THE FINE PRINT: The following preview is written using the information available at time of publishing. Race organizers reserve the right to change the details, including route, sometimes without warning. That said, the details listed below may change come race-day. I do my best to avoid that whenever possible -- but sometimes it simply isn't possible. Thank you for understanding. Keep R/B/S'ing! -R3KC
I feel that the peak of multi-sport season in the Kansas City area (and specifically, Kansas) is marked by a few events: The Legend Free State Triathlon in early- to mid-June (which, we all know the direction that went in), and the Shawnee Mission Triathlon in early- to mid-July. For me, more so the latter, as mid-July is perfect scheduling for those eyeing USAT Age Group Nationals only a handful of weeks later.
Beyond that, the Open Options Shawnee Mission Tri is just a great race: The bike and run courses are challenging, the field is always large due to the high popularity of the event, and the charitable beneficiary is an awesome one. Plus, I just love Shawnee Mission Park. My stomping grounds!
Let's check out the race, shall we?
No real changes from last year, except for maybe some changes to the race-day times (we have an earlier race star this year: 6:45am). Pre-Race Packet Pick-Up is available two days before at Elite Cycling (12-6pm), or the day before the race at the race site (or, more specifically, at transition) at the Shawnee Mission Park Marina from 3 to 5pm.
I recommend the Elite Cycling option, UNLESS you've never been to Shawnee Mission Park. If you haven't, it's worth checking out the course (specifically, the bike course) to know what to expect. Like many around-the-lake routes, it's a bit hilly (especially the southern half). So, pick up the packet, and drive around the lake once or twice (or, even better, bike it).
Race Weekend Schedule NEW SECTION
Race Day Parking
This one usually gets people that have never been to the race before (or worse, to Shawnee Mission Park). Though technically part of SMP, parking doesn't take place near the start/finish/transition areas; rather you park at Theater in the Park, along the northeast corner of the Park's boundaries.
If you are a participant, you'll be relegated to the approximately one-third-mile walk (or ride---wear your helmets!!!) to the transition area: You won't be able to fit your bike on the bus, and there are no bike racks on the buses. Honestly...it's a third of a mile. You're going to be doing a lot more pretty soon. Just be sure to wear your helmet if you ARE riding to/from the the parking area. Remember: this IS a USAT event, which means if you are observed without helmet but mounted on your bike -- even if not under race conditions -- you can and will be penalized all the way up to disqualification. Seriously.
Above you'll get an EXACT location of the transition area, located within Shawnee Mission Park Marina. Below, in the Swim Course section, I marked on the Google Earth image where transition is relative to the swim.
The layout of the parking lot is actually slightly diagonal, from southwest to northeast (parallel to 79th Street), and it slopes towards the lake. That slope is worth noting -- it makes getting on to the bike and getting rolling out of transition a little more of a challenge. It also makes the roll towards the dismount line a bit quick. Stay vigilant during mount and dismount -- it's not as straight-forward with the slope!
Speaking of which, bike-out is the eastern-most (or rather, I guess technically, "northeastern-most") edge of transition, run-out (and -in, if you're a duathlon participant) on the western edge, and swim-run-in from the south. SWIM START IS NOT NEAR TRANSITION, instead, it is...
...east of transition. This is another trickster...it means you have to walk a little bit, barefooted (unless you have an awesome spectator with you to take your sandals from you at the start) around the corner. It's about a 1/4-mile walk. There are trees between transition and the beach, so you can't short-cut in (unless, I guess, you swim there, which the DID let you do last year) -- you gotta walk the roadways around to swim start.
Here's another huge caveat: The swim house next to the beach has been demolished (don't worry -- they're building a new one). So the whole place is a construction area. You will get instruction in your pre-race athlete guides on how to navigate the construction area. The swim start will STILL take place on the beach, however.
See a map of swim below. You'll note the differences between swim start and swim-out. You also get a great idea of how the parking lot where transition will be is oriented.
As per the swim itself, the map below shows the long-course option (1000m). See the event's official webpage for a map of the short-course triathlon swim course (which, really, is the long-course option short-cut.
After negotiating bike-out, and the mount line, the long-course triathlon bike route is four laps around Shawnee Mission Park (to the short-course's two laps), equaling just short of 18 miles. There are sixteen total climbs on the route, although in reality it's four climbs repeated four times over. For duathletes, you get three laps, and thus 12 climbs, and short-course tri is two laps and 8 climbs.
Shawnee Mission Park has always been regarded as a great place to practice repeated short bursts of effort, because of the four short-yet-punchy hills that adorn the lake's southern stretch of road. Come race day, it will serve as a pain factory, with nearly 1,500 feet of total climbing.
The punches come fast and hard: The first climb, starting just at the end of Shawnee Mission Lake's Johnson County Dam, is the nastiest of the four, and can really be split in to two section. The first half of climb #1 (what I affectionately refer to as "Lookout Hill") is by far the most painful, an almost-7% average ascent up 51 feet, before leveling out slightly in to the second half, at 4%, up towards lookout tower. Overall, climb #1 is a half-mile at 5% average and 10% a the initial foot of the climb.
After lookout tower, a fast downhill leads straight in to climb #2, a quarter mile at almost 6%. Another drop in to Climb #3, this time only 0.15 miles, but still at 5.6%. The final climb comes just before turning back west towards the lake, and again is split in two, the first half also more steep, and averaging under 5% over a scant tenth of a mile.
The north side of the lake provides some wonderful respite in preparation for the next lap, and with some power on the pedals, can produce some lightning-fast speeds. A few minor up-ticks pop up on approach to the transition area before heading back out on to Johnson County Dam. On the road along the dam, wind will likely be the biggest factor, as the road is perched up on a hill with zero shielding from any gusts.
Over the course as a whole, the repetitiveness of the hill-climbs will be the largest factor, and a rhythm will have to be established right from the start. Take advantage of the speed allowed by the north side of the lake, but don't completely bomb it, as the last flat spot across the dam doesn't provide the same amount of respite with faces to the wind.
And HEY! Guess what!?? We have a bike course video for this one. It was recorded during the 2015 edition of the race, and the duathlon distance, so it only has the three laps instead of the four for long-course. Either way, it's a great preview of those climbs on-route.
I got a video course preview for this, too! In fact, for duathletes, the video starts with run leg 1, and finishes with the short-course triathlon run/duathlon run 2. The northern section of the long-course triathlon run is skipped (sorry 'bout that), but believe me when I say that the skipped section is quite flat -- it's the video-covered sections that are interesting.
For long-course triathletes, the embedded map (below) is for you.
Accomplishing T2 involves a slight uphill run out of transition to actually get on-course, due to that weird slope towards the lake. Once on course, long-course participants will start the 4.5-mile run leg on the northwestern corner of the bike route, including the first half of Lookout Hill, a quarter-mile at 7% grade. Then the looooong fall from the wall -- about three-quarters of a mile to be exact.
Though it sounds welcoming, the harsh pounding of the pavement will no-doubt absolutely trash quads. The fall leads in to the back multi-use trails of the Mill Creek Streamway trail. Once on the main trail -- which takes nearly 2 miles to get to -- the course is pancake-flat. Just before the finish line is where it picks up again, and throws the most difficult climb (less steep than Lookout Hill, but much longer) of the run route: a 0.30-mile, 5.5% ascent back up towards the lake. The finish is at the end of a short-yet-very-steep mini-climb (adding insult to injury).
That's all I got! I'll see y'all out there.
...and Keep R/B/S-ing!
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