Authored by: Lakshmi Sadasiv
The 2021 version of Max Performance’s women-only triathlon, Title Nine, took place on September 12 at Hopkinton State Park. The day dawned sunny but cool, with minimal wind, making for excellent race conditions.
This race is a sprint triathlon with special beginner-friendly features including swim buddies (experienced swimmers in the water to help out in case of issues), closely-spaced aid stations, and a special “newbies” wave in the traditional wave start. For 2021, the race did a time-trial start to allow for social distancing among racers, but the start was still designed to make anyone who might be feeling nervous have plenty of space to settle into the swim.
The swim course is a straight shot from the boathouse on the Hopkinton reservoir across to the upper beach. The buoys are large and easy to see and the course is lined with support personnel–kayaks on the water side and the aforementioned swim buddies on the shore side. The Hopkinton reservoir is deep and the water is a deep tannin brown so in-water visibility is limited. The course goes directly west so above-water sighting is quite easy, even on very sunny days. (You don’t need super-dark goggles, for sure. Any outdoor UV-blocking goggles will work fine.)
Transition 1 is designed to be fast. The distance from the beach back to the bike racks is less than 50 yards. The path is lined with perforated rubber mats and there are kiddie pools alongside so you can rinse your feet if you want to. The transition area is rectangular–the bike out area is on the northeast corner with the mount line fairly close to the gate so you can be on your way quickly.
The bike course is only 10 miles but does have a tricky start. Just past the mount line the course rises rapidly so the first .25 mile requires some patience (and fortitude). At the top of the rise there is a sharp right turn; after the turn the course settles into a rolling pattern. There is one turn to watch out for; in mile seven, Whittmore Drive descends steeply, culminating in a sharp right turn. The area is well staffed with volunteers and the right lane is closed to traffic so as long as you are careful, you can make the turn with confidence. The bike course ends back in the park with a .75-mile climb followed by a short descent back into the transition area.
The run out gate is on the north side of transition. Again, the course starts with some climbing but has some gentle descents as well. At the start of mile 3, you exit the park road and run alongside the main parking lot before going up the final hill that takes you over the reservoir bridge. The bridge across the reservoir is completely flat and you can clearly see the transition area (along with the buoys from the swim course) on your left. The last quarter-mile of the run takes you back across the upper beach (the swim terminus) and onto a shaded path (watch out for tree roots!) before you emerge alongside the transition area to make your final run to the finish line.
Max Performance is a Massachusetts-based, family-owned race company. Their races are always designed to be well supported and encouraging to participants and Title Nine is no exception. There are plenty of volunteers on hand and lots of support for racers. If you are a woman interested in “trying a Tri” Title Nine is an excellent place to start. If you are an experienced racer, Title Nine is a well organized course where you can work on getting a really fast transition and managing your pacing. This was my second time through Title Nine and I am planning to come back for as many years as I can.