The University of Florida has and always will have a special place in my heart. I grinded for 5 years through their computer engineering curriculum, and made friends and memories that will last a lifetime. It’s also where my interest in triathlon began (we'll save that story for another time). Since my last semester there, I’ve always wanted to participate in the TriGators Super Sprint triathlon- an extremely short race consisting of a 250 yard swim, 3.4 mile bike, and 1.1 mile run that’s held on campus, but never had the chance. Finally, 3 years later, that day came.
It’s always an awesome time returning to Gainesville. I had the opportunity to tour around new additions to campus, reunite with old friends, hit up Swamp Head, eat lots of food, and even play basketball with my brother. I really wanted to do this race because I thought it would be a great time doing something I love in a place that I Iove- swimming/biking/running through the UF campus! Just experiencing the race meant more to me than finishing in a certain time.
Coming into this race, I knew my biggest challenge would be pacing myself at above average race pace. The swim/bike/run distances are so short and are barely even my warm-up distances on training days; it was going to be the shortest triathlon I’d have ever done. The race is labeled as a “Super Sprint” and it’s exactly that- pretty much an all out dash in each leg. Will I start out too fast and burn out early? Or stay steady and then pick it up a notch towards the end? Keep reading to see what happened.
The transition area was on the north lawn of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, aka The Swamp. I chose an end-of-the-bike-rack spot to set up and just enjoyed the beautiful morning weather while striking up some convo with other triathletes. It must’ve been in low 60s at around 8:00am (the race began at 9:30am).
As I was reviewing the course map, I noticed something that caught me off guard- the bike course 3.4 miles, when I thought all along that it was 5 miles. "Even better," I thought. "I could go even faster." My good friend Jan Matt arrived and I helped him get set up. It was his first triathlon!
The swim was held in Florida Pool, an outdoor and heated 50-yard length pool on the east side of The Swamp. By 9:30am, the weather had warmed up but it was still cool out. We lined up single file according to our numbers and unfortunately, I was in the 70s out of almost 100 participants. The swim began by each triathlete jumping into the lane, 15 seconds apart. Each 50 yards was swum in a different lane.
It was pretty chilly waiting for my turn with some breeze coming and going, but before I knew it I was on deck to jump in.
I did a mini dive into the water and started swimming: my adrenaline definitely got to me and I started out way too fast for the first 100 meters. I didn’t feel as if I were going too fast, but I felt the aftereffects during the next 150 meters where I noticed myself slowing down a bit. On the bright side, at every westward turn to breathe I’d see my friends cheering me on. That motivated me immensely! As I was getting out of the pool I couldn’t figure out the underwater ladder’s steps so I just took a big step onto the deck and pulled myself out.
Transition 1 went smoothly. I do what I always do: just put on my helmet and go. No drying off as I’ll naturally dry off, and I slip into my already clipped in bike shoes during the first few pedal strokes on the bike.
Biking south on Gale Lemerand, in between The Swamp and O’Dome, towards Museum road happens on one elongated downhill slope. I must have hit at least 30mph before turning east on Museum and leveling out to 22-23 mph going towards SWREC gym. I should’ve slowed down a bit at this point but I was feeling good. However, the initial speed at which I started the bike definitely caught up to me on the second half of the course, which eventually ended with climbing back up the same hill we started on. I was going less than 17-18 mph that entire stretch back up.
Transition 2 went smoothly as did T1. I racked my bike, picked up my Ninja Band and race bib, and went off.
I started the run a bit steady to get my heart rate down, then settled into about a 7:15/mi pace which I maintained until the end. It was an awesome sight and feeling to turn that corner and have the finish line in sight, with a backdrop of The Swamp and everyone cheering you on!
TIPS FOR THIS RACE/LESSONS LEARNED
- Know your speed: if you have the need for speed, know your speed. It's a blazing fast race, so have a special strategy on how you'll exert/conserve your energy across this super short distance. I definitely could have started the swim and bike portions a tad slower to conserve energy earlier on in the race.
- Sign up early: I'm assuming those who signed up closer to the race (like me) got stuck with higher numbers, which led to longer waiting times to jump in the pool and get started. Sign up as early as possible so you can race with "the pack" and not wait a while to begin the swim leg.
- Practice hill climbing : This hill that I speak of is really nothing compared to what you see in Clermont, Haines City, and anywhere else outside of Florida. But it is a hill that's at the end of the bike leg. It can be a tough climb if you're not used to hills and if you spent a little too much energy at that point in the race (as I did).
- Study the course beforehand: Make sure you know the general course before race day. On race day, always double check where the transition entries/exits are as well. The "Bike In" was a bit confusing for me because there were two giant sidewalks that looked similar. I almost rode into the wrong sidewalk entry.
I ended up finishing in 26:39. Although I didn’t finish in sub-25 minutes like I wanted to, I was still able to snag 3rd place in my age group! I thought the entire event was well organized, supported, and efficient. Great job to the TriGators for putting on an awesome race!
I highly recommend this race to both new and experienced triathletes. For newcomers, it’s a short and fun race that features a heated pool swim. For more seasoned triathletes, it can be quite a challenge to see how hard you can push yourself in a short amount of time.
Above all though, the best reason to do this race is to enjoy and experience the beautiful University of Florida campus. Without a doubt, I’ll be returning to do it all again.
See you later, alligator.
Shoutout to Jan Matt on completing his first triathlon! And to Danielle, Arielle, and Alan for supporting us and taking awesome pics! Last but not least thanks to my brother Jed for letting me stay the night at his dorm...which allowed me to roll out of bed on race morning and bike 1 minute to the The Swamp. GO GATORS!!!
Banner Image: Bull Gator & Faye- video screenshot from my Sony Action Cam HDRAS30.
Thoughts on the review? Are you interested in doing this race? If you did the race too, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!