2015 Quantico Sprint Triathlon Recap

September 18, 2015

Yay….the 2015 Quantico Sprint Triathlon Recap is up! One of my goals this year was to complete my third sprint triathlon.  The last time I participated in a triathlon was in 2011 (DC Tri – which no longer exists and the Dog Days of Summer Tri).  In February I signed up for the Quantico Triathlon – I was super excited!

Image: Quantico Triathlon 

Swimming, biking, running…..training will be a cinch…right?! Oh we know how my summer went šŸ™‚

Packet Pickup

Packet pickup was held the Friday before the race from 11:00-8:00PM at the Clubs at Quantico. Knowing how crazy I-95S can be (even during non-rush hour), I left work around 4:00PM and picked Cliff up before heading south.  Cliff navigated me through Alexandria so we could bypass some of the I-495 traffic.  It was our lucky day….we did not encounter any traffic until Stafford. We decided to go straight to packet pickup before checking in at the hotel.  Once we arrived on base we went through a security checkpoint – we showed them our IDs and the guard let us through.

I’ve never been to Quantico before – it is huge! My visit there got me excited for both the triathlon and this fall’s marathon.  Run with the Marines! It did not take long for us to reach the Clubs at Quantico. 

Wait…is this where packet pickup is?

I went inside and there was no line at all. I showed the volunteers my ID and confirmation letter and I was given a huge folder with all my stuff.  There was no expo so I am glad I picked up my fuel the day before.  In the lobby there was a swim start schedule (I was in the yellow wave) and a course map. Waves were assigned based on your predicted swim finish. 

Here is a better picture of the course map.

Typical cheesing for the camera.

I loved the technical shirt they gave.  The material was lightweight and smooth.  Thanks for taking the pictures, Cliff!

I did a little research and learned that there was a Filipino restaurant on base – it had several positive reviews on Yelp.  My registration came with a free pasta dinner (held at the Club) and I could have purchased a guest ticket, but I wasn’t in the mood for pasta that night. 

It was a small restaurant and the owners were very friendly. 

Mmmmm I am ready to go back!

After dinner we went drove to the hotel, the Holiday Inn Dumfries Quantico Center.  It is fairly new hotel 10-20 minutes from the base (there are several other hotels in the area).  Two months before the race the hotel was sold out (this was a partner hotel with a discounted rate).  I checked again a couple of weeks before the tri  and there were rooms available…my guess people canceled.  The special rate was no longer available, but I was able to secure the same rate through my company corporate rewards program. 

Image: Holiday Inn Dumfries Quantico Center

The area wasn’t sketchy at all, but we decided to bring my bike into the hotel room….just in case.  There was plenty of space and I was put my bike sticker on (there is also one for your helmet).  In addition to those stickers, there was a swim cap, running bib, ankle sensor, and temporary tattoos (age on the right calf and number on both arms). There was also a towel in the folder!

Flat Jennifer x 3! There was so much to pack I was afraid I would forget something.  I remembered Cynthia had a Transition Checklist post, so I referred to that while packing.

Bike all ready and body markings applied! They recommended putting on the arm tattoos the night before (I can’t find the photos).  I also put on my calf tattoo, but found it rubbed off the next morning.  No worries….. volunteers were able to body mark me old school – with a sharpie.  

The race packet also contained very detailed instructions (which were also emailed beforehand). 

Transition Area

I woke up around 5:00AM, ate a Picky Bar and drank some water.  Cliff helped me bring my bike to my car and wished me luck.  I couldn’t tell if the course was spectator friendly (not many vantage points by foot), so I told Cliff he could sleep in since I was getting there two hours before the start.  I arrived onto the base around 5:30AM (when the transition area opened) and was directed to the parking area.  I took my bike out, re-attached the front wheel and pumped some air into the tires.  In order to enter the Transition Area (athletes only) you needed to have your bib showing – mine was already on my bike.

I quickly found my transition area -108 – and set up my space.  See that zebra towel? I picked it up a couple of years ago at Old Navy for $5.  It is easy to spot, which is nice.  My row was pretty good about alternating their bikes.  See how my bike and 106 are racked the same way? Bike 107 would rack the other way (who never showed up, so we both had more room) to maximize space.  Apparently it is not a rule to alternate the bikes – I heard a participant flag down a USAT official because the bikes next to her were facing the same way, but they said that her neighbor was not breaking any rules.  After I finished setting up, I talk to my neighbors (many first time triathletes) and walked around the transition area. Sunrise over the Potomac was stunning!

It was fun walking around and checking out everyone’s set up and bikes.  There were some fancy ones!

I checked out where we would Swim In, Bike Out, Bike In, and Run Out and listened to the participant briefings.  

