms of the convention center with comfy chairs and plenty of transitions volunteers, snacks, and drinks. I saw more than my fair share of athletes who were having a hard time leaving the cool confines of T2 for a late afternoon marathon.

The Bike:

Image for a second a giant lollipop. There is of course the stick and the round sugary part that you lick. That's pretty much what the IMMOO bike course looks like. You fly down the spiral parking ramp out of transition and head out to the town and hills of Verona. Once you get to Verona you bike around two big and hilly loops(the sugary part of the lollipop) and head straight (the stick) back into downtown Madison.

Out of all of the long triathlons I've done this is probably the one that is most suited for a regular road bike. The only part where you really get the benefit of the areo bars are on the straights heading to and from Verona. The loops around Verona are wildly hilly and you are rarely ever in the areo bars as you are either climbing, or turning, or descending too fast around corners to be in the classic areo position.

What makes the hills around Verona challenging is that they are these small choppy little pain-in-the-ass bumps with an attitude that never really allow you to get into climbing mode or descending mode. You are just constantly, climbing, cresting and descending, and that's a hard way to spend 112 miles.

On the positive side the countryside is spectacular with diary farms, forest, fields and best rural scenery that Midwest America has to offer. Plus, the crowds in Verona are massive and they almost make taking on the piss ant hills worth the effort.

RuntherunThe Run:

As I get to be an old hand at these races I'm really starting to hate the typical Ironman marathon course. Unlike a big city marathon like Chicago, Boston, or New York, the IM marathon is always bit too loopy for me. I like to run through a city and start and end in two different locations.

But for obvious reason an IM marathon always starts and ends in the same place, and has you making multiple loops around, through and in town. The IMMOO course is two big loops through Madison.

You get to run on almost every running surface know to mankind and that includes, cement, concrete, dirt, railroad tracks, streets, paths, sidewalks, and even AstroTurf as you run through the University of Wisconsin stadium.

There's one big steep hill (that everybody walks) one big lake (that everybody loves) and one big capitol building(that signifies that you are at either the beginning, middle, or end or you run). 

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

I'll start with the good news. The run is truly interesting with plenty of points of interest to look at, and massive crowds that gather at both ends of the two loops.

The bad news has to do with those little mileage signs. Perhaps this is only me, but I hate seeing that I'm either on mile 3 or 13. This is hugely demotivating for me on the first loop when I'm just on mile two and signs starkly reminds me that I have 11 more miles to go before I'm even at the halfway point of the marathon.

The Race Expo:

The Race Expo is right in front of the imposing capital building between the Capital and the Convention Center as well as inside the Convention center. It features the same old Schwag that you can also buy inside convention center at the IM store. If I were you I would skip the expo and head to the farmer's market around the Capitol building on Saturday afternoon. 

Unless you are really a hardcore triathlete and you really need to discuss the subtle virtues of carbon wheels with the Zipp rep., your time might be better spent tasting the subtle virtues of the local homemade Amish chocolate chip cookies at the farmer's market.

Versona2FYINTKS (For Your Information Need To Know Secrets):

- Get to the start of the race early and into the water ASAP. The timing mats are set-up under a big black arch that you must cross before you get into the water. The area for doing this is about 4 feet wide and when I raced there were still several hundred athletes trying to squeeze through the arch and get into the water the as the gun sounded. Perhaps that's why so many of them felt the need to cut swim corners.

- This is one race that you don't need a tri bike. A road bike with clip on areo bars may be a better bet in the long run as you'll spend less energy climbing the short but steep hills of Verona. The gearing on a tri bike is just too tall (think too hard to pedal up steep hills in your smallest gear) for all but the most talented and hardcore triathletes/cyclist.

- Be sure to get your finisher's photo...especially if you finish at night. The finish of the race is right in front of the blazing Capital building, and this makes for an incredible photo of you crossing the line with the Capital ablaze in light in the background.

- Don't kill yourself on the bike. This is one of the harder bike courses and it is certainly all too easy to leave it all out on the bike course. The smart race strategy with the race is to build into it and leave plenty of power and energy for marathon.

- Don't dilly dally in T2. I know that it may seems cruel and unusual punishment to leave the cool/warm confines of the convention center but get out on the run ASAP because transition count.

- Finally, check and recheck the weather for your race day. Even if you think it may be a perfect day bring all of your cold and hot weather stuff with you to Madison. I'd be willing to bet that I got lucky and the weather will always be the silent and often critical variable that will either make or break your IMMOO race.

