Today marks one year as a triathlete. The 2010 Lost Pines Triathlon was my first race of any kind since college (and I was never a swimmer, runner, or competitive cyclist before last summer). I was hooked immediately, and since that first race, I've done an "indoor triathlon," two more sprint triathlons, an Olympic triathlon, three duathlons, the Splash and Dash four times, two 5ks, a 10k, a half marathon, a time trial twice, plus several organized bicycle rides of various distances (did I forget anything?). And what a difference a year has made. I went from a 1:53:09, fifth in age group, to a 1:24:33 age group win, and third overall (although the swim was shorter, so not a 100% direct comparison in terms of the time). This event played well to my strengths and weaknesses, with a longish (16 mile) hilly bike and a short (200m) swim, respectively, plus a relatively small field. I'm absolutely ecstatic with the result, especially that I had the fastest bike split.
I've suffered some relatively minor injuries in the last two weeks. Nothing particularly serious (at least I hope), but enough to alter my workout schedule. About a week and a half ago, my left knee started hurting. I stopped running for a week, adding some swimming and rest instead. By this past Friday, it was feeling okay again, so I tried to run again and the pain came right back. It's not a general pain, it only hurts when I run or take stairs two and three at a time. Also this past week I had a bad calf cramp Tuesday afternoon, for no reason I can recall. I still swam Tuesday night, and it wasn't too bad, but I took Wednesday off of training to give it a chance to heal. I figured my best short-term solution would be to use kineseo tape, which helped when my knee was hurting before climbing Gannett. I put it on before I went cycling Saturday morning, and it didn't look so great after being soaked in sweat. After showering and letting it dry out, it was adhered well enough that I didn't feel it was necessary to replace it. I think the tape helped, but wasn't enough for the race to be entirely pain free, and at the moment the knee isn't feeling very good. It doesn't hurt to walk, but I think I'm going to have to refrain from running this week.
I got to Bastrop State Park about 6, parked, got my packet and chip, and got my bike and gear into transition. I got stuff situated, then went for a short jog around the start and finish portions of the run. During the pre-race meeting, surprisingly few hands went up when the director asked who had done the race last year. The swim was fortunately much simplified over last year's chaos. Instead of having people going both ways in narrow lanes (in a pool never designed for lap lanes), each lane was one way (ie go down, duck under to the next lane, repeat). Being in the water was a little weird to me. The water was much clearer, and the pool much deeper than the one I swim in regularly, on top of it not having lane lines to follow. Even though I could see the noodle lane dividers during my normal stroke, I looked up a few times to make sure I was on course, mainly because I could see so many other people in the water and it didn't seem like they were where I was expecting them to be. I would see somebody swimming in the same direction I was going, and it looked to me like they were only one lane over, when they were really two lanes over. It kind of weirded me out, so I tried not to look at the other swimmers.
It seemed like I started in about the right position- nobody was trying to swim over top of me, and I only passed one woman, right at the fourth wall. While I was waiting to start, I could see people in the water with worse form than I have, and thought maybe I should have started ahead of them (the time-trial start self seeded, and probably half the people had a vague guess of their time), but I didn't sweat it, just figuring it was more people to pass on the bike. I didn't kill myself on the swim. I had thought beforehand that I might flip-turn from lane to lane, but I wound up stopping at each wall, ducking under the divider, getting another breath, and doing the next lap. Also, I stuck with freestyle, even though I have found that I'm actually slightly faster doing the breast stroke (the difference might have been 20 seconds on this short course). I finished in about 5 minutes, ripped my swim cap and goggles off, and trotted over to my gear. I sat down, wiped my feet off a little, and put on my bike shoes. I put my helmet on, and clack-clacked over to the mount line. I had a minor fumble clipping in, but not a big deal.
I stopped counting the number of bikes I had passed at 7 in the first mile and a half. I passed bikes the entire course, a few stopped with mechanical issues, a few walking their bike up the hill (an not even the really steep hill). Some I flew past, some were only going a little slower than I was. I wasn't passed by any bikes (I didn't know until right before awards I had the best bike split). I was scorching the outbound portion of the lollipop course (at least that's what it felt like to me), but I was concerned that it seemed like a net downhill, and I was going to pay the price on the return. It turns out that I was forgetting that it was a fair climb up Road 1A before turning onto Road 1C, and according to my GPS, the turnaround point was only about 40 feet lower in elevation than the start. So, the return wasn't nearly as bad as I feared, and I still averaged a pretty good speed. There were, however, a couple of points when my quads started to heat up, and I was worried I was overdoing it, and my legs would be shot for the run. After riding 16 miles in 47:26, for 20.2 mph (the only one to average over 20 mph, it turns out), I came back into transition and swapped my cycling shoes for my running shoes.
The first mile of the run course was fairly flat, and it went by in 7:52. Then the road started climbing (the same 1A that started the bike course). I only managed a 9:11 for the second mile, but it didn't feel as though my legs were suffering from the hard effort on the bike. It was more that I didn't want my heart to explode that kept my pace down. Also, my stomach was feeling full and on the verge of cramping (which also led me to bypass the first water stop). I didn't take as much advantage of the downhills as I had on the bike, and even though the third mile wasn't as uphill as the second, I only managed an 8:40. The final half mile was flat to downhill, and I picked the pace back up. Once I made one of the last turns and could see the finish line, I kicked my pace up even higher, to about my one-mile pace. I still had enough left to really kick out the final 50 meters at a full sprint for a good finish. My total run time was 29:41, 20th overall. There were a few people that passed me on the run, and rather than kill myself trying to keep up, I told myself "I probably had a better bike than they did." It turns out that was true in this race. I was super stoked after I crossed the finish line and looked at my watch, which showed 1:24. I was so psyched! I had actually beaten my goal of 1:30, which would have won my age group last year.
There were times on a computer monitor, but it was scrolling through age groups and was kind of hard to follow, but it did seem as though my time was quite good. After some refreshments and cooling off, I spoke with the timer, who was nice enough to look up my data and told me I was third overall, and first in my age group. That was way beyond my expectations, and I was super excited. I didn't want to get my hopes up too much, since there was still a slight chance someone was still on the course who had a shot at beating me, or there was some data error. I couldn't resist sharing the news with the world via facebook and twitter, though. I stuck around and continued to stuff my face, even though I wasn't really hungry. I cheered on all the other winners, got my medal, and drove home still wearing it.
Some additional data I found interesting after looking at the results online: I was 1:02 behind the fastest male- I probably could have shaved that off between my swim, run, and transitions; I was 23 seconds behind the fastest female- considering some of the fast women I know, I'm kind of used to getting "chicked"; I "won" this race (this may be as close as I ever get to first overall) on the bike- my swim, run and transitions weren't that stellar, but nobody put it all together. Considering that Austin has quite a few people who are very good at all three disciplines, I'm glad none of them showed up for this race.