I was watching the team time trial during the Tour de France and right before I fell asleep due to the sheer boredom of the event, I heard legendary cycling announcer Phil Liggett mention that the riders rode the entire length of the course that morning to familiarize themselves with it. Liggett went on to say that most teams spend a good deal of time reconnoitering the course for the next day, usually watching a video of key sections while studying the elevation profiles and all other manner of data that will help them perform on the next day’s stage.
So I got to thinking (a dangerous past time, I know), why shouldn’t I do something like that?
And that’s exactly what I did on Saturday when I pedaled to Quantico Marine Corps Base and scoped out the scene at next month’s sprint triathlon. I wanted to lay eyes on the pool and ride the nine mile course. Truth be told, I’ve ridden those roads several times, but never with a critical eye and always in the opposite direction than the one I will be traveling on race day.
Temperatures are very hot right now, but I will refuse to complain so I can maintain the moral high ground during my gripes about the cold all winter. Traffic was light and I made it through the danger area of Dumfries without incident. I soon found myself on the north side of a loop which circumnavigates the base. This road is smooth, slightly downhill and has a nice bike path. Good times. There were even helpful signs along the road’s edge to make sure everyone knew which side of the road they should be running on. In typical Marine fashion, they are red and yellow and do not offer much in the way of pleasantries.
After three miles I turned southward toward the older part of the base. Quantico Marine Corps Base was founded in 1917 on land formerly used as a tourist location and industrial site (an interesting combination, I think). The soon-to-be legendary John LeJeune was the camp’s early commander and set up a training base for Marines about to serve in WWI. The town of Quantico remains today, completely surrounded by the base which bears its name. There are only a few hundred residents, almost all of whom either work on the base or provide a service to those who work there.
The base pool is near a guest inn on the south side of the base. It has been completely rebuilt and is looking very stylish. It is 50 meters long, which means I will be swimming the length of this thing eight times. I was struck by just how far 50 meters looks like when it is the length of a swimming pool. I looked around for where the transition area might be and couldn’t find any suitable patch of grass. It appears I’ll be switching from swimming to cycling and then to running in an asphalt parking lot. I hope I’m wrong.
I then continued the loop that I will ride on race day. The southern end of the base is not nearly as nice as its northern end. There is no bike lane and the road is considerably older and full of potholes. There will be plenty to pay attention to while shaking off any adverse effects of the swim. I stopped briefly by LeJeune hall to pay my respects to the “Greatest of all Leathernecks,” whose statue sits outside the building. Fun Fact: the man’s name is pronounced “luh-JERN,” not “lay-Joon,” like most people say. The Marines have made a concerted effort as of late to emphasize the proper pronunciation, which gives me no end of merriment when I have cause to mispronounce it in public settings with Marines present.
The last stretch of the loop is Purvis Road. It runs through the base housing area and past an elementary school and a high school. Those buildings sit atop a signficant hill, with a grade that reaches 10% for a brief period. If I can drag myself over that hill in good shape, then my cycle time will be pretty good, which it will need to be if I am to have any hope of putting in a respectable time in this event.
Having completed my reconnaissance and satisfied myself that I am every bit as professional as the Tour de France cyclists, I pedaled home in the increasing heat. The total ride was about 25 miles and it was the third day in a row I have cycled, which is a nice little streak for me. Tomorrow, I’ll be running. The work of a triathlete is never done.
I will leave you with this artsy photo of Old Glory, taken in front of LeJeune Hall at Quantico MCB.