AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm adding some nifty new feature to my previews. Like the "Quick Info" bullet-points, but for each individual section. This includes updated segments that also include Strava Segments (just click on the "(strava)" next to the segment). Check-em out, and let me know what you think.
IMPORTANT ROUTE CHANGES below in the Bike leg section. Keep tuned from an official athlete guide from organizers that reflect these changes.
In terms of pool-swim triathlons (or really, any area triathlon), this is one of my favorites. No, it's not the longest, or hardest, or stacked with the utmost elite, but the charm, awesome race route, and incredible volunteers and support staff make this a worthy addition. THIS IS GRASSROOTS RACING AT ITS FINEST, PEOPLE! So adjust your expectations accordingly, and I guarantee you'll have a blast.
Now...that said, this race does have an interesting twist to it: It's on an active military base. As such, you can expect security is of high concern. If you've raced in the past, you'll know: to even get on the base, you must undergo a lengthy background check and check-in process. No, I'm not joking. And given the fact that THIS TAKES PLACE ON A FREKKIN ACTIVE MILITARY BASE, I'd be understanding of this fact and respect it. 'Cause it's pretty cool.
So, before we even get to the packet pick-up info, we'll include a special section just for the check-in process. (P.S. If you have an active military ID, you can skip the info about the background check -- just show your ID at the main gate -- and thank you for your service to our country)
Base Check In, Part I: Background Check
If you've raced in the years' past, but not LAST YEAR, things have changed a bit. Long lines at the main gate made personnel re-think the check-in process. Now you must proceed to the Base Visitor's Center to undergo a background check and be given a temporary visitor's pass. If you're familiar with the area, it's one street east of where the main gates are. For those that use GPS, the official address is 8 Sherman Avenue, Fort Leavenworth, KS (or, for Google Maps users, you can click this link).
Park in the lot in front of the Visitor's shack. If you're an early-riser, the Visitor's Center may not even be open. Several will arrive before it does, so there will be lines. Check in at the desk inside the visitor's center (write your name on the log book), and patiently wait your turn. Once called, you'll get a background screen, and be awarded the pass.
Last year, I was one of said early-risers, and was about 8 people back on the list. I ended up waiting about 30-or-so minutes AFTER the Visitor's Center opened (and about half an hour FOR it to open). You get antsy, but we all know it's worth it. This is the perfect opportunity to center yourself before the race.
Jump back in your car and head west about a tenth of a mile to the main gate.
Base Check In, Part II: Gate Check In
There may be lines here, too. But with pass in hand, it is a lot quicker than years' past (they used to run the background checks in the booths). Just keep in mind that a pass in-hand doesn't automatically grant you access: You are subject to a vehicle search, AND THEY DO HAPPEN. Gun law debates aside, if you have them (and are not a military personnel), then leave them at home. Any other contraband? Leave it at home. Seriously -- common sense for this one. I have seen an athlete get turned away. Dumb.
Once you're through, continue north along the main road to your destination. Whether you're early or race-day packet pick-up, that will determine your next destination. Keep reading...
For early packet pick-up-ers: The only pre-race packet pick-up is the day before, for two-or-so hours between 3:30 and 6pm, at the Frontier Conference Center on Fort property. THIS IS A DIFFERENT LOCATION FROM WHERE THE RACE IS/WILL BE (though it is technically along the run route). Use the address above -- it'll take you there.
OR, you can use this nifty link HERE.
If you're picking up race day? Use the next-up info on race-day parking. There will be a table set up inside Harney Gym (where the pool swim is). Enter through the main doors: Pool will be to the left, gymnasiums will be to the right. Continue right, then left past the vending machines. At the end of the hall is the northern-most gymnasium. Pick-up will be in there (as well as pre-race meeting and post-race awards).
There are two main lots used for parking. I have parking icons (blue "P's") noting them in the Google Earth snapshot above the Transition discussion in the Course Preview below. One is located just south of The Exchange store located south of Iowa and east of Warehouse. The other -- and this one fills up fast -- is north of Iowa, just west of the drive-thru dining facility. GENERALLY, given the relatively small-ish crowds, parking is an easy task. I've never had any issue getting in or out (other than the check-in process, of course). And everything is a short walk to transition. Speaking of...
Aside from that, it's pretty straightforward. See the pic below: The parking lot under that yellow arrow is the entirety of the transition area. Rectangular in shape, Swim-In is the southwestern-most corner of the rectangle, Bike-Out/-In the southern-most, and Run-Out the southeastern-most. Swimmers will exit the pool (see below), run out the door straight ahead of your lane exit, and look ahead and slightly to the left to run in to transition. Very short run to transition here: Maybe 50 meters or more.
This is a pool-swim triathlon. All other sports outdoors, pool indoors. The pool is located within Harney Gym, the building to the west of transition. Go in through the double doors and the pool area is on the left.
The swim starts from the east end of the northern-most lane (if looking at the pool from the reception area, it'll be the lane closest to you, and at the left-most end of the lane). The pool is 50 yards in length per lap (25y per length), and there are 8 lanes.
This is what's called a Serpentine-Style swim. Now there's some confusion with organizers in the area about what that means: I recently did a pool triathlon where the organizers described the swim as "serpentine-style," but it wasn't. That triathlon did one full lap before switching lanes. I consider that Out-and-Back Style. Serpentine, on the other hand (what this swim IS), is swim one LENGTH of the pool, and switch lanes BEFORE swimming back to complete the full lap. See my preview of the TriZou Triathlon: They ALSO describe their swim as Serpentine-Style on the official website. But here's the thing -- it is ACTUALLY serpentine-style.
