Monday, June 22, 2015

ALA Dallas Stair Race / Lake Pflugerville Tri

For me to do two races in one weekend is hardly unprecedented and not that ridiculous, particularly considering the combined time was less that 1.5 hours. To do two races in two cities, one week after running a marathon and hiking 28 miles to the highest point of another state, is why they call me "Just Plain Nuts." After getting back from Utah late Tuesday night, going to work Wednesday through Friday, I drove to Dallas Friday evening. I went to Dallas for the postponed American Lung Association Fight For Air climb, now moved to the Reunion Tower (site of May's Heroes Memorial Climb). After that race I turned around and drove back to Austin for packet pickup for Sunday's Lake Pflugerville Triathlon. I would say I had a decent showing in both events; I definitely felt the previous week's exertion in my legs and maybe more so in my cardiovascular system, not having truly recovered.

There wasn't a great turnout for the ALA race, probably because it was postponed to early in the school summer; there were somewhere around 200 participants. There were basically no serious climbers other than my friends/teammates, none of whom had come from very far (except George Burnham Sr. from Phoenix, but he does every ALA race humanly possible and is not especially fast). So really for me to have finished third isn't a huge accomplishment, it was almost by default. This race included an "elite" double climb, the first of which counted toward the overall individual competition. It just so happened that on the men's side my team finished 1-2-3 (Scott, Brad, me) for both the double and single events. Plus, since we had the three best times of anyone, it would have been mathematically impossible for anyone else to win the team competition.
I didn't have my Heroes times committed to memory, so I was surprised to later realize I was a little quicker this time, both on the individual and combined double. At the time I felt like I had done very poorly. The first time up actually started pretty well, even up to about the 47th "floor" (really the 47th landing, since it's a tower and doesn't have occupied floors to line up with). It felt like my heart rate had hit its ceiling and I had to shut down operation immediately in order to bring it back down. I have typically felt this way in the weeks after a big exertion like a marathon. Fortunately it wasn't like a total collapse or anything, I was still able to move and continue climbing, I just had to slow way down to single-stepping. On the second climb, I had a similar feeling, except it hit about level 12. To have times of 5:43 and 6:59 were a pleasant surprise. However, now that I think about it I can't exactly compare to Heroes, since that ended on level 57 while ALA ended on level 56.
After catching my breath and riding the elevator back down, I was done and all but ready to head out. Thinking I might get some token, I wanted to stick around for the awards presentation. Then I learned it was up on level 56. Damnit. After swearing several times I wouldn't climb a third time, I went up again with my teammates. I suppose I could have taken the elevator up, but that just wouldn't have been right. This was a much more leisurely climb, and there were a bunch of people in the stairwell doing their one climb. We chatted a bit on the way up, encouraged other folks, and ran a few flights here and there. It wasn't too long of a wait on 56 for the awards, it gave a chance for drinks and some food. They did have the revolving floor turned on, which was kind of weird. In addition to the little medals for team and third overall, they gave actual prizes for the double climb, a couple gift cards of unknown value. Afterward I went back to my hotel, showered, checked out, and headed back to Austin, swinging by packet pickup on the way.

I slept okay, but never enough Saturday night. I drove up to Pflugerville, which typically feels like South Dallas it's so far from my house. Due to a lot of recent rain, plus an overnight dumping, the typical grass parking area was closed off and we had to park in the surrounding neighborhoods. This didn't seem like much of a deal until I got onto a small, rutted 2-lane road to transition and realized it was dark and I didn't have any lights or really much of anything reflective. Non-race traffic was about zero before 6am on a Sunday, so it wasn't a problem, just a bit nerve-racking. I set up my transition and then had a bunch of time to kill since they moved back the start time 15 minutes to account for the parking issues.
I started in the fourth wave. Unlike most of the Austin triathlons, this was a full wave and not the time-trial start most have switched to. So right off the gun I was flailing and redlined to get a "good position." I'm not really sure why other than plain competitiveness. It's hardly as though I have to lead the pack or even be on the feet of the leaders, and because I had started so hard I had to let up and catch my breath after a few hundred meters. My pace for the swim wound up being very lumpy- jackrabbit start, catch my breath, full speed, catch breath. There were some weeds in a particular depth zone, but not nearly as bad as last year, especially at Jack's Generic. Other than the first 100 meters, I didn't run into a lot of other bodies. I think the few I did were from a previous wave, and then there was some traffic at the exit.
The bike went fine. I started kind of slow, several bikes went past me coming out of transition as I was getting my shoes secured. I wound up passing a ton of bikes, more than I expected were even on the road. One of the only bikes that passed me was a guy who I wound up going back and forth with a bunch of times. It seemed like I passed him on the uphills (none of which are really long or steep) and he passed me back on the flats or downhills, just the opposite of what normally happens to me. I hadn't realized until the afternoon looking at old times, but it turns out I've had almost the same bike split time all four times I've done this race, in this case 36:57 or 22.7 mph for 14 miles.
My run was poor, my slowest around Lake Pflugerville (except for the fun run in April, the day after running a 50k trail race). Overall I averaged 8:20 pace by my watch, including two brief walking jags. My legs didn't feel like they were destroyed or anything, just moving slowly. My left knee bothered me a little; not the knee per se, but more like the ligaments attached to the joint. It rained on me during the run, kind of hard at times. It wasn't much of a hinderance, other than the puddles in the last mile. It was kind of good, or at least much better than the brutal heat we typically get in late June. My total time of 1:15:00 was my slowest ever at this race, but at least it's a nice even number (actually online results now say 1:14:59, but I'm going to stick with the initial results I saw onsite).
I hung around with my friends and teammates for a while. I would have stayed through the awards except that there was a big clap of thunder at 10:15 and I wanted to get going before it started pouring again.

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