Friday, December 20, 2013

Race Report: HITS Triathlon Championship Palm Springs

It's not often I get to do a race review as a spectator, but this happened during this race.  My wife decided she wanted to do her first triathlon - and she scheduled it while I was on my "year end break".  So things kind of worked out perfectly.

Since having our son in March, my wife has been getting back into shape via crossfit and a light amount of running.  She swam when she was in high school (in the Philippines) but has - more or less - not done anything triathlon related for a long time prior to when she decided to do this triathlon (which was in October).  Looking at a triathlon calender - she chose the HITS Palm Springs Sprint Race in December - mainly because my brother in law wanted to do the Olympic and we would be able to make a quick family trip out of it.

So....two months of training and a bunch of crossfit to get ready for her first ever triathlon - a sprint distance (750 meter swim, 14 mile bike, 5k run).  Her goal was just to finish - and, since I think that ANYONE on the planet can "just finish" a sprint - I encouraged her to train enough to make herself comfortable and just have fun and enjoy it.

My brother in law - on the other hand - wanted to have a race where he performed better than he previously had.  Also, he was hoping to end his stroke of bad luck that has plagued him in races.  He was primed for a good result - and I was stoked to be there and see it happen.


When we were driving to our hotel from Los Angeles - we noticed some seriously ominous looking clouds and drove through some pretty heavy rain.  This was on Saturday (the day before the sprint and olympic races - but the day of the half and full races).  All I could think of while seeing that was "Man oh man - there are some MISERABLE people on the course right now if this is the weather in Palm Springs".
Well, that turned out to not be the case and - while I have no doubt it was cold and they got rained on - the conditions looked alright for most of the racers.

When we arrived at the race to pick up our packets - there was people trickling in from the half distance to the finish line - which was a cool thing to see.  It got my wife excited because she was going to be able to cross that same finish line - and seeing the gleem in her eye when she said she couldn't wait to do that was pretty cool for me.

Me and Brucie getting ready to brave the cold and go root Mommy on!


I woke up early to drive my wife and brother-in-law to the race start - then I would go back to the hotel to pick up my son and grandparents (who also made the trip with us).

We arrived to the venue and it was dark.  And cold.  And not very pleasant and I could see the look on my wife's face that basically said "What the hell have I gotten myself into?"  I helped her over to transition, wished her luck and headed back to the hotel to pick up my son and grandparents (hoping to make it back before her swim started).

Well, that didn't happen for a couple of reasons.  For one, my 9 month old just doesn't cooperate with schedules like he's supposed to.  Apparently, my grandparents don't either.  On top of that, there were closures with the road (for the triathlon, as expected) and a metric shitton of people trying to park.  We managed to make it there just in time to see my wife head out onto the bike course.  She seemed in good spirits - so that was awesome.  By the time we got out of the car and over to the lake - the swim had just started for my brother-in-law for the olympic distance race.


The swim for this race was kind of odd.  It was pulled really close to the shore (which I later learned was because of a lack of volunteers to properly put manpower to provide proper safety protocols).  This ended up doing two things:  1)  It made the olympic course a two lap swim course and 2) it made one length of the swim so shallow that a competitor could simply stand up and walk.

The first wasn't so bad (swims with multiple laps are common), but the second caused a bunch of problems.  You ended up with beginners (or people who were overreaching) who would swim too fast while going out, then get tired, and then simply stand up and walk.  If one or two people do this - it ends up not being a big deal.  When a bunch of people do this - it creates a wall which prevents people who are swimming the course (but pacing themselves) from being able to continue to swim.  So the have to slow down, which creates a ripple effect, which pretty much slows down the entire swim (since even the fastest swimmers have to come back around and deal with the wall of people).

As a competitor, that had to be extremely frustrating.  As a spectator, however, it was really fun to watch.  The crowd was merciless with the "walkers" - and began "booing" people who were walking any significant distance (which there were plenty).  It got to the point where one guy (who was way in the back of the pack and obviously not ready for this swim) simply started to walk while bended at the waist and pretend to swim.  This drew a round of laughter from the crowd (and people started cheering him on).

I heard the water was extremely cold and there were rumblings from people coming out of the water that the swim was too long (result times seem to agree with it being a long swim - unless everyone is just a slow swimmer like me).  My brother-in-law came out of the swim in pretty good condition, and was ready to hop on the bike.

