Observations from an Escape to Philly

I’d like to share a few observations from this past weekend’s adventure at the Philadelphia triathlon, now known as the Philadelphia Escape Triathlon. Due to high water levels and debris in the Schuylkill river because of a weekend storm, the format had been changed to exclude the swim.

3 Feet High and Rising

Instead of the normal swim-bike-run, we would be doing a run-bike-run with a 2.1 mile run, normal 40K (~24 mile bike), and then a 4.1 mile run. I could droll on about my pace, splits, power, and nutrition *yawn* but instead thought I’d share a few observations from the weekend.

Philadelphia has it’s moments

Let me caveat this by saying I am not a city person in general, but I often note when I am in other cities how much nicer they are than Philadelphia. But the more time I spend downtown, the more my opinion is changing.

Friday after work I traveled by Septa to 30th Street Station to make my way to Lloyd Hall

Lloyd Hall on the SRT

on Boathouse Row for packet pick-up. I had worn running clothes and ran the 1.5 miles down Market Street and the Schuylkill river trail. I had not seen the 30th Street Porch nor had I been on that section of the SRT. The parks and recreational infrastructure along the river are fantastic! I wanted to spend the evening reading a book on one of the swings on the porch, or hang out in the roving beer garden I passed near the art museum. Well done, Philly. Very well done.

Philadelphia’s famous Boathouse Row

In addition to the river infrastructure, the race itself was centered in Fairmount Park which is actually split by the river. The park is beautiful and a great location to host an event such as the Philadelphia triathlon, or really any outdoor event. It does so nearly every weekend. Fairmount_Park

Musings on transition setup

I always enjoy the pre-race and Sunday was no different. From the moment I got out of the car, I had easy conversations with other participants. All expressed “dismay” that the swim was cancelled. I sensed a lot of false bravado too from those that wished we were still swimming. I’m not sure anyone was really keen to go swim in coffee-colored water with tree limbs, tires, and plastic bottles buffeting us the whole way.

Triathlon is slow to change from tradition. What purpose does body marking serve these days? Having bib numbers on an arm or hand can be helpful in the swim so that rescuers know who to return the body to. Otherwise the only thing of remote value when the swim is cancelled is the age marking on the legs.

2011 Wildflower Triathlon
Body marking: An archaic tradition?

The argument there is so you know who you are competing against on the course. Yet somehow runners and cyclists have managed to race for decades without such markings. Still, traditions die hard and we wait patiently for someone to write on us with a sharpie. (Hint: If it is a long race use plenty of sunscreen over that number or you’ll have that number permanently tanned on for quite a while).

This was my first race with my new Garmin Fenix 5X. One of the cool features of the Fenix series is that it automatically detects accessories like power meters, foot pods and heart rate monitors. When it finds one it asks if you want to add it. This is a cool thing when you are at home and need to detect all your expensive garbage that is supposed to make you faster, but do you know how many power meters, heart rate monitors,

Auto-discovered Garmin Accessories

and foot pods there are in a triathlon transition area?

  • Garmin: “Power Meter detected. Add”?
  • Me: “No”.
  • Garmin: “Ext. HR detected. Add”?
  • Me: “No”.
  • Garmin: “Power Meter detected. Add”?
  • Me: “Stop. Just stop”.


Races in general and Fairmount Park in particular is an awesome place to be if you are a dog lover. I don’t have a dog of my own, but love to enjoy other people’s dogs. Fairmount Park was loaded with great dogs pre and post race. I had to interrupt my warm-up run to visit with an 11 week old German Shepherd puppy named Tucker. Who could not love those big paws and ears? There were lots of other great dogs to visit too if only I didn’t have to take time to race.

Who can resist a puppy?

I learned that the plastic that makes up porta-potty walls does not block a bluetooth or ANT+ signal. “Ext. HR detected. Add”? No. Please no.

Despite their own self-absorption, triathletes do have a sense of humor. A 3-person relay was part of the original race plan but due to the swim cancellation many of the former swimmers now found themselves running a couple miles to start the day. There were accommodations made for those that can’t run but I didn’t pay attention. Did I mention the self-absorbed part? Much to the delight of the remainder of the field at the start of the the first run, several of the conscripted runners chose to wear their swim caps and goggles.

