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Aug 12, 2013

Stony Creek Off Road Sprint Tri race review....

Short Version
Finished 1:54:06(official time); A new PR!(First Tri)

Swim time: 20:21
Transition 1: 3:31
Bike time: 1:04:01
Transition 2: 1:49
Run Time: 24:26

Overall place: 58/85
Place for men:  44/58
Age group place(M40-44): 11/15 in my AG; 14/15 for swim; 13/14 for bike; 3/14 for run
Accurate times but paces look incorrect.
Race #51

The course was a 750 meter swim, 17k trail bike, and 5k dirt road run.  Overall a really well run triathlon that was very beginner friendly.  Of course, I will preface that with the fact that it's my first so I don't quite know what to expect but being this was my first, everything was very clear how things worked.   Based on my running race experience, Tri To Finish was very well organized for everything from registration, website, Facebook and Twitter pages, race day, safety, bling and loads of fun!   I've decided I will do another Tri at some point but probably not until next year with marathon training taking priority.  Tri To Finish gave me a great introduction into the triathlon world.

I will say I got out of it what I put into it in regards to training.  With only one practice swim, a handful of bike rides and no brick workouts, I'm happy with the results - I finished!  It's apparent that the run is my strongest discipline yet it's also the one I do the most of in training.


Registration/Packet Pickup
Registration was very simple.  Tri To Finish has an awesome website that is vey easy to use.  They have lots of races to choose from throughout the year.  I chose this one since its so close to home and I'm familiar with the area even though it's probably a harder route.  $60 cost when I registered which is on par with most other races I looked at plus if you don't have a USAT membership, it's $12 more(which I didn't)

Since the race was so close to home, my daughter and I decided to go up to Stony Creek to get my packet the day before.  The race company was set up for registration and they were in the process of setting up the transition area.  I walked right up, found my number and received my packet.  The company has a really cool tent they use and you can't miss it.
Registration tent - very cool looking
After I got my packet, we took a few pictures and that was it!  Body markings would be on race day.  A very easy process.  The race also offered race day pickup and I love when they give you options.  Frankly, I could have easily picked up that morning since it was not over crowded but it was one less thing to worry about for race morning.
Lake at packet pickup
The evening before I slept terrible.  I tossed and turned all night long.  I sleep like a log for running races but then I've done 50 running races.  I was up early race morning so I could get in a banana before I got there.  On the way over, once in the park, I saw this turkey family crossing the road which was very cool.
Turkey Family - Stony Creek Metropark
Start Area
Registration morning
I made my way to the start area.  The park has plenty of parking so that was not an issue and I was literally yards away from the start.  As you can see, the transition area was all set up and ready to go.  There were already some bikes in the transition area as I got there a little before 7am which was plenty of time for an 8am start.
Transition area
Inside transition
Before I brought my bike down from the car, I got my timing chip.  The chip goes around your ankle and stays there the entire time.  The strap was very comfortable and you could hardly notice that you were even wearing it.  After this, I made my way to the body marking area.
Body marking
The company put your age on your left calf, the race you were doing on your right calf(Sprint or Du) and also marked both you arms with your race number.  We had a race bib for the run but it was not required for the bike(although I think most races require it there as well)
Age(dammit - ha!)
Race - Sprint
Bib number
Once I had my markings, I brought all my stuff down to the transition area along with my bike.  The bike course was all on trails - the Mountain Bike Trails to be exact - so you see I've got my mountain bike.   I bought that sucker in 1989!  It's a Specialized Hardrock and it worked great.   Being my first Tri, I set up my transition with everything ready to go and it seemed to work out today except I forgot my camera on the run.
Ready to rock!
The race had a prerace meeting just to clarify things.  The race started with the men going first and the ladies following a few minutes later.  The Duathlon went a few minutes after the ladies swim.  As we were almost ready to start, this was a beach start all at once but the race made sure to count everyone going out and coming in just in case there were any issues.  I lined up at the back of the pack since I already knew how slow my swimming was going to be.  Boy was I right to do that.  Haha!
Swim Start
As I was looking at the swim course, it sure did look far and I remember thinking, "holy crap, that's far - just get through it"  You can see the picture below that shows the farthest buoy.  The swim was an 750 meter distance in a triangle formation.  Really most Sprints are 750-800 meters so it's the shortest distance(with a few exceptions)
I have to swim that far?
As we got started, I got more comfortable with it.  We did swim over a patch of seaweed but other than that the swim was uneventful.  I swam freestyle, and back stroke, and side stroke and breast stroke.  Haha - I probably wasted more energy changing the style than just sticking to one.  I just did what I needed to finish and I wasn't even last(though it was close - ha).  The lake overall was a really nice swim.  While I was worried about being kicked, it was not an issue since I was slow so not as many people around me.  The race company had kayakers out there and a boat for safety reasons, but frankly, I don't remember seeing them while swimming since I was just concerned with finishing.  I also did a fairly decent job at sighting and stayed fairly close to the buoys most of the time.  You can see the swim route from my Garmin below.  Obviously, with the 301xt, it's not that accurate in the water but close enough.
Swim course per Garmin 310xt
At the end of the swim, there was a slight uphill that you needed to run up to get back to the transition area.  I was relieved that the swim was done and, while I went extremely slow, I'm really happy I didn't change to the duathlon and chicken out of the swim.  I put the paces on here for the swim but frankly my Garmin was going crazy so it's not very accurate except the time.  An official time of 20:21.   A terrible time but I finished.
Swim elevation per Garmin
Swim pace per Garmin
Swim Splits per Garmin
As we came out of the water, there was a small beach area with sand that we walked over and the rest was over grass.  The grass was wet, mostly from faster swimmers I would guess, and helped get the sand off my feet to make it easier in the transition.  A time of 3:31 in the first transition.  I was able to get my feet dry, put on body glide, get my socks, shoes and helmet on and I was off to do the bike.   I thought I would be more tired from the swim than I actually was although I could tell my heart rate was quite elevated.  The transition helped get my heart rate down a little so I didn't feel overwhelmed once I got on the bike.
Back to transition after swim(taken the day before)
In order to get your bike out of transition, you walked it to a line just outside and mounted the bike.  The course was a 17k distance(about 10.5 miles) on grass and hilly trails.
Bike out of transition
From there, you started off on the grass and got up towards the main park road.  The race had flags set up throughout the course as well as volunteers to help direct you where to go.  We stayed on the side of the road on the grass and would go up on the roadside in order to pass.  I passed a few people on the bike going and coming back especially since I longed to be on the road.

