Hey what’s up! My name is Carl Alleyne and this is my first season doing triathlons. The New Jersey State Tri is my third one so I wouldn’t consider myself a beginner but I’m definitely not a seasoned tri veteran either like some of my District Tri teammates.
A District Tri teammate of mine highly suggested the New Jersey State Triathlon so I chose it among the 4 that I registered for in the beginning of the year. He dubbed it as a flat course that was very ideal for fast times. Why the heck not! When I registered, I neglected to pay attention to the “pick race packet up on race day” option. It cost $15 but would’ve saved me some gas. I camped out in Philly at a family member’s house so it would’ve been nice not to have to drive to Trenton the day before the race. I don’t think I’ll be staying at a family member’s house the day before a race again haha. Nothing bad happened but they just don’t understand that I had an endurance race the next day. They “forced” me to eat bbq food which I’m sure wasn’t optimal for a triathlon haha. Furthermore, I had to pry myself away during late night catch up talk to get some sleep.
On flip side, picking up my race day packet on Friday made Saturday race a lot more smooth. I parked my car, placed my chip around my ankle, set up my bike/bike helmet stickers and was ready to head to the transition area. As soon as you walked into the marine park, they had volunteers ready to bib # body mark you on the way to transition. Very efficient! The transition area space for each racer was pretty standard although there was over 1370 sprint racers so the transition area itself was huge!! I did notice the lower number bibs were closer to the bike out exit which was preferable for me.
Onto the race conditions…They weren’t too bad considering it was an east coast race in July. The temperature was around 90 degrees but wasn’t too humid. The water was a non-legal wetsuit temperature of 88 degrees. The designated swim warm up area gave me a feel of just how warm doing a sprint in bath tub warm water would be.
The race day vibe was pretty incredible compared to the other two triathlons I did this year. They had a jumbotron with candid video of triathletes preparing for the race. Well-positioned loud speakers kept the music blasting before and during the race. The announcer was very upbeat and funny as well. The expo sold standard tri/endurance race items but was nothing to brag about.
For the actual race, the crowd and announcer got even more excitable than pre-race. As each race wave was called to the lake, volunteers blew out that Miami Hurricane football pre-game smoke to usher you into the water. Pretty cool! The course was very well marked with orange floats every 30 meters to pave the way. My wave had 60 racers in it so I already knew to get to the side as I’m not the fastest swimmer but also not the slowest. It didn’t actually matter because as soon as the horn blew for us to begin we all clumped up together. It was definitely my toughest open water swim. No exaggeration, I either hit someone or someone hit me every two strokes. There were few times that I remember being able to get into a smooth swimming groove. I had to catch myself and pause about 3 times. Not because I got tired but because my stroke was thrown off that much from physical contact with the other swimmers. It made for a difficult swim but I had still had fun. After the 500 meter swim, you exited onto a man-made sand strip leading to the transition area. That was great because that’s better than running barefoot on wet grass in my opinion. The swim-in transition distance wasn’t far at all. However, the transition area-to-bike out distance was pretty lengthy. I guessed the race organizers sacrificed the short swim-to-transition distance for the transition-to-bike mount distance. The bike course was short (11.5 miles) and relatively flat (it contained some false flats but nothing that I would remotely even call a hill even for a beginner biker). It was mostly flat which did make for several lengths of getting into good unabated sprints. Being my third triathlon and the fact I’ve been putting in some significant “saddle” time, I could see a false flat coming up and adjust my gears accordingly. Unlike other rides I’ve been on. Unfortunately, I underestimated how much the water temp and the 90 degree heat had on water loss and didn’t drink nearly as much as I should’ve during the bike portion. All in all, I felt good with a half mile to go on the bike and thought I could pull a good run time. The bike-to-transition distance was again, quite lengthy but not overwhelming. The only non-positive thing I noticed during the whole course was the amount of turns one had to make in order to get out of the transition area and onto the actual main running course. One of the volunteers even got turned around and directed me the wrong way which I wasn’t too happy about. However, they and my cheering teammate quickly got me on the right track. The running trail went through the park and also contained a couple false flats. Being the newbie I am, I went out a little too hard on the first mile and that made even the slightest rise in elevation very noticeable. I’d say about 60-70% of the sprint run course was shaded. Awesome because I didn’t feel like I was going to overheat. The enthusiastic water station volunteers were set up all along the course. They even had a sprinkler set up half way through which was optional to run through. The finish was great as it was very well attended by volunteers and spectators cheering on everybody. The loud speaker music and confetti from the volunteers gave me that extra push to finish hard the last .35 miles. In fact, I ran at such a fast pace during that last segment, it made me wonder if I wasn’t running as hard as I could’ve been during the rest of the course. I’ll chalk it up to the race finish adrenaline haha.
As soon as you finish, they have volunteers ready to take racing chip themselves, hand you your hard earned medal and direct you to the shower/sprinkler tent. Man, the sprinkler shower was God sent!! Best part of the race hahaha. Certainly, a much need cool down and got me in a relaxed state. Everyone was very friendly as several racers I “met” along the course spoke to me afterward. The food was pretty standard, except that caramel cookie. Delicious!! Although I didn’t hit my goals, I improved in terms of time/pace on each portion. I know that was, in part, due to the great race course set up. All in all, The New Jersey State Tri was a great race experience and I would definitely recommend it as a future team race.