On Saturday the Fitness Formula Club (FFC) held the final, and largest, indoor triathlon of the 18th Annual FFC Indoor Triathlon Series at its Lincoln Park location. The series, which began in January with a duathlon at the FFC South Loop and concluded Saturday at FFC Lincoln Park with three triathlon options (USATri60, Sprint and Olympic distance races), included nine races of various formats at eight different FFC locations throughout Chicagoland.
New for 2017 is the USATri60 format, which involves a 10-minute swim, 30-minute bike and 20-minute run with 10 minutes to transition between swim and bike and five minutes between bike and run. Rank is determined by the total accumulation of distance over the three disciplines in 60 minutes. Seven of the nine races in the series feature this format, along with USATri60 swag, including a t-shirt, TYR goggles, USAT drawstring bag and swim cap. Rank for the Sprint and Olympic distance races is determined in the same manner as traditional outdoor Sprint and Olympic distance races-the fastest time across the three disciplines wins.
Having completed three of the USATri60 races this season, I decided to try something new and take on the Sprint-distance race at the Indoor Tri. Instead of swimming for a certain amount of time as with the USATri60 format, the Sprint race required the completion of 17 laps (roughly 750 meters) in the pool, followed by the completion of the 12.48-mile course ride in the Computrainer studio, and a 5K run on the treadmill. The bike portion of the Sprint distance format really appealed to me as I would be able to ride my own bike rather than a spin bike, which I never could get adjusted to the most comfortable and effective position!
Upon arrival, I found my way through the parking garage, checked in and set up my bike in the Computrainer studio. This was a pretty seamless process thanks in part to the great instructional videos FFC has available for bringing your bike into the gym and setting it up in the Computrainer studio.
For those unfamiliar with it, a Computrainer is a “smart” stationary trainer that allows a cyclist to ride their own bikes on virtual courses or pre-programmed power-based interval workouts. The Computrainer simulates course terrain by automatically changing the resistance on the rear wheel to account for various grades in hills. The steeper the hill, the greater the resistance. The cyclist reacts to these changes in resistance in the same manner that they would riding outdoors-shifting into an easier gear to spin up a hill, shifting into a harder gear to add speed on downhills and flats.
After calibrating my bike with the Computrainer, I headed to the locker room for a quick change into my speed suit and it was off to the pool for the start of the race. I didn’t have high expectations for my race as I hadn’t spent much time in the pool in the past few weeks and was battling a nasty head and chest cold, so I planned to race pretty conservatively.
It’s amazing what a difference a sleek speed suit makes in comparison to a baggy training suit. The reduced drag in the water from the speed suit allowed me to average over the course of 17 laps at a moderately comfortable pace the same speed that I was averaging for just two laps at a sprint in my baggy training suit.
The large number of participants across the three races required me to share a lane in the pool. This tends to stress me out as I try to avoid colliding with my lane mate, (which, instead, resulted in some unwanted contact with the lane rope!) For those unfamiliar with hitting the ropes mid stroke, it’s akin to stepping on legos while barefoot.
Satisfied with my swim time, and with a newly-acquired tension headache, I raced off to the locker room to change into my tri kit and grab my bike and run shoes. As with the USATri60, athletes have 10 minutes between swim and bike and five minutes between bike and run to get changed and from place to place. Dressed and reunited with my trusty Cervelo tri bike in the Computrainer studio I prepared to take on the 12.48-mile bike course.
The bike course for the sprint tri was a simulation of the Leon’s Triathlon sprint course. On screen, it looked to have some substantial elevation. However, this was quite deceptive as it turned out that the grade of the elevation changes tended to stay in the .1 to .4 percent range, (so really more or less a false flat). I had originally intended to conduct the bike and run portions of my race according to heart rate, but was disappointed to find that my heart rate monitor was not connecting to my Garmin. Instead, I just settled into an easy, high cadence on the bike. The course was pretty fast and required minimal effort and power to complete at an average pace over 21 mph. Upon finishing the bike portion, on my way to the treadmills I paused to check out the live results to see where I stood among the other sprint competitors.
Armed with the knowledge that there was no way I could close the gap on the lead women in the run, and increasingly feeling the impact of my cold I decided to just get through the 5K on the treadmill. For the first time during the race, I began to wish I was doing the USATri60 format so I would only have to endure 20 minutes on the treadmill, rather than how ever long it was going to take me to get through the 5K. Within the first half mile of the run I knew that it was going to be a VERY long 5K, about 90-seconds per mile slower than my usual pace. I kept overheating, getting dizzy and nauseous and was barely managing a ten-minute pace, even being forced to take a couple of walk breaks. Finally the number ticked over to 3.1 miles and my sprint tri was over. Lesson learned – don’t race while sick!
Illness aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the Sprint-distance race at the 18th Annual FFC Indoor Triathlon. The flow from one discipline to the next was well-executed, volunteers were friendly and helpful and the inclusion of the Computrainer studio for the bike portion was a nice touch. Riding the simulated bike course of the Leon’s Triathlon has also sparked some interest for me in doing that race in June. The FFC Indoor Triathlon series has been a great way to remain active in triathlon during the “off” season and I look forward to including a few indoor sprints in my 2018 racing line-up.
Top Finisher Results:
Sprint Male Overall:
- Daniel Dziubski, 1:01:16
- Jonathan Jacka, 1:03:20
- John Cooper, 1:04:59
Sprint Female Overall:
- Jacqueline Godbe, 1:01:24
- Kristen Hohl, 1:10:34
- Kristan Huenink, 1:19:56
Olympic Male Overall:
- Jacek Kafel, 2:11:59
- Gordon Blukis, 2:41:15
- Fred Critch, 2:57:21
Olympic Female Overall:
- Lauren Bernardini, 3:04:04
USATri60 Male Overall:
- Christ Jones, 15.08
- Chuck Feerick, 14.13
- John Stender, 14.01
USATri60 Female Overall:
- Alexandria Rinella, 13.13
- Masumi Yoneyama, 12.96
- Catherine Demet, 12.95