Monday, June 17, 2013

Republic of Texas Triathlon

This is a belated report for the April 14th Republic of Texas Half-distance triathlon. There's no particular reason it took me so long to write; I was hoping to finish it before Ironman Texas, I just never got around to it. While my overall time of 5:54:18 was a few seconds quicker than the Kerrville Half last September, I can't claim a half-distance PR, as the bike was a few miles short (by my GPS anyway). In a nutshell, my swim wasn't terrible (my second quickest after Buffalo Springs); my bike felt terrible, even if my time for 53 miles wasn't terrible; my run felt pretty good, even though it wasn't much quicker than Kerrville, and a long way from my 13.1 PR. With only about 40 people doing the half distance (many more did the sprint and quarter distances the same day), I finished 19th overall and 4th in my age group (though I would have been top 3 in almost any other age group).

Unlike last year, I decided to spend a little more time in Corpus Christi. I drove down after work on Friday. When I originally booked the hotel I was expecting the weekend to be like last year, with a sprint triathlon on Saturday and the quarter and half on Sunday. Like the subsequent Rookie Tri, and I plan to do with the rest of the Texas Tri Series, I wanted to volunteer for this race as well as race in it. I wound up getting an assignment of helping getting people checked into T2 (all distances of this race having a split transition). Since I didn't really have anything else to do Saturday, after breakfast and a short run, I went to help with whatever before 11, even though my "shift" didn't start until noon. Because I was there before registration opened, I was able to get my packet before anyone else. When I got to transition, I was the first to set up my run gear. I must have been the first person to register for the half distance, because I had the lowest bib number of anybody. Unfortunately those were the only number ones of my weekend. The T2 gear checkin job was a pretty cushy one, other than standing around there wasn't a lot to do. The main job was just to make sure that only athletes went in, and to help them find the proper rack. We generally gave people a run-down of the event, answered any questions, maybe a race tip. I was by far the most experienced racer of the four volunteers there, but there were High Five Events staff running around getting the adjacent finish area set up. I felt slightly guilty not helping them, but they had it all under control and I certainly wasn't looking to exert myself the day before a half-distance race. It was all hands to set up the medical tent, however. The rest of the afternoon that we weren't helping athletes, we stood around and chatted. I had been told the assignment was from noon to 3, but there were no relievers for 3-6 that transition was still open. I left about 3:30 so I could get my bike checked into T1, and to get an early dinner. There were never so many people checking in at any one time that I was critical to the operation. I came back after dinner for the last 30 minutes or so that transition was open. After we closed up and turned things over to a cop to watch overnight, I drove back to my hotel to rest, and for a little more sugar to "carb load."

Sunday morning, I got up, had some food, and walked down to the swim start/T1. I realized after I'd gotten there I forgot my calf compression sleeves, so I had to go back to my hotel. Fortunately I had plenty of time, but it was a nuisance I didn't need.
The swim was in the Gulf of Mexico, behind a seawall for some protection, and starting off of a pier with a restaurant and marina. It was a deep water start, two laps around a 1000-meter rectangle. This was my first time really swimming in salt water. I've played around in the ocean before, but never swam in anything like a competitive fashion. I've never been good at keeping water out of my mouth when I breathe while swimming, and this was no exception. It wasn't too bad when swimming north-south, parallel to the shore. Even though there was very little wind, and even with the protection of the seawall, there were still some waves moving toward shore. So on the shorter east-west sections I was hitting waves and swallowing a lot more water. At first it was really nasty and gross, but as I kept going, my mouth was sort of coated/saturated with salt, so additional saltwater wasn't as disgusting. At least I wouldn't need to replace as many electrolytes throughout the day.
My swim time of 42:18 was okay for me, not my best for the distance, but not too far from it. My biggest problem other than the waves and the salt was navigation. I obviously hadn't studied the course well enough, because I tried to make my first turn before the proper turn buoy at a marker buoy. I just couldn't distinguish the markers that well, at least not while I was swimming freestyle. Since this was a small race, there weren't enough other heads in the water that I could just follow everyone else either. In addition to the wrong turn (and being redirected by a kayak) I later managed to get turned the wrong way. At one point I looked up and saw fishing boats, and had to take a second to figure out where I really wanted to be heading.
When I finally finished the second lap, I was glad to be done and to get out of the water. I was helped up onto the small floating dock that was the swim exit. Normally I would have at least started unzipping my wetsuit before getting to the peelers, but I was slightly dazed and it was just a few steps out of the water. Fortunately the volunteers were awesome and had me stripped out in no time. I walked to my bike, wiped my feet, socks and shoes on, helmet on, race belt on, mount and go. I took a few swigs of fresh water to rinse my mouth right away, but I didn't totally lose the taste of salt in my mouth all day.

