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Race Report – Lifetime Fitness Indoor Triathlon 2019 (Florham Park)

Lifetime Fitness is a chain of high-end gyms that runs an indoor triathlon series at many of its locations in the winter. I had never participated in this event before, but signed up this year for the Florham Park, New Jersey race.

As the date (1/20/19) neared, a snowstorm loomed, threatening a closure of the gym. I had planned to work all night on 1/19 and then drive straight to the race after work. Watching the weather, the rain-snow line appeared to have shifted, and it turned out that the area received very little snow. What snow we did have had mostly melted by morning with rising temperatures and rain.

Check-In and Packet Pick Up

Leading up to race day, I didn’t have a lot of information from the race organizers. I knew what time to arrive (30 minutes prior to my swim wave). The rest of my knowledge was gleaned from online chats about the event.

Race bib and swim cap.

The roads weren’t bad at all that morning and I arrived very early for the event. I checked in at the front desk and was directed toward the locker rooms. Before I reached those, I found the event table at the end of the hallway on the left. This was a bit like a packet pick-up. I received my bib, a swim cap, and a mug. The organizers seemed to assume that I knew where I was going and what I was doing (I didn’t). I had to ask questions, but at least I was already familiar with triathlons in general.

Event Format and Equipment

With this being an indoor triathlon, the swim would be in the pool, the bike was on spin bikes, and the run was on a treadmill. Rather than holding to set distances, each discipline would be raced for a set time. The distance that each athlete traveled in that time period was recorded.

  • Swim = 10 minutes
  • Bike = 30 minutes
  • Run = 20 minutes

I stowed my bag in a locker and used a second one for my equipment that I would need for the race. This approach was suggested by another woman who was getting ready for her own race. I had decided to wear a swimsuit for the pool and then would change into a tri kit before the bike segment. Some people wore tri kits for the whole thing.

Everyone had 10 minutes for transition between the swim and bike, and 5 minutes for transition between the bike and run. You could go back to your locker during this time, so there was no need to drag a bag to the pool. However, the transition between the bike and run was shorter, so I saw most participants bring their running shoes up to the cycling area.

I didn’t bring anything special for the swim, just my normal goggles. I used the swim cap provided and also had a bottle of water at the edge of the pool. One small detail – Lifetime Fitness provides towel service. I had brought my own towel, but it turns out that I probably didn’t need to.

Someone had suggested that I check out the spin bikes and figure out how to adjust the seat prior to the race start. Since I had some extra time, I did do this and I think it was a good idea. I had never ridden a spin bike before. It did take me a few minutes to figure out how to set it up. Toe cages were available on some bikes, while others just had pedals to clip in.

My bike set up.

The treadmills for the run were across the room from the bikes. For both the bike and run, I had my water bottle, phone, and headphones. I had intended to wear my cycling gloves, but forgot them.

The Swim

I arrived on the pool deck 10 minutes before my start time, as recommended. I had decided to treat the swim as a practice because I hadn’t done any swimming all week and my shoulder had been sore before that. I planned to focus on my form and keep a steady pace.

The water was warm enough (although I would always prefer it to be warmer). I didn’t jump in until a few seconds before the start because I need to get moving to warm up. Nothing untoward happened. I had my own lane and I swam some laps.

SWIM = 18 lengths

The Bike

I took a few minutes to catch my breath when the whistle blew to stop the swim. Knowing that I only had 10 minutes, I clambered out of the water, grabbed my towel and went back to my locker to change.

I felt fine as I arrived in the cycling area. I had thought this would be in a spin studio of some sort, but the bikes were just grouped on one side of the main exercise floor. I picked out a bike with toe cages and adjusted the seat and handlebars.

Data displayed on the bike.

While I waited for transition to be over, I spun lightly and drank water. One of the volunteers instructed us on how to start the clock on the bikes. Soon enough, the 30 minutes began.

I pedaled easy for the first 3 minutes, trying to get a sense of the spin bike. The display contained a power reading and I watched that as I increased the difficulty using a knob rather than gears. After 3 minutes I settled in to a steady pace which I was able to maintain for the duration.

