I first did the sprint at CGI’s New Jersey State Championships at Princeton, New Jersey, in 2012. I did it again the next year, but then I missed it until I was able to get to it once again this season. There are two events, a sprint and an Olympic-distance race. Since 2009, they have been run on separate days, like a National Championship. Since then, both races have been sold out. The race is centered in Mercer County Park, outside of Princeton. The swim is in Lake Mercer, in the summer a distinctly warm and calm body of water, at around 80 degrees, so wetsuits are few and far between. Of course, since it is a USA Triathlon sanctioned event, if the water temperature goes over 84 degrees wetsuits are not permitted. Since 2013 it has been recognized by the State of New Jersey as the official New Jersey State Championships, and special “New Jersey State Championship” awards are given to New Jersey residents.
It has always been a nice race, but in the two years that I wasn’t there, my how it has grown in stature. In the past it was a top-drawer regional race. Well run, well organized, but with a distinctly local feel about it. Now it is attracting competitors from across the country and a few international athletes, too. This year the sprint had 1,243 finishers on Saturday, while the Olympic-distance race had 1,176 finishers on the Sunday. Those are big numbers. In addition, they ran an Olympic-distance aquabike event, which attracted 45 finishers.
One big step forward was the transition area. It consisted of frames that sat on the ground with a groove made of parallel pieces of wood, for each bike. I have never seen this before. I hope that it represents the wave of the future, for it surely prevents your neighbor’s bike — should he or she arrive back at transition before you do after the bike — from infringing on your space. Even the parking — and with those numbers, there were a lot of cars there — was very well organized. There was a huge number of enthusiastic volunteers, and ample water stations on the runs. The pathways in and out of transition for both the bike and the run were well-marked. And the post-race food. Would you believe wraps?
Echoing my thoughts, in an athletes’ balloting conducted by Triathlon Business International, it has been voted “One of the Five Best Triathlons in the Nation.” It is certainly one of the largest race series in the Northeast. It happens that three weeks later I did the Sprint at the USA Triathlon Age-Group National Championships in Omaha, Nebraska. Our Nationals, which I have been doing most years since the one held in 1999 in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1999, have been getting better each year (and more on Omaha in next month’s column). I think that the New Jersey State Championships is approaching top-race status. In terms of how the current race is organized and run by CGI I could easily see them being held there. (Of course, the flat course appeals especially to me!) Access from around the country is excellent, Princeton being only about 40 miles from Liberty International Airport at Newark, N.J. One limitation might be the availability, or not, of enough extra hotel rooms during the summer season as well as accessible meeting space.
But at any rate, in my view it is a great race and I do think that some thought should be given to bring Nationals to it, when the turn of the Northeast to once again host a Nationals comes up on the schedule.
This series of thoughts and recommendations about multisport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, "101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes" (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
Steve’s most recent multisport book is "Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It" (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
His first book on multisport racing, "Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®" 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Dr. Jonas recently was featured in World Class Magazine. Click here to read the article.