From there we made our way over to the mountain bike trails for two loops of the course.  Two loops of a hilly course I might add!  After riding the course several times(in training and the race), I still don't know my way around but it was all clearly marked and there were several volunteers out on the course if you needed help.  I knew the trails were tough since I'd been there in training a few times but they still took their toll on me.
Bike map per Garmin
Several large hills on the course made for some walking up hills with the bike.  I also saw several bikers walking too.  Frankly, sometime it was faster to walk the bike than ride it.  One think I noticed was the course was much more loose with rocks and sandy in parts.  When I trained there, it was not quite as loose so made for a little more difficulty route - at least for me!   I'd be really interested to see how I faired on a road course versus trails.
Bike elevation per Garmin - it's got some hills!
Bike pace per Garmin
Bike Splits per Garmin
About half way through the first loop, I slipped on some wet grass and wiped out so that added a little time to my bike.  Fortunately, I didn't hurt myself and I was happy that I fell on a grassy area.  The shirt pictured below will become the new biking shirt on trails I guess.  Luckily I got right back up and started up again.   My shoulder is a little sore but not too bad.
Finally, I made it around the second loop and headed back to the transition area to finish up the race.  Again we headed back on the grass towards the transition and hopped off the bike and hung it back up.  Still a pretty terrible showing in my AG but I was, once again, happy to be finished and excited to be competing in my first triathlon.
Bike into transition(taken day before)
As would be expected, my second transition was faster at 1:49.  All I needed to do was hang up the bike, change to my running shoes and grab my hat.  What took so long? I don't know!   Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera for the run like I do for all my races.
Run out of transition
The run was a 5k run just outside the park and onto Snell road.  It had some hills to it that I was not expecting and it was also on a dirt road.  Given I have not done any brick workouts, I thought I was doing pretty good on the run after the swim and bike.  The course showed a little short based on my Garmin but who knows.  It made up for the bike showing a little longer.  I started the Garmin where I think I should have but can't say for sure what happened so I'll take it as a 5k course.
Run Course per Garmin
The route had some elevation on it but nothing crazy.  You can see a couple of the bumps we had to contend with.  Of course, I placed pretty good in my AG for the run which is expected considering my run training is my priority.  One thing I'll mention is that when we were about a quarter mile from the finish, I got close enough to a guy who was my age so I decided to gun it past him.  I could definitely hear him speed up as he probably saw I was in his AG.  Fortunately I was able to hold him off at the finish so it was really nice when I found out that put me at 3rd on the run portion of the course.  Check out that pace the last quarter mile!
Run elevation per Garmin
Run pace per Garmn
Overall, I was extremely pleased with my run performance after the swim and bike.  I was not sure what to expect time wise.  It also warmed up a bit by the time I made it to the run.
Run Split per Garmin
I could not have been happier to see this finish line.  The announcer was excellent and called out my name and that I was a first time triathlete which made it a special finish.
Ah, the finish - ok to collapse now(photo taken after race)
Aid Stations
There was two aid stations on the course.  One was set up right next to the transition area.  This allowed you to get something after the swim and also before the run.  There were no aid stations on the bike course(or I didn't notice).  There was also an aid station on the run course.   They were serving water and Hammer products.  Given the transition area and the fact you were on a bike, I felt the number of aid stations were adequate.  Most had a water bottle on their bike as did I.   The volunteers throughout the entire race were cheering and helpful.

