The 2014 HITS Napa Sprint Triathlon was the first official triathlon on our race calendar for this year. I had heard a lot of good things about the HITS Triathlon Series coming into this year. Now that we live close to one of the venues, it was time to give it a try. Combined with the fact that the event was near all the vineyards in Napa, made it an almost must do event for us. HITS is known for providing races that cater to all skill levels and provides an opportunity to compete at all the standard distances in one weekend.
We paid a fee of $60 each for the Sprint distance of this race. If you register early enough you can get in for a slow as $40 at the spring distance going up to about $200 for the full Ironman distance. For the $60 we get entry, Tritat race numbers, a dry-fit shirt and a finisher’s medal. Not a lot of swag but the real value is in the accessibility of the HITS races and the level of in-race support they provide.
As always, I recommend people plan their race calendars way in advance and take advantage of early registration discounts. You can also check RunTri.com for detailed analysis of many races and where you are likely to get the most bang for the buck on major events.
Well, not much to say here because we didn’t go to the expo. Being that we were staying in wine country, we decided to use our time relaxing and tasting at some of the vineyards we had yet to visit. There is a simple packet pick up process and plenty of pre-race communications via email, but no huge expo from what I saw at the race site. Packet pick up was a little far away if you did not camp in the park but the drive up is beautiful.
Well, this was a bit of a cluster on our part. We definitely stayed at a hotel too far away for a 7:00 am start time. We arrived with less than 15 minutes of set-up time before our race. Luckily they had a ton of support personal on hand to help with parking and getting set up in our stalls. Speaking of the stalls, they were all individually numbered and named for each participant. They also included a stool for changing in and out of gear during the race. A huge help. I was really looking forward to a good warm-up and set-up period but the lack of time there was our own fault.
The course was not the hardest we have done but it certainly wasn’t the easiest. The swim was marred by the use of very small buoys set way too far apart to be able to adequately sight in cloudy conditions while swimming. The bike leg was nothing but rolling hills and long climbs. The run was a not so pleasant uphill first half followed by a very fast downhill finish. The course was not 100% closed off to road traffic, but the number of California Highway Patrol officers, support crew and road markings made it plenty safe and comfortable.
I do feel for anyone who did the half or full Ironman at this location because those hills were unforgiving. Also, the course has you do multiple loops for the longer distance races. That is great for spectators but could get old for participants quick. The swim has to be better marked in the future. I really hope they switch to the giant truck sized buoys that are more commonly used. They should also be spaced about every 100-200 meters apart.
Well, this race was a let down for me as far a s performance goes. I really messed up badly at the start of the swim. I did not put anti-fog spray in my goggles and could not sight for anything. I was saved by another participant who had quit, throwing me his goggles to use during the rest of the swim. I lost over 10 minutes swimming around aimlessly before I got into a groove. Very disappointed with that start, but that is why we like to plan our races well. I wanted to use this race as a tune up and learning experience and it was just that.
I was pleased with my bike performance overall as it helped move me back up to the middle of the pack despite all the time lost on the swim. My run could have been better, but by that point I thought I could only make up so much more time and distance in a 5K so don’t overdo it. My transitions were pretty damn slow, due to a combination of being cold out of the water and setting up in a rush that morning. Overall, not terrible, but I was well short of my goal time for this race. A C- performance overall for me.
The After Party:
Didn’t hang around to find out here but I heard people had a good time. We took off for the hotel quickly to shower and go to Yountville for brunch and then visit some Napa and Sonoma vineyards. The proximity to wine country is a major selling point for this race. We really had a great time in the warm, breezy and expansive estates across Napa and Sonoma. We bumped into a number of other participants while driving around after the race, so it looks like many people had the same plans for this race weekend.
I would give the HITS Napa Triathlon Series a B+ rating overall. Well organized for the most part. Great in-race support and pre-race communications. Great locations and affordable pricing. Distances for everyone and the opportunity to double up and race on both days. If they fix the swim marking by going with larger and more frequent buoys, that will be a big help. Also, take sandals to the start of the swim, it is a very rocky run uphill back to transition from the swim exit. Lastly, an 8:00 am start time would be a lot better; 7:00 am is just unfair, even for a morning person like me.