UCI Race Report
by Jason Pianalto
For a sprint tri, UCI is a pretty tough course. The swim is in a pool (yay!) and only 450 yards (double yay!), but they usually send athletes into the pool at 5 second intervals. This, along with the fact that their is pool is tiny, uses 25 yards instead of 50, and requires athletes to swim up and down one lane before snaking to the next, means that it’s less like being in a pool and more like being in a blender (boo!) The bike course is four laps in the shape of a bowl – if you aren’t going down into the bowl, you’re climbing out of it. It has two iffy downhill corners and one absolutely terrifying downhill corner. The run is similar to the bike – if you aren’t going uphill, you are going downhill. It finishes with a fast 800m downhill sprint on dirt.
The gun goes off, and because I am number 10,239 (due to my less than ideal swimming abilities) I wait about 6 minutes. Finally, it’s time. I get a running leap into the pool in an attempt to shorten the swim by any amount. I start off consistent and slow, keeping control of my cadence and form. I hit the first wall and push off. About a second and a half later, BAM! Head on collision with another swimmer because I forgot that we go back and forth in one lane instead of switching each wall. It was about here that I lose track of what lap I’m on. Seven minutes later and I’m climbing out of the pool and running to my bike. I have a flawless transition (side note: I’m very competitive, but realistically will never be the best runner cyclist or swimmer. This is why I work on my transitions so much! Gotta be best at something) and run out onto the bike course. I jump on my bike, and realize that I cannot see a thing. A fog rolled in and condensed water droplets over everything – including my glasses. I take off my glasses, throw them on the side of the course, and start climbing. The nice thing about being slow at swimming is I usually get to pass a lot of people on the bike course, which is wonderful for self-confidence. I descend, screaming downhill, and make the aforementioned terrifying corner. Though I cornered well, I still feel my rear wheel begin to lose traction. Remember the condensation on my glasses? Yeah, it was definitely on the road too. After seeing a few people on the side of the road who crashed through that corner, I decide to take the corners super conservatively. I’ll lose maybe 10-15 seconds over the whole race, but at least I won’t injure myself.
Legs feeling like burnt jelly, I have another great transition (thanks Zoot for the slip on shoes!) Whenever I start the run I always repeat the same thing in my head. Looking around at my competitors, I think, “Ahh, you think running is your ally? You merely adopted the run. I was born on the track, molded by it.” Maybe this makes me weird, but that’s okay, because it helps me gear up for the final part of the race. I run off, pausing for a second to adjust the timing chip digging into my ankle. The run was grueling, but I had a USC athlete about my speed to talk (read: grunt) to which was nice. Cresting the last uphill, I push it into sixth gear and sprint the last 800. I ran the 400 fairly successfully in highschool, and still have not been out sprinted in collegiate tri. UCI was no different, and as I came running down the chute, I managed to hold it together and not puke in front of my girlfriend. A great start to Valentine’s Day!