Third time's the charm, I guess. In my third 70.3, I finally broke 6 hours. I could try to attribute it to training and preparation, but while those helped, it was probably mostly because of the great weather. With a mostly overcast sky, a high around 70 degrees, and a mostly beneficial wind, it was truly a "chamber of commerce" day. While my swim time wasn't quite as good as Buffalo Springs, my bike and run splits were my best yet. My run split was even better than the Corpus "53.1" in April, for my best half marathon off the bike. While I probably could have pushed the run and/or bike a little harder, my effort was enough to meet my goal, and still left room for improvement next time. If I had gone 5:30, it might have seemed impossible to beat, but beating 5:54:24 seems doable.
I drove out to Kerrville Saturday morning, getting in around 11. My hotel was right next to the swim start and T1, so I checked those out. I went down to the finish area, where awards for the sprint race were still being held. I watched some of the kids' mile while starting to scope out the run course and T2. I went back to the hotel to get checked in (for the hotel and the race), and wander the race expo. Later in the afternoon, I went back to T2 for a jog. I did most of one loop of the run course, which I would be doing four times on race day. Not only was it four loops mixed on- and off-road, but it went right past the finish area (and the beer tent) three times. Very cruel. After the run, I drove the bike course. I missed a turn, and was glad to find out the narrow road I went down was not part of the course. Other than a few tight turns, the most challenging part seemed to be a long climb back into town. Plus three times past the finish area around the "hot corner" downtown, where the bike and run courses head toward each other before making left turns. The first time through would be right after the swim, and the portion of the bike course not repeated on the second lap.
Having a split transition of course made for more complex logistics of getting stuff in the proper place at the proper time. I had to check my bike into T1, and then put my run gear bag in T2, across town. It kind of front-loads the stress of getting all the gear set up, making sure everything is where it's supposed to be. There is still the worry on race morning that something's not in place, but there's not much to be done at that point.
For once, I actually had a hot meal before a race Sunday morning. When I checked in, they said continental breakfast would be available at 5 (I'm pretty sure this was earlier than usual), but when I got there, they had hot buffet items. I didn't pig out like I normally do at buffets, but I did have some bacon and eggs (maybe that's the secret of my successful day) with an English muffin.
Because of the rain on Saturday, I hadn't left any of my bike gear over night. I got that set up, along with all the normal pre-race stuff. I knew several people at the race from Austin, so there was some chatting with them. I did a short warmup of a jog twice around the sports center next to T1.
It wasn't cold that morning, but it was cool enough that I didn't mind putting my wetsuit on well before my wave time. Most of the previous races I've done in my wetsuit, the air was warm enough I didn't want to put it on until the last minute. After sending off the pros and a few waves of age groupers, it was time for 39 and under to get in the water. A couple minutes of floating, and then the sound of the airhorn.
The mass of bodies seemed to be moving pretty well. I was going a comfortable pace, not being held up too much. Then, sometime early on, some jerk swam over top of me and kicked me in the face. I couldn't really tell if had broken the skin or anything, but my lip felt all puffy. I carried on swimming, although after a while I had a sliver of a thought to quit. Not necessarily because of the lip, but because it felt like it was taking forever. I didn't feel whatever current there was in the river, and starting and ending in basically the same place equaled it out, but it felt like more of a slog than usual. Maybe it was because I missed a number of swim sessions, maybe it was some lingering fatigue from the Ironman. Whatever the reason, I kept on swimming, past the penultimate turn buoy (which seemed to be too close to shore), down the short leg to the last buoy, and then the last quarter of the course upstream to the exit.
I was a little disoriented when I got out of the water, and was very grateful for the volunteer who helped me out of my wetsuit. I jogged up the biggest hill of the day (on foot anyway) to my bike, put on my socks and helmet, shoved everything else in the bag, and started on my bike.
