Skylands Sprint Triathlon 2014

Brass band warming up

Brass band warming up

Today a group of friends and myself took part in the 28th annual Skylands Sprint Triathlon held at the Spruce Run Park in Clinton , NJ. This was my first attempt at this race, this year’s event had two race(s0 an Olympic and sprint distance triathlons, as well a aquavelo and duoathlon, something for everyone..  This would also be Jose’s first full triathlon,  and some sibling bragging rights were at stake.

The race is organized by the local Rotary organization who do an outstanding job. This is also a USAT sanctioned race, and with that the course referee’s were out there issuing instructions and  the refs were clearly visible on motorbikes throughout the bike portion.

The Swim

Lake swim course out and back

Lake swim course out and back

After a short warm-up swim, it was time to start the Sprint Triathlon. Jose and I were in Wave #2 of the sprint race, over the timing mat we went and waited at the shoreline for the beach start. The official sounded the start and into the water we went. Being a direct out and back course I decided to stick close to the buoy line. Its a nice gradual beach entry  so within a few yards your swimming. From there it was just a matter of maintaining the pace. I managed to draft off of a few swimmers as we approached the yellow/orange turn buoy.  Then after hitting the  turn around buoy, I just settled into a rhythm and again tried to focus on staying on a straight lien to the show. As I approached the beach the bottom of the lake offers a nice gradual color change from dark to sandy beige and you know your next to the shore. My swim performance was as expected and I have continued to improve my swim all year..

Jose’s experience were a bit more challenging, this being his first open water swim in a competitive environment, he described everything as going well up until the first 100 yards, then he took in some water through his nose, which caused him to become a bit disorientated and from there the swim became more challenging as his slow pace, coupled with other swimmers crossing his path, and struggling to breath in as he described choppy waters, made for a slow harrowing swim making him swim with his head up most of the way, and taking in quite a bit of water as the wind and head up swimming proved difficult. But he managed to make ashore in one piece.

The Bike

Start of bike course Van Syckles Road

Start of bike course Van Syckles Road

After a short 300yd run from the beach to the transition area I hopped on the bike and I elected to ride my road bike for this course. I was in and out of T1 a little slower than expected, but was on the road soon enough. Because the Olympic race was already on  going there were plenty of riders on all sections of the course.

The ride is mostly out of the park via Van Syckles road, and there is a short gradual climb before you get a gradual drop onto a flat section before turning right onto Route  173. At this point at about mile 3, you begin the climbing, pretty gradual at first 2-4% gradient, then next to the gas station you make a right, and it drops a little bit, before reaching the main climbing section of the course, starting at about mile 5.

the Hill

Skylands Triathlon Bike Course (hill section)

Skylands Triathlon Bike Course (hill section)

You probably have heard/read about the hill on this course. The challenging part begins at around  mile 5.2 on Stoltz Road, the climbing starts right before the  right -left turn onto Mountain View Road. That’s where you see the distinctive incline. I had anticipated this and was in the lower chain ring. the hill can be broken down in two parts.

The first part is a steady 9-10% grade incline that lasts about a quarter mile, then it levels off to about 1-3% grade for about another .1 mile, before the steepest ramp at about mile 5.6, here the grade kicks up to 14-16% for a few hundred yards. This is definitely the portion were you may need to zig-zag (cut the gradient) to aid in the climb, or walk the bike.. no doubt you’ll  need your lowest gear for this.

Of course I was riding around with “bad luck” today and he decided to make a stink as I clicked into my lowest (largest cog), the chain skipped over it and jammed between the cog and the spokes on my rear wheel, so I dismounted, and just ran with the bike to the crest of the climb where it leveled out before I mounted it again, very frustrating..

Once back on the bike your near the top it flattens out a bit and a left turn signals you’ve reached the top of the course, there’s still a little more climbing in the next mile, and of course, my freaking chain again jammed in the cog on the last little ascent before you begin the downhill portion. So again off the bike and reset the chain. The cause here is I installed a new chain the prior day and didn’t properly  adjust the “H/L” adjustment screws on the rear derailleur… lesson learned no bike maintenance (untested) the day before the race.. Once back on the bike, It was mostly downhill to the finish .

