On September 18, 2016 I participated in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. The race was relatively short with an 800 meter swim, 18 mile bike and 4 mile run. The race company, MESP of Agoura Hills California, claimed there were over 5000 participants. I believe it.
This is my report card.
I look at each triathlon in two parts: the race and the event. The race is that part that consists of swimming, T1, biking, T2, and running. It’s the personal goal stuff. I’ve already written about that in a previous blog post so I don’t need to do that here. The other part is the event. That is the part that embodies everything associated with the race like the venue, the race staff, the marketing, etc. This post is my brief report, mostly about the event.
I give the 2016 Nautica Malibu Triathlon a B grade and here’s why…
I don’t know that the organizers could have selected a better venue in the region. If the bike course had followed one of the canyon roads into the mountains, that may have been better, but the difficulty level would put off many people. I like loop courses, but given the location was between mountains and ocean, a loop course would have been either too long or too difficult to manage. Overall, I like this venue: clear ocean water, rolling hill bike and mostly flat run.
The Race Staff
The race staff that I spoke with were attentive and helpful which is very important for both first time athletes that are nervous and race veterans who might have high expectations.
Over one million dollars was raised for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. I can’t say enough good things about that!
The Award Ceremony(ies)
The award ceremony was strange to me. It gave me the impression that there were two classes of athletes: celebrities and everyone else. There were only two or three participants I would call celebrities. I recognized two names: Zack Efron and Dave Zabriskie. John Crier and David Duchovny, who have participated several times in the past, weren’t even there. Or if they were, I neither saw nor heard about them.
Oops! I almost forgot. Tom Bergeron hosted the celebrity awards.
To be honest, it doesn’t even matter to me. I just didn’t like that the whole event pandered to the “celebrities.” I’m sure they did this because the celebrities can generate big donations. But their pandering was at the expense of recognizing the “other” athletes. This is one of the reasons I didn’t give the Nautica Malibu Triathlon an A.
The Promotions. There Were Promotions?
The other reason I didn’t give the race an A is that all the promotion was blatantly about the charity partner, the sponsors or the race itself. Several months ago, I received an email from the race organizers asking for my triathlon story. I’m sure they did this for all registered participants and I’m sure that out of 5000 or so participants, I was not the only one to respond. This is usually done so they can highlight a few age-groupers who have overcome big obstacles to get to the starting line (weight loss, cancer, car accident, etc). I never heard a word about any of these stories.
Another promotional piece that went into hiding was the video contest. Registered participants were asked to submit funny, triathlon related short videos to be judged. The winners were to have their videos shown on the big screen above the transition area. Again, not a word was mentioned about that. I even inquired about the contest soon after I crossed the finish line and no one knew anything about it, but I was given an email address for a follow up inquiry. I emailed MESP, the race production company, several hours after the race and I am waiting for a response.
As I look back on the whole experience, I am so glad that I participated. My race felt like it was one of my best yet and I was able to get out of the water without help from a lifeguard! (see my other post for an explanation).
Would I recommend this race to any of my friends? Certainly. But I would preface the recommendation with a warning about the celebrity culture which, in my mind, does not belong in a sport that prides itself on giving equal access to all participants. Let me be clear: This is Hollywood’s playground, so I can accept that. I just don’t have to like it.
Would I do this race again? Maybe. I did enjoy it, but 2500 miles is a long way to travel for a race.
Sunny skies and cool temps greeted us on Sunday morning for the 2015 Fall White Lake Sprint. The energy in the air was palpable which was so much different than the day before (read here for my account of the White Lake Half). Although I had competed the previous day, I was ready for the Sprint.
All males started together in the same wave. Have you ever put too much cereal in your bowl and not enough milk? It took a couple hundred yards for these corn flakes to spread out. And I swam well. So did Jeff Plemmons and Joel Isley, two men in my age group who are much faster triathletes than I. But I wasn’t too far behind them.
The course consists of two laps around White Lake. That’s a total of 14 miles. Starting out on this course is nice, because there’s not much bike traffic. Starting the second loop things get a bit crowded, because many of the novices and slower swimmers join the rest of us on the road. Nothing wrong with that as long as you call your position as you pass. Not many people do that, but it has saved my butt a few times. It’s simple. Just call out, “On your left.” before you pass someone. It alerts them that you’re there so they don’t inadvertently move into you.
So here I am, on the course. I’m pumping my legs off, breathing hard, pushing 250 watts. And from my left shoulder I hear, “Hey, Lowell.” It was JR Naylor passing me with very little effort. At least that’s how it seemed. And as the gap between us grew longer, I noticed he wasn’t even clipped in to his pedals. He was wearing his running shoes. Had he been clipped in, he might have been going so fast that my ears would have popped as he passed. But that’s JR. He’s just fast.
The best part was when I came in to the transition area after the bike ride. A perfect dismount was followed by a perfect run to the rack. I was the first one on my rack to return, so there were no other bikes on it. When I swung the bike around to rack it, I didn’t swing it high enough and knocked over the rack! Damn, that cost me a fast transition.
