For my last triathlon of the year, I once again went out to Kerrville for the "Triathlon Festival," two days of racing with three distances. However I flipped the scripts from last year and raced the sprint on Saturday and volunteered for the half/quarter on Sunday. The reason I didn't go for the half was that being three weeks after Ironman Wisconsin, I had no idea what shape my body would be in. Of course I couldn't do the quarter if there was a longer distance on the same day; regular readers will know my crazy wouldn't allow for that. I like to commit to events well in advance, so this was all set in place well before Wisconsin; I feel I've recovered enough that the half wouldn't have been so terrible, but still not advisable. I actually offered to run for a relay team, but they didn't wind up taking me up on it. While I had a decent day two years ago doing this half 5 weeks after an Ironman, it was probably best not to race today.
As for the race I actually did- in a word, it was sloppy. More the weather than my performance- it rained the entire race and I finished with a time of 1:19:12, good enough for 4th in my age group and 20th overall.
Fortunately the adage "nothing new on raceday" doesn't really apply to a sprint. In addition to brand new shoes fresh out of the box, this was the first race on my new Cervelo P5. New to me, anyway, I actually bought it from a professional triathlete two weeks ago. This race was the fourth time I rode the bike. Because of the rain I had to take it really easy on the turns and I still managed a pretty good average of 21.5 mph. Yeah, she's a thoroughbred.
The rain started lightly, after I got into T1 and before I got into the water. It picked up, but never got torrential. I hadn't looked at the radar and was surprised and concerned when the announcer was talking about contingencies for lightning. In the end the biggest problem from the rain was that it brought out the fire ants and I managed to step in a mound and get about a half dozen bites while walking around the start area barefoot.
The swim went pretty well. I was in the second wave, though technically this was a time trial start like most of the tris I've done this year. I wore a swim skin, even though it was wetsuit legal and I had my wetsuit in the car. Oh, yeah, the swim skin was new too, having picked it up a few weeks ago at the TriRock expo and only worn it for a 100m swim in the pool in the previous week. My 10:49 swim time disappointed me for 500 meters, but I think the course was long. My watch showed the course as being closer to 600 meters, and I swear I swam this straighter and closer to the buoys than I often do. Hopefully that was the case, because my effort felt closer to 1:50 than 2:10 per hundred. The skin came off easily enough, I stripped it to my waist before running up the hill, then pulled it off when I got to my bike.
The problem with the bike leg wasn't just that the roads were wet, it's that there were massive puddles, taking up half the bike lane on a lot of the course. Most of the rest of the course had crappy chip-seal, which again rendered half the bike lane as "less than desirable." It didn't cause any traffic problems the first loop, when there were few bikes ahead of me I needed to pass, the second loop was more congested. There were a couple spots I had to let up my effort to wait for a person to pass a slow bike before I could pass that person. Oh, and my visor was fogged up most of the time, reducing my visibility when I needed it most.
It didn't seem like there was a big group of guys coming in to T2 at the same time I was, but it sure seemed like there was a big group starting the run at the same time. 2k into the 5k course it stretched out with the fast guys way ahead and the less fast guys behind, with me somewhere in the middle averaging a 7:30 pace. I took the hill too hard and wound up gassed enough to walk the water stop at the top and sip a little water. I didn't recover enough for a full sprint to the finish line, but I did manage to pick up the pace at the end.
The air wasn't super cold that morning, but standing around wet got me chilled. Once transition opened I got me gear and headed to the hotel for a hot shower. I might have stuck around for awards, but I needed to get warm and the preliminary results had me 7th in my age group. I was pretty surprised when I looked later (after they DQ'd everyone who skipped a lap of the bike) to see I was 4th. Still off the podium, so going to awards would not have been special.
The rest of Saturday included a nap and seeing some of my teammates. I went to sleep at 10:30, woke up a bunch of times in the night, and actually got up at 5am Sunday. I ran around the run course putting up team signs before going to my "job" at T1. I worked the swim exit, pretty much just guiding the athletes over the timing mats, until the last guy came out of the water at 9:30. I helped tear down T1 before heading back to my hotel for a shower and to check out. A little bit of lunch, and I went into spectator/cheerleader mode, wandering around the run course cheering on my many friends and random strangers. I did stick around for awards today, a friend won the half aquabike. About 3:30pm I made my way back to Austin.