 
 

Kansas70Inaugural Ironman 70.3 Kansas Race Review
http://www.ironmankansas.com

EveryMan Rating: 3 Brewskis (except that I did not finish)

Rating Scale (based on the amount of beer needed after race)
• 4 Brewskis So excruciatingly painful and lame you’ll need a full year of recovery just to forget this race
• 3 Brewskis The best thing said and remembered about race is; I finished
• 2 Brewskis Challenging race in a masochistic I’d could do it again sort-of-way given enough time and Ibuprofen.
• 1 Brewski Good solid race that exceeds your expectations
• No Brewski A must-do annual event for both friends and family

The Race

There's a popular surf shop in Lawrence, Kansas were you can purchase a cool shirt that says "Surf Kansas" with an image of a women carrying a surfboard through a corn field. This shirt pretty much sums up my feelings about the inaugural Ironman 70.3 held just outside of Lawrence at the nearby Clinton Lake.

We're not in Kona anymore Toto!

I'm sorry but you know I just had to get an early Wizard of Oz reference into this review.

In other words, the race is really trying hard to capture the spirit of the Ironman Kona World Championship but you can't escape the fact that it is in the middle of hilly Kansas corn country. Which, by the way, is about as far as you can get from Hawaii...if you know what I mean.

In the interest of full disclosure you should know that I did not get to finish the race because it was called due to bad weather. You can read the full race report HERE.

However I don't think that I'm being unfair to the race with a full 3 Brewskis rating just because I did not get to finish it. If anything I'm grateful to the race organizers for putting me out of my misery. I just don't think I could have a taken another loop, out and back, uphill, down hill, and did I mention loop and out and back?

The problem with the course is that it's just plain hard and not very interesting. This race (topographically) most closely resembles the Wildflower Triathlon, which is very similar in terms of the terrain, but very different in terms of scenery. Where Wildflower has trees, flowers and naked aid stations, the Kansas 70.3 has corn, tall grass and a camp ground stocked with beer (not that there's anything wrong with that).

BTW: The most fun part of my entire race was during one of the endless run loops through the campground were a bunch of not-so-sober campers set-up a homemade aid station with a big sign proclaiming, "Sponsored by Busch" (as in Anheuser-Busch). For a smile the racers could grab a free can of beer to help with pre...no make that...on the run carbo loading.

True Story: The guy next to me grabbed a cold one from the station and his girlfriend, or perhaps wife said, "You're not going to drink that are you?"

I thought to myself, "Girl you did not just say that at mile 8 on the run?"

I suspect he wanted to shout.."You bet I'm going to drink this beer." But instead he took a tiny sip, gave the cold frosty can the very saddest of goodbye looks, and tossed it into a trash can before I could offer to help solve his dilemma.

The Racers: 

For some unknown reason the racers in Kansas can't swim straight. I'm not joking about this in the slightest. I've never had this happen to me before, but I had at least ten racers make a sharp right turn straight ahead of me. You know, I'm just swimming along going straight for the next buoy when the guy or gal on my left decides to just turn right for no apparent reason. It was almost as if they just spotted the wrong buoy, and unfortunately it was over my right shoulder.

I did get an email after the race from a fellow non-finisher asking me if I felt the current in the lake? Which I did not, but perhaps some of the more body fat challenged (as in they don't have enough body fat types) did feel the current and were swept right with the current.

KansasSwimThe Swim:

The nice part of the swim is that the course is just one big counter clockwise triangle so if like to breath to your left, and hate to get out of the water for a second or even third loop, this swim is for you. Just watch out for the mysterious current and the water treading swimmers. I managed to T-Bone one racers (so hard I heard him gasp) with my head. I felt really really bad until somebody cut in front of me again, at which point I wish I had added a blinking red light to the top of my swim cap.

The water temperature was warm, the water was your typical Midwestern lake water and of course the hills (at least on the swim) were pretty flat except for a few boats that churned some distant waves.

Transition:

Wet, as in, "my it is really really wet in this transition area when it rains." Otherwise the transition was orderly and right next to the start and finish of the race. In fact the transition/start and finish areas are in the middle of a bloated figure eight on the run course. This means that you get to run right by stuff about 4 times during the run. Too bad you can't get back into transition without messing up the chip timing for that forgotten energy bar or rain coat.

KansasBikeThe Bike:

I can sum up the bike in three "H" words and one "W" word.

Hot

Hilly

Humid and for heaven's sake don't forget...

Windy

I don't think that there is any other words you could possibly add to make the bike harder.

OK, I just thought of two words:

Snow and Tornado!

But I don't think there's much of a chance of the first word and the second word might actually make it colder, wetter, and certainly windier.

You better love to ride out and back because the bike course has three. And I remember every single excruciating one of them. The last one is especially painful as I averaged something like 2.5 mph up the hills and into the wind and 1054.9 mph back downhill with the wind.

The Run:

On the run you better thrive on running loops around a camp ground as in run around loop A and B and C and D, and so on because that's what you'll be doing for 13.1 miles.