I pushed hard on the run. I was trotting along at a painful but sustainable pace of about 8 1/2 or 9 min. per mile in the last half mile. That’s moving pretty fast for me. Then I heard someone behind me. I didn’t hear foot steps. I heard wheezing and chuffing. I picked up that pace. I was not about to be passed. And I wasn’t.
My time was 1:25:….. I forget the seconds, but one hour and 25 minutes is fine with me: good enough for 3rd place behind Joel Isley and Jeff Plemmons.
A “half” is what most people call a race that fits into the “long course” category: usually 70.3 miles. It get’s it’s name from Half Ironman. But the races at White Lake are not branded Ironman races, so it’s the “half.”
For this edition of the White Lake Half, there were only about 160 participants which is much less than previous editions.
The cloud covered sky was the perfect background for starting the race, because it kept the air temperature down and the sun glare out of my eyes during the swim. Not much more to say here, but the water did get a bit choppy on the way back to shore. Nothing to hinder a good swim, though.
I had very little strategy for the bike other than to conserve energy for the run. Training all summer on my road bike meant I I would probably have difficulty with my tri bike on race day, so I stuck with the road bike for the race: good decision. Speed was not a problem over the 56 mile course, because I had little of it to cause me any problems :). As I’ve written before, the first 36 miles of the course are smooth and easy riding. Rough road and a head wind are enough to challenge the most determined athletes. Add heavy rain to the mix and you’ve got a tough situation. And that’s why the road bike was a good choice. The road bike offered more stability and comfort than my tri bike. Not as much speed, but the comfort and stability was worth every minute I gave up.
I don’t want to talk about the run. It was tough. I’m not yet an endurance runner. By mile six I was praying for new legs. By mile eight I was walking for long stretches. The things that tried to beat me down were:
the rain made for wet shoes and feet which made conditions perfect for creating blisters.
I worked harder than I should have on the bike, so my legs were not in good running shape. I didn’t cramp, but I came close.
I don’t like HEED. It’s a sport drink made by Hammer Nutrition. I like most of their products but not HEED. That’s the only sport drink available on the run. That really wasn’t a problem, because I knew about it many weeks ahead of time, so I should have prepared.
Humidity. I’m kind of weird about wanting to breath air and not water.
The things that kept me going were:
The temperature. Even though the humidity was high, the air temp was nice due to the overcast skies.
Two pair of dry socks. They saved me. I left transition wearing no socks and put on the first pair at mile 3.5. Then I put on the second pair at mile nine.
My attitude. I was fortunate enough to keep a good attitude throughout the run. I wasn’t upset about missing my goals or anything like that.
It seemed like every runner there had words of encouragement for eachother. That was nice.
A Goal Worth Achieving
So my final result was six hours, 32 minutes and some seconds. I wanted to come in under six hours, but I gave up some time on the bike and gave up lots of time on the run.
There’s always next year to beat that six hour goal.
This is the eighth year that I’ve raced the Spring White Lake Half. It’s become somewhat of a tradition for me, and
as Tevye from Fiddler On the Roof says… I forget what he said, but it had something to do with tradition.
Anyway, it was a good race. One thing that caught my attention was the number of athletes registered for the long course race, the “half.” There were only 200. Not too many years ago, this race would sell out at 500. Have people lost interest in triathlon?
No. That’s not the answer.
On the same day, at the same time, and in the same place was an international distance race put on by the same race company, Setup Events. That race had 300 registered. It seems like the shorter, international race was more popular. And why not? A decent athlete can complete one in about 3 hours and she doesn’t have to spend as much time training. Three hours is how long I spent on just the bike for the half race. Also, the shorter races usually cost less.
So why did I do the half? Maybe that’s were tradition comes in. Or maybe not. I’m at a point in my fitness where a 30 mile bike ride is not that great of a challenge. I look to the Spring White Lake race as the first big challenge of the year. This year I did not run because my running legs are still in recovery from last year’s abuse. But the swim and bike were just enough of a challenge to remind me that I can still do this and that I still have work to do if I’m going to race the Savageman triathlon on September.
Seriously. That’s what it’s called: Tour de Pickle. As you can imagine, it’s a bike ride. I can’t call it a race, because nobody keeps track of official time. The event is held in Mt. Olive, North Carolina as part of the pickle festival. That’s right, THE PICKLE FESTIVAL. I’ve lived in a lot of places (California, Arizona, Virginia, Nebraska, Montana, Texas and North Carolina). But I’ve never seen so many festivals as in North Carolina. There’s the azalea festival, the blueberry festival, the strawberry festival, the barbecue festival, the dogwood festival, the herring festival, the spot festival and the list goes on and on. By the way, a spot is a type of fish. I didn’t know that until I went to the spot festival.
So anyway: I went to Mt. Olive yesterday to participate in the Tour de Pickle bike ride. I’ve participated in previous years and it’s always been quite a bit of fun. Misty, Erin and I signed up for the 75 mile ride. They offered 25 and 53 mile rides as well.
The day started out without a problem. We arrived at the race area with plenty of time to pick up our numbers, change into bike clothes and get our bikes ready.
About 10 minutes before the start time, I felt it: the urge to pee. There were only two port-a-potties available and there were already about 10 people in line. By the time I walked (quickly) over to get in line, the line grew by two more people. My back teeth were not floating, so this wasn’t an emergency. I just patiently waited.
