After winning my age group for the first time at last year's race and coming so close to getting the overall win, I was looking forward to this year's race, and hoping to pull off that win. Despite cutting four minutes off of my time, the field was larger this year, and the level of competition was higher, and I "only" managed to repeat my age group win and fastest bike split. While it would have been nice, I'm really not disappointed to not get the overall win. An extra "feather in the cap" was that I got the age group win over my friend Dustin, whom I train with some at the gym.
I probably should have skipped the race this year, considering I'm racing a full Ironman in Kentucky next Sunday, but I was hoping for that win, and I figured a sprint would be a good warmup/final tuneup. Probably the biggest reason, though, is that it was my first race two years ago, which was also the first year of the race, and I would like to keep doing it, if possible. With a race time of 1:20:22, it's a much higher intensity than I will put into a really long race, but it's for such a relatively short amount of time.
Of course, for a long time it looked very doubtful that this race would ever be put on again, or even what the fate of Bastrop State Park itself would be, after the devastating Labor Day fire last year. While the park was quite visibly scarred, and very different from last year, it was not devastated. Also, with the rains we had at the beginning of the summer, the areas that would have been bare at least had some vegetation. Honestly, though, I didn't pay that much attention to the natural landscape, as I was intently focused on the race.
The race went very well. Much like Jack's Generic two weeks ago, I improved in every split over last year's times. I started the swim much farther up, about 30th, with the moderately fast swimmers. This made for smoother swimming (there was some bunching up when the woman who was behind me overtook me and caught up with the woman who started ahead of me), but meant there were fewer bikes out on the course for me to pass.
The biggest problem I had all day was starting on the bike. I didn't get my right foot into my shoe right away, and wound up pulling the strap out of the buckle. It took me at least a minute to get it all sorted out and strapped in properly before I could really get going. Once I was going, I was kind of mad and hammered on the pedals. That resulted in going down a big hill at very high speed, into a slight turn that was still wet from last night's rain. It was a white knuckle moment, but fortunately I came through it. Dustin had started the swim about two minutes before me (and did it quicker), and I didn't catch up with him until just after the turnaround. Knowing he's a faster runner than me, I said "see you on the run," and took off. There were probably about five or six bikes ahead of me at that point, and by the time I got back into transition, I only saw three bikes on the racks.
I slipped on my running shoes, which felt like they were filled with sand, and started on the run. At first, I had that chest cramp I have been getting recently. I took short breaths, trying to get myself together. I felt like I was going kind of slow, but I didn't really have anything to gauge myself by. It didn't prove to be much of a problem, though, as I finished the first mile pain-free in 7:50. The second mile was uphill, and I only managed 8:35. I actually passed a cyclist, who had gotten off of her bike to push it up the hill. Another feather in the cap. Dustin passed me just after the 2-mile marker. He was only the third runner I had seen. I was behind one guy at the start, and another passed me in the first mile. I had lost sight of them by the time Dustin caught up, but I managed to keep him in sight until the last few hundred meters. He later admitted to some cramping at that point. Going up the last hill, I was neck-and-neck with another cyclist for a few moments. I had already picked up the pace on the last half-mile, but found another gear after making the turn back toward transition. The last 100 meters off-road was a bit sandy, and the pace slowed a little, but it was still a strong finish.
I wanted to get my shoes off as soon as possible, as I had abraded the top of one of my little toes. Other than that, my feet seem to have fared reasonably well. I hung around eating and drinking until I got my award, then headed back to Austin.