I started out the bike kind of easy. I seemed to be averaging about 150 watts and about 20 mph for the first 8-mile southbound leg. That seemed a little low, so after the turnaround, I pushed the power a little more. At first it was up to 200 watts, but tailed off. That effort was too high, so I backed down to about 165 watts, going about 23 mph for the first return. That strategy would prove to be a terrible, nearly disastrous, one. I stood up for a stretch at the turnaround to start the second loop, and my hamstrings were not happy. My power on the second lap slowly dropped from about 150 to more like 120 watts; my speed was around 20 mph. I stretched at the start of the third and final lap, and Ow! did my hamstrings hurt. I seriously considered dropping out right there. I came to a stop on the side of the road, unclipped, and stretched and massaged my legs as well as I could. I also popped some ibuprofen. I figured I would at least give it a shot, and started riding again. I was in a super easy gear, putting out about 40 watts, but at least I was moving again. Either the drugs worked or my legs just gave up on complaining, but it wasn't entirely terrible. I kept going, and managed to put in a little more power, up to 80 and then 100 watts. The wind had picked up by that time, the south-bound leg into the wind was only about 16 mph, then back up to the 19-20 mph range for the return. I tried to stretch my legs as much as I could before pulling into T2, but still gave them a decent stretch once I was off the bike. As I exited transition to start the run, Austin's future triathlon star, 19-year old Pablo Gomez, was starting on his second 6.55-mile lap. He didn't seem to need it, but I gave him a shout of encouragement as he flew by.

The run was surprisingly not terrible. Once I started out of transition, I was actually able to run and my legs didn't feel that bad. I made it a full 5k at about a 9-minute pace (my watch was not functioning properly, so don't have any real data) before walking through an aid station. From that point I walked every other aid station (more or less), jogging between walks. I wasn't sure I would be able to restart running (even at a slow pace) after walking, but it never was a problem. I guess my legs were still in pretty decent running shape after the marathon a month prior. When I came around the finish and T2 area to start the second loop, I tried to look as strong as possible in case any of my friends saw me or if a camera snapped a picture. The second loop was slower, but I was still moving okay. I didn't make any attempt to run up the two uphill sections, even though it's not really a big hill. Once I got to the final downhill section, I tried to use gravity to build momentum for a good fast finish. Unfortunately my gut didn't like that pace, and I had to slow down briefly in the last two miles to avoid major unpleasantness. I didn't exactly sprint across the finish line, but I was moving at a good pace. My total run time of 2:18:36 was my best multisport half marathon so far, for what that's worth.
I had to keep moving for a few minutes after finishing, at which point I noticed the big water/play feature. I took off my shoes and sat down in the water, using the jets to wash off some of the layers of sweat and salt. It felt pretty awesome.

For no real reason other than I didn't feel like walking back to my hotel, I stuck around the finish area for quite a while, through the awards ceremony. I ate and drank as much junk as I could get. When the crowd was dispersing and I still couldn't get a ride back to my hotel, I gathered all my gear and walked back. After a proper shower, I was pretty hungry, for something other than the snack food I had on hand. It was only an hour or so before the volunteer party at 6:30, but it couldn't wait. I went to the burger place next door for a small hamburger. I'm not a big burger person, but this one tasted pretty awesome and was the right size to hold me over for dinner. The volunteer party wasn't fancy, but it was fun, held at the AA baseball stadium. Afterward I went with some of the event crew to a bar across the street for a couple drinks. I'm not sure how I was able to stay awake without having gotten a nap after the race, but I did, and it was a lot of fun. I somehow had enough energy to follow them to another bar near the hotel, staying out until midnight or possibly slightly later. I didn't get the greatest night's sleep that night, but it was enough to get me home safely without falling asleep until I was in my bed. After that nap I went out for a big tasty dinner.

I didn't work out that Monday I drove back; Tuesday I was right back to training for Ironman Texas. For each of the two subsequent weeks, my total mileage was over 140 miles for my peak training volume, before starting to taper.

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