Read Part 1 of Sheri's adventures here.
Race Day Prep
Molly, Jason, and I showed up for the 2 p.m. bike course familiarization, publicized on all schedules. No one showed up to lead the ride, so we did it on our own. We ran our bikes through the early section of soft snow. This is 36 hours before our race, and we expected to see this section five times during the race.
We decided not to go to the ski familiarization meeting …
We had our own USA wax room — lighted and heated! It had a wood wax bench; that was it. Luckily, I brought ski vices.
Dracula Night Fun Run
A 4k fun run in the dark — two laps of our race course — was held two nights before our race. It is named after a medieval fortress known as Dracula’s Castle, which sits just 12 miles down the road in the city of Bran. We drove right by it on our way here.
If you didn’t bring a headlight you ran by moonlight. The snow was still pretty thick out there. Each finisher received a cool Dracula medal.
Russians won both women’s and men’s races. Both events featured deep international fields with most strong European winter sports countries represented.
At 7 p.m. the night before our race we found the elite times were significantly longer than usual (due to difficult snow conditions), so our race was shortened from five laps each venue to three laps each. It’s easier to count to three than five, so maybe that was a plus. I did talk to an athlete after the race who was surprised to hear he only skied two laps.
We received a large bike number and three small numbers for helmet and each ski. We found out we could put something on the bottom of our ski boots to keep the snow from clogging up the bindings as we ran out of transition. Jason suggested shower caps. Molly and I thought that was brilliant!
Transition mats are not allowed, so if you are not good at balancing on one foot while you change shoes you simply set your stockinged feet down on the snow.
We learned that equipment you HAVE NOT USED can be OUT. Equipment you HAVE USED must go IN the bin, or you will be penalized with 15 seconds in the ski penalty tent. During the race, I totally forgot to look at the board posted by the penalty tent. If I had received a penalty I would have been DQed …
We woke to a glorious, sunshiny day. The temperature at the start of the race was 25 degrees.
I like winter triathlons, perhaps because they typically do not start at the crack of dawn. Ours started at 10 a.m. We all stood in front of our bikes in transition to get counted. Then the ITU Technical Officials marched through the middle of transition. We waited for an older German triathlete who was late and gave him a standing (pun intended) ovation as he joined us. We marched out of transition in order and lined up for a mass start.
The run felt like any run, just on the snow. It made the downhills softer for sure!
The soft snow on the new section of the bike course was difficult. You had to really power through it. If you veered and lost momentum it was difficult to get going again in the soft snow. Strong Jason managed to stay on his bike.
The next half mile uphill was better, but pretty rutty, so if you couldn’t stay in the rut, or if someone went down ahead of you, you had to run your bike up the hill. This was followed by a fun downhill and technical S-curve and more climbing. Then we exited the road onto a ski piste and back to transition — times three.
The ski seems to make a big difference in how you place. Not everyone who comes is a strong skier. Some athletes classic-skied. I passed quite a few skiers as if they were standing still. The temperature during my ski was 32 degrees.
We triathletes were all mixed up in the chalets, and we all ate at the same time, so it was easy to make new friends from other countries.
There were many more men than women. The caliber of athletes was high. In my age group the other women had been doing winter triathlons for years and were European and World Champions and they race XTERRA as well. I had met each of them at prior summer world championships.
One big difference between winter and summer triathlons is you must adapt more for the weather. The ski and bike routes changed daily depending on the snow conditions. The snow conditions impacted the length of the race. We learned the length of the race just 15 hours before its start.