Anyways...off my soapbox.
There are 8 lanes at the Harney gym. Serpentine-Style means you're doing 8 lengths. And with 25y to a length, that's a 200y swim. Swim exit will be at the southern-most lane, also on the east side of the lane (i.e. You're exiting on the same side you entered). There is a side-door exit to the pool area straight ahead of the southeastern-most lane. After exiting the pool, just continue straight ahead to the outdoors. As stated above, transition is ahead and a bit to the left as you're exiting the pool area. Just look for the bikes -- you'll see them.
"4th Street in front of Harney Sports Complex is torn up for construction. Recommend you use Iowa Street to get to Athlete Parking on race day. There will be a map in the Athlete's Guide (Best to check it out prior to race day). With 4th Street being closed, this means as you leave T1 (swim-to-bike transition), you will turn RIGHT at the end of the parking lot and go down the long driveway next to the Dining Facility and then negotiate two 90 degree turns out on to Iowa St. (You will come back this way also.)."
With that said, on to the rest of the preview...
This IS a relatively small triathlon. But, damn, it's bike leg packs one hell of a wallop. Yes, 20k(-ish) puts it at sprint distance, but you work all 20k -- not only the climbs (2 in particular), but the technicality of the course, too. You could easily get away with opting for a road bike instead, prizing light weight and handling over aerodynamic benefit. I've done this event under each option -- I have yet to find either to be better than the other. So, in short, if you're road bike is mucho-lighter than your tri bike -- opt for road.
You have to navigate a bit before you even get to what I consider to be the main bike route. First, the southern-most edge of transition (between Swim-In on the right and Run-Out on the left) is Bike-Out/-In. Mount, and continue south about 50m to the T-intersection and turn left, followed immediately by a right on to Fourth. Then, another right on to Iowa. Continue straight through the roundabout. Take a right at the T-intersection on to Biddle, and a left on to Cody Ave. This sweeps left to become 9th Calvary Rd, and intersects with Hancock. Take a left on to Hancock followed nearly immediately by a right on to Sheridan.
PHEW! THIS is where I feel you actually get on route. Lotsa turns, right? And this is just in the first mile (!!!). Also, by this point, you're on the first of three real climbs on route ("Sheridan West," or "Wagner Point," or "Cody/Hancock to Sheridan Hill-West," depending on who you talk to). Of the three, this is next to most difficult, and one of the two that really make this route tricky. Hang tough, because it lasts for over a mile. And once you get to the top, remember: You gotta descend this sucker (and climb it again later).
Before you ascend ALL the way up Sheridan, the route veers right on to McPherson. Things get technical again as you make your way around the northeast corner of the military base and on to the main Sherman Ave drag. Southbound on Sherman is a quick stretch through mile 5 of the bike course, before a quick bump in the road up to the turn-around back north on Sherman. Through to the turn-around is a net downhill at about 2-3%. Though you may not feel it immediately, you'll climb this on your way "back in to town." Speeds will be substantially slower, and legs will be dramatically sting-y-er.
Because they can, organizers stick the final - and most brutal - climb next. Affectionately named "The Beast" (or, non-threateningly, "McPherson Ave. Climb" on Strava), this is a grueling 1.2 mile slog up over 300 feet, with some grades hitting 10%+. There are two false flats on the way up that do provide some respite, but they are short-lived. In the Kansas City area, we don't see too many climbs above an official Category 5 during the bike leg of a triathlon, but this is one of them. Category 4.
Then, the descent. Not quite as technical as the first, but good brakes are required for the bottom, as it quickly runs in to a hard left-hander. The run in is reverse of the run out.
My recommendation: Watch the bike video I've prepared for you. It's a bit rainy, but it helps (I tried to record a new one last year, but the route was revised due to flooding on the route -- so the resulting video quickly became useless). If not for the technical sections on-course, to get an idea of the climbs on route. Trust me: You don't want to miss a turn, and it's VERY easy to do (I've done this event 4 years now, and I've made a wrong turn twice -- not that I set the bar by any means).
(youtube video direct hyperlink https://youtu.be/ye8JQWE14MA)
On to the run! Remember, Run-Out transition exit is on the southeast corner (if you're looking from INSIDE the transition area towards the transition opening, it's going to be to the left a bit). Once you're out, it's a quick one-eighty on to Fourth St northbound. You'll cross Cody Rd and hit the trail/sidewalk, turn left, and follow Cody Rd west. The trail curves north, turning in to Biddle.
Mile 1 comes at the intersection of Biddle and Pope Ave. Turn right on to Pope. Not soon after is a left turn on to McClelland Ave. This comes with it a short uphill (though not enough that makes it significant). Then, complete the square: Turn left on to Organ Ave, pass mile 2, then left back on to Biddle, this time southbound.
This is what's called a "lollipop loop." You have the outbound (up the stem), then a loop (around the lolly), then back inbound the way you came (down the stem). Once you get to Biddle & Pope, the return is the same as the outbound.
It's a fairly simple run loop, and though, as I said, there are no significant climbs, it does have a few bumps here and there (particularly out of transition, btw).
After all is said and done, the results and awards are presented in the same gym as race-day packet pick-up. Congrats on the finish!
Hope the new features we useful. See you soon with more previews! Until then, keep R/B/S-ing
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