Submitted by Davefromphilly
October 23, 2013
The 2013 Soma Triathlon was my first 70.3/Half-Ironman event. I actually stumbled upon this race when a friend of mine was looking for a 70.3 event towards the end of the season, and most of the Southern California 70.3 events are earlier in the year (Oceanside 70.3 and Bayshore 70.4 are in March, and Vineman 70.3 is in July). So a group of us signed up for it. I liked the course because it was a smaller version of the course for Ironman Arizona, an event that I will hopefully get to do…someday.
Pre-Race: We drove out from Southern California early on Saturday and arrived just in time for the beginning of the pre-race expo. The expo was small, but big enough to where you could get anything that you would need for the next day’s event. I was able to pick up a Tri compression shirt at the venue at a really good discount. I was impressed with the swag bag. You get a Lifetime Tri Soma t-shirt, and a visor, as well as a draw string bag and some goodies. I was disappointed that there was not a race distance on my shirt or my visor, and eventually on my medal. It might be a petty gripe, but this was a big event for me (since it was my first), and also the Ironman events have the distance on their shirts, medal, and gear. Another disappointment was that there was no official Soma triathlon gear sold at the expo. Lifetime Tri was definitely missing out on a money making opportunity, at least from me. I wanted to buy at least a shirt, and a jacket or sweatshirt as a souvenir of my trip.
The Course – The Swim was in Tempe Town Lake, and the temperature on race day was 70 degrees. The water was hard to swim in because underwater you could not see very well. Plus, the start of the swim was right when the sun was rising. So the swimmers were swimming directly at the sun, and obviously, it was hard to see. Once the swimmers made the turn away from the sun, it was much easier to sight ahead, especially since you could see the Tempe Town Bridges in the distance and the finish of the swim was right near one of the bridges. When exiting the waters, there were volunteers to help you out of the water, and there were wetsuit strippers. The wetsuit strippers were a big help for me, and saved me at least a minute in my transition time.
The Bike – The bike course was 3 loop course through the streets of Tempe. The course was mostly flat, with a few hills and overpasses. There are a lot of turns, and U-Turns. Most of those U-Turns were navigatible, but some of those U-Turns were very sharp, almost like hairpin turns. The course was fast, and I was happy to experience that. My goal was finish the bike course in about 3 hours, average around 18 mph. Instead, I averaged close to 19.5 mph, which was great! The course support on the bike was top notch. There were 2 aid stations on every loop, so you got saw 6 aid stations through the bike course. I grabbed water from 3 aid stations, and the volunteers of the stations were the best, very enthusiastic, and cheering us on.
The Run – By the time I got to the run, it was around 10:30 am. The heat had not become a factor yet. But as I crossed every mile, it got hotter and hotter, until I discovered that the aid stations had ice. All the aid stations had water, gatorade, ice, gels, and cola. But the ice was a life saver. It helped me to stay cool throughout the run. Also, one of funky things that I appreciated was that the runners were running along an office building (around Mile 10-11), and then the grass sprinklers came on. That was another life saver. It was funny to watch the runners through the sprinklers, sort of like they were kids. It was actually kind of awesome to watch. Coming down the final stretch (after a little climb right after Mile 13), a crowd appeared, my name was announced, and I crossed the finish line. My first half-ironman was completed! I was greeted by course support with a ice cold towel, and my friends dumped ice on me to celebrate my first. It was the greatest accomplishment of my athletic career.
Post-race: After getting my medal, I walked through the finisher expo, and there was water, gatorade, and lots of snacks – oranges, bananas, watermelons, animal crackers, and goldfish crackers. We got hang out afterwards, and cheer on our fellow triathletes.
Overall: It was a great race, and a great event, so I give it an A. Although I have most of my 2014 races planned out, I will definitely come back to this race in the future.
Follow all my racing and life exploits on twitter: @DavefromPhilly
Submitted by RaceGrader
October 23, 2013
The Soma Triathlon was my second 70.3 distance event. I chose this race because it gives you a good preview of the Ironman Arizona course which is a race I plan to do someday. It is also difficult to find an “end of season” 70.3 race around Southern California. We made the drive out from SoCal early on Saturday morning. Left around 4am and arrived right when the expo was opening at 10.