You'll have the fun and thrill of watching happy-go-lucky campers BBQ, drink beer, eat brats, play catch and just relax while your legs are screaming from pain. Did I mention that the bike is hot, humid, hilly and windy?

Don't get me wrong the campers are great fun and some will actually watch you run by with a beer in one hand and a ready to assist squirt gun in the other, but it all gets really old, really quickly. And what's really baffling in that on the entire 13.1 mile run you'll see the lake for about 5 seconds (twice).

No watching the beach boys and babes as they frolic in the water. No watching the sailboats or powerboats as they ply the murky but cool waters of Clinton.

You might as well be in any landlocked campground in the Midwest because for some reason the race organizers have gone out of their way to hide the lake during the run.

For me there is something cooling and nice about running next to a body of water so I really missed seeing the lake as I snaked my way past yet another, car, camper, tent, toilet, and RV.

The Race Expo:

The Expo is held in downtown Lawrence in an empty parking lot. Not much of interest to say about this small expo expect that you can enjoy the local surf shop and micro brew after you pick-up your packet and race Schwag.

My bag of Schwag (for some strange reason) included my finisher's shirt. And you have to believe that giving out the finisher's shirt before the race has got to be bad Mojo..it certainly was for me.

FYINTKS (For Your Information Need To Know Secrets):

- There are so many loops on the run that if you decided that perhaps your race time is better served by running a 10.4 mile, or perhaps 8.9 mile half marathon, you could certainly do so without much fear of ever missing a timing mat. Please note that I'm not encouraging this illegal loop hole in the loopy run, but instead pointing out a potential problem to the race organizers that should be resolved.

- Parking at the race site can be a problem. Unless you enjoy a mile long pre-race hike with all of your gear, I would suggest that you get to transition early. Also, once the race starts it can be almost impossible for spectators to drive to the finish. They should either plan on joining you in the pre-down hours, or get a camp site, or be willing to hike about a mile to see you cross the finish line.

- The weather in Kansas in June is like the weather in Florida in June but without the ocean, or the ocean breeze. Plan on heat and humidity and plenty of water.

- There was no cola (except for one station at the very end), or pretzels, or fruit at any of the aid stations by the time I got to them. I have to admit that I'm a big fan of anything but power bars and power gels when I get to the run part of the race. Alas this race offered only the standard packaged power aides without the variety of fresh, frozen, and/or unhealthy junk food snacks that I so long for during the run.

- And in case you were wondering, unlike Kona, there is no surfing in the Kansas corn fields...at least none that I saw.

 
 

EveryMan Rating
2.5 Brewskis

Rating Scale (based on the amount of beer needed after race)
- 4 Brewskis: So excruciatingly painful and lame you’ll need a full year of recovery just to forget this race
- 3 Brewskis: The best thing said and remembered about race is; I finished
- 2 Brewskis: Challenging race in a masochistic I’d could do it again sort-of-way given enough time and Ibuprofen.
- 1 Brewski: Good solid race that exceeds your expectations
- No Brewski: A must-do annual event for both friends and family

The Race
www.sommersports.com/events/greatfloridian
Here’s a funny story. The start of the 2005 race was delayed by about a half-hour by the police. It seems there were three cars parked in the parking lot which served as run up to the transition area. The police felt it was unsafe to have these cars “parked” there as they might pounce in front of hapless racers.

I remembered this odd start some 14 hours later as I was running in the pitch-black Florida night, into oncoming traffic, on a road with no shoulder, wearing only a spaghetti thin neon glow tube.

Thank God they held up the race start and put orange cones around those cars. They may have belonged to somebody who might have left early and ran over me on the run. ;-)

The Great Floridian Triathlon is really three races in one. There is an Iron distance race, a half iron distance race and some sort of super-sprint, which I assume is very short. (of course we all know what happens when one assumes)

The Great Floridian Triathlon is also the national long course championship. I’m really not sure, as were most of the racers, what the International long course distance is, but the winners in each age group can go to the International Championships in Australia and find out.

I raced the full iron distance and I kept seeing see the half competitors. They were the ones passing me on the bike. My wife was happy to have the company of several hundred half competitors. I got real tired of constantly being passed by these half weasels that only had to do one 57-mile loop.

I suspect the race organizers need to have three races to make this a viable event. But running out of water on the second loop of the bike is a pretty lame way to save money.


The Racers
There are a lot of the old-school types still doing this race. You know that kind that have been racing for the last 15 years and still wear those shin high red stripped socks with some funky old-school Puma running shoes that might actually be hip again if they were worn by somebody 30 years younger.

There are also a lot of great people in this race. I cannot say enough good things about the racers that I met before, during and after the race. A huge shout out has to go to the Iron Penguin who raced this course too many times to count, and who organized a pre race inspection of the run and bike courses. Dude you are great! From now on just call me the Iron Dumpling.

