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!