UCLA Race Report – Jason Pianalto
UCLA is always one of my favorite races of the year. Mostly because of the course. The swim is short, only 400 meters, and I’m a developing (terrible) swimmer. The bike course is hilly and technical too. Being a less than muscular triathlete, I have less weight to drag up the hills. The run course doesn’t really matter, as running after swimming and biking will hurt no matter what.
It’s tradition that we spend the night at a teammate’s house near the race. So Saturday night, we had 15 triathletes (as well as 15 bikes) all cozied at my childhood home. Big shout out to my parents for being super tolerant. Speaking of tolerant, another shoutout to my 14.5 year old dog, Pepper. Pretty sure Sinead was in love.
3:45 am, the alarm goes off. If transitions are the secret 4th sport, then waking up absurdly early and attempting to eat through an unsettled stomach is definitely the 5th sport of triathlon. Typically I try to sleep in until at least 7 on a Sunday morning, but alas, transition opens at 5:30, and to get a good transition time you have to get the best spot. By 4:15, we are on our way to UCLA.
As I have stated before, I’m a bit of a slow swimmer. Which means that my race number is 146. UCLA uses a time trial pool swim start – at the start of the race, they send one athlete every 15 seconds. This means that I have 146*15s = 2190s = 36.5 minutes from the start of the race till the time I actually start my race. Which means that for close to 40 minutes, I’m shivering, dripping wet, huddled around a bunch of other shivering, dripping wet triathletes. I’m shivering because I need to do a swim warm up, but I can’t do a swim warm up while the race is underway. This also explains my dampness. After 36.5 minutes of shivering, awkward banter, and trips to the bathroom, I finally jump in the pool. Sweet, sweet heated pool.
I managed to put in a decent swim, drafting off of the person in front of me for about 200m. That’s all I’ll say about swimming because I’m not a gigantic fan.
The bike was easily my favorite part of the race. Plus I didn’t crash, which is always a bonus. Racing down downhills at 35+mph, yelling “ON YOUR LEFT” to the bunches of triathletes on a crowded course, and briefly catching air on UCLA’s awkwardly placed speed bumps is always a good time.
I jumped off my bike at the dismount line, and ran, barefoot, the roughly 200m into transition. There’s not too much to say about the run. I kept good form, running an 18:14 5k despite the hills.
I finish, and it turns out I got 4th overall out of 250 athletes! Pretty impressive, except that I realized I had skipped a lap on the bike, so my time doesn’t count. UCLA changed the bike course the day before due to a pipeline rupture, and about 20%ish of the athletes ended up messing up the laps. I was the fastest athlete to mess up the laps, which ended up putting me only a minute behind legendary collegiate triathlete Alexander Romanenko. Though my time was disqualified, I still think this is impressive. Not too shabby for a weekend.