There was also a huge group of Brazilian racers from Miami, who made the race very interesting by their bravado and considerable lack of clothing. There was a fun group from Chicago, who swept many of the awards, unfortunately wearing way too much clothing.

There was our small band of racers from Colorado, who had the huge advantage of altitude of set by the huge disadvantage of heat and humidity.

And of course no one will forget Wilma, who thankfully showed up a day late but never the less managed to spawn a few tornadoes right on the race course. Thank goodness we were able to watch her from the safety of our hotel room in Orlando the day after the race.

The Swim
The swim is two long triangles through the murky waters of Lake Minneola. And when I say murky I mean this water is so black that you can’t see your hand in it as you swim. The race organizers blamed this dark water on the natural tannins in the lake. I suppose swimming in the dark water is like swimming in a fine Merlot.

A nice touch on the swim was the water station between the two loops. And unlike the bike, there was no swimming uphill.

Transitions
Transition areas were well manned with very cheerful and very helpful volunteers. Once you figured-out the dizzying number of bags and what to put in them, you are set to race. The half iron weasels didn’t get in the way too much but the changing tents were extremely hot. I felt bad for the volunteers who had to staff them all day expect for the dude who got my water.

I asked for a cup of water as I was changing into my run clothes. The helpful volunteer ran right up to the cooler, got a cup, poured a large cup of icy-cold water, and drank it.

The Bike
The bike course consists of two 57-mile loops in and around Clermont. Now I know that two 57-mile loops added together equal 114 miles and not the “proper” 112 miles. But that’s what my bike computer said and others confirmed it, like the Iron Penguin, so I’m sticking with it. Never argue with the Iron Penguin.

The bike course is not flat, and boy is this an understatement. If you want a flat course I suggest you try Ironman Florida which has one hill, which also happens to be a bridge.

The Great Floridian is similar to IM Wisconsin. Worse yet the race organizers like to put the hills around every right turn. Oh look there’s a right turn. It must mean I’ll be OUT of my saddle again.

The big hill is called Sugerloaf, which comes the second time around at about mile 95 into the race. The good news is this hill allows you to really stretch your sore legs by walking up a 13 percent grade. Just bring plenty of water because there was none at the tail end of the bike. Those half weasels drank it all on first loop. Did I mention I was constantly being passed on the first loop?


The Run
The run is a 10K out and back and three 7ish mile loops around the lake. It is almost entirely flat unless you consider the massive sideways camber of the road a hill. You should, as it really hurts to run on this rode. But than again you have no choice as there is no shoulder.

Some of the high points of my run included the snarling pit bulls that provided extra incentive for a wining time, and running by yourself in the pitch black night past several unmanned aid stations.

There is however one of those huge searchlights at the finish line, the kind that car dealers seem to favor. It illuminates the evening sky with glorious rotating lights. It calls to you in a teasing sort of way. “Come here and be done mon ami. Oh…but you are only on lap one, no no no no of you must go back into the murky night.”


NTKS (Need To Know Secrets)

- The “mandatory” marathon at the end of the race seems very voluntary indeed. No body was checking my number at the end of out and back part of the run and nobody was counting the loops but me. And no there were no timing mats on the run. I suspect a few competitors may have set a “personal best” on the run.

- There is a famous aid station on the run manned by the mad dogs. This is a must do aid station as these folks know how to party. In fact all the volunteers along the race were great. Thanks guys for you encouragement. Without you it would be much a harder race as there is no crowd support along the racecourse.

- There was second great aid station this year manned by the Flintstones. These were folks dressed up as characters from the Flintstones cartoon. Get it: Wilma. The women of this aid station were especially out going since they seemed to be drinking a wee bit. On every loop they become friendlier and friendlier offering hugs, kisses and dare I say even a kiss or two of the French kind.

- There are great big trophies for the top ten places in each age group. I actually got a great big trophy as I took 7th in my category. And hey nobody but us has to know that there were only eight Clydesdale competitors.


 
 

EveryMan Rating
3 Brewskis
Rating Scale (based on the amount of beer needed after race)
- 4 Brewskis: So excruciatingly painful and lame you’ll need a full year of recovery just to forget this race
- 3 Brewskis: The best thing said and remembered about race is; I finished
- 2 Brewskis: Challenging race in a masochistic I’d could do it again sort-of-way given enough time and Ibuprofen.
- 1 Brewski: Good solid race that exceeds your expectations
- No Brewski: A must-do annual event for both friends and family

The Race
http://www.floridahalfironman.com
If you like the combination of extreme heat, humidity and Mickey Mouse, this race is for you! This is certainly one of the most family friendly races on the triathletes’ calendar. While you sweat and toil assembling your bike, the family can be out having lunch in Germany or France at Epcot or perhaps a more exotic African fare at the Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

While you sit in the blazing sun at the pre-race meeting the kids can be frolicking at the nearby beach. And while you race through the bike unfriendly streets of Disney’s back lot, the family can be sipping a cool lemonade or Ice Tea at Fort Wilderness. However all this family-fun does come with a price…a very hefty price.

