Today I competed in my first "official" sprint-distance triathlon (the Lost Pines Triathlon wasn't exactly sprint distance), the Lake Travis Triathlon. It's put on by the same people that do the Capital of Texas Triathlon on Memorial Day, which is the race I'm really trying to train for. When I signed up for the race (just last Sunday, although I'd been thinking about it for a couple of weeks before), I was hoping to finish in the 1:15-1:20 range. But then, on Wednesday, I pulled my left calf muscle somehow, and considered not racing. I adjusted my target time to 1:20-1:30 accordingly, and while I'm hardly ecstatic about at 1:24:35 time, I think it went okay for my first open water swim race and with the injury.
After the excess consumption and minimal exercise of last week, I knew I had to knuckle down this week. I had a good long workout on Monday, and Tuesday I took a 15-mile ride at lunch. Tuesday evening, as I have been doing for several weeks now, I did the "master swim" at my gym. When I told him about today's race, he suggested doing a 500-meter timed swim. It sounded like a reasonable idea, and two other participants were also interested. Considering the lunch ride and 1100 meters of "warmup" swimming beforehand, my time of about 13:30 seemed reasonable, never mind that the other two finished well before me. I'm not sure how, but I somehow managed to pull my left calf Wednesday night working out. I don't think I even felt anything until the next morning. I wasn't sure the exact nature of why my leg hurt, but it wasn't severe at that point, so I planned more or less a repeat of Tuesday (lunch ride, evening swim). I guess I was counting on the ride to "work out the kink" in my leg, but it only made it worse, even only going 12 miles. I was noticeably limping all afternoon, so I skipped swimming. I hadn't planned on doing much on Friday. I was hoping to test ride some race wheels, but that didn't really work out, so pretty much the only thing I did was to pick up my race packet. Amazingly, I went to three bicycle shops and only bought some kineseo tape for my calf. I was already in for $60, so I figured I may as well plan on racing.
It didn't particularly surprise me that I did not sleep well last night, waking up numerous times. I woke up for good at 5, and had plenty of time to kill, seeing as the race started at 9. I left the house around 6:30, and got parked out at Pace Bend Park around 7:30. I got my stuff set up in transition, then tried to find someone to help tape my leg up. Although it was feeling fine at that point, I thought I may as well take the precaution to prevent re-injury. I couldn't find medical personnel, and the only person I saw wearing the tape didn't know much about it, so I applied it myself based on instructions from the internet. It was surely a less than ideal application, and when I put on my wetsuit at 8:40, it snagged and rolled the tape. It stayed attached, for the most part, but it wasn't the most pleasant feeling. I made my way over to the swim start point, dropping off an old pair of shoes at the swim exit, which was a fair distance from the transition area across rocky terrain, due to the low lake level. Since the two other triathlon events I've done had the swim portion in a pool, I was totally new to the open-water swim wave. Even with the ~250 total participants broken into 5 waves (3 for men, 2 for women), there were still a lot of bodies in the water. Quite a few were off and never to be seen from again, but there were also a few going a similar pace as I was. In the first couple hundred meters, there was one guy I kept nearly running into, and also he kept splashing right as I was trying to breathe. I had my head higher in the water than I normally do in the pool, so the small waves caused by the blowing wind weren't bothering me, but I kept getting a mouthful of water from someone else's splashing. In the last couple hundred meters, I alternated between breast and freestyle strokes, partly to get more air, partly to maintain my bearings. Near the end I hit shore, and thought "great, I'm done," only to find that I was off course and the end was still about 50 meters away. Also in the last 100 meters, there was a different guy I kept running into.
On my jog from the water to the transition, I heard a guy breathing heavily behind me. When he passed me, I saw that he was over 40 (by his age on his leg) and had started 5 minutes after I did! I wasn't the last one out of the water in my wave, but I was close to it, and that was extra humbling to know somebody had done the swim in about half the time I had. I took a while in T1, getting my wetsuit off, and getting my bike shoes on, trying not to get too much grass and crap in them in the process. Once on the bike, it took me at least a mile to really get into bike mode and start to power it out. I didn't pass many bikes at first (only a handful passed me the whole course), but I passed quite a few on the uphill portions. The first loop, there wasn't too much traffic, and passing wasn't a problem. On the second loop, with more bikes out on their first loop, it was a little harder passing people in some spots. I got in to T2, re-racked my bike, swapped shoes, and started on the run.
The run course was more like a jeep trail than a road. It wasn't quite a full-on hiking trail, but it wasn't like the hike-and-bike trail (certainly not as flat, either). One problem I had was that I had no problem wearing my bike shoes with no socks, my running shoes were not as kind. I have several blisters on my feet right now, and I don't normally get blisters from a run of this distance (3 miles, the organizers reasoning that the 0.1 for 5k was from the water to T1). My even bigger problem was stomach cramping. The worst part of that was that it seemed to be more from gas than the physical exertion. I only did about a 10 minute mile pace on the run, and also unusual, I actually stopped at the water stations for a drink. On the positive side, the slow pace meant I wasn't sweating as profusely as I usually do, especially given that it was pretty warm out, even at 10:30. Also, I shouldn't have any problem beating this year's time next year.