Sunday, June 17, 2012

Race Review: Bandits Challenge Olympic-distance Triathlon

I finished my first Olympic-distance triathlon Saturday. The race itself started with disgust at myself, turned into pure elation, and finished with just straight up suffering.

But first, let's talk about the event itself. The Bandits Challenge is an annual event held at the W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir in Wilkesboro, NC. Wilkesboro is a nice little town in the foothills, just west of the center of the state. The town seems to be growing as many of the restaurants and shopping centers seem oddly new, but the town itself isn't really close to anything, at least from the south. Seriously, the maps show a big hunk of emptiness between Wilkesboro and Hickory to the south. It's a pretty area, though.

I have a couple of complaints about the event, and I'll get to them first, because I actually liked this race and I don't want to leave the review with the last thing being the negatives. My first problem was the race registration on Friday. Registration was from 4 p.m. until 7 at the YMCA. That's fine, I left Atlanta early enough to make it there with plenty of time before the end of registration. The problem is that there was a race information meeting for participants at 6 p.m. at the race site, which isn't the YMCA, by the way. I think it's poor planning to have race-related activities running concurrently in different locations, especially for participants coming from way out of town like me. By the time we managed to feed the baby several times and get everyone in and out of restrooms and a meal squeezed in, we were rolling into Wilkesboro at about 6:05 p.m. I was going to miss the information session at the race site.

Then our next stumbling block arose. Remember when I said that a lot of the restaurants and shops in town look really new? Well, the YMCA is so new that it doesn't exist accurately on any GPS. Our Garmin didn't recognize the YMCA or even the road for its address. My phone with Google Maps recognized the existence of the YMCA, but had it in a slightly different part of town. We ended up having to call the place to get directions, which were luckily quite simple. However, this was a failing on the part of the organizers. I can understand not providing detailed directions for locations that are easy to find and can be easily reached with Mapquest, Google Maps, or a reasonably up-to-date GPS. It seems ridiculous to not provide detailed directions to the place, however, when no mapping system has any idea where you are.

That is my last real complaint about this event. Once at the YMCA, I checked in easily. I would have liked a bag for the stuff I got like most events give you so I didn't have to worry about dropping anything in the pile, but they didn't give you a lot of junk either. Basically, it was just all of your numbers stapled together, the event T-shirt, and your swim cap.

As for the event itself, it seemed well-run. Things happened when we had been told they were going to happen, the courses fro the swim, bike, and run were well marked and the volunteers making sure we made the right turns were always doing their jobs and there were always police at the intersections of the bike course. (The run course was basically a closed course.) There were almost excessive water stations on the run course. Seriously. The course was a 3-mile route you ran twice and featured four water stations that had ample supplies of water and some exercise drink that tasted like marshmallows and crap. That means in the course of my 6.2 miles, I passed 11 water stations, although by the time I got around to it, one water station was abandoned, but it looked like there were water cups on the table for runners to take. I was just too well hydrated to bother. (Yes, that math is weird, but one of the water stations was placed at an intersection so you ran past it 3 times every lap.) There was even a water station halfway through the bike. I have NEVER seen that before. The bike water station was handing out sport water bottles that would fit in your bike cage.

Finally, this is a great event just because of the pure challenge of the course. Triathlon courses tend to be pretty flat. This course most defiantly isn't. Sure, the swim course is flat, but the bike leg featured almost 4,000 feet of climbing over 45k and the run included well over a thousand feet of climbing over 10k. To put that in perspective, I ran up Kennesaw Mountain back in December for a nearly 10k run. This race route included a similar amount of climbing. That's what happens when you run up the side of a rather tall dam three times in the course of 6 miles. If you want to prove to yourself that you can really do the endurance thing, this is a great race to prove that. There were times during the race when I felt defeated and pathetic. Then I came back and looked at my numbers and realized that (except for my horrendous swim), I actually did pretty well on this course.

The details of my personal race experience are coming tomorrow.

1 comment:

Julie said...

You have a baby. Don't you always have a bag around somewhere?