I’m now a complete believer in the Disney business plan. They have perfected the art of maxing-out your credit cards with a smile and a song. (In my case it was the 2 hour Hoop-Dee-Doo Music Review which came to something a bit over $200 for my small family)

Indeed, the hardest part of this entire race is opening the credit card statement on your return home.

The Racers
I asked the super buff guy at the pool where he got his rub on Ironman tattoo which was prominently blazing red in the mid day sun. He gave me a look of total disregard contempt and said in a heavy French accent, “This is not a child’s tattoo. She is real!”

I considered this for a while and decided that while I certainly use many fine products and services daily, but the thought of tattooing myself with a corporate logo of their manufacturer was a bit much. Can you image the conversation with your spouse. “Honey the dishwasher does such a great job that I just added a Whirlpool tattoo to my left shoulder.”

“That’s great dear, it just looks super above your Volvo and American Express Tattoo’s. I’m getting my Playtex tattoo done tomorrow.”

By now you may have guessed that many of the racers are the Ironman hardcore international types. Not to be out done, many of the local racers are also the hardcore Ironman types. I met another guy from Wisconsin who had a tattoo (real) of every IM race he had completed. For instance, the Wisconsin race featured a prominent smiling cow above the IM tattoo while the Florida full IM featured a happy leaping porpoise.

The Swim
The swim is a lope-side triangle. Athletes start in about 20 waves. As usual, the Clydesdales and Athenas started in one of the very last waves. Note 1 to race organizers: we are getting a bit tired of always being last. Is there a secret race director manual that says that Clydesdales and Athenas must start last because they will drink all the beer? Do race organizers get a secret thrill in seeing us big boys struggle through the mid-day heat while all the pro’s and small girls have long ago finished the race?

Except for the rumors of triathlete eating alligators, the swim is very pleasant. The course is well marked. The water is warm, not wetsuits legal. There is only one big loop, which means you won’t get caught up in many elbow battles. Enjoy the clear water and keep an eye out for fish in the shallow parts.

Transition
Note 2 to Organizers: Black Astroturf like carpet is a really bad idea in Florida.

The transition is on a beach and the IM folks had kindly covered most of the beach in black carpet. It felt great to walk on and run on in morning while putting our stuff into transition. I loved the feeling of soft sand covered by soft carpet. The same cannot be said later in the day. A crash course in hot coal walking would certainly have been helpful during the first and second transition. We were all jumping around like kangaroos trying get out feet into the bike shoes.


The Bike
The bike course winds its way through the back lots of Disney until you hit the mean streets of Orlando and the country roads further out. Friendly Disney security guards cheer you on as you fly through their property. It would have been more helpful if they actually stopped the traffic. At one point a bunch of us big guys were almost taken out by a sleepy-eyed Disney employee who mistook the racecourse for own personal highway. He came at us head on in an old Dodge. He didn’t seem to be bothered a bit by the bikes that were flying left and right to avoid a head on collision.

The other unpleasant surprise is how hilly the bike course gets in the middle. Who thinks of big hills when they think of Florida? No me until I had to get out of my seat as the road turned up and continued to climb for a half mile at a time.

It was then that I also noticed that it was getting a wee bit hot and muggy. I usually can’t tell when I’m sweating on the bike. Climbing the hills in the mid-day Florida heat, I was more like Sponge Bob than Simon Lessing, who won the race, and who I was sure was already done as I headed back to the transition area for a second round of coal walking.


The Run
The run was changed in 2005 to two loops in and out of the Fort Wilderness Disney property after many complaints about the old Golf Course segment. The good news is that the part of the run that meanders through the shady tree-lined Disney property is great. The bad news is that the part of the run that winds through the of the semi-trailer parking lot, the hot asphalt bus and RV choked main road entrance to Fort Wilderness and the dusty and rutted path that follows the dry cannel back to the property really sucks.

It especially sucks when it is well above 90 degrees with 100 percent humidity and not a cloud in the sky to provide any shade. It especially especially sucks when you hit the first aid station back on the property and some well meaning volunteer hands you a cup of coffee hot coke. Now that’s the type of sensory overload memory that will stick with you for a while.

NTKS (Need To Know Secrets)
- If you are really sick of the heat on the run, the siren call of the finish line may just be too strong to resist. It is only a matter of making a right instead of a left and you’ve just finished the run in record time by avoiding that “mandatory” second loop.
- Compared to the Chicago Triathlon the transition area is actually pretty small but just wait until you start out on the bike. Make sure you know how to run in your bike shoes. You’ll have to run through the transition make a right, run over a bridge, make a left, run down a path, make another turn and run down a road until you get to the point where you can actually get on the bike. Figure you might as well add a mile or two to the half marathon while pushing a bike.
- Beware of hot coke. It kinda tastes like defeat.
- Note 3 to organizers. The best part of the race is having your family at the finish. It is almost worth the heat, humidity and warm coke.