During the briefing it was announced it was 60F outside and 70F in the water – making it wetsuit eligible. I didn’t rent a wetsuit and figured the August water would be warm enough for me.  At 6:45AM the transition area was closed and we all headed to the water for a swim briefing before the tri began.  Participants were allowed to practice in the water ahead of the briefing, but I was afraid I would be too cold once we exited because of the air/water temperature difference. 

Race Goals (ā€œAā€ least probable and ā€œCā€ most probable)

Although this was my third sprint triathlon, it has been four years since my swim-bike-run debut.  I found my results from the 2011 DC Triathlon (thanks to Athlinks) which was an 800 meter swim, 20K bike, and 7.5K run – a tad longer than the Quantico Tri:

  • Swim: 17:06 or 2:08/100 yard (I definitely had first OWS panic + wearing wetsuit for the first time)
  • T1: 5:01
  • Bike: 1:11:12 or 10.47mph
  • T2: 2:36
  • Run: 1:10:09 or 15:03/mile
  • Total: 2:46:02

I was not too ambitious with my goals, I probably could write a book post on what not to do when training for a triathlon. I really wanted to use this tri as a time trial/baseline for the future (I’ll write about my 2016 plans once marathon season is over). 

  • A – Faster average in all three disciplines
  • B – Break 2:23:00 (I adjusted my DC Tri time based on the shorter distance)
  • C – Finish the Quantico Tri

Quantico Triathlon

We all gathered by the start for the swim briefing and the National Anthem.  Then we were off!

Image: Quantico Triathlon

Swim – 750 meters – 19:22 or 2:33/100 yard

This was the first year the swim portion was open water.  The previous two years the swim was in the Clubs of Quantico pool.  I grew up swimming year round and consider my self a pretty strong swimmer….in the pool! As you all know, I did all my swim workouts in the pool….mistake!

Image: Quantico Tri

We swam in the Potomac River (much different and probably cleaner than what we are use to closer to DC).  Each wave waited behind the balloon arch until they were summoned (about five minutes apart).  I thought I would finish between 14:00-16:00 min based on my (indoor) 100 meter time. 

Image: Quantico Tri

This was an in-water start (in between two red buoys) and the organizers sounded the horn when it was time for us to go.  I’m not sure how that works timing wise, I suppose it is adjusted at the end (we crossed the mat on the beach). Here is a picture of the swim course (drawn by yours truly since I do not have a watch that can go into the water).  As you can see I drew an optimal swim path and what actually happened….I swam a whole lot of extra.  I did not practice siting….oops! Even with bilateral breathing (breath to both left and right) I could not see the buoys all the time. 

My arms and legs felt find and I made my way up the hill towards the transition area.  We entered through the Swim In tent and crossed the timing mat.  I finished with 19:22 or 2:33/100 yard.

Transition 1 – 3:07

I got to my space and toweled off.  I sat my little behind down on the grass to wipe my feet and put on my socks.  This girl did not want any blisters since I had a long run the next day.  I’m glad I switched out my shoelaces for some lock laces, it made it so much easier to put my running shoes on.  I strapped my Garmin AND Fitbit on (of course..cannot miss my steps) followed by my helmet before exiting the transition area.  My T1 time was 3:07. 

Bike – 20K – 59:20 or 12:57mph

I hopped on my bike and began my 20K or 12.4 mile journey.  This was going to be interesting since I hardly spent time on my bike before the race (most of it was on a spin bike).  The first mile or so was spent getting use to my gears and finding a position that was comfortable for me.  I made sure to stay to the right since I knew my bike leg was not very strong.  I heard a lot of “on your left” and “you can do it” which was comforting. There was one gentleman more like angryman who yelled at me to move over to the right.  I thought I there was 12 inches of road to my right…hmpph. Overall most people were polite and I thought there was plenty of space to share.   

The course had uphills, flats, and downhills – so it was nice to work different muscle groups.  My arms and upper body tired quickly because I held onto my gears for dear life.  I also was soo scared to go fast during the downhills, I would apply the breaks through the whole coast.  There weren’t mile markers the entire way, but when I saw the first one approaching I thought…ooooh we must be at least at Mile 6…….nope….it was Mile 3!! Haha…I laughed at myself and said there will be more bike time in your future Jennifer.   More time = more comfortable.  There were mile markers every 3 miles and finally 59:20 or 12:57mph later….I saw the dismount volunteers by the transition area.  

Transition 2 – 1:33

I quickly re-racked my bike and put on by bib (I used a bib belt so I did not have to fasten my bib with safety pins). Since I do not yet bike with cycling shoes, I already had my running shoes for the run portion.  I drank some water and ate some Shot Bloks while I ran towards the Run Out tent.  I was pretty happy with my T2 time of 1:33. 

