Friday, May 9, 2014

Shiner GASP / The Rookie Triathlon

In what now seems almost "normal" to me, or at least not surprising to anybody, I did a 100-mile bicycle ride on Saturday, and a super-sprint triathlon on Sunday. I had done the Austin-to-Shiner ride twice before, but last year (which I didn't do) they changed the route a little to make sure it was a little over 100 as opposed to being slightly under 100 with the previous route. I hadn't bothered to look at the route map, so I was unaware of this; if I had realized I would have stopped at the last aid station and not pulled into the brewery desperately thirsty. Even after lots and lots of water that afternoon and evening, I was probably still a little dehydrated Sunday morning. While I felt like I did reasonably well at the Rookie Tri, I was a minute slower than last year. Plus my sweat seemed particularly salty.

I got to the staging area of the Shiner ride about 10 minutes before the 7am start time. Once I got my bike all prepped and other "business" taken care of, the ride was about to start, and I was at the back of the 1000+ bikes. For the first 10 miles I was riding upright, weaving through everyone starting out a little more leisurely than I cared to. Finally it thinned out and I was with people going more or less my pace and I could drop into the aero bars. My second water bottle got ejected somewhere around mile 30, and I was totally dry by the time I got to the "halfway" point, actually 45 miles in. The only aid station I passed after that was at mile 85, and that was only because I thought it was closer to the end than it really was. Most of my stops were relatively short, getting water and some calories.
The course, which as I mentioned was different from the last time I did the GASP, consisted largely of rolling hills. No huge climbs, but not much was truly flat. This led to my greatest frustration, namely dealing with gangs of road bikes (more elegantly known as pelotons). For some reason I may never understand, most of the road bikers I've been around will hit the uphills hard, then take it easy on the downhills and flats. This makes no sense to me. My goal is always to have a relatively consistent power output. This, magnified by a heavier bike and rider, means I go uphill kind of slowly, but go down very fast. If the hill is really long, the road biker will be long gone by the time I get to the top. But if the hills are shorter, and the pelotons are big, there's a major conflict. Around mile 20 and again around mile 40, I got caught in this cycle with two different gangs. I would try to be considerate and ride on the right hand side of the road; a line of bikes would start to pass me; we would near the crest and be going the same speed; we would start downhill and they would coast; I would be boxed in and get more and more frustrated; I would eventually work my way to the left and pass everybody; we would get to the next uphill and repeat. After a few times of this, I started riding in the center of the lane up hills if I knew a group was nearby, this way they couldn't box me in. After the halfway stop I didn't encounter any more big groups- either they had broken up or were well ahead of me.
The wind, in general, was not too bad this time. For the most part, it was a cross wind or at least off axis. However, at mile 25 and again at mile 58, we headed dead into it and it was a slog for a while until the route turned at least a little bit out of it. Not that I know anything about sailing, but apparently you can sail any direction other than directly into the wind; that's how I felt out there- with an aero bike and a deep aero rear wheel, I was okay any direction other than directly into the wind.
As I mentioned, I was thrown by the route change. When we got to Texas 95, I thought we were in the home stretch. So I was confused when we got to the next town and it was Moulton. Not realizing there was still 12 miles to go, I skipped refilling my water bottle and wound up running dry several miles from the endpoint at the brewery in Shiner. At the start of the day, I had a notion of running at least a couple miles once I arrived, but when I finally got there about 1:30 pm, dehydrated and my feet hurting, that notion was long gone. While I was shoving sausages and sodas down my throat, I was feeling a little funny like I was suffering from the earliest stages of heat stroke. After I got my drop bag and took a shower to rinse off what seemed like several shakers worth of salt, I was feeling better. It might seem heretical, but I didn't have any of the "factory-fresh" beer, as I've somewhat arbitrarily decided not to drink alcohol until after the Ironman in June (now, if I could quit drinking soda I might actually lose some weight). After hanging around for a while, I loaded my bike onto a tractor-trailer and boarded the 3:30 bus back to Austin. The first problem was that we were late leaving. The second problem was that everyone around me was chatty; I thought people would be zonked out and I could get a nap. I was tired enough that I did fall asleep for about 10 minutes. The biggest problem, however, was that the bus got a flat tire about 20 miles from Austin. After some consultation with the bus company and a state trooper, we limped to a gas station just outside of Creedmoor. With the people off the bus and their stuff on, the driver took off down the road with no notice. The bus stayed within sight, but we had no idea what was going on. It was about an hour before it came back repaired. As per Murphy's Law, as we were pulling out the other bus, having dropped its passengers and headed back, pulled in. Once I got back to my car, got my bike, and packed up, I went to dinner, getting home at 8:30.

