After doing the Lost Pines Triathlon, I definitely wanted to do another race. I thought the Natural Bridge Caverns Duathlon sounded pretty interesting (also run by the same people), so I signed up for the "Woolly Mammoth" distance- 5k run, 26 mile road ride, and another 5k run. However, after the Austin Relay Marathon, I took up a suggestion to run the 3M Half Marathon in January. Basically, I started training for that and figured the Du would pretty much sort itself out. In October, I started a training regimen of my own device- midweek: two days of strength training, one fast and short run, one day of either swimming or another short and fast run, and one day of rest; on the weekends: one long bike ride, and one long run. At first I had no idea if I could run far enough, since the 3.6 miles at Lost Pines was the longest distance I had ever run. My first long run was 5 miles, and since that went pretty well, I added a mile every week until I got up to 9 miles the Sunday before the Duo. Unfortunately my right foot started hurting after that 9-miler, and running a 5k Tuesday morning (at an 8-minute pace, which pleased me very much) didn't help at all. I didn't really run for the rest of the week, just about a half mile on the treadmill Wednesday and Thursday as a warm up for strength training. It wasn't hurting this morning, and even now it's not that bad, but it did hurt right at the end of the race.
I hydrated and consumed lots of carbs yesterday and did as little as possible of a physical nature. I got a pretty decent night's sleep, but it did take me a few seconds to realize why I was awake at 5 o'clock this morning. I had everything ready to go, so I pretty much just ate breakfast and got in the car for the hour drive toward San Antonio to the cave. I got my packet and timing chip, and got my bike situated in transition. I changed my mind about how I wanted my gear arranged a couple of times, but wound up just setting out my bike shoes, sunglasses, and gloves and left everything else in the car. In the pouches of my jersey, I just had a couple of gels and my car key. There was a pre-race meeting at which we were told that the nastiest looking part of the bike course - down into Krueger Canyon, turning around at the bottom and going back up - was cut out because of the weather (overcast, humid, and some drizzle). I didn't check out the canyon beforehand, but some people who had said it would have been pretty gnarly even if it had been bone dry. Most of the bike course was totally dry, except for the road leading into the canyon, so it was probably for the best. I wasn't heartbroken.
The race started a little bit late, around 8:15, with the "T-Rex" (longer, harder run, same bike course) runners. Once they were off, the Woolly Mammoth runners went down into the cave. Supposedly, this is the first multi-sport race ever inside of a cave. We walked down a sorta steep, sorta slippery path to the staging area, then started time trial style according to expected pace. The cave portion started pretty flat, but narrow and with lots of turns. Closer to the exit (a different one than the one we came in), we had to stop running and walk up the switchbacks. I didn't really mind not being allowed to run, my heart was already racing. Even though it was fairly warm and humid outside, it was even more so in the cave, and it was refreshing to come back outside. My new toy is a GPS watch, and I decided that since it obviously wouldn't get any reception inside the cave, I would just start it once I exited. Once I did, when I first looked at it, it said I was running at about a 9:30 mile pace, and I was shooting more for a 9:00 pace, so I sped up a little. When I looked again a short time later, it showed a 7:30 pace, which is way too fast for me to maintain for anything more than a mile. I slowed down a little, but I had to really suppress the urge to keep up with the people in front of me. I finished the first mile out of the cave at 8:21, which was still too fast of a pace. The second mile had a long but not steep uphill, so it was natural to slow to a 9:21, and the third mile was 9:02, right on target. I'm sure they measured it, but the course was definitely longer than 5k, more like 3.4 miles. I kept around a 9-minute pace until just before the first transition where the course went uphill and I slowed down. At that point, my heart rate was way too high, over 180, so I took a little longer than necessary putting on my bike gear and starting on that course. The traffic had picked up considerably from the 1-mile turnaround for the shorter races, so there were already a lot of bikes on the road.
The bike went well, I passed a lot of bikes, but mainly on the portions that were coincident with the shorter course (and thus a lot of less strong riders). I realized about 4 miles in that coming out of T1, instead of hitting the 'lap' button on my watch, I had hit the 'stop' button, and it wasn't recording. I got it going again, and managed to hit the correct button coming out of T2. The course was pretty hilly, but pretty normal for the Hill Country. One of the last hills, however, was decently steep and long, and I was not very happy at the top of it. My right knee was hurting a little for the last miles of the ride, but I didn't fully realize how much I had overdone it until I dismounted and my legs started really hurting. I again took some extra time in transition, had one more swig of water and a gel I should have had much sooner, and started the second run.
I started rather slowly, about a 12:30 pace, in order to get my running legs back. My legs started to come around soon enough, and I finished the first mile at 10:46. The second mile did not go as well. I walked for a little bit, and went up the hill fairly slowly, ending with a time of 11:41. Once I got to the turnaround point and knew the end was in sight, I was able to pick up the pace again. Helped by the downhill, I finished the third mile with at time of 9:33. I'm not certain what my pace was for the last few tenths of a mile, because I forgot to stop my watch right as I crossed the finish line, but I think it was around 9:20, so even though it wasn't a great 5k time, I was still able to finish strong. Of course as soon as I stopped my legs started hurting, but with a little bit of time, some stretching, food and all that good stuff, they came around. My total time was 2:31:41, which was good enough for 5th place in my age division, but less than a minute from fourth, which is a bit maddening. At the start, when I saw there were only about 40 people doing the "Woolly Mammoth" distance, I thought I might have a half-decent shot at a "podium" finish in my age group, until I looked around and saw that seemingly half of the men were in my age group, and at least two were expecting to run much faster than me. My time was 18th overall for that distance [ed: according to the final posted results, I was 16 of 28 finishers]. Most of the nearly 300 people who raced did one of the shorter distances.