Run – 5K – 38:39 or 12:25/mile

I (silly me) did not do any brick workouts prior to the triathlon, and boy were my legs heavy! The first part of the course took us over the below pedestrian bridge.  Of course the ramp up towards the bridge was painful.  

The majority of the 5K course was in a wooded trail on the base.  It was really neat because there were signs pointing to several obstacle and training courses for the Marines.  I really really wished I took pictures of the course. Although it was a beautiful day the sun was starting to shine and it was nice to run in the shade. I brought my water bottle, but there was a water stop half way through the run.  There were some baby hills (seriously baby), and boy they burned.  

  • Mile 1: 12:27 Not bad Jennifer… a hovering around MP
  • Mile 2: 13:10 Used run/walk interval 
  • Mile 3: 11:56 Back to running…oh yes negative split! 

We ran along the trees for the final stretch of the course (shown above) and rounded right towards the finish line (see below).  I finished the run at 38:39 or 12:25/mile, not too shabby. 

We were given our medals and handed a clear plastic bag.  

We were told to pick up one of everything in the food tent – so organized!! 

The best summer post-race treat! A huge slice of juicy watermelon. 

Here is summary of my results: 

  • Swim: 19:22 or 2:33/100 yard
  • T1: 3:07
  • Bike: 59:20 or 12:57mph
  • T2: 1:33
  • Run: 38:39 or 12:25/mile
  • Total: 2:01:50 

I had a faster average in all disciplines except for the swim portion (which was my “A” goal).  I was happy with my results and I know what I need to work on for next year (oooh…. what is next year?!).

This was the first time medals were awarded to participants – I thought it was a fun and unique design.  

Final Thoughts

Overall I thought this was a well executed and well organized race – not a surprise since it is the Marine Marathon organization that hosts it!  

  • The price was right at $98.90 – such a steal for everything! Including a pasta dinner.
  • There were about 500 participants, so not too big or overwhelming.  
  • Communications were on point and I appreciated all the briefings they had that morning.  
  • I believe there was a bike tent outside the transition area if you needed help before the race started.  
  • Thanks to all the Marines and civilians who volunteered. 
  • There were plenty of hotel options in the area.  
  • Those who are new to swimming…have no fear….this section of the Potomac is shallow.  I am 5’3″ and I was waist deep at the start and could stand throughout the swim portion. 
  • Also, when you walked to the swim starting buoys it was mushy and suctiony on the bottom…not sure what it was… don’t want to know what it was. 
  • The water is not clear.
  • Nice triathlon for beginners. 
  • I did commit a race no no.. I wore a new SOAS Racing kit.  I probably spent a good five minutes jogging in it the week before the triathlon.  Luckily it worked out perfectly for me! I had no chaffing at all and I was comfortable wearing it throughout the entire race. Thanks to Cynthia and Tracy for their input! 
  • Maybe next year I can have Cliff drop me off and he can come later for the finish now that I am familiar with the course.   

Here are some of my lessons learned/takeaways for each leg: 

  • Swim – Practice open water swimming and siting.  Incorporate swimming year round (maybe Masters or Tri Club) and include sprint/interval work (just like running).
  • Bike – Is the area I could take a huge chunk off my time. Actually practice on my road bike – both inside and outside. I plan on purchasing a trainer to use year round (will be great for the winter months).  One of my friends suggested I get my bike fitted.  Hopefully this time next year I will be stronger on the bike and will be clipping into them! 
  • Run – One word – bricks! 

If you can guess…there will be more triathlons for me in 2016 and 2017 (of course still plenty of running).  I now have a baseline and there is so much room for improvement.  I’ll be back next year Quantico!

Do you have a favorite Sprint or Olympic Triathlon you recommend? 

Is a triathlon on your bucket list? 


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    1. Congrats!!!! What a great race-I’ll have to keep it in mind for next year! I’ve only done two sprints (Presque Isle in Erie, PA–LOVED IT, Pink Power in Richmond–meh). I hear good things about the Kinetic Sprint Tri at Lake Anna, which is one I’m thinking about for next year. Can’t wait to see which tri(s) you choose for 2016! A bike fit is a must, it will definitely change your cycling–for the better!
      Stacey recently posted…Weekly Workout Recap {9/7-9/13}My Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thank you!! I googled Presque Isle and it looks like it would be a beautiful course. I’ve heard good things about Kinetic as well (or any tri at Lake Anna). I’ve bookmarked/followed the VMST site for ideas. Bike fit is first on my to do once the marathons are over.