Evidently it doesn’t take much to be a pro triathlete. One of the “pros” struggled getting clipped in to his pedals and nearly fell over leaving bike out. Oh . . wait. What? He was an age-grouper. A now disqualified age-grouper.

Run 1

  1. It’s hard to run fast when you haven’t really run fast for weeks.
  2. It was going to be a long day for the folks that were already walking in mile 2 of the race.
  3. Either they shouldn’t make triathlon kits or shorts in white or there needs to be some sort of application and vetting process for being able to buy them. Like bikinis or speedos, not everyone can wear these things and the rest of us shouldn’t have to see that.

The Bike

There are a lot of people that can ride fast downhill and on the flats but suck at riding uphills. Get off the trails and onto hills people!!! The hills at the Philly tri aren’t all that big, you shouldn’t be slowed to walking pace and heaving like a bellows to climb them. Nor should you have to switchback your way up a 2% grade.

Whether in your car or on your bike, ride right and pass left. No blocking. It’s pretty simple really.  Also learn to use your water bottle without swerving left and right. Again, nothing a bit of practice won’t fix.

I’ll never cease to be amazed at the stuff people are willing to leave on the bike course after it falls off their bike. Expensive hydration equipment, pricey specialized helmet shields, sunglasses, flat kits, and computers. I’d be stopping if that stuff fell off my bike. I also wonder how this happens? Do people bolt (or tape?) stuff on their bike the night before the race and never try it beforehand?

Kelly drive is a lot more fun to ride on then to run on. The fun I had cranking out speed on the fresh pavement was a lot better than the death march I made down Kelly on my way back to Eakins Oval the last time I did the Philadelphia Marathon.

Buying and creating free speed

This was my first race ever with race wheels. It was also the first time I shaved my legs which is supposed to a) add speed b) keep hair out of the road rash you inevitably get when you crash from going too fast. I don’t know if either change made that much difference since I barely did any bike training this year but at least I looked the part. Additionally, race wheels sound really cool especially when shifting gears. I also felt smooth and pretty with my shaved legs and made life easier on the the body marking girl not having to sharpie over all that hair.

Still injured

While I felt overall okay, my groin reminded me at bike dismount that it is still not happy and we still can’t plan on any fast races or marathons any time soon. It also reminded me to call the Dr. office today and find out what the hell is going on and why I haven’t heard about my MRI results. (Update: Stay tuned for more on this sore subject).

Run 2 and post-race

After leaving my very expensive prescription Oakley sunglasses on top of my car after an easy 5-miler,

Oakley Flak Jacket: Customized by traffic

I briefly considered not getting prescription lenses again. “Maybe I don’t really need them”. Well, so much for that. I had two Garmin devices on throughout the day and couldn’t see either one to figure out pace or power. In fact at one point I think I was staring at my Road ID and trying to figure out why the display wasn’t moving. Please watch for my crowd funding effort to buy a new pair of prescription glasses.

The short multi-loop run format is pretty fun and of course a lot simpler for the race director with only 2 aid stations needed.

My hero at the finish/party area was the people with the really yummy water ice. The beer, not so much. I’ll never be able to eat a bunch of heavy food after a race and the beer was some form of IPA (ickey pale ale).

Race results

Meh. Training has been limited due to the on-going and still not diagnosed groin problem. But results were otherwise acceptable.

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 5.36.21 AM

Race pictures

Like Boston, I thought perhaps I’d splurge on a few race pictures. But a quick review from the race photo provider shows that while there are a couple good shots I’d happily pay $5-$10 for, I’m not paying $23.99 each for them. There is an option to buy the entire package but most feature someone else in the picture in front of me. Perhaps I can purchase the picture and share them with the other folks in the pictures. Otherwise they can keep them. As I’ve said in the past, I wouldn’t pay $23.99 for a picture of me standing at the top of Mt. Everest shaking hands with Jesus Christ. But feel free to find the link from the race organizer and search for bib #572 for the 2017 Olympic distance especially if you were bib #790 or #1302. There are some great shots of you in there.

For now, I’ll rely on this shot captured by my friends Yuri and Caroline who happened to be at the finish and fast with the camera.

That’s me . . in the red. 

1 Comment

  1. They didn’t let you swim because then they couldn’t tell the Triathletes who might had drowned and be floating from the bodies that “are supposed to be in there” that they don’t fish out on a regular basis……No need to be pulling “extra” bodies out of the river when they usually just let them float on by…..

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