 
 

EveryMan Rating
2 Brewskis


Rating Scale (based on the amount of beer needed after race)
- 4 Brewskis: So excruciatingly painful and lame you’ll need a full year of recovery just to forget this race
- 3 Brewskis: The best thing said and remembered about race is; I finished
- 2 Brewskis: Challenging race in a masochistic I’d could do it again sort-of-way given enough time and Ibuprofen.
- 1 Brewski: Good solid race that exceeds your expectations
- No Brewski: A must-do annual event for both friends and family


The Race
http://www.chicagotriathlon.com

From the official Chicago Triathlon Web site, “With over 7,500 participants and 100,000 spectators, the Accenture Chicago Triathlon is known as the world's largest triathlon. This year (2005) it will become official with an attempt to set a World Record for the World's Largest Triathlon.”

Large certainly best describes this race. As in large transition area (think solider field- sized). Huge distance from swim exit to transition (think the average daily jog for a beginner runner). Big holes and bumps on Lake Shore Drive on the bike course (you’ll come to understand why many racers are using full-suspension mountain bikes). Long wait before start (You could finish the entire race in the time spent waiting for your wave start). Huge lines for the few available porta-potties. This is could also official be the world’s largest quadathon testing not only swimming biking, and running but also intestinal fortitude and Olympic caliber bladder control.

The Racers

The typical field consists of a highly explosive mixture of newbies, weekend warriors and hardcore pro wannabes. From the rapid to the rotund to the rowdy, this race has it all. Running in to the finish in 2004, I saw several guys who looked like they had a very up close and personal view LSD (Lake Shore Drive). On a positive note they seemed proud of their road rash as a exclusive souvenir of having finished the race.

The Swim

Image putting about 250 race ready athletes into your neighborhood swimming pool and you’ve got the start of the Chicago Triathlon. The swim consists of two swim lanes that run along the Monroe Street Harbor sea wall and make up the Olympic Distance swim. This is an especially great race for all those who have perfected the art of swimming over/under/through other swimmers as huge splashing waves of racers enter the water every few minutes.. A very talented swimmer could potentially swim the entire race on the backs of others. I found open water for about 2 minutes before I hit the next wave of slower swimmers. I also had to find a good doctor after the race for a nasty ear infection I got from the lake water. You’ve been warned.

Transition

You know how some people like to bring a balloon to mark their bikes in transition. You might consider finding one of those novelty stores that sells life-sized balloons of Dumbo because anything smaller will just get lost in transition. Image the long term parking lot at O’Hare Airport on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving but with bikes instead of cars and you’ve got the image. Word to the wise: In 2004 it was a bit on the windy side ( and by bit I mean freaking hurricane conditions) as befits the windy city. I think some racers over did it with their balloons as I swear I saw what looked like several LiteSpeed bikes high above Lake Michigan on their well way to Canada.

The Bike

The Olympic distance bike course consist of two loops up and down LSD if and when you have managed to negotiate your way through transition. This is the only race where you’ll need a separate water bottle just to make it in and out of transition. A GPS might also be helpful.

A full suspension mountain bike may indeed not be a bad choice for this race. It would certainly help you negotiate the maze of bumps, ruts, potholes, cracks and fissures that is the paved surface of Lake Shore Drive. The tight steering angles afforded by a mountain bike would also help you avoid the dozens of stationary and mobile obstacles along the two loops. Some of my favorite stationary obstacles included dozens of stray water bottles and nutrition bars, a full set of aero bars (eek), a broken bicycle seat (ouch) and what I can only assume and hope was a dead rat (yuck).

Some of my favorite mobile obstacles included a very big girl on a cruiser with way under inflated tires bopping up and down like Mary Poppins on a Sunday ride. From the “now I’ve seen it all file”; dozens of rolling orange cones whipped-up like tumbleweeds by the 40-mph winds, pro wannabes who, whipped up by their egos, zipped in and out of bike traffic yelling at all to get out of their way, and massive waves, whipped up by the winds, that crashed onto LSD like surf rolling onto a Hawaiian beach.

The Run

The run course follows the lake shore South from transition, around the Shed Aquarium, to McCormick Place and back North to the finish on Columbus Drive. Once again your first challenge if to find your stuff in transition. Last year the balloon parrot marking my spot had long since freed itself and departed leaving me wandering transition like a lost child at Costco. Having found my running stuff, and the run exit, I happily exited transition (only later did I realize what a terrible mistake this really was please see NTKS) and began the run.

