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Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon

Dashboard showing 4:44 am
For the third year in a row, I found myself in Philadelphia for the Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon weekend. For some reason, the Hubster is a fan of doing repeats of the same race.   As in the two previous years, he was signed up for both the Sprint and the Olympic races which meant that I was forced had the opportunity to get up before dawn on both Saturday and Sunday and stand around for hours while waiting for him to finish the race. My role for these riveting weekends is pack mule, cheerleader, and paparazzi--because you can never have enough photos of your middle aged husband wearing a one piece form fitting jumpsuit triathlon suit.
One thing that I do appreciate in Philadelphia is the sponsor hotel.  The Crowne Plaza--West Philadelphia is not the nicest hotel or the newest, but the great customer service that is exhibited by the employees makes up for the cosmetic issues.  The staff truly go out of their way to provide a great weekend for the race participants.  Jack, the concierge, is always ready to assist and has given us some great advice of where to find Philly's best pretzels, cheese steaks, and restaurants over the years.
Crowne Plaza Philadelphia West
Hand washing station
The races take place in and around Fairmount Park.  As far as triathlons go, these races are mostly spectator friendly.  Although there is a good hike from the parking areas, this can be somewhat minimized by getting there early.  Once you get to the race site though, most of the activities can be viewed by staying in one central location if that is your desire.  There is also plenty of shade available which might not matter at 5:30 am, but is always most welcome by 10:00.  The race organizers also make sure that there are plenty of portable toilets for both athletes and spectators.  Even better, they provide the hand washing stations as well.

One of the sponsors of the race is Johnson & Johnson so the medical tent is well stocked as you might imagine.  Unfortunately, we had a first hand look at the supplies in the tent.  In fact, the Hubster was the first customer during the Sprint race.  On his way in to the swim, he stepped on an unidentified object and put a good gash in his foot.  When he finished the swim, it was bleeding badly.  The medical attendant at the swim finish put a quick bandage on it and advised that it would likely need stitches. A race official escorted him to the medical tent where his race ended. This is the first race ever that he has not finished so he was seriously bummed.  The medical staff was great though!
Medical tent

The one drawback to this race for spectators is that the swim start is not readily visible.  Spectators are able to view the swimmers from a distance but not close enough to identify anyone until they have exited the water and are on their way to the transition area.  My first glimpse of the Hubster after the swim was as he was being escorted away.  Fortunately, I saw them and I was able to catch up before they reached the medical tent.  I am always a bundle of nerves during races--there are so many things that could happen.  Having one of those things happen is not an experience that I wish to repeat.  
For the Sprint, spectators can watch the racers head to the swim entrance from the far side of the transition area.  The Olympic swim start occurs on the other side of the river.  Athletes are bused there from the transition area so spectators miss that whole evolution. 

 
Schuylkill River

Transition area

Although it is possible to stand closer to where the swimmers come in to transition, I prefer to position myself at the other end of transition where the bike in/bike out is located.  From this position, I can see the swimmers running down the central aisle to their bikes and then watch as they head out to the road.  With just a few steps, I am then able to see the bike finish. This position is especially nice for the Olympic distance, since they pass this area twice.  A short jog to the other end of transition allows spectators to see the athletes head out on the run.  The finish line is a short walk away.  
Finish line before the race gets underway
Rules for watching triathlons (and other races)
1-Establish a meeting spot for after the race.  Everyone wants to be near the finish so it can be very difficult to find your favorite racer.  Plan a meeting place away from the crowd.
2-Know the times your athlete expects  and when their wave is scheduled to start.  With most races, the start is staggered so that age groups enter the water in about 6 minute increments to reduce the overcrowding during the swim.  For the Olympic race in Philly, this meant that the last wave started swimming over an hour after the first racers began the race.  Don't worry, the racers time starts when they do and the timing chips keep everything straight--even if the clock at the finish shows the time elapsed since the official start of the race.
3-Well ahead of the race, purchase a RoadID and make sure they wear it while training too.  There are numerous things that can happen during a race, but it is more likely that the unplanned event will occur in training.  A RoadID can help your loved one when they may not be able to speak for themselves.  The Hubster has been hit while riding his bike, and his cousin's wife was hit by a car while running.  She was unconscious so her RoadID really did speak for her.  Things happen--make sure your loved ones are protected.  (I feel so strongly about this product that I have a link on my site).  We use a RoadID as a MedicAlert for Youngest and my grandmother had a bracelet in case she got lost, so they are not just for athletes.
4-Study the course map.  If you are willing to walk a bit, you can get away from the crowd and have prime views of your racer.  If you live in the area, visit the course ahead of time and pick out some places so that your racer will know to look for you and can position themselves for good pictures.

Who knows, maybe someday our paths will cross at a race.

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