Monday, May 30, 2011

Capital of Texas Triathlon

Not long after I completed my first triathlon last August, I realized that this year Memorial Day, and therefore the Capital of Texas Triathlon, would coincide with my birthday. Since CapTex was what inspired me to attempt a triathlon, and I was pretty much immediately hooked on racing, I decided all the way back in September to do the Olympic distance (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run) today, as a far off goal to aspire to. As you can tell from this blog, I've done quite a bit of training and racing in the interim, perhaps most analogously the Corpus Christi Olympic-distance duathlon I did two weeks ago (coupled with the Splash & Dash for swimming). Based on the du time of 2:01, and a one-mile swim in Barton Springs last Sunday in 52 minutes, I was hoping to break 3 hours in the tri today. I might have made it if I could have kept up the pace of the first half of the run for the whole 10k. I'm still pretty pleased with a time of 3:05:13.

After those two races in three days two weeks ago, my calves were nearly seized up. Wednesday wasn't bad, so I went for a short run, and then Thursday and Friday I could barely walk. They didn't feel bad Saturday, with some help from some kinesiology tape, so I did an "easy" 14-mile ride, followed by an impromptu 1-mile run. Sunday I did that 1-mile swim previously mentioned, followed by a 2-mile run. I did more or less my usual workouts during the week, lightened up a little (except Tuesday I went to a volunteer party for the Mother's Day tri). In what might not have been the most prudent thing two days before a race, I did a 20-mile test ride on a sweet Cervelo R3 road bike with some pretty good riders. I wanted to do a little something yesterday to get the blood flowing, so I did a pretty easy 15 minutes on a treadmill and an easy 15 minutes in the pool. After the gym, I went and picked up my race packet (and a Cervelo jersey at the expo, to go with the Zipp jersey I picked up Saturday), and then racked my bike. I chowed down on some pizza for lunch, and went home to get all my gear sorted. In an attempt to alleviate some of the GI issues I've had while running, I had a liquid dinner- a delicious vanilla milkshake, which likely had at least twice the number of calories I normally have for dinner. I went to bed at 10, but, no surprise to me, I didn't sleep very well.

I woke up at about 3 this morning, and left around 5. I was pretty ticked off when I got to the transition gate, and they sent everyone back a ways to get body marked since they didn't have any markers there at that point. It was totally moot in my case, as I put on calf compression sleeves, covering my age (the race used temporary tattoos for the race number, so I already had that when I arrived). Once I had my transition stuff situated, I ate some more food, grabbed my wetsuit, goggles and swim cap and went down to the water to watch the pros take off, and to get a better idea of the course. I had about an hour wait until it was even close to my start time and I actually put my wetsuit on. I got my cap and goggles on, and jumped in the water.

I realized with only about a minute to go that I hadn't gotten my watch set to go. It still hadn't locked onto the GPS satellites when the gun went off. I tried to give it another second before I started swimming, but it didn't lock and it didn't have a chance once I dunked it in the water to start swimming. I kept playing with it every few strokes until I got it to start just as a stopwatch. The swim at that point actually wasn't too bad- I wasn't really that close to anybody to be fighting with them. I swam freestyle to near the first turn, then breast stroke around the buoys to head downstream, but into the wind. I swam backstroke most of the way "downhill," which was actually fairly pleasant, looking up at the clouds. It wasn't very far past the first turn that the following wave (started 4 minutes after me) caught up to and passed me. Further down the course, the first women (started 12 minutes later) passed me. About the time that I got to the South First Street bridge, the wind picked up, forming small waves. At first I thought the spray in my face was from someone nearby, but realized it was the waves breaking on my head. I switched to breast stroke around the far buoys, then back to backstroke until I got back to First, where I switched back to freestyle, trying to go for a decent finish. It was good there were volunteers to help me out of the water, as it took a second to get my land legs back. Even better were the wetsuit strippers. I sat on the ground while a guy yanked my wetsuit off in one fell swoop, much quicker and easier than the usual method of pulling it off. There was an announcer calling names as people were coming out of the water, and after he called my name, I told him it was my birthday, which he passed along to the crowd, who gave a little cheer. When I got to my gear, I figured I would go ahead and put socks on, since my swim was so slow I was already way behind most of my wave. I got as much of the sand off my feet as I could. I have no idea why I didn't sit down to do so, however, as my but was already sandy from the wetsuit pulling. I got my helmet and sunglasses on, and made my way onto the bike course.

The bike went pretty well, overall. I was passing people pretty much the entire course, and didn't get passed by that many people. There were also a few people where we passed back and forth a few times. There was a fair amount of traffic on the course, particularly on the third and fourth laps, as more sprint distance riders came onto the course, and also on Cesar Chavez where there was effectively only one lane (they had to keep a lane open for cars to get to the high school, which was in session to make up for a snow day). However, everyone was pretty well behaved and they weren't in my way. The real problem for me was the wind. With my deep Zipp race wheels and a disc cover on the back, I catch a lot of a cross wind. Quite a few times I had some difficulty keeping going straight. The worst wind on the first couple of laps was on Congress, where the buildings created weird patterns such that it would be blowing from the left, and then it would hit you from the right. On the third lap the wind started gusting, which was bad mainly because it was unpredictable. I stayed in my tuck, where I have the best control, most of the course, but I rode one-handed at a couple of points to eat a gel and drink from my water bottle. There were a lot of turns on the course, including three 180-degree turns, that also required me to come up out of my tuck. One of the 180s was just past a nice downhill on which I got up to 30 mph, but didn't have enough distance to ride it out before getting on the brakes to turn around and go back up that same hill, with no momentum. The second transition went smoothly, and thanks to the compressors, my calves weren't cramping like they usually do.

My run started out okay, and I held it together fairly well through the first loop, although I was slowing down. My legs were running out of steam, and I walked through the water station at the start of the second loop. I only managed about a 10-minute mile pace from there, when I was actually running. I walked through most of the water stations, and a fair ways past them as well. The wind, when it was in my face, was definitely not helping things, and even the minute uphill sections sapped me. I started summoning my reserves on the Congress bridge, and by the time I got to Riverside I was actually running at a reasonable pace. Fortunately I had enough left for a decent finish. The announcer calling every finisher's name was British, which lent a touch of class, at least in my mind. I got my finisher's medal, wet towels, and a bottle of cold water. I was feeling a bit of a headache at that point, but after I walked around for a while and ate and drank a bit of everything available, I felt quite well. There was even a moment when I was standing in my wet clothes, with wet towels, and a breeze blowing, that I actually felt chilled, but it quickly passed as the reality of Austin in late May set in. I repacked my gear, walked my bike back to my car, and drove home. After a shower and a nap, I went out to claim a free birthday dinner.

So, looking out to future races. I'm still on the fence as to doing the Austin half Ironman in October, but I have signed up to do the Olympic distance of Austin's other big downtown triathlon on Labor Day. I definitely want to go under 3 hours for that one, which I plan to do by improving my swim and my endurance. Hopefully I can also lose about another 10 pounds, which will help all over.

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