A couple downsides of the cycling arrangement became clear as my time ticked down. First – there were no fans, so my hands became sweaty and slick. I realized that I had forgotten my cycling gloves. The volunteers did bring us hand towels though, so I was able to wipe down the handlebars periodically.

The other problem was that the bike seat was not terribly comfortable. I was happy that my ride was only 30 minutes.

BIKE = 9.0 miles

The Run

Getting ready to run.

When time was up for the bike, the transition to the run was very simple. I had worn my running shoes on the bike, so I had nothing to change in terms of equipment. I refilled my water bottle and made my way to the treadmill.

I walked until it was time to begin. The volunteer made sure that I knew which buttons to push and then we started a short time after that.

I ran easy for the first few minutes and then gradually increased my pace. I felt fine so I increased my pace for the last 3 minutes also.

RUN = 1.96 miles

The display on the treadmill. The distance rolled over to 1.97 miles as the belt slowed.

Finishing Up

There wasn’t much fanfare when it was over. A volunteer came by with a medal and a high-five. I walked down the stairs to the event table and ate an orange slice. They also had chocolate milk.

I was able to find my results in an email later that day. You are scored based on how far you went in each discipline relative to everyone else. For example, if I swam 18 lengths of the pool and five people swam further than me, out of maybe 30 participants, then I would be ranked #6 in the swim.

From there, the #1 person gets points equal to the number of participants, decreasing by one down the list:

  • #1 = 30 points
  • #2 = 29 points
  • #3 = 28 points
  • #4 = 27 points
  • #5 = 26 points
  • #6 = 27 points
  • and so on …

The points for each discipline were added for a total score. I ended up with the following score, and it looks like that put me in 4th place in the women’s Masters division. The full results can be found here.

SWIM = 41 points

BIKE = 32 points

RUN = 37 points

TOTAL = 110 points

I had a nice time, despite a bit of confusion going in. I’d consider signing up for this next year. With a little bit more direction or guidance, it would be a great event for someone new to triathlon.

I’m not sure I got the right medal.

Did you race the same event or one in a different city? Let me know in the comments below!

See all my race reports here.

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Fencing Tournament Report – Cincinnati NAC (December 2018)

I had hoped to write this up earlier, but have been delayed by illness and holidays. This event was about 2 weeks ago and is one of several North American Cups (NAC) held every year by the US Fencing Association.

Description of the Event

What is a NAC? This is basically a series of national-level events that is run by US Fencing, with one held about once a month (October, November, December, January, March, April) during the main part of the fencing season. Each event encompasses different levels and age groups for the competition. The specific NACs for this season can be found here.

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Facing down the strip.

The location for these events rotates through different cities across the U.S. (and at least once in Canada that I remember). Ohio seems to be a favorite state this year, with events in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. The December NAC this year was open for Division I, Division II, Vet Open, Vet Age, and Senior Team events.

I went to fence in both the Vet Open and Vet Age Group events, although technically I could have also fenced in Division I and II. Division I is for fencers who are rated as A, B, or C, and those who finish high enough earn points which count toward a national ranking. Division II is for fencers who are rated C and below.

Registration

The NAC registrations are done through the USFA’s site. The deadline for entry for a NAC is more than a month ahead of the event. The site also lists who is registered, so you can agonize about your competitors for weeks ahead of time.

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A general view of the venue.

I have a C rating and am usually comfortable in Division II, but my event for Div II was on the first day of competition and the Vet events were more important for me this year so I decided to sit out Div II and stay fresh for the other events. I have fenced dozens of Division I events in the past, but decided against the extra expense of this entry for what would probably be five 5-touch bouts.

Each NAC event features an Athlete Packet which gives all the details for the venue, tournament format, and other rules.

Location and Venue

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View of the ice rink from the Westin.

Airfare for this event ended up being fairly inexpensive, so I booked a flight. My travel was uneventful and I made it to Cincinnati in the evening on Friday. The airport for the Cincinnati area is actually in northern Kentucky. I booked a shuttle service from the airport to the hotel and back.