Jose commented he was still recovering from the swim when he got on his bike and didn’t feel he got his cycling legs until near the end of the bike/  But nonetheless he managed to claw back 5 minutes on the bike segment, erasing parts my 7 minute advantage.

the downhill

Once you see the S-turns you’re about to be deposited onto a nice smooth long straight downhill of Route 173, that’s about 3-4 miles of 30-40+mph speeds, just stay to the right and follow the volunteer course directions, plenty of police is there for traffic control. From there I cranked it the best I could back into the park to complete the 13.6 mile course.

The Run

Balloon adorned finish line..

Balloon adorned finish line..

After racking my bike, I grabbed my run gear and headed out on the run. the run course was different this year, turning left into the park. From there it was mostly a smooth run on an access road in the park. I knew early I did not have the pep as runners started passing me, one kid some 22 year -old who I passed on the bike whizzed by me, and other runners started moving past me pretty quickly.. At this point I still hadn’t seen Jose, but I knew I was fading. I looked down and tried a few burst of sub 8″ mile , but no good.

At about the 1.3 mile mark of the  run, at the boat launch turn around, I started looking behind me hoping not to see Jose, but, there he was and when I saw his signature white baseball cap , he waved to me, I knew I was caught.  about a minute later he came besides me commented about his  harrowing swim and then went ahead to finish ..  At this point I was dejected and likely slowed my pace fruther, the run continues to be my biggest weakness in triathlon, I seriously need to work on it in the winter..

The rest of the run course was pretty nice a mix of shaded sections and some trails as you come around and run along the lakefront of the beach where the swim began… then its through the lakefront facilities and a right turn onto the nicely balloon adorned finish line.

Finish and Results

Post race photo with friends

Post race photo with friends

Jose was there at the finish and a congratulatory high five, as I crossed the line about 3 minutes behind him, disappointed with my performance but happy my brother made it through his first complete triathlon, afterwards we met up with some of Christine’s friends and chatted about the race..

Name Swim T1 Bike T2 Run Finish
Jose B. 21:18 3:15 48:36 (16.8mph) 1:09 24:00 (7:45/mi) 1:38:16
Tony B. 14:57 2:36 53:09 (15.4mph) 1:10 29:55 (9:39/mi) 1:41:46

Rotary Club Race Organization is Fantastic

I can’t say enough good things  about the Rotary club that organizes this race, they do a fantastic job, on so many fronts. so let me just point out a few highlights for you…

  • Great athlete communication, besides there website, the race director made sure we all aware of race day schedules and course updates through various emails prior to the race.
  • Race morning is a breeze the race doesn’t start too early (8-9am depending on distance), parking and packet pickup race morning is a easy and uneventful. If you get there early there’s plenty of time for a warm-up swim.
  • The entire race course is very well marked, plenty of buoys on the swim course and lots of lifeguard , rescues divers and other water support is out there.. great signage and volunteers on bike and police coordinating traffic control and good water aid station support on the run course.
  • Very affordable, this is probably the best value in terms of triathlon for this region , this year’s pricing was $65/Individual entry for Sprint tri, with that you get the regular goodie bag, nice comfy t-shirt , chip timing ,State police traffic control, lifeguards, water rescue,, excellent volunteer support on the course, post race lunch (hot lunch  + the usual oranges, bagels and bananas, ice cold soft drinks and sports drinks )  and even a freakin brass band was there! this is triathlon nirvana! .
  • Rotary presenting check to Homeless Veterans organization

    Rotary presenting check to Homeless Veterans organization

    Lots of post race activities, raffles, name that tune give aways, hot  post race lunch and awards ceremony..Awards ceremony even has a  a nice little 2-1-3 podium for photo ops.

  • Most importantly of  the Rotary club donates portions of the race entries go directly help out the local community, this year they highlighted support for helping local homeless veterans , just an overall positive experience.
  • Definitely add this race to next year’s race calendar..

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