    1. You had some great transition times, Jenny; you had a great day, I think, and everything worked out so well! I find it interesting that most triathlons I’ve been to (there haven’t been too many…) have felt pretty laid back, with regard to packet pick up, planning, etc., which is kind of weird because I feel like there’s so much more involved than in a regular running/road race! I hope it’s that way this weekend, since this will be the first time I participate – ha! Way to go!!
      Tara @ Running ‘N’ Reading recently posted…Friday FavoritesMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Tara, you made a great point! It was all very laid back considering the logistics. I told Cliff I was so tempted to register for another tri right away (like as in couple weeks later), but hauling all the gear does get a little tiring and I should focus on you know…the marathon stuff šŸ™‚ Based on your pics looks like the weekend went well for your relay team. Looking forward to reading more about it! Thanks!

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Yes! Hope you will be there. Do you think you will do IronGirl again? I’ve know I will be looking at all your tri recaps again once I finalize my schedule for next year.

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Kelli – thank you! Now is nice to have an idea what I need to concentrate/work on and what time goals I should aim for over the next year. This will be addicting for sure šŸ™‚

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thanks, Sharon! I told Cliff last night I was craving it again haha. I will need to learn how to make it. That is great a tri is on your bucket list. I bet there will be many options for you out in Cali!

    1. I’m so amazed by how well-organized this was! Love that they gave you temporary tattoos for your numbers. I always think those look so much better than Sharpie and they seem easier to see.
      I’m confused why that girl in transition thought the bikes had to alternate? I’ve never heard that “rule” before. I feel like the bikes usually face the same way because there’s only one side for the bike exit and everyone wants to have theirs in whatever direction is going to be easiest and fastest to get out…
      I’ve learned that there are ALWAYS grumpies on the bike no matter what you do! Some people need to lighten up tbh.
      It catches me off guard every time I see your tri kit šŸ˜‰ Looks great on you! I’m glad it was comfortable, that’s definitely the most important part. It took me a while to get used to wearing tri tops since I prefer loose tanks for running because the spandex ones tend to ride up, but I don’t really have that issue with my SOAS kit.
      Loved your recap and can’t wait to hear what you have planned for next year!
      Tracy recently posted…The Words Just Come and I Write Them As Soon As I See ‘EmMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        You know what was interesting – it was pretty easy to clean off the sharpie following the race! I think one of girls next to me (who looks very seasoned) tried to placate the lady and said that chances are the person would probably not finish at the exact same time as her and that she should have room in her transition area. That made sense.

        Thanks for all your recs and tips (email and blog)! You were right, I got several complements on the race kit. The coverage was pretty nice too. It did take a couple minutes to get use to swimming (not too much drag). Excited for the next year!

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thanks, Elizabeth! You can do it! I wonder if tri kits will be in Oiselle’s future hehe šŸ™‚

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thanks, Coco! I think you would be pretty strong if you did a tri. You are pretty good with getting on the bike šŸ™‚

    1. Way to go, Jenny! This post has actually made me want to add a sprint tri to my to do list for 2016. I’ve been thinking about it on and off for a few months (a new-ish coworker of mine is a triathlete and her race pics always look so cool). Like you I grew up swimming so I think I could handle that okay, and the running portion should be okay, but I don’t like biking very much. I don’t have any padding on my butt (lol) which makes almost every position uncomfortable for me. Maybe I just need to find a better seat for my bike. I’ve heard the narrower the seat the better?
      Kristina recently posted…Chicago MotivationMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        You should! Hmmmm I think with all my spinning classes, my butt must have gotten numb to it lol (plus I have alot of padding). Maybe the local bike store may have suggestions as to how to fit the seat better?

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thank you, Leana! It was very comfortable and plenty of coverage. Loads to work on for next year – but I am excited.

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thanks, Chaitali! I think that is what helped me with the swim, knowing the bottom was right there. The logistics are a bit crazy and I’ve read for some of the 70.3 and IM there can be separate transition areas for swim-bike and bike-run.

    1. Great race, Jenny! I loved reading your recap since I don’t know much about the TRI world. The open water swim sounds so intimidating but it sounds like you took everything in stride and finished strong!
      Sun recently posted…Playing Catch UpMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thank you, Sun! When I trained for my first tri I went through the University’s Beginner Tri program so that was helpful. I pulled up some old notes I had from the class.

    1. i’m so excited about this recap! i definitely want to do a triathlon and 2016 is what i’m aiming for for my first (planning on getting a bike for christmas). like you, i swam in high school and i’m not too worried about that, but i am terrified of the bike portion! i think your times are amazing and i will definitely be picking your brain about gear recommendations when i start focusing on tri-prep.
      brittney @ corral b recently posted…chicago half training: weeks eight, nine, and tenMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Aww thanks! Yes definitely email me and I’ll let you know which sites to check out etc. I’m still learning more and more each day! Both Cynthia and Tracys blogs are great – if you are interested in reading more tri stuff šŸ™‚

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thanks, Jennifer! I hope you do one day šŸ™‚ I always hear about so many tris that are held in NJ.

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