As a slow Clydesdale, I hate the run. This is the part of the race some runners just love to really stick it to us big guys. They come bounding by us like some crazed kangaroo on uppers on your way to a 30 minute 10K. The Chicago Triathlon has lots of these run weasels. Last year I was prepared. Not only was it cool (a Godsend to us big runners) but I also had a bit of secret. And no I did not pump my butt up with steroids, or slurp human growth hormone like Jose Conseco at his annual physical. I had however lived and trained at 6000 feet above sea level giving me the legs of a running god…all be it a somewhat chunky and long in the tooth running god. No matter, I still ran the flat, twisty and cool course in a PB making me forget all the crazy stuff from the rest of the race.

The Race Expo

This is a true must go expo as it is the largest and most packed of any race as befits the size of the race. Actually you really must go to pick up your race packet and get body marked. With your numbers in place, you get to enter that exclusive world of triathlon racer a full day or two before the race and show off to all your neighbors, friends and family. You can think to yourself “That’s right Mr. Chubby neighbor. I may be cutting the grass today I’m doing it with the form and physique of a race ready triathlete.” Plus there’s lots of free swag to be had at the expo and you get the added benefit of savoring the pre race buzz, without having to break a sweat.

NTKS (Need To Know Secrets)

- You have two choices to get to transition from the swim exit. This is about a half a mile run (I’m not kidding here). You can run on the broken concrete path in your bare feet or you can run in the grass, but the grass hides broken glass. The smart move: Bring your running shoes and stash them at the swim exit. The time is takes to throw them on is well worth the beating your feet will endure from either the broken concrete or stashed glass.

- Transition bike placement: The smart move: rack you bike as close to the bike exit as possible. If you stashed your shoes by the swim exit you’ll wear them to your bike (remember transition is huge) and you’ll also avoid much running time in your bike shoes out to the bike exit. On the way back you’ll also avoid running very far in your biking shoes to your stuff.

- After the race, the line to get back into transition to get your stuff is longer than the toilet lines. Getting your stuff out of transition can take hours. The smart move, while everybody is in a huge line (at the South “run” end of the transition area) to get their walk around to the bike exit (North of end of the transition area) and avoid the long wait.

- Parking your car. If you get to the race late you’ll have a hard time parking your car. The smart move: get to the race early (transitions opens at 4:30 a.m.---no winning you are a triathlete after all) and you’ll have plenty of free street parking just around the corner from the race. As an added bonus you won’t have to wait in a huge line to get into transition, plus you can rack your bike right by the bike exit.

-It may take hours for your wave start. The smart move: get lucky with your race start time or bring a good book, Ipod and or friends and be ready to enjoy the wait.


 
 

Wf8 25th Anniversary Wildflower Triathlons Festival Review http://www.tricalifornia.com/wildflower/2007

EveryMan Rating: 2 Brewskis (BYOB as they don’t sell it in the park or within 10 miles of the race) Rating Scale (based on the amount of beer needed after race) • 4 Brewskis So excruciatingly painful and lame you’ll need a full year of recovery just to forget this race • 3 Brewskis The best thing said and remembered about race is; I finished • 2 Brewskis Challenging race in a masochistic I’d could do it again sort-of-way given enough time and Ibuprofen. • 1 Brewski Good solid race that exceeds your expectations • No Brewski A must-do annual event for both friends and family

Wf3 The Race

They call Wildflower the Woodstock of triathlon. As I’m sure you may recall Woodstock was best known for sex, drugs, mud, and of course rock and roll. I think the reason that people equate Wildflower to Woodstock is that both take place in the country and both involve camping. However, I found that that the only things the two really have in common are the drugs (think EPO instead of Marijuana and Steroids instead of Cocaine) and of course both begin with the letter “W”.

Wildflower is really three triathlons over the course of the weekend. On Saturday they host a Half Ironman and Mountain Bike Tri and on Sunday it is the turn of the Olympic distance athletes to race. Both the Half Ironman and Olympic distance race are big events with about two and a half thousand athletes each.

This unfortunate side effect of this two day race schedule is that you really can’t party on Friday or Saturday night as somebody is always racing the next day. Of course this does not stop the thousands of college kid volunteers from partying or getting naked (more on this unique Wildflower tradition in the Need to Know Secrets).

Wf6 This year the race was best summed up by the 3 “H”s

Hot

Hilly

And

Hard

For the half Ironman race you can also add a “W” to that list for Windy…and you’ve got a hell of a race.

If you are thinking about doing the half Ironman be prepared to add about a half hour to your usual half finish time and don’t be surprised if you end up with a PW (personal worst time)

For the Olympic Distance race you can safely add 15 minutes to your normal finish time and also call it PW kind of day. This is mainly because the only flat part of both races is the transition area.

