Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rock Cliff Preview!

Another week, another great local race! Rock Cliff is a PEOPLE'S VOTE: TOP 10 UTAH RACE taking place this Saturday. As we've done with East Canyon and several others, we reached out to a couple experts to get some insight on the course & race in general.

Only a couple days left to claim a spot, so go grab one if it sounds like a good time!

Tyson Alexander

While we all may be focused on the elevation gain, the exact route, and making sure we don’t miss a turn so we can be as fast as possible - if there was ever a race to just do for pure enjoyment – Rock Cliff might be it. Located near the beautiful Jordanelle reservoir and surrounded by nature, this race is as much a tour as it is a race.


This is a two transition event, with very limited parking at either transition area. If you are driving, you’ll need give yourself enough time to park in Francis and ride your bike to the transition areas. This bike from the parking lot in Francis to T2 is an easy 3.85 mile ride that is downhill. You can either wake up your legs, or coast right in to the transition areas.

You’ll set up T2 (which is a grass field on the west side of the Rock Cliff campground/nature park) complete with a permanent restroom structure.

From T2, you’ll walk down to the boat ramp and swim start to T1 (distance of about .5 miles). Here you’ll have a great view of the Jordanelle reservoir and be able to mentally prepare for the clever onslaught of inspiration that Aaron Shamy will treat you with. Please don’t miss this part – it is a highlight of any RaceTri event.


The water will be amazing. It will also refreshing and brisk, and we all know that those are just fancy words for cold – but you honestly cannot beat the idea of an open water swim in one of the most amazing reservoirs in Utah, surrounded by green hills and mountains. While you are attempting to keep your tempo just right – please take a moment to realize how lucky we all are to live and play in such a fantastic place.

The swim is a 3 point loop and sprint races will do one loop and Olympic racers will do 2 loops.

At the swim exit, there is a short climb up the ramp into T1.


Regardless of whether you do the sprint course or the olympic course, the first half will be a steady, low grade uphill climb on Hwy 35 which happens to be a spectacular view. After the turnaround, the second half of the bike will be a speedy descent back into the state park/T2 with a tour of the town of Francis mixed in. Be sure to thank the local law enforcement that will be on the course making sure that all of the participants have a safe day.


Off the bike, you will be treated with a fun and unique run course through the Rock Cliff Nature Center and Interpretive Trail. Dirt trails, bridged boardwalks, and one stretch of highway will be the path for your 5k or 10k run with nature. You will run through an active ecology featuring over 100 different species of birds and fish located in this area. If you aren’t too concerned with a PR, you could stop at the various signs throughout the park and learn a fact or two about the American White Pelican or the Double-Crested Cormorant - and that’s to say nothing of the Northern Goshawk.  (editor’s note: I kept hollering ahead at Tyson to stop and educate himself on the Northern Goshawk at last year's race, but he DID NOT OBLIGE, beating me by 16 seconds).

Here's a look at this year's run course, which per our understanding has been altered slightly due to Mother Nature:


This finish area may be one of the best local spots of all. If you didn’t know better, you might look around during the awards ceremony and wonder if you are actually at your annual family reunion. Giant cottonwoods and the lack of parking lots, cars, stores, or civilization will help you appreciate what a great race Rock Cliff is.

There is enough space here for a vehicle to come pick you up at the finish/T2 – or you can ride your bike 3.85 miles back to Francis where you parked.  


Mandy Oscarson

I'll always have a soft spot for Rock Cliff - it's the race that almost broke me in 2013, and is the race I qualified for USAT Nationals at in 2015. This will be my 5th year doing Rock Cliff, and I love it!

It's almost always chilly before this race, so wear layers to keep warm pre-race. Also make sure you have a bag that will be easy to ride to the two transition areas with, since most people park at the nearby town and T1 and T2 are in different locations. And don't forget your ID in your car!

The swim tends to be cold - with a river feeding it, Jordanelle Reservoir is cold even in July and August. My tested and approved technique for overcoming this is to put your face in the water and blow bubbles a few times before your wave starts - until the shock of having your face in the cold water wears off. This will help you have a much smoother swim start and will prevent you from hyperventilating and/or choking during the first 200 meters. One year I did it, my face felt frozen until the first buoy. If it is cold, just keep reminding yourself that the swim is the shortest part of the race - just go slow and steady and you'll warm up and be out of the water before you know it!

The bike is deceptively challenging. The way out is mostly a false flat. If you're doing the Olympic, you start wondering where the heck that turnaround is, checking your brakes periodically for technical problems. My mantra for bike courses like this is - this hill won't last forever! And indeed, the way back is super fast. As a friend once advised me, just relax into the downhills and enjoy it!

This run in one of my favorites in a tri (other than Spudman). You get a mix of everything - road, dirt trail, beautiful scenery, and uphill/downhill. I love catching glimpses of the river, which always takes my mind off of fatigue or pain.

Most (not all) age groups tend to have a small field for this race, so if you're trying to qualify for Nationals, this is a good one to go for it. Good luck and I'll see you out there!

Next several on the local calendar to consider!

Jun 24: Daybreak (S & O) - South Jordan
DinoTri (S & O) - Vernal
Jul 8:   
Echo (S & O) - Coalville
Jul 15:
Topaz (S & O) - Delta

Jul 15: Toughman Utah Half
Jul 15: San Rafael Classic Triathlon - Huntington

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