On June 6, 2010, Connecticut’s 102 year-old Quassy amusement park hosted the second running of the Revolution3 Quassy Half-Ironman Triathlon. Nestled on the southern shore of Lake Quassapaug, Native Americans that once populated the area are said to have translated Quassapaug to mean “Big Rock”. They may have been on to something…
The Revolution3 Triathlon Series has been garnering some serious attention as of late. With a large prize purse, a strong field of professional triathletes and intentions of transforming triathlons into a more family friendly experience for athletes and spectators, the folks at Rev3 had a lot to live up to. Did they? The overwhelming response is YES.
If you’ve heard anything about the Quassy Half, chances are it’s been about the course’s bike and run difficulty. As pro triathlete Jordan Rapp put it his post-race wrap-up: “The punishingly hilly bike and run courses, however, more than lived up to the pre-race hype, breaking the legs – and spirits – of many of the athletes.” Although we understand that race difficulty is subjective, the consensus was that this course was indeed quite demanding. Let’s hope it stays that way too. After two years, I think it’s a distinguishing characteristic and the race can only grow because of it.
Racers completed their 1.2 mile swim, in single loop fashion, around a clean and tepid (77 degrees) Lake Quassapaug. The course itself was well marked with red and yellow swim buoys and proved easy to navigate thanks to serene water conditions. After exiting the swim, racers found plenty of on-course support and volunteers guided racers along the way (worth noting as the bike and run start each had separate exits from transition).
The bike consisted of one 56 mile loop (with one small out and back) taking riders through Middlebury and historic Litchfield County. If there’s a course highlight, this was it. Riders still coherent after several challenging hills were treated to views of historic farmlands, state parks and even a vineyard. The ridge top view around mile 34 was one of the most beautiful vistas I’ve ever taken in during a ride; I was even tempted to bring friends and family back to it post-race just so they could see what I had the privilege of riding through.
In response to participant feedback, the run course was redesigned from 2009. Rumor has it that it was changed to be less challenging, although in its current state this athlete still saw plenty of defeated athletes walking rather than running. Though not as breathtaking as the bike course, the run was enjoyable. The majority of it took runners through rural woodland roads and rolling hills which culminated in a 1.5 mile climb to the finish line, which brings us to other race tangibles that set Rev3 apart from others.
Rev3 tries to make the triathlon experience more than just a race for athletes. It aims to provide a memorable experience for spectators as well. Part of this comes from its theme-park setting, while other parts come in the form of changes and tweaks to the race format. For instance, upon entering the finish line chute, athletes cross a timing-mat about 50 yards out, which instantly puts your pre-race mug up on a large digital billboard hovering above the finish line and expo. Additionally, timing-mats were on course in numerous places, which transmitted athlete progress to spectators via an athlete tracking terminal (think airport flight statuses). On course cameras also broadcasted live race action to spectators on-hand and online. Pre-race tasks were a breeze as well, with timing chips included in your packet as well as guest passes to the park. Parking was slightly limited; however there were complimentary shuttle buses to and from a spare lot about half a mile away.
With all the bases covered, you could be asking yourself “Is there anything that could have been done better?” Well, there was, but I’m not sure how much blame can be placed on race organizers. Word at the athlete briefing was that a few disgruntled citizens took it upon themselves to remove mile marker signs from the course and also that the local DOT did not approve of the use of washable chalk and ordered it removed. It should be noted that this was a non-issue on race day as the Rev3 folks had replacements up in time for that start, though with all the hype, a few athletes had hoped for more support from the locals.
Although I did notice an absence of spectators during my time on the run, it wasn’t a complete ghost-town. Around mile six, I encountered an “unofficial” aid station seemingly staffed by a local family at the foot of their driveway. When passing through, a small boy, I would guess no more than five years-old, reached out and handed me a giant slice of watermelon. Yes, I know this qualifies as “outside assistance”, but at that moment, that watermelon tasted better and was infinitely more effective than any gel or gu money can buy. It’s community support like this that can make a race truly special and with this well-polished event in only its second year, Rev3 Quassy has the ability to become a premier New England race. The only thing missing now is a little love from the locals.
This is a great way to experience the beauty that New England has to offer. Just be sure to incorporate plenty of hills into your training so that you can appreciate it.
Despite early concerns, there were plenty of volunteers on hand and all were friendly and knowledgeable. All race directions were clear, concise and allowed athletes to worry about racing, rather than deciphering where they needed to be other than the swim start. If next year they can add in text message race updates, expect an A+.
Rev3 did a great job in getting spectators involved. It’s not easy to ask friends and family to sit around while you bike around town for three hours, but feelings of guilt disappear when they’re waiting in an amusement park.
Fairly close to NYC (2 hours via car) so transportation was easy. Many of us stayed at the Heritage Hotel which was fairly inexpensive ($130 per night) and only about 15 minutes away. I also spotted hotel shuttle buses which I didn’t use, but should be noted. Additional shuttle bus parking for Moms and Dads who didn’t wake up early enough was also available and ran smoothly.
The folks at Rev3 have certainly set a precedent in terms of what to expect from a race. It’s on a gorgeous course, well organized and was a great experience for athletes AND spectators. So come on townies, hop on board and make this a marquee event for Connecticut and all of New England.