In a double dose of short and fast, this weekend I raced in a 5K Saturday and raced a super sprint triathlon Sunday. I also volunteered at packet pickup for the tri Saturday afternoon to round out a weekend full of racing. I had pretty low expectations for the 5K, since I only signed up on Wednesday because the weather forecast looked pretty good. Thanks to cool weather and a big, fast field, I managed to shave four seconds off my previous PR down to 20:30. I didn't have a real time goal for the tri, since I've never raced it before (I volunteered last year), but I figured I could do slightly under one hour for the 300m swim/11.2 mile bike/2 mile run. It turned out a friend of mine did a much better job of predicting my finish time of 55:38 (I said 59 minutes, he said 55). Other than doing reasonably well at the tri (17th overall, 4th in my age group), it was a lot of fun. It seemed like almost every triathlete and cyclist I've ever trained or raced with was there, a couple doing their first triathlon.
In a continuation of the weird weather we've been having this spring, a powerful cold front blew in mid-week and promised to stick around for a while. I had vaguely considered doing the Chuy's "Hot to Trot" 5K, mainly because it's held where I spend most of my time training. With the promise of unseasonably cool race weather, I decided to go for it. I woke up a little earlier on Saturday than I probably would have otherwise, but not crazy early, since it was not far from my house, and an 8:15 start time. I parked at my gym and jogged the half mile over to the race venue. It was cool enough that I was wearing a sweatshirt, but it wasn't bitter cold. I heard it was somewhere around 45 degrees that morning, but I'm not entirely sure. I stashed my sweatshirt and lined up for the start.
I was maybe a little farther back from the start line than I should have been, but more likely a lot of people were a lot closer than they should have been. Once the gun went off, there was a massive crush of people jockeying for position. I grabbed the arm of a young guy who had been shoved (possibly by me, it's hard to be sure in the pandemonium) and looked to be headed for the ground. He regained his feet and I charged on. As I always do, I started out too fast. I was going at a sub-6 minute pace for about a minute and a half before I slowed to a more reasonable pace. The first mile went by in 6:23. At that point we hit the only real hill of the course (a hump really), which slowed me a little going up it, but gravity helped me going down the back side. Then we turned onto a road I run twice some weeks. The familiarity and slight downhill made that stretch feel quite fast, even though mile two was 6:39 in total. I thought I was going to hit the wall and slow way down in mile three. I felt like my effort was lower for mile three, but the time was 6:39 again, largely thanks to having so many runners ahead of me, near enough that some part of my brain thought I could catch them, or at least keep up. I didn't have much left for a real sprint to the finish line, but I managed to not slow down at least. I didn't really think I could have gotten a PR until I crossed the line and saw the evidence on my watch.
I wandered around for a while, chatting with some of the people from my running group, and stuffing some donuts in my face. Since I was 11th in my age group, I didn't bother to stick around for awards, and walked back to the gym with my run coach. Back at my car, I changed shirts and went for a little bike ride. I started out with arm warmers on, but it was rapidly warming up and I peeled them off after a few miles. The whole ride was relatively easy, just over an hour. When I got back to the gym, I showered and changed, then went to lunch. I went over to Jack & Adam's bike shop for my volunteer shift. I wasn't scheduled to be there until 1:30, but when I got there at around 12:30, it's not like I had anything better to do. It was actually a pretty good time. Other than being on my feet most of the time, and being a little warm since I was wearing jeans and it got up to the mid-80s, it was nice to be able to chat with the other volunteers and help folks out. Since this event is called "The Rookie Triathlon," it is largely geared toward easing new triathletes into the sport. They do have open and veteran divisions, but the heart is really the rookie division. Honestly it was kind of funny how clueless some of the people were, but it was nice to be able to answer questions, guide them through the process, and maybe ease their minds a little. There were a lot of people who came through that afternoon, but we were never so busy we couldn't give help/tips/information to anyone who asked or just seemed totally lost. After closing up shop and breaking everything down, I got some dinner before getting my own gear set up to race.
It was pretty cold again Sunday morning. Not quite as cold as Saturday (and not nearly as cold as Enchanted Rock), but still chilly enough for a jacket. It was a earlier wakeup, since it was a further drive, and more prep needed for an 8am start. There was a pretty long queue of cars waiting to get parked, so that took a few minutes. There was almost no wait for body marking, however. I got a good rack spot and started setting up. I was distracted a few times by seeing friends. I delayed taking off my jacket as long as possible, until they were about to kick everybody out of transition. The cold wasn't so bad for a minute or two, but standing around for thirty minutes in the wind was quite chilling. My warmup consisted mainly of shivering. When I finally got in the water about 8:05, it was a little relief. While the water was warmer than the air, it was still only 74 degrees. It was a wetsuit-legal race, but I thought it would be more trouble than it was worth. In retrospect, a wetsuit would have been nice, if only to wear while standing around waiting for the start.
The airhorn sounded, and it was a melee. I wasn't getting kicked and punched too badly, but there were just so many bodies in the water. I stayed pretty wide, adding some meters on to the course. The bigger problem for me were the waves. At first I was thinking it was wake from a boat, but it was likely just the wind. I almost never swim in rough water, and I clearly have no knack for it. I wound up swallowing more water than I ever have on swims ten times as long. My other problem on the swim was a kayak right in my path, on the longer stretch between the two turn buoys. The kayak was there because there were people clinging to it, but I think they could have been further from the swimmers (I did say I was going a little wide). I had to change course to go around the kayak, adding a couple more meters. My official swim time was 6:24, slower than I would have liked. I had a reasonably quick transition and hopped on the bike.
The bike was not particularly remarkable. It's the same course used on several of the sprint triathlons out at Walter E Long. Mostly rolling hills, one fairly steep one after a sharp right-had turn. I passed lots and lots of bikes, from my wave and the previous wave (probably not many from the first open wave stacked with pros). I kept expecting somebody to pass me at some point, but it never happened. I finished the bike in 32:25 for a 20.7 mph average. There were only a few bikes on my rack when I got back to transition. I slipped on my running shoes, and headed out.
The surface of most of the run course is uneven, and varied. There were soft parts, wood mulch, ruts, harder dirt. There was some elevation change as well, starting downhill, going back up that hill, down along the fence line, back up to the asphalt. While I am something of a hiker, I am not a trail runner. Frankly, I'm completely surprised I managed to run about a 7:15 pace, even 1.9 miles (by my watch). I passed some people on the run, about five passed me. In the last quarter mile, just after we hit the asphalt, I guy passed me with the age of 35 on his calf. I didn't want to just let someone in my age group pass me, but I didn't have the gas to chase him down. In the end he beat me by 13 seconds and took the last podium spot, leaving me with fourth.
I never felt cold during the race, and I was quite warm when I crossed the finish line, but it was still pretty cool, and breezy. I went almost immediately into transition to get my pants and jacket on. I hung around as my friends started finishing, and stuck around for awards to see a few of them on the podium. After a too-big lunch, I had a nice nap in the afternoon to catch up on some lost sleep.