Finish area
I have to say the announcer did an incredible job before the race, during the race and after the race. He really kept things going which was a great motivator for everyone.  He was especially good at the finish line announcing names as they crossed the finish line.
Great announcer!
After the race, a volunteer handed you a cold bottle of water and you could also grab something to eat.  As we waiting around for the transition area to open back up, the race company posted some initial race results.   In addition to immediate results at the race, the company will post results on their website too.
A couple of the sponsors were at the race too.  There was Level Multisport - a triathlete and running store in Birmingham as well as a massage therapist.  Once the transition area opened back up, we were free to get our stuff and bikes to clear the area.
For your race entry, you received a race tech shirt, some Hammer nutrition products, a swim cap with the race company name(required for the swim), a race finishers medal and a free picture that will be posted on Facebook shortly.  In addition, the race was chip timed, the course had plenty of volunteers and there was police support in part of the park where we had to run across the street.   You also received finish line food(including apples, bananas, and pizza) and a marked course throughout.  
I love the race shirt because there are NO sponsors on it.  I will definitely be wearing this shirt at races and in training.  The medal is also a great design and good quality too.

Shirt front
Shirt Back
Hammer nutrition
Swim cap
Extras in packet
Sweet medal
It's very clear that Tri To Finish really knows how to put on a race.  The company had an awesome website.  They were excellent at communication.  They had a Facebook page and Twitter page to check for updates.  We received an Athlete Guide that was sent to us race week that explained everything clearly.  The company set up the transition area nicely, and while it's my first tri, I felt it was very easy to navigate all parts of it as well as having a clearly marked course.

Overall, I would certainly do another Tri To Finish race again.  One thing that I was really concerned about was if it would be new triathlete friendly.   All the staff and volunteers made you feel very comfortable being there.  I would also say the same thing about the athletes as well.  Everyone I talked to was very friendly and willing to help you anyway that they could.  While there were many experienced triathletes, it was clear that the race wanted everyone to feel welcome.  I'm very happy to have picked Tri To Finish as my first triathlon experience since they did such as excellent job at everything.
Success - Finished!
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!


  1. I'm so glad to hear you had a good experience for your first tri. Especially considering the lack of tri-specific training, you did really great! The swim is the shortest, and to me, it seems to be the most do-able to go into that part without too much practice. The bike is another story. That's definitely the hardest part for me. You can tell a lot of the triathletes are hardcore bikers, making it pretty hard to be competitive without putting much time in on the bike. That bike course was very intimidating to me when I checked it out, and one attempt at sliding around in the loose rocks and sand up that big hill was enough for me to back off attempting this race. It's awesome that you were able to get through that and glad your wipeout wasn't too bad. I'm curious if congestion was ever an issue? Some of those stretches are pretty narrow, so I'm curious what it was like in a race setting.

    Awesome job on the run! One bonus for having your age written on your calf is that you can scope out your competition, haha. Nice job with that final kick in the run.

    Congrats on finishing your first tri and great job!!

    1. Not at all congested. There were place where I was passed and where I passed others but didnt have any issues. Most spots were wide enough.

  2. Great Job! I was running the path yesterday and stopped by to see how the tri was going, it was nearly over at that point (around the 3 hour mark) you could see the crew wanting to pack it up but there was still one last lady on the course I cheered her on to finish and the announcer gave her just as warm a welcome as the others I had heard from earlier on the path. Glad to hear it was a good experience for you. I would love to do a tri in the future probably not on such a challenging bike course though!

    1. One thing I liked. So friendly. Even for last place.

  3. Congrats on completing your first tri!!

  4. Awesome Jeff!. I am jealous. I've been talking about doing one forever, but have yet to do one.

    Congrats on your first Tri!!

  5. Great stuff, well run, and the swim was OK I'm not much faster...As you say, a little work on the bike and you can be 10-15min faster

  6. Great job! You are awesome to select an off road tri as your first tri! I came from a mountain biking background and have yet to do an off road tri in my 5 years of triathlon! Way to Go! BTW, my husband found himself racing on the Level Multisport team at a mountain bike race about a month ago. Love those guys. They are great. They carry great brands.

    1. The bike was tough but felt good finishing. If I can do it, you certainly can.

  7. Great job Jeff!!! Not sure I would want to bike those trails, lol, running them at B2B was bad enough.