Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ride Americas / TriRock Austin

With a long Labor Day weekend, I had a chance to get in more events than I do on a normal weekend. On Saturday, I participated in the inaugural Ride Americas at the Circuit of the Americas (Formula 1) track. It was not a race, or even timed, more of a fun ride, but I considered it as something of a gran fondo, seeing how many laps I could do in the three-hour period. I think 16 is a respectable number, the same as a guy I happened to run into the next day wearing the event shirt. However, I payed for it a little when I raced TriRock on Monday. The Olympic-distance triathlon went okay, but I was a bit disappointed to end up 10 seconds slower than the last time I did this race, two years ago, when it was still called the Austin Triathlon. I felt those 16 times up turn 1 of CotA biking up Congress Avenue. But the worst part is probably that my splits were all slightly quicker than last time. Basically, I lost to myself in transition.

Ride Americas was an open event, for any cyclist to do as many laps of the 3.4 mile, up and down, turn after turn, track as they cared to in three hours. All kinds of people showed up to take part, from families out for some fun to the fairly serious road cyclists and triathletes. The track has lots of turns, from sweepers to a hairpin. The toughest though is turn one, which climbs right out of the paddocks, with a maximum grade of 14%. Later in the morning, I saw a few people pushing their bikes up the hill. I was in my lowest gear, out of the saddle, and pushing somewhere around 500 Watts to get up it. My forte is much more downhills over uphills, so I preferred the other side of turn 1, cranking up the speed into the next few sweeping turns at 40+ mph. There was another climb a little after that, but not nearly as steep as turn 1; it didn't require me to get out of the saddle or crank high wattage.
My plan for the day was to push pretty hard for the first hour/six laps, then cruise a bit more for the next two hours, aiming for 50 miles or so. After those first six laps averaging around 9 minutes per, I backed off a little for the next two, which were both under 10 minutes. I took a good break after that, stopping on pit road to use a port-o-potty and refill my water bottle. I did another six laps before taking a second break at the top of turn 1, then finished that lap plus one more (for a total of 16) before the 11 o'clock cutoff. There were food vendors on site, so I got some food and stuck around to watch some of the crit races, which started at noon. After the first few finished, it was so hot I had to get away from all the asphalt.
Several of my coworkers were out at the track. I happened to run into two of them before the fondo; they were not looking to go particularly fast. I did wind up doing a fair bit of lap 10 with the one guy, but that was the last one he was doing. Two other coworkers raced in the crits; I saw one race with all the women, the other didn't go until later, after I was done for the day,

Like I've been doing for all of the Texas Tri Series, I volunteered on Sunday before racing on Monday. This time I was doing packet pickup, and happened to be giving out packets mainly to guys in my age group. If only I had figured out a way to sabotage them, I could have done better in the rankings ;). After working 9:30 to 1:30, I had to check my bike into transition. Rack spots were assigned by bib number, so I had my own designated space. I got some lunch and then more or less chilled out for the rest of the afternoon/evening.

The sun was just starting to come up at 7am Monday morning when the open wave went off. I was in the fourth wave, which went off 12 minutes later. There were about a hundred of us in the water going for that first turn buoy, a scant 100 meters from the start line. It wasn't the most chaotic swim I've done, but it was intense. Ideally, it would have been further from the start to the first turn, but because of high heat and low flow, the Colorado River is especially dense with vegetation near the start at Auditorium Shores. I know they worked hard to clear as much out as possible, but it was still like swimming through a jungle of hydrilla. After the turn and getting further downstream, the weeds weren't as bad. The other kind of weird thing about the swim was that the far turn, instead of being two 90-degree turns, it was an obtuse angled turn, then slightly further downstream to an acute angled turn. I got out of the water in just over 35 minutes, probably my best for the distance, but still not great. T1 wasn't super fast, I did take a few seconds to wipe my feet off (before running barefoot across grass and gravel).
The bike was okay, but not spectacular. As I said, I was feeling Saturday's 54 miles, particularly on the long hill up Congress Avenue. True to form, I was passed by a bunch of people each time I went up, then passed most of them on my way down. After the U-turn in front of the Capitol, back through the heart of downtown Austin, there is a 90-degree turn from Congress onto Cesar Chavez. If I didn't have to worry about any other cyclists, I could take this turn down in my aero bars, cranking away the whole time. Alas, I never had the chance this time, there were too many people around all three laps. Coming back downhill from MoPac by the high school, I wound up getting a Strava top-10 time on a segment. I tried to stretch a bit at the end of the bike, but my hamstrings were still quite tight when I got to T2; the gran fondo did not help this, surely. I had a relatively leisurely second transition, my friend whom I had passed toward the end of the bike caught me there.
After strolling out of transition, my legs were about ready to run. I stuck to my friend, letting him pace me to a roughly 8-minute mile. I dropped off after the first mile, when I walked through an aid station. It wasn't yet scorching hot, but it was warm enough I needed fluids and just did not want to sustain a run. I kept on like this, walking though the water stops, and still managed to do each of the first four miles under 9 minutes. The last two were a little slower; my boss and another friend of mine (both of whom started in waves after me) passed me in this area. I had enough left to kick up the pace a bit for the last .2 miles to the finish line. I was a little disappointed to see 2:43 on my watch, but I haven't really been training consistently since Ironman Texas (way back in May), so in that sense it's not too bad.
I was using a different set of shoes for this race, a pair I've worn a lot, but I just put speed laces on them to use for triathlons. A 3-mile run Sunday morning was obviously not enough to get the laces dialed in, especially since I wasn't wearing socks at the race. The laces were too tight, and the tongue shifted to the side (may not have been caused by the too-tightness). This left the laces to abrade the tops of my feet, the right one more than the left. I felt it after the first loop of the run, but there wasn't really anything I could have done at that point. After finishing I was desperate to get my shoes off and change to flip-flops. Fortunately I was able to get in to transition and swap them, plus tidy up my gear a little. I hung out with my gym friends for a while until they fully opened transition to get bikes out.

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