Get out of your comfort zone: you'll almost definitely find something you didn't know you'd love. I did the Without Limits triathlon series last year, and I loved the atmosphere of those races: laid back, locally owned/run, open to anyone, but still with legit competition and serious athletes. This year I decided to try one of their races that DIDN'T take place at the Boulder Reservoir. I found Lory Xterra.
The swim for the race was pretty simple: an out and back around a series of buoys (right around 1,000 yards). The reservoir was nice and calm, and the race location is situated so that the swim course is pretty secluded (and beautiful). The water temperature was 68-degrees. Race organization was really well planned out from start to finish. The first 3 waves of the swim left with only 2 minutes between them. Then they took a 15-minute break, and the remaining 5 waves left with 7-minutes between. I was in wave 4, so right after the break. They've developed this system so that the rest of the course is never too congested. In my opinion, it's pretty genius.
My only complaint about preparing for this race was that I found out a week before that no CX bikes are allowed on an Xterra course. That's not explicit on the website. It also wasn't listed at all in the race announcement email. I purchased a Specialized Diverge last October, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to race with my new bike. I'm hugely grateful that I posted "Lory Xterra practice ride" as the title for a workout on Strava. A friend saw it and told me to check the status of CX bikes. I contacted Race Director, Lance Panigutti, and sure enough: mountain bikes only. So...I had to rent a bike. Not a huge deal, really, but with a little more notice I would have planned differently. I'm mostly grateful that I got this information at all, and didn't show up on race-day with my CX bike! The course is for sure doable on a CX/gravel bike, but easier on a MTB...much easier.
I picked up a Santa Cruz Pivot Switchblade from University bikes. This bike was insane. Way more bike than I'm used to, but super fun. If I had a spare $7,000, I would totally buy it. This bike made everything on the course fun and easy. I still need some practice with my confidence, though. On the first loop, I got passed several times, but everyone was super nice. By the second loop, things were spaced out pretty well. Overall, the bike was my weakness, but by the end of the 12+ miles, I felt like I was finally holding my own.
Early this year, I decided to do as much of my running as possible NOT on pavement, so I've really gotten familiar with this course and the other local trail systems. I still can't believe that so many people who do triathlons, but especially trail triathlons, dread the run. There were SO many people walking and giving up. This run course is AWESOME. Pretty much straight up for 2.3 miles, and then down. The overall elevation gain is right around 600-feet, and all within the first half of the (5-mile) run. The views of Horsetooth and the entire area are amazing. And the trail is so nice: single-track, switchbacks, packed dirt, and some fun rock areas. In other words, everything you should love on a trail run. It's pretty exposed, so I was thankful that we had a lot of cloud cover. (The weather was really perfect: 60s and mostly cloudy). I seriously love this run. And the fact that I got to pass everyone who had killed me on the bike!
Overall, I recommend this race, especially if you're new to triathlon or new to Xterra, or just love off-road. This is a well-organized race in a beautiful setting.