It was another early wakeup Sunday morning. There was quite a queue of cars when I got out to Decker Lake, even at the early hour. With somewhere around 1000 participants, I suppose it's to be expected. I had to make a stop at the Jack & Adams mechanic tent to air up my rear tire, since it's been so long since I used my disc wheel I couldn't find my "crack pipe" to fill it myself. To body marking for my super-low race number thanks to signing up last fall at the Kerrville race. I found myself a good spot on the veterans rack, very close to the bike out/in. There were a ton of people I know at the race, but I was unusually preoccupied with my prep for a super-sprint tri to socialize much.
I started in the third wave, 8 minutes after the "pro" open wave, which included at least one actual professional triathlete, Kelly Williamson. The claxon sounded at 8:08 and the veterans aged 30-39 were off. It was a bit of a brawl, but not the worst I've experienced. The group spread out rather quickly for a 300 meter swim, but did bunch up at the two turn buoys. I was out in 6:26, two seconds slower than last year. T1 went smoothly and I was off on the 11-mile bike.
I didn't pass a lot of bikes like I normally do. Either my swim was decent, my bike was slow, or most likely the fast swimmers were also riding fast. I did go back and forth a couple times with a friend; when he repassed me he made some crack about fancy wheels. One of the few bikes that just flew past me was also a friend. I didn't get a good look as he streaked by, but I recognized him from his kit. He later dropped his chain on an uphill; I passed him briefly and he still averaged almost 3 mph faster than I did. On a longer race, I wouldn't have hammered up the hills like I did (I maxed out at 624 W), but what the heck, it's only 11 miles. I messed up just before the dismount line- because it was uphill almost to the line itself, I hadn't had a chance to unbuckle my shoes. When I attempted to do so in the last 20 meters, my right shoe hit the pavement and popped off. I almost just left it, but stopped for a moment while a nice person ran it over to me. My bike time was 37 seconds slower than last year, maybe half of that due to the shoe snafu. Once I actually got into transition, T2 was smooth and I was off running.
Another friend passed me right at the start of the 2-mile run. I kept him in my sights for a while, but he finished well ahead of me. The course starts down a slight hill, makes a u-turn and comes back up the hill. I was really close to two other guys in that section and for some reason tried to race them (a race-within-a-race more like). While I was the first to the top of the hill, I had burned too many matches and they dropped me when the course turned and went gradually downhill along the fence. I felt spent and like it was the longest two miles ever, but still averaged a 7:20 pace overall (22 seconds slower than last year). I didn't have much of a sprint for the final couple hundred meters, partly because there wasn't anybody I thought I could catch. One of the fun things about this race is that since it is so short and there were so many racers, just before I crossed the finish line the final wave of rookies went off at 9:04.
I didn't particularly feel the 100-mile ride in my legs during the race, but not too long afterward I was feeling the lack of sleep on consecutive nights. I chatted with friends and enjoyed the post-race festivities for a while, but I started getting desperate for them to open transition so I could get my stuff and go home. It seemed like forever before the last cyclist finished and was out on the run and they let us in. There was another queue of cars to get out of the parking lot and onto a main road. To cap it off I got a puncture in my car tire on the way home and had to get air to limp the final few miles to my house. After a shower and a nap I was feeling more human, but my feet were killing me. It turned out that in the short time I was running around barefoot- mainly from the water into transition and in transition- I had stepped on dozens of burrs, many of which left a part of themselves behind in my foot. I did what I could to dig out the slivers, but there was little immediate relief. Several days later my feet have improved, but there is still some discomfort.

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