PRE RACE: They require that you check you bike into transition on Saturday. I like this because it’s one less thing to worry about on race day. The check in was super easy and all the volunteers were great. They also gave you a “electronic chip” to attach to your bike. This gave them the ability to record splits on the bike and ensure no one was stealing your bike out of transition. Before the race, you could register for friends and family to get text updates on your progress/splits during the race. It was a great way for them to follow along whether they were at home or with you at the race. The “swag” for Soma was good with one exception. They gave really nice tech t-shirts and headbands visors but without the distance of the race. They also didn’t have any place to purchase “Soma 70.3” gear. Going 70.3 miles is a great accomplishment. I thought it should’ve be printed on the gear and medal (which also didn’t have 70.3). At some point on Saturday, you are required to attend a pre-race meeting. It was basically just going over the course and rules. It didn’t drag on too long and we were out of there in 15-20 minutes. The expo itself was a bit small but offered everything you’d expect for a triathlon event.
COURSE: The weather is always going to be a factor in Arizona this time of the year. Race day had temps of around 90 degrees. The water temp was a nice 70. THE SWIM takes place in Tempe Town Lake. Not exactly the cleanest body of water. It is very murky with extremely low visibility. You basically didn’t know you were swimming up on someone until you hit their legs. The course is set up as a basic rectangle and you keep all the buoys on your left side. Sighting is a little difficult heading out because you are heading into the early morning sun. But on the way back it’s a lot easier as you can see the Tempe Town Bridges. They mentioned they had a few “safety platforms” on the course. I didn’t see them but I did notice plenty of support in case you were ever in trouble. Once exiting the water you are helped up on the steps by the volunteers. As you make your way to T1 there are wet suit strippers to help you take off your suit. I had heard mixed reviews regarding using the strippers so I just ran by them and did it on my own. The transition is a decent size, well marked, and on grass. THE BIKE – This bike course has a lot of turns and u-turns. It’s basically flat and technical as it makes it way through the streets of Tempe. There was very little wind on the course. But the small breeze did slow you a bit depending on the direction you were heading. Because the bike course is 3 loops, my plan going in was to take mental notes on lap 1 and be better prepared for laps 2 and 3. Well, that didn’t work out too well. Because I had never been to Tempe and there were so many turns/u-turns, I didn’t know where I was basically completely lost. So I just put my head down and rode. Even with the number of turns, the bike course is fast. I went in looking to average 18 + mph and ended up riding close to 21 mph. There were 2 bike aid stations (see them 6 times) on the course handing out water, some type of gel packet, and gatorade. All of the aid stations had their own “theme”. 80’s theme, Pirates theme, etc… and the volunteers were really great. I thought the pirate volunteers were especially enthusiastic Arrrrrgh! The only issue I had on the bike course was when I grabbed a gatorade bottle they hadn’t opened up the tab under the cap. That pretty much made the bottle useless and I had to dispose of it right away. Because this bike portion goes through Tempe, there were a lot of spectators out on the course. It’s always great seeing the signs and having people cheer you on. Overall, it’s a fast course but practice your turns! THE RUN – The run consists of 2 loops around Tempe Town Lake. There were 6 aid stations set up around the course (pretty much every mile). And they had mile markers for both loops (1-13). Because of the heat and no shade this can be a very difficult run. But they did an EXCELLENT job with the aid stations. Each aid station had your choice of water, gatorade, cola, pretzels, oranges, cookies, etc… but most importantly ICE!! The cups of ice saved the day. Each station I would grab a gatorade to drink, a water to dump over my head, and a cup of ice. Half the ice went down my shirt. The other half I would carry along in my hands. I never felt “hot” on the run because of all the ice. Overall, the run course is good except for the final .1 miles! As you make the final turn to the finish line and you’re feeling good…people cheering you on…and then BOOM there’s a hill. The hill is probably only 25 yards long, but after 70.2 miles that hill looked like Mt Everest. After making the difficult 25 yard climb, you’re on your way to the finishing chute. Lot’s of high fives and cheering from the spectators. And the announcers did a nice job with enthusiastically mentioning everyone’s name.
POST RACE: Again, they did an excellent job with “aid” after the race. They had a nice selection of fresh fruits and drinks to help you recover. They also had a bucket of ice water with hand towels you could use to drape over your head. The finisher medal is nice as it doubles as a bottle opener and is a magnet(hang of the fridge). But as mentioned before, it doesn’t have the distance of the race. Once you’re out of the finisher corrals, they encourage you to hang out and cheer on your fellow triathletes. We did that and then headed over to the nearby cantina for food and celebration!
OVERALL: If this race was located in Southern California, it would be on every triathletes “A List”. It is a very well organized event. Great vibe, volunteers, course, location, etc… This is a race I plan on doing again in the future!