After the line had progressed so that I was now third in line, the ride organizer made an announcement. With a heavy southern, country accent, all riders in the 75 mile ride were asked to come up to the starting line, which was right in front of the port-a-potties. I was too close to relief to get out of line now. I finally got in the port-a-potty about the time there was a second call for riders to come to the start line. Relief felt good, but I was no where near finished with my business, when the guy with the heavy accent started the invocation. Keep in mind that this guy and all the riders are just outside the port-a-potty door. There’s something not right about urinating in a port-a-potty while a Pentecostal preacher is thanking God for his son Jesus. It gives a whole new meaning to, “Please bow your head.” Finally, I finished my job, but the invocation was still going.
Even though I’m Jewish, I have a whole lot of respect for Christianity and I want to be respectful to those who pray. So I was faced with a dilema: do I stay in the port-a-john and wait until the prayer is over, or do I quietly step out in to the praying crowd. I figured most everyone’s head would be bowed so it wouldn’t matter much what I did. I quietly opened the door and slipped out just as the prayer was finishing. That meant, the 75 mile ride was beginning. I now had to run back to the car, get my bike, and find Misty and Erin. I was about 50 yards behind the main group of riders and turning left out of the parking lot when I heard Misty call my name. She was riding toward me from the right. She had ridden her bike down the road to use the bushes because she didn’t want to wait in line at the port-a-potties. I guess Erin was hanging back in the parking lot waiting for Misty, so neither of my friends had left with the main group. By the time the three of us got on the road, we were at least a quarter mile behind the last riders of the main group.
Needless to say, we didn’t stay in the back for very long. Misty and Erin are very strong cyclists and they set a pace that was quite fast. Probably too fast for me, but I hung in there. The SAG stops on this ride are great because they offer the usual snacks and drinks plus pickles. A sour dill pickle tastes so good after riding 30 miles.
Around mile 35 it started to rain. Then the wind picked up. That’s when we decided to turn off the 75 mile course and follow the 53 mile course. It’s a good thing we did that, because I was dead tired. I don’t know if I could have gone the other 22 miles.
So that was the 2015 Tour de Pickle.
Oh yeah! After the ride, we went to the pickle festival in downtown Mt. Olive. Even though it was raining, there were a lot of people there. The main thing to do there is eat greasy food, go to the car show, eat greasy food, buy artsycrafty stuff, and eat greasy food. And they give out pickles too (which are not greasy).
It seems that corporate sponsorship is necessary these days for any event. I have no problem with that. I have thick skin and can easily ignore an onslaught of company propaganda. However, I do have a problem with the company name completely dominating the event name.
I volunteered at the Wrightsville Beach Marathon last weekend and I was struck by the race logo. The name of the title sponsor was written so much larger than the actual name of the event that, from a reasonably close distance, I could not read the event name. But I could easily read the sponsor, Quintiles. How strange: right? What is Quintiles, anyway? I looked up the company on the internet and all I could figure out is that they provide services to other biomedical research companies. I will probably never in my life make a brand choice between Quintiles and their competitor (whomever that would be). And I seriously doubt that over 1% of the participants in the “Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon” will ever make that brand choice either. Now, if it were Coke or Nike or even Hammer Nutrition, I could understand why top billing is so important. But Quintiles? Again, I will never go to my doctor and say, “You know, your recommendation is not based on a study that was serviced by Quintiles, so I’m not going to take your advice.”
So, judging from the signs around Wilmington last weekend, a company called Quintiles did something, but I couldn’t read what it was they did.
I, on the other hand, had a blast at the Wrightsvill Beach Marathon. I rode sweep which means I rode my bicycle behind the last runners. Actually, I rode my bike all over the race course looking for the last runners. While I was out on the course, I spotted Renee Zukerman, a local runner, who was volunteering for her daughter’s track team by cheering on the marathoners. We had a nice talk and I’ll post that to YouTube in a TriRiot episode if she gives her blessing.
The best part of the job was riding the last 3 miles along side the last runner, Beth. It was her first marathon and she was concerned she wouldn’t finish in time for the cutoff (6 hours). As we got closer to the finish line, we picked up several race officials (including Sami Winter and Eric McFetters) and a van and the other sweep rider, Randy. We were Beth’s private cheering section. She did finish with 5 minutes to spare. And she wasn’t even last. Within 20 yards of the finish line, she passed one other runner.
So it was a great morning, but I’m still asking the same question I’m sure many others are asking: “Who the hell is Quintiles?”
There should be a rule for all triathlons that states if it’s so cold out that you have to chop ice off the surface of the transition area, the race should be called off.
I’m sure that rule wouldn’t apply to winter triathlons, but this season opener was no winter triathlon.
At 7am, it was cold. It was so cold the penguins were wearing parkas. Maybe they weren’t penguins. They could have been very cold athletes setting up their transition areas. I couldn’t see very well, because the fog on my glasses was frozen. By mid morning, however, it started to warm up nicely. Regardless of the weather, the Azalea Triathlon was the place to be on Saturday morning.