Missed my wife's swim - but she seemed to do pretty well.  This is the only photo we have it (capture from my brother-in-law's phone).

My brother in law coming out of the water (capture from his phone).

My brother in law running to transition from the swim exit.  The run was pretty far!


Keep in mind I didn't see ANY of the bike course (outside of coming into transition and going out of transition) - so I don't have a whole lot to go on other than what I heard from contestants.  My wife, who is brand new to riding, said that the roads were extremely bumpy in some spots and uncomfortable to ride on.  She reported a lot of flat tires too (keep in mind she was only doing the sprint).  My brother-in-law didn't think it was to bad, but he also said it could have been better.  He felt as if the course was compressed due to not getting clearance for the street closures - and was kind of bummed that you shared a bike lane with people instead of having the full road closed.

Wife not utilizing the aerobars >-<

Wifey was pretty stoked on the bike!

Surprisingly, she did the dismount without clipping out of her cleats.  I was impressed!

Wifey running into transition off the bike.
My brother-in-law on the bike.

My brother in law heading out of transition and onto the bike course.


The transition area was pretty cool and one of the allures to this race in my opinion.  They had individual stalls with your own chair and area for your transition bag/gear.  Pretty cool stuff, as it completely eliminated one of the annoyances of triathlon (which is crammed transition areas).

Judging from what I saw - the staff appeared to do a pretty good job of organizing the flow of traffic in and out of the transition area, and security seemed pretty tight as well.  It was very viewer-friendly in that you could sit right at the outside of the area and see everything (there were benches right by the transition area).  Convenient for non-participants like myself.

My brother in law running his bike into transition after his ride.  Gives you a good look at how HITS did the stalls in transition.


Coming out of transition - they had you run along on the grass until you hit the road where they had the paths lined up.  A LOT of people were complaining about this - but I actually thought it was a pretty cool feature.  For me - it would be a chance to liven up before you start "pounding" and it seemed like it would provide a pretty fast finish too (they had the finish line set up in the same general area - so you had 300 yards or so of running on grass when you went down the finish chute).

My wife super stoked to cross the finish line!

Brucie was stoked with her!

With her well deserved and well earned medal!

This is how my brother-in-law wants to be remembered crossing the finish line.  With style.

THIS is the behind the scenes footage as soon as he thought the cameras were off of him.  hehe (He's going to kill me for putting this on here).


The finish line was pretty good - and it looked like there were plenty of goodies to snack on for the finishers.  There wasn't anything cooked or hot (i.e. no hamburgers or pasta that I saw for the finishers of the longer triathlons the day before) but still plenty of food.

The medal you received at the finish is pretty cool - but the same medal everyone gets for every HITS event (save for the strap - which indicates which venue you were at).  Not necessarily terribly bad (and my wife was still stoked!) but it would be cool to have individual medals for individual races.

One thing that struck me on the finish line was how the announcer made sure to say everyone's name who crossed and treated people finishing the sprint in 2 hours with the same enthusiasm that he did with the race winners.  That goes a long way to creating a good race environment in my opinion.

 All in all, it was a fun race to watch.  The vendors were pretty cool to kill time at, and the weather - while a bit chilly - was very good for an event (no downpouring rain or anything).  I thought the race was pretty well organized, and very solid despite not having the glitz and glamour of some of the bigger races.  Due to their partnership with EnduroPacks, I plan on doing a couple of HITS races next year myself.

My wife finished her first triathlon (sprint distance 750 meters, 14 mile ride, 5k run) in 1:43 - which is a great time for her (her goal was sub 2 hours).  Not record breaking by any stretch - but I was incredibly proud of her.   My brother-in-law set a PR on the olympic course for him - and he was pleased although his time was longer than what his previous olympics would have been (had he not have flatted, etc).  They both did a great job!

That wraps up 2013 for me.  First race of 2014 will be the ITRYathlon on February 6 in Laguna Nigel put on by the good folks at Renegade Race Series.  It will be my wife's second go at doing a triathlon, and - since it's a reverse triathlon with a pool swim in the end - I think she'll do even better at this one than she did at HITS.  I'll be participating too, but not in a too competitive way (as it will be the first race of the season).

Be on the look out for some upcoming reviews on this blog before the 2014 race season works into full swing!

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