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RACE REPORT: NATION'S TRIATHLON 2014

The triathlon season here in the Northeast US is wrapping up as temperatures drop.  It's tough to believe it's already almost mid-November!  It seems like yesterday we were preparing to ship out the first batch of Kickstarter orders, and now we've almost wrapped up our first full season selling the Switch Aero System!  This season has been a whirlwind, and we got to wrap up our season on a high note by participating in the Nation's Triathlon in Washington DC.  The event was actually in early September, so obviously this race report is a bit overdue.

Erik and I started the weekend that way we often did this season - by meeting hundreds of racers at the Triathlon Expo on Friday and Saturday, where we were demonstrating our products. It was amazing to see all of the different people who were racing, from first time athletes all the way to the elite amateurs.  Thanks to everyone who stopped by to say hello - it was awesome to see so many racers rocking Redshift gear!  Unfortunately, standing and talking to people for two days straight is not exactly the ideal preparation for a race, and it didn't fit the "heavy, extended taper" triathlon training schedule that we had rigorously adhered to for the past several months (a.k.a., the "sofa+Chipotle" training plan). Nevertheless, we were excited for the race. Both of us had spectated the event on multiple occasions while living in the DC area, but never had the opportunity to participate.

The race takes place in downtown Washington DC, and weaves in and around the monuments and memorials along the western end of the National Mall. It's an incredibly picturesque setting for the race, especially considering you're smack dab in the middle of one of the largest cities in the US.  

When we arrived in transition early Sunday morning, we were greeted by the usual thumping music and flurry of athletes preparing for the race.  Everyone had racked their bikes the day before, so setting up our transition areas was relatively simple. Despite some heavy rain the evening before, the weather was pretty much ideal on the morning of the race. The temperature was in the mid 60s at the start, and climbed up to the mid 70s by the end of the day.

However after a couple of routine announcements, the MC casually mentioned that the triathlon's swim portion had been canceled due to water quality issues related to heavy rain the night before. Instead, the swim leg of the triathlon would be replaced with a 200 meter dash into transition, effectively converting the triathlon into a wacky duathlon. This development elicited the following reactions from Erik and Stephen, respectively (I wonder who's the better swimmer...).

Ironically, right before the race, we ran into a competitor who was also a tunnel/sewer engineer for the city of Washington DC. She assured us that we definitely did not want to be swimming in the Potomac following any sort of heavy rain.  So, while we were disappointed not to get the full experience of the triathlon, we were also happy not to get E. Coli! Definitely not something you want in your race goody bag!  Honestly, I felt the worst for the relay swim leg competitors - these guys and girls had gotten up at the crack of dawn and paid a lot of money to basically stand around for several hours, run for 45 seconds, then stand around again for several hours. Sad.

In order to preserve the illusion of the swim leg, the organizers forced everyone to start barefoot with no shoes, socks, helmets, or sunglasses allowed. Luckily, they decided that spraying the athletes down with freezing water would be inhumane, so we were mercifully dry for our sprint into transition. So after the fastest "swim" leg of all time, Erik and I threw on our gear and headed out on our bikes. The bike course is a winding two-loop affair with a dozen or so relatively tight U-turns. Luckily we were in one of the earlier waves, so we didn't have to deal with too much traffic on course. The course is also relatively flat, making it a perfect opportunity to shift the dual-position seatpost forward, tuck into the quick-release aerobars, and really hammer.

Rolling back into transition, we ditched our bikes and headed out onto the beautiful run course. The course loops around the perimeter of Hains Point, a peninsula that juts into the Potomac River. The course is more or less a loop, with minimal out-and-back sections. Personally, I prefer loop-type courses because I find them mentally easier than out-and-back courses (I'm looking at you Philadelphia Triathlon...). The weather was absolutely perfect for running - puffy clouds in the sky plus a shaded run course made for a really enjoyable experience, even though the legs felt heavy. I'm sure the lack of the swim at the beginning of the race also made the run feel easier because we had more left in the tank.

Crossing the finish line, we were greeted by the Etihad Airways flight attendants (Etihad was the presenting sponsor), who were handing out medals to the athletes. It was sort of funny to see the very proper, well-dressed flight attendants trying to lasso hundreds of wobbly, sweaty, disgusting finishers.

Overall, it was a great race experience, even given the swim cancellation. I highly recommend doing this race if you get the chance. It's a flat, fast course, and the scenery is tough to beat in any urban race. We are definitely planning on returning next year, and next time Erik hopes to exact his revenge on the swim course!

With the race over, Erik and I packed up our gear, hopped back in the cars, and headed straight to the airport to fly out to Interbike in Las Vegas (the major bike industry trade show for the US & Canada). Things have been a bit crazy since then - thus the late race report.

In related news, Brittany Ballard (one of our favorite customers) qualified to race in the women's elite amateur category, and finished fifth in her elite debut! You may remember that we met Brittany at the Philadelphia Triathlon where we spotted her rocking the Redshift Switch Aero System.  Congratulations to her on an amazing inaugural race.  It's especially exciting considering that the swim is one of her strongest disciplines - we'll be looking for you on the podium next year!

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