This past weekend I competed in the Philadelphia Insurance Olympic Triathlon in Fairmont Park in Philadelphia. The course hugs the Schuylkill River in and around Fairmont Park. Leading up to the race I was feeling great and hoping that all the crazy heat from the week before would disappear. Fortunately, the weather cooled off a little into the mid 80s with low humidity.
I arrived in Philly on Saturday afternoon around 1pm to pick up my packet from the expo at the Please Touch Museum. I was hoping to make it into town a little earlier to catch brunch with some fellow club members who had raced the sprint earlier in the day but I got stuck in a little bit of traffic. The expo was nice where they had lots of vendors and representatives from local food establishments handing out samples of their foods and products. After picking up my packet, which was so quick and easy I went to the hotel to check in. I stayed at the host hotel, Crown Plaza Philadelphia on City Ave which is a few minutes from the race site and just off I-76. The hotel was nice, very clean and had excellent service. However, the $50 late checkout option I was not a huge fan of.
Arriving at the hotel to check in and found out that my room had not been ready yet so I decided to go into the city and check out the new Barns Foundation on Ben Franklin Parkway downtown near the Philadelphia Art Museum. The building itself is spectacular with its modern open design and is only a 20 minute drive from the Fairmont Park area. I highly recommend checking this place out if you ever get the opportunity. The museum is filled with beautiful collections of Monet’s, Cezanne’s, Renoir’s, Pennsylvania German, asian and african art artifacts. Word to the wise, you MUST buy tickets in advance and check the timing for non-members if you are not a member of the foundation. They limit the tickets and give you time blocks to get into the museum as a result of the confined spaces inside. The tickets for non-member are $18. This is a great way to spend an afternoon between packet pick up and dinner if you have a few hours to kill. I would recommend at least 2-3 hours in the museum.
Saturday evening I returned to the hotel briefly to drop off my bags in the hotel and meet some of the tri club members in Old City for dinner. We ate at La Locanda de Ghiottone which is this incredible little italian place right on the corner of Cheery and N 3rd. The menu has a nice variety of food options suitable for athletes ranging from pasta, salad and meat dishes. The dishes are easily modifiable too which is nice. In all the food was at a very reasonable price point, very fresh and the service was incredible.
Race morning came as I was a little nervous because I didn’t think I got the best sleep as I didn’t get to bed quite as early as I had hoped. I made it down to transition a little after 5am which was great as it gave me plenty of time to get set up. I drove my car to the Please Touch Museum and got into the lot just in time as it was becoming full. The hotel is close enough that you could bike to transition if you wanted to. Once I had set up in transition I hopped on the bus to head over to the swim start. We had to do a u-turn at one point on our way to the swim start because our bus could not make a right hand turn due to the cones marking the course. Arriving at the swim start I had about an hour to chill before my wave started. The race allowed you to take a special needs bag with you to the swim start where you could drop it off when you were finished with it and pick it up at the expo after the race which was great. I met up with a couple other DC Tri members at the swim start and chatted for a bit. It was nice talking to them to be able to relax my mind a little about the race and help me relax before the swim.
The swim begins at Joe’s boat house and is a point to point swim all downstream. I actually almost missed the swim start as I was in the bathroom. I didn’t realize that my wave was going so soon. When I walked out of the bathroom to head over to the water I heard them say M-30-34 are in the water. I then quickly sprinted through all the girls in the wave behind us to get into the water. I ran past the announcer as she said to me “where were you?” I replied, “in the bathroom”. She then helped me quickly to get into my suit with 30 seconds to spare on the clock before my wave. Despite being a little disheveled and tense from sprinting across the parking lot into the water to catch my wave, the swim went well. The course is fantastic and was one of my most favorite swims where its a straight shot downstream from Joe’s Boat house under the Columbia Railroad Bridge to transition in the Schuylkill. I felt great in the water, very powerful and fast and managed to to get kicked or kick anyone. I kept good pace with 2 other swimmers in my wave. The water temp was 81 so no wet suits were allowed. That didn’t bother me though. The swim out was nice on a little sandy beach. I felt good coming into T-1 where I began to pick up my running pace to my spot.
Heading out onto the bike I started to feel a little tight in my legs and upper body, probably b/c I didn’t stretch much before the start. I drank some electrolytes and took a salt pill and started to feel better. The olympic bike course was also one of my favorites as well. It is a two loop course that hugs the Schuylkill and is flat and fast with 4 fun hills evenly spaced throughout the course. The hills are short and fast on the way down with some sharp turns. I had to watch my self a couple of times as I was worried about crashing into people as the roads are curvy, narrow and filled with a lot of people. The picturesque urban course begins on Martin Luther King and heads up to Falls Bridge then turns onto Kelly drive. The course takes you by a few Philadelphian icons such as boathouse row and the art museum. You can also catch a nice glimpse of the skyline on the bike course as well if you know where to look. During the second loop I saw a beautiful old school looking balloon floating over the river and the boathouses which was really cool. My goal was to do the course in 1:10:00 but I just missed it. Coming into T-2 I was feeling good and not too tired for the run. I was a little worried I was pushing too hard on the bike. The final turn down the hill into transition is a little tricky as you gain speed and then have to veer to the right to dismount.
Going into the run I felt good. My legs did not feel like I hit the wall. The course is completely flat and does a 3 mile loop out from transition in the shade then a 3 mile loop past transition in the sun with plenty of aid stations with water and Gatorade. There is also a Cliff gel station at about mile 2 on the run which was nice. I ran the 10k in 46 which I was pleased with. I did feel like I could have gone a little harder in the run though.
In all this is a fantastic course and a great race. I placed better than I had ever placed before in a triathlon. People where incredibly nice as I found many people cheering me in transition and through out the course even though they didn’t know who I was. The race and it was very well run and well stocked with food and liquids. The finish line festival had decent food with grilled chicken a few different pastas, fruit and cookies. I can’t wait to sign up for it again next year. I raced the DC Tri last year around this time and enjoyed this race better (for a comparable urban race). I would definitely recommend this course to people. I had a blast racing it and a good time making some new friends. I can’t wait to sign up for this one again next year.