Travel: Amtrak -Travel to and from the race was smooth. Amtrak gives bike passengers priority boarding on longer distances. I was able to lock up my bike in a special bike compartment under the train, and find my seat before any other passengers boarded. Chicago Union station was less than 2 miles from the race expo and registration.
Packet Pick up: Saturday Morning packet pick up was seamless. Bikes were welcome in the host hotel. Bike valet volunteers on checked bikes, allowing athletes to attend the mandatory briefing and the expo without worrying on where to put their bikes. Race participants must attend pre-race info sessions prior to picking up registration packets. Info sessions were held every 30 minutes, after which, hand stamps were provided. Hand stamps acted as a ticket to packet pickup. Packet pickup was smooth, well organized and unremarkable.
Bike Check-in: Unlike some other triathlons, participants were allowed to drop off bikes the day before (by 5pm) or bring bikes to checkin the day of the event. While the flexibility was appreciated, this, along with the fact that bikes weren’t required to be racked in numerical order, created race-morning chaos (more on that later). Bike check-in was about a mile walk from the expo and was straight forward. Check-in was for bikes only, other gear needed to be brought on race day. Unlike other Lifetime triathlons, Tri bags were allowed (though space was extremely limited) on race day.
Race day: I arrived at the transition at 4:45am which gave me ample time to setup my transition area and beat the crowd well before transition closed at 5:30. As mentioned above, this race did not require bikes to be numerically checked in (eg. rows would say 1500 – 1600 and participants within that number range could rack their bike wherever they saw fit in that general area. At about 5:00am, people who had not checked their bikes in the night before began arriving and moving bikes and complaining that there was nowhere to setup their transition.
**At the mandatory briefing one race vet stated that he usually tied a bandana around the rail underneath his bike. This serves the duel purpose of marking one’s territory in the morning and making the transition area a little more visible during the race. I also keep a small flashlight in my tri bag. This came in handy as it was pitch black when I arrived at transition and the area was not very well lit.
Race course and conditions
Swim – Water conditions were choppy but temperate. The water was 72 degrees and the weather was overcast and mid seventies. The swim course for the Olympic distance was in the shape of the letter “J” -swimmers swam north, made a u-turn around a buoy, and swam south along the sea wall to the swim exit. Sprinters swam in straight line along the sea wall to the exit. The water was rough, but the water but clear and of seemingly good quality. The swim was awesome for spectators as they could see the entire length of the swim. Swim start was in waves separated in 4 minute intervals. Each wave of athletes entered together and treaded water for approximately 2 minutes prior to the start of their race. I preferred this type of start because it allowed me to get acclimated to the water prior to taking off. It would not be an understatement to say that 98% of the swimmers wore wetsuits. In the 2-hour period between the start of the event and the start of my heat, I only saw two other people without a wetsuit (for context, one person wore stars and stripes themed Speedos and the other old school swim trunks that went down past the knees). The distance from the swim exit to bike transition was from 1/4 up to 1/2 a mile depending on where a competitor’s bike was racked.
Bike – Road conditions were smooth and the course was generally fast and flat. There may have been one or two significant hills on the 25 mile Olympic course. By far my favorite part of the race was the underground portion of the bike. This portion of the race was wide, smooth, dark and hot, but invited riders to go all out. I was  saddened but not surprised to hear of the riders being hit by cars, much of the course was on the highway with only cones separating 2 bike lanes.
Run – The run was flat, narrow, and spectator friendly. Runners ran along Lake Michigan and turned around at either the 1.5 or 3 mile mark. Water and gatorade were available at just about every mile.
The finish line was about a mile from transition and trolley’s were provided to get competitors and spectators alike back to the race start.
Final Thoughts
Overall the race was a great experience. The folks at Lifetime know what they are doing. There are great race perks (free pictures and an app for cyber supporters to track their triathletes, food after the race, and a race sponsored car with the name of every competitor on it). The medals while formulaic (both Chicago and New York’s medals feature a monument on the left and the host city’s skyline encircled in the center) are good looking and substantial in size and heft. If I had to nitpick, I’d say the race shirt’s design seems like an uninspired afterthought. Availability permitting, I’d love to return to do this race in the future.

Hey everyone! Yayo here with a recap of the Quantco Sprint Triathlon! I am a first year triathlete and this was my 4th (and favorite) race of the year so far.

Packet pick up was the Friday before the race at the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) headquarters building from 7:30 am – 7:00 pm. Swim caps, bibs, tattoos and even the timing chips were included, which made for a smooth race day. There were even a few gels and granola bars to grab on the way out. It was really cool to see all of the medals and memorabilia detailing the history of MCM and talk to some of the people who worked there. 

The race took place at the Officer Candidates School on the Quantico Marine Base in Quantico, VA on Saturday, August 26 and featured a sprint distance triathlon and 12 K run. It was a little chilly before the start of the race, but the water was warm enough to make it non-wetsuit legal. District Tri was DEEP with 10 athletes competing! Our pre-race warm up consisted of applying race numbers prior to the swim start (note to self: do this the night before) and dancing with the Marine Corp mascots, because you gotta loosen up.

After the national anthem and a quick prayer it was time to race! The half mile swim course was well marked and easy to navigate. Male and female athletes were grouped in waves by their 750 M swim time. It was a little rough swimming with some of the guys and I caught a few elbows, but I held my own and left a few of them in my wake. 

The transition area was only a short distance from the swim and bike. It was well spaced out and they provided water inside. It also gave spectators a front row seat to the action and take some great photos and videos.

The scenic 20 K bike course took us all around the base. There was a race crew who went out the day before the race to make sure that any large debris was removed from the course. They even marked all the major potholes, which was a HUGE plus! The course featured a solid mix of hills, straight aways and a massive downhill where people clocked speeds over 35 mph! 

The run started out going across a bridge and continued along a gravel trail through the woods. Aside from getting to the top of the bridge, there weren’t any major hills to conquer. The best part of the run for me was seeing my teammates on the other side of the trail! We all shouted and gave each other high-fives which gave me some extra motivation to keep up the pace. The turnaround for the 5K  also merged with the the last leg of the 12K. It was great to see all the runners and triathletes give each other that final push through to the finish line together.

Approaching the finish line, you were surrounded by the cheers of spectators on both sides and the post race festival was in full swing. After you picked up your finisher medal, you were given a bag full of water, sports drinks, fruits and other post race snacks. Race sponsors were giving out lots of goodies (hello water bottles!), including a raffle to win an iPad mini and some free Jersey Mike’s subs. There was even some post race grill action and a free beer for the athletes (which, after the medal, is a major factor of my race selection process) Oh, and they were giving out free CASES – not boxes – of Girl Scout cookies. We all went home very happy.

Special shout out to Tazer Tay for completing his first open water swim and Marcus Fitts for placing 2nd in his age group! I also have to shout out the cheer squad for coming out early in the morning to keep everyone motivated. They always bring the best snacks, find the best spots to post up along the course and take the best race photos!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this race.  It was very well organized and budget friendly. I enjoyed racing on a Saturday morning and not having to travel too far away from home. After competing on a very flat course, a very hilly course and in a super sprint, Quantico truly offers a challenge for the novice and seasoned athlete alike. The MCM staff and volunteers were located all throughout the course and were very helpful and supportive. The athletes were great (I saw someone stop to help another biker who was having some issues) and the overall energy at the race was high. This was also my first time racing with a large group of teammates! I’d highly recommend this race for the newbie looking to turn it up a notch or the veteran looking for some serious competition – or anyone looking to go FAST!