A NAC is typically held in a convention center, where there is plenty of room for dozens of fencing strips, a finals strip, vendors, and the bout committee. The December NAC was held at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati. As far as I could tell, it was a pretty standard convention center. I didn’t see that any other events shared the venue with us that weekend.

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Bruschetta with honey and goat cheese.

Cincinnati offered several large hotels within walking distance to the venue. I stayed with friends at the Westin and we scored a suite after some confusion and phone calls.

I was pleasantly surprised by downtown Cincinnati. We found plenty of places to eat (although most require reservations to get in), and there was a cute downtown square with a Christmas tree and small ice rink.

Check-In and Ticketing

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Downtown Cincinnati

US Fencing has instituted a new ticketing system for attendance at national events for this season. This was my first chance to see how it worked. Anyone with a valid USFA membership just has to show their membership card. Others pay a small fee of $5 per day or $15 for the whole event.

The typical check-in booth was located outside the event hall. I swiped my membership card when I arrived, and a staff member gave me one of those stick on wrist bands. She didn’t even put it on my wrist and just handed it to me. I ended up wearing it on my wrist, but could easily have handed it off to someone else and then gone back for another one.

I did see the person at the door ask to see the wrist bands so the ticketing was at least enforced. We were also told that we could put the band on a bag. But again, what’s to stop someone from obtaining one band, placing it on a throwaway bag, and then proceeding to hand that off to anyone who wants to enter later on that weekend?

Format and Fencing

The format for the veteran events is a round of pools followed by reseeding into a direct elimination (DE) tableau. No one is eliminated until you lose a DE bout. There is no fence-off for third place. Top 8 make the podium and receive medals. Points are awarded as well and these contribute to a fencer’s national ranking.

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The raised finals strip.

Pools are fenced to 5 touches and DE bouts are fenced to 10 (15 for non-veteran events). Video replay is allowed at a certain point in the event. I believe in my events it started in the semi-finals. The gold medal bout is fenced on the raised finals strip.

My events took place on Saturday (Vet Open WS) and Sunday (Vet 40 WS). I also purchased new blades since I had broken my last one in practice shortly before this event.

My Fencing

I started out pretty jittery in the first few bouts of the Vet Open event. I decided to do an experiment by drinking coffee and eating a bigger breakfast than I usually would have. My stomach felt uncomfortably full during my warm-up, and I’m not sure if the jitters were from the coffee or just nerves.

After the first three bouts in my pool, I settled down and began to fence better. I ended up with a 4-2 record and an indicator of +9. That ended up putting me 12th of 41 for the DE round. I fenced progressively better as the day went on and soon found myself in the gold medal bout. I ended up losing a close match to a friend and took 2nd place.

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Vet Open WS Podium (photo by Kate Sierra)

About an hour after the Vet Open concluded, I started to feel progressively more congested and soon decided that I was coming down with a cold. I stayed at the venue to watch the MS event, had a nice dinner with another club’s fencers and coaches, and then went to sleep.

Day 2 of my fencing found me well-rested but definitely sick. I didn’t feel too bad if I moved slowly, so I worked on some writing in my hotel room before the afternoon Vet 40 event. I stuck with the same nutrition plan – good breakfast plus coffee.

My warm-up was very minimal because I felt like I had a very tiny amount of energy to use for the day. The Vet 40 event was significant smaller than the Vet Open, with only eleven fencers. I tried to fence without moving much, because whenever I exerted myself, my heart rate skyrocketed and I was winded in just seconds.

Given my illness, I didn’t do half badly, ending up with a 3-2 record and an indicator of +6. That put me into 4th place going into the DE round. I managed to put myself into the semi-finals where I lost to a strong fencer 10-7, ultimately finishing in 3rd place. The day ended with a trip to a brewery for a burger and beer, and then bed.

Results for the entire NAC can be found here.

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One silver, one bronze!

I’m happy with my fencing on this trip, although I wish I hadn’t been sick for the second day. Now I’m taking a short break and then it’s back to practice. Coming up – several smaller events in January and February and then another NAC in April!

Did you fence this December in Cincinnati? How was your event? Would you return to another NAC in Cincinnati? Do you travel nationally for fencing or just locally? Let me know in the comments!

See my other fencing articles and event reports here.

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