The New Jersey State Triathlon is a set of two races that have been held since 2006, usually on the third weekend in July. Set in Mercer County Park outside of Princeton, NJ, the series consist of a sprint held on the Saturday of race weekend and an Olympic-distance event held on the Sunday. Michele Redrow of CGI Racing, Founder and Co-Race Director for the NJ Tri., is a special person and a good friend of mine.
This race is especially well-organized. I have done numerous USA-T Nationals) always well-organized[!]) and to my eye this race is organized as well as any of them, from the check-in, to the organization of the transition area, to the pre-race gathering of a large number of people before the swim start, to the safety provisions out on both the bike and run courses.
The swim is in Mercer Lake which, at least when I did it in nice weather every time, was like swimming in a very comfortable warm water bath. The bike and the run are on courses which are each almost flat and certainly fast. The races have been consistently voted as among the top in the country in various competitor ratings (such as Competitor magazine, in 2016). And in recent years, they have consistently sold out, early.
I have always done the Sprint, held on the Saturday. I did my first (of four) in 2012 and happened to finish first in the 75-79 age group (as per usual first in the group because I was the only one in it[!]). In 2013 the races became the New Jersey State Championship Triathlon(s). I did again that year, about 10 minutes slower than the year before, and still finished first in my age-group (for the same reason). Now first in my age-group or not, I still finished last overall, but Michele had organized a cheering section for me at the finish which I heard (and to this day remember hearing) as I rounded the last bend towards the line. Oh what a feeling, regardless of where I was finishing.
I did not do the race (and always the Sprint) again until 2016, when I finished, slower still, but nevertheless first in the 80-84 age group. That year I had two special experiences. First, my daughter Lillian Wain and her husband Stu came all the way from their home near me in Suffolk County, Long Island with their two boys, Nathan and Adam, to cheer me on. And sure enough, about 1/3 mile from the finish, there they all were, waiting for me (and sitting comfortably in the folding chairs that my daughter has thoughtfully brought along). And cheer they did. Second, while to be an official New Jersey State Champion one has to be a resident of New Jersey, because of my age and because by then I had become a regular participant, Michele honored me by making me the Honorary New Jersey State Champion in my age-group and announcing it at the Awards Ceremony. First and only time that I had folks coming up after the ceremony to have their pictures taken with me!
The fourth time was in July, 2017 when I again finished first (and only) in the 80-84 age group, and received special recognition once again from Michele at the Awards Ceremony. Actually, somehow Michèle knew when I was coming in on the bike and she was waiting for me, as I was to start out on the run, to make sure that I was OK and would be making it through to the finish. That sort of thing doesn’t happen very often. My time was actually significantly better than it had been the year before. But I would not know then that that would be the last time I would do the race, as in that year my career was beginning to wind down. I did go to the race in 2018, but I had been having an intermittent cardiac arrhythmia (which required [successful] surgery the next year) and I decided not to chance it in the water. I would do one more race that season, which would turn out to be my last (and it will be the subject of my next column).
But oh what a feeling at Michele Redrow’s New Jersey State Championships. Many of the 256 races I have done I don’t remember. But those four I always will!
This series of thoughts and recommendations about multi-sport 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 multi-sport racing, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®, 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Steve has been racing tri’s and du’s since 1983. At the end of his 36th season in the sport, 2018, he had done a total of 256 races. He did not race in 2019 due to his own illness (from which he fully recovered), nor in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is not racing in 2021, and likely officially retire at the end of the season. But hey, you never know!