The Racers:

The half Ironman race brings out the ultra fit and elite of the triathlon community and this year that crowd did inexplicably include Santa Claus. I’m not kidding. I saw a guy that if he were dressed in a red suit and suspenders would make my young son weep with joy.

As I was biking out to visiting some raceAthlets at a distance camp ground I saw Santa bringing it home at about 9 plus hours into the race.

You go dude! That’s the type of real effort that made me and the elves proud.

I raced the Olympic distance race and this was the usual mixed bag of weekend warriors and talented amateurs.

Wf2 The Swim:

The swim takes place in oddly named lake San Antonia. I say oddly because I was expecting Lake San Antonio to be in Texas. The water is cold, clean and crisp. The swim makes a sort of “P” and both races feature wave starts.

I found sighting (read swimming in a straight line) to be especially difficult as you swim into the rising sun and you really don’t have any markers or discernable natural features to use for sighting beyond the buoys.

Note to any and all race directors: just plopping a bunch of big orange buoys into the lake a half a mile apart is not setting up an adequate swim course. Perhaps you should try to swim your own course before you make the rest of us do it to see how easily you can see the tiny orange dot on the horizon.

Transition:

Your transition spot is assigned by your race number. This was a bit confusing for us Olympic distance types as the numbers on the bike hangers match the race numbers for the Iron Distance bibs. Unknown to many of us, we only had to match the last three numbers of our race numbers to that of the bike hanger number. This made for many early morning mix ups worthy of the Three Stooges

Wf4 The Bike:

Hills, hills and more hills.

The bike course is purely an up and down sort of adventure You spike your heart rate on the way up from the two mile long climbs that make many a newbie walk their newly acquired triathlon steeds in a humbling display of the benefits of being thin. And you spike your heart rate on the way down as you fly at almost 50 mph back into transition and try not to crash into trees, cars, suspicious bushes, and mostly other cyclist coming up on your left, and runners going down on your right.

If you love to climb this is a race for you. If you are like me and you are carrying extra weight, you’ll pay the price and then some.

The Run:

The run course loops around the park and up and over several large and painful…guess what? Hills.

Yes, just when you thought you were done with the bloody hills you notice that a never ending uphill climb as you struggle to make your legs work on the run. Wf7 For us Olympic distance athletes the hills did provide a welcome opportunity for a relaxing stroll. I would say that about ninety percent of the athletes around me walked at least some portion of the two mile climb that is the key feature of the 10K run.

Reports from the half Ironman suggest that many more people actually ran the entire run, but then again in general they did tend to look like much meaner and leaner triathletes.

It is worth noting here that the run on both the Olympic and Iron distance race does end in a quad crushingly steep one mile descent into the finisher’s coral. You can make up huge chunks of time on this last mile, but beware your feet will certainly pay the price if you race like I did without socks.

The Race Expo:

The expo features a wide assortment of vendors that you will certainly be happy to see as you discover that the TSA has confiscated your CO2 cartilages.

The race takes place in rural California with the nearest bike shop about an hour away. This means you are pretty much stuck with whatever food you brought to the race. You can purchase food at the expo but the choices are limited to crepes, burritos, hot dogs, pasta, and stir fry. That’s all there was this year and after four days of the Wildflower burrito I was ready for something a bit less carnival like.

Also the race expo does feature bands like Woodstock of yore but I never managed to hear one play. This is especially odd as I was always at the expo buying this or that while snaking on the fifth burrito if the weekend.

Wf5 FYINTKS (For Your Information Need To Know Secrets):

• Transition never seems to close. They say that it does but it never really did. So no need to get up crazy early as the rousted college kids who man the transition gates will allow you to come and go at will.

• I stood in the “restricted’ start area of the half iron distance race and watched wave after wave leave without any issues. My suggestion is that you sleep in a bit and get to transition just before the start of your wave.

• If possible get to Wildflower early. The race consists of numerous camp grounds located around the lake. You’ll want to be as close to the expo/transition as possible unless you enjoy a long and very hilly bike/shuttle/walk to and from all the action and food.

• You better love camping. No matter if you rent an RV, as we did, or decide to tent it you better enjoy camping. This means communal showers, stinky toilets, dust and dirt, and the wide open bright, shiny and cold nights of spring is all yours for no additional fee.

• And yes on both the Olympic and Iron Distance course you will have the pleasure of a topless for boy’s, and even bottomless for girl’s aid station. They, the naked bits, just sort of jump out at you as you round a corner or crest a hill. You are racing hard and the next minute you are hugging a topless coed with all sort of wiggly and jiggly bits all lousy goosey as God intended. It is something that is certainly unique in the sport of triathlon, and perhaps only possible in California at Wildflower while camping and racing in the middle of pretty much nowhere.

For more Everyman Triathlon click HERE.

 

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