A woman passed me very early on, while I was still getting my shoes strapped on. I would eventually pass her back, before she passed me for good on the second lap (two other women dropped me around that point as well). Other than that, not many people passed me. One who did was my friend David. I don't know how I beat him out of the water, but he came screaming past me within two miles of the bike (similar to what he did in Corpus). I passed plenty of people. Mostly in the first 20 miles, but still picked off a few here and there.
I seriously thought something was wrong with my power meter in the first 15 miles. It was reading a little over 100 Watts, while I was going 25 mph, even up some small hills. I thought it was impossible, but it was a strong tail wind. I'm never good at knowing the wind direction until I do a 180, so I didn't really feel the wind until the farthest point of the course, where we turned back toward town. Fortunately the return was a little more sheltered, and the head wind wasn't quite as bad as the tail wind had been good. I didn't feel the wind much until the last few miles of the loop, on a more major road with less protection.
When I got out of the saddle for one of the climbs on the first loop, my hamstrings felt super tight. I decided I needed to take the second loop a little easier in order to save my legs for the run. They didn't provide splits per loop, so I can't quantify how much slower the second loop was (if at all), but the strategy seemed to work, as my legs held up pretty well through the run.
I drank plenty of water on the bike. I think I got a bottle from every aid station, except for the one bottle of sports drink I got (which I drank five sips of). I probably could have skipped the last one, as I still had a lot of water in my reservoir at the end. I took a couple of salt tablets, two gels, and three nibbles of a Clif bar. I was kind of pissed about the Clif bar- I got in just a few bites before I hit a bump and it flew out of my hands. I wasn't especially hungry at that point (35 miles in), but I was kind of hungry at the end, and that would have tided me over. Not a big deal, but a nuisance.
Last time through the hot corner, where they were already calling finishers for the quarter distance, and the short distance to T2. I racked my bike, slipped on my shoes, visor, and sunglasses, and was off for the run. Well, after some business that had been on my mind since the swim start (nothing urgent, but it seemed like the best time).
I started out pretty well. A little too fast, actually. I started out at about a 2-hour half marathon pace. Even with the great weather, I was pretty sure I didn't have the legs for that. I started with a strategy of getting a drink from each of the aid stations (effectively 5 per loop), alternating between water and sports drink. For a while, I would walk for a second with the water, and not slow down too much for the sports drink, which I only took two sips of. I was still making a pretty decent average pace. That held up for the first two laps. The third and fourth laps I walked a lot more of, particularly the off-road section. I also decided after the first loop to not even try running up any of the hills. Only one of them was sort of steep, and no of them were particularly long, but I figured why elevate my heart rate that much? I tried to keep a good pace on the flat paved section, at least.
I was hurting later in the race. Not too bad (not Ironman level), but I did have a blister on my left foot bothering me. When I started on the last lap, I was pretty sure I was going to break 6 hours, so that buoyed my spirits. I gritted it out, and was finally down to the last mile. I hit that flat section, and started to bring the pace back up. I didn't have anything spectacular left, but it felt like I was cruising. I crossed the finish line with my hands held high, seconds behind a guy I know from Austin.
There was food, but I had no appetite. I took a recovery drink, but it tasted disgusting to me. I drank lots of water, and that was pretty much the only thing that seemed appealing. I hung around for a little while before going to retrieve my gear. They had a shuttle running, but it wasn't clear if they could take my bike. I wound up just riding the couple of miles back to T1, it wasn't too bad. I wasn't able to keep my room to take a shower, but the hotel did give me a pass for the sports center. I took a shower, which felt absolutely fantastic. I got a soda for the road, and started home. I never did have much of an appetite. I snacked on the drive back, but didn't have a real dinner. I kept thinking about going out for a steak, but it never was appealing enough to actually leave the house.
I hadn't intended to, but I declared a bit of an "off season" after this race, which is my last triathlon of the season. I took Monday through Wednesday off from training, which might be the longest stretch of relative inactivity (I still took the stairs at work) since I can't remember when.