Today I completed my second Olympic-distance (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run) triathlon, the Austin Triathlon, and I'm quite pleased to have significantly improved on my CapTex time from just over three months ago. The course isn't exactly the same, so they're not 100% comparable, but I did improve on every split time for an overall time of 2:43:34. Of course, with the much larger (1000+ for the Olympic distance) and more competitive field (including several Ironman champions), I didn't place nearly as high in the overall standings as my last race, but 313th puts me in the top half, so not too shabby in my book.
My left knee was bothering me all week. I didn't run at all, and by Saturday it was feeling okay. I put some kineseo tape on it again yesterday in the hope of keeping it from getting worse, but it was starting to hurt by the last mile of the run. It hasn't exactly felt great since, either. Before packet pickup and bike drop off yesterday, I rode a few laps of the veloway to make sure everything with the bike and legs were in proper order. After getting my packet and racking my bike, I went to a bike shop, where I picked up some triathlon-specific cycling shoes, with the hope that they will improve my transition times over my road cycling shoes. Later in the afternoon, I practiced getting into and out of the shoes while they remained clipped to the bike, using my road bike which has the same type of pedals as my tri bike. I had my now "traditional" dinner of a vanilla milkshake, and went to sleep at 10.
I woke up a couple of times in the night, but managed to get back to sleep until my alarm went off at 4:30. I ate breakfast, got my drinks prepared, and headed downtown. It was still early enough that I found a free parking spot near transition. I was not pleased when I got to my bike and several not only was the rack overfilled, my bike was fifth from the end, and it had been second (as I was the second one on that rack). It's not that big of a deal, but seriously, what a bunch of dicks. I got my stuff set up, and went for a little warmup jog. The open wave went off a few minutes past 7, and my wave was the second after that, 8 minutes later.
I started at the back of the pack, where it was relatively calm. I started swimming freestyle, and seemed to actually be going relatively straight, but switched to breast stroke (which is actually slightly faster for me, my freestyle is slow) after about 200 meters. I switched back to freestyle for about 100 meters after about 200 meters of breast. The rest of the way to the turn buoy was breast stroke, as was most of the back stretch. The two times I did attempt freestyle on the return leg, I very quickly wound up way off course, headed toward the shore. I felt like my swim went pretty well, it seemed like I stayed in the middle of my wave. Right before the turn, I caught a few people from the previous wave, and hadn't seen anybody from the subsequent wave yet (that doesn't mean they hadn't passed me). I'm pretty sure that was my first time attempting to swim a mile mostly breast stroke, and I can see why it's not really recommended for triathletes. At the turn, I was already feeling tired. That's when I tried to switch back to freestyle and went off course. I continued swimming breast stroke, hoping I wasn't using too much of my legs. The first time I looked at my watch was just before the final turn to the exit, and I was pleasantly surprised at the time. My full, official, swim time was 35:23, much better than I thought it might be.
I ran across the sand and gravel, put on my sunglasses, helmet, and race belt, and ran my bike, barefoot (bike shoes clipped in), to the mount line. I managed to get my feet into the shoes and get them securely fastened without major incident. It took a few minutes for my legs to work into cycling mode and to get up to speed. Overall, the bike went pretty well. I passed tons of people, was passed by about 10 or so people. I liked the course much better than CapTex- only two 180 degree turns, at the ends of Congress Avenue. The wind was definitely present on the first lap, but not all that bad. It was stronger on the second and third laps (of three total), and really blew me around between the skyscrapers, as well as on the bridges. Traffic was better than CapTex as well, since the high school wasn't open. There were a lot of bikes on the road by the third loop, with all the other waves coming in, but it went fairly smoothly. I ended up with a 1:09:53 bike split, for an average speed of 21.3 mph.
T2 was pretty quick, and I was off on the run. The course was a mix of gravel, grass, sidewalks, and roads. It was kind of weird, snaking around Auditorium Shores, down Riverside, and across the South First bridge. The run started well enough, the first two miles were about 8:10 minute mile pace. I only slowed down from there, miles three and four were 8:22 and 8:50. I was doing about a 9-minute pace until about mile 4.5, when I walked for a minute or so, and then resumed "running" at a 10-minute pace. I had planned on picking up the pace on the First bridge, but I was in pain and didn't have it in me. My knee was hurting, and my stomach was cramping. I picked the pace up slightly after turning onto Riverside for the final few hundred meters. My run split was better than I thought it would be, 53:58, 3 minutes off of my Cap10K time. The finish was pretty cool, there were few enough people finishing at that point that they had a tape up to run through. My friend MM was there as a spectator, which was nice. I rehydrated and replenished in the sparsely populated finishing area. When I came back a little later, after getting my stuff sorted out, the place was teeming with all the racers who finished after me. After a little more sugar, I got my bike and bag and headed to my car. Once I washed my bike, self, and water bottles, I went out for a sloppy hamburger.