Friday, August 20, 2010

Lost Pines Triathlon

As I mentioned oh so long ago in my last post, I became interested in doing a triathlon after watching the CapTexTri downtown on Memorial Day. After mentioning it to a coworker, he suggested looking at to find one I was interested in. After looking and thinking for a while, I zeroed in on the Lost Pines Triathlon in Bastrop State Park at the end of August. It's considered a sprint distance, and the 400m swim is in a pool (followed by a 16 mile bike and 5k run). That pretty well alleviated any fears I had of drowning out in open water somewhere.

Starting just 10 weeks before the race, I decided the best method for training would be to join a gym with a pool, since swimming was a big concern of mine. I joined the enormous one, about 6 miles from my house, LifeTime, with two lap pools (one indoors, one outdoors). Also, not that it has anything to do with a triathlon, it has an indoor rock climbing wall. After about two weeks of running and swimming (on top of my usual cycling) and a trial run of the race distance, I was pretty confident I would be able to at least complete it, and I registered for the Lost Pines race.

Training went pretty well, I did about an hour a day 4 days during the week, and usually a little longer on the weekends, with a mix of in the gym and outdoors (which included cycling to work about once a week). I initially jumped around on the machines in the gym, since I'd never belonged to a gym before, trying out the stair master, the ellipticals, the rowing machine, before pretty much settling on the treadmill. I swam about twice a week in their lap pool, and on most Saturdays I joined the group bicycle ride leaving from the gym. One weekend I rode my bicycle downtown to the running shoe store, bought some proper running shoes (instead of just my regular all-purpose sneakers), and went for a run on the hike-and-bike trail. A week before the race, I did another "brick," riding to and around the veloway for 16 miles, and then running a 5k on the high school track.

After all the prep, today was race day. I woke up at 5 in order to get to Bastrop State Park before 6:30 to get one of the limited number of parking spots actually inside the park. I got my bike and other stuff and set up in the transition area. Being a rookie, I managed to do things out of order and initially missed getting my number drawn on my arms and legs. I picked up my timing chip and strapped it to my leg. Then it was milling about and getting my gear situated and ready to go before they closed the transition. In the pre-race briefing, it was explained that since the pool is old and not a lap pool, it was about 33 yards and the whole swim would be "about" 400 yards long. Also, that the run wasn't 3.2 miles or even 5k as advertised, it was more like 3.6 miles. Then the real chaos started, as they basically threw out the seeding and rather than have people start based on what time they said it would take for them to swim the course, they just let people go whenever. For example, there was a really big guy who it seemed could barely swim started long before I did (he got a big cheer when he finally finished the race, well after me).

The course worked kind of like a maze, going down and back one lane (which, by the way, were divided basically by pool noodle floats), moving to the next lane, down and back, next lane, etc, for a total of ~11 1/2 laps (ending at the steps in the middle of the pool). The starter wasn't releasing people at a regular interval, she just started people when the person in front was most of the way through their first lap. Because of the random order, I managed to catch up the person ahead of me around the first turn. I passed two more women in one of the lanes, which was complicated by oncoming traffic- the lanes were narrow for even two people to pass, three was impossible, so I had to wait for an opening. I passed a couple more people who stopped for a breather on the walls. At one wall, I stopped long enough to get a comment from the woman who started right after me (and had been chatting with) that it was harder to follow the lane dividers than expected. I definitely found that to be the case- having done most of my swimming in a specifically designed lap pool, I got used to having a tile stripe on the floor to follow- this pool was oddly shaped and had no such markings.

My first transition was pretty slow, mainly because I put on socks and had to wipe the pine needles and crap off my feet first. I also put on my helmet, gloves, sunglasses, heart rate monitor, watch, ... I was feeling an adrenaline rush at the start of the bike ride, and my heart was going over 170 bpm. After the first couple of rolling hills, it was over 180. Once it leveled out more and I was in "bike mode," my heart rate came down to reasonable levels. Then came more and more rolling hills. I passed a lot of other bikes, and really only one passed me (one guy was climbing slower and descending faster than I was who passed me twice, and I him twice), some of whom got off and walked some of the bigger hills. The steepest hill was as steep as the steep section on the veloway, but a little bit longer. I never had to get off the bike, but I did get down to the lowest gear I have (and then had to stand up and crank). I finally got to the turnaround point, and had to do it all again in the other direction. Fortunately there wasn't as steep of an uphill on the way back. I did manage to lose a water bottle (that I was holding at the time) going over a paved-over cattle guard. At least it was the one with straight water, and not the one with electrolytes.

The second transition was quicker, swapping my cycling shoes for my running shoes, racking my bike and ditching my gloves and helmet. I started to feel my calves cramping changing my shoes and at the start of the run, but I figured it would work itself out as long as I kept moving (and hydrating), which turned out to be the case. The run course went right past where they were cooking kielbasa for lunch, which was a bit tortuous as I was feeling hungry before the race started. The run went fine, I certainly didn't set any speed record, but I'm pleased that I managed to keep up at least a jogging pace the entire time. The guy I had been dogfighting with on the bike sailed past me, as did a woman. In the very last stretch, two guys overtook me. Right at the finish line I felt pretty spent, and was glad someone was there to bend over and take my timing chip so I didn't have to. After a little replenishment, I felt really awesome, kind of a "runner's high," I guess. I ate and drank a ton, and just sort of wandered about until they gave out the trophies and such. It turned out to be worth my waiting around, I won a wetsuit in the prize giveaway. My time ended up being 1:53:09, good for 66th overall (of 200+), and 5th in my class (men 30-34, of 12 total), which I feel is pretty good for a first time. The guy who got the best time (~1:20) said of his 20 years of racing, this was one of the toughest courses he'd done. Should make the next sprint triathlon I do seem easier, or maybe I'll just jump up to the Olympic distance...

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