A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 14th Edition
293.9miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Kerrville Triathlon
Place: Kerrville, TX
Miles from home: 2022 miles
Weather: 50- 60s; windy and cloudy
Comparing running races of middle distance or higher (half-marathons on up, for the sake of this sentence) can be difficult unless you know all the variables involved. Terrain, elevation and the like can sway times so much in one way or another. With a 5K or 10K, the distance is so short that the changes are not nearly as likely to affect your times in a way that cannot be easily understood. Comparing triathlons in general, however, I have come to learn, is mostly a futile approach. Sprint distance triathlons can vary in damn near every distance of all three disciplines. Olympic and their ilk (like the Quarter Triathlon I did this weekend) can have vastly different bike courses which skew times. The 70.3 and 140.6 distances can vary so much by weather and terrain that even trying to compare the same race from year to year can be hard to do. The only thing you can really do is compare what you did in that race on that day against the people you raced. But even who you raced is up to interpretation.
One of the things which has always bothered me about many of the triathlons I have done are the wave starts. In many of the tris I have participated in (and the sample size is not that great!) many of the racers are doing what I consider a time trial. Unless you are an elite or pro, in which case you will be racing against those who are most likely to beat you, the triathlete is in the unenviable position of guessing where he/she might be overall. I haven't "lost" a triathlon because of this yet or anything, but I have had a few where I might have pulled off a top three finish if I knew who I was actually racing.
With the Kerrville Quarter Distance Triathlon, I did not think this would be a problem. I have not swum one stroke or pedaled one revolution since the Vikingman Triathlon five weeks ago. I knew I was in no shape to "compete.” This race just happened to fall on a weekend when I was traveling all over Texas and given the chance to compete on Texas' Team Beef is always an opportunity I will jump at. In addition, looking at a shorter swim (1000 meters), longer bike (29 miles) and shorter run (6.4 miles) than would suit my strengths, I knew I was here just to have a hard training day.
The day before had produced weather of vastly changing types. Sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy, cold, warm, hot, etc alternating extremely rapidly. However, on the day of the Quarter and 70.3 tri, the weather was fairly calm. There was definitely some wind to contend with but the outlook called for nice temperatures and cloudy skies. I will take that!
After having to check in all of my gear and everything the night before, and then re-check in other gear the morning of the race, I was reminded how much more involved participating in a triathlon is over running. In addition, I misplaced my chip and had to scavenger around to remedy that situation. The hurry was pretty much without need as not only did the entire 70.3 field start their swim before the Quarter Distance, but every wave started before my age group. This is what my earlier rant was about. I knew I would be swimming through oodles of arms and legs and then later biking and running around people whom I had to guess what race they were participating in that day. Again, no major biggie - just not ideal.
Swim Leg: 18:14 (1:49/M pace) 18th OA
Nothing eventful happened during the swim as I felt strong but not exactly fish-like. About halfway into the first long leg before turning to come back home was where I began running into swimmers from all the other waves. While not as densely packed as I feared, they weren't as sparsely dispersed as I had hoped. I continued to be very happy with how well I have "sighted" during my recent tris and marveled at swimmers in who were obviously faster than me but who couldn't swim in a straight line to save their lives apparently. I wonder how much more actual yardages they swam by their zig-zaggingness.
I had hoped for something a little faster but was 4th in my wave. Trying to keep track of all the like-capped swimmers kept me on pace with my contemporaries but those in other waves had evidently swam faster.
Transition 1: 1:33 9th OA
By unlucky happenstance, my bike was placed right inside the transition area. As I have not mastered the art of beginning to cycle with my shoes already attached, this means I had to put my clippity-clops on and push my bike all the way through the transition awkwardly. Nevertheless, I had one of the fastest transition times in the whole race, only 17 seconds slower than the fastest overall.
Now the adventure would begin.
Bike Leg: 1:24:17 (20.6MPH pace) 29th OA
I say "adventure" because I was using a borrowed bike. My good friend Bobby at Spibelt, had volunteered to let me use his nice triathlon bike (named Winston) for the race. Bobby and I differ in height a tad but I knew we were close enough that this would work. I am unstable and a little wary of bikes as it is and I knew riding a new bike would not help. Fortunately it was only for 29 miles. A normal Olympic Distance race is just shy of 25 miles and that would have made me a far happier person. But one has to race what they are presented with, so away I went.
The course was more or less a gradual downhill with rollers on the way out and the reverse on the way back. There were a few twists, turns and right angle breaks to begin with, which all made me nervous as heck, before we settled into a nice long stretch of highway. For the most part this portion was decently paved even if the shoulder was a tad narrow. In addition, starting dead last (notice a theme?) meant I would have to pass tons of cyclists. This, I fear, will never become something with which I will be comfortable. However, when the road was decently clear of traffic and I could settle a little bit into the bike, I topped out at about 33 mph. Given that the bike was not fitted for me and if I pedaled too hard I would instantly slam my knee into my elbow, making it go very numb, I was quite pleased with my progress on the bike. Three cyclists passed me through the beginning few miles and then no cyclist would pass me the rest of the ride, either way. I consider this a major victory. Then again, nearly every competitor was in front of me other than the swimmers in my wave who I bested so maybe I shouldn't be too happy.
After turning around to head back home, racers experienced approximately two plus miles of road that felt like cobblestones. I was none too pleased with this, especially since I did not know how long it would last. Then we had this random half mile, complete 180-degree-turn, almost come to a dead stop portion which I disliked even more. I am unsure why the bike had to be 29 miles long (since that is not even a quarter of a 112 miles) but we could have assuredly done without this.
Following the out and back the ride hit a small but steep hill that you can see on the graph above. It looks like a GPS anomaly but trust me when I say that darn near straight up and down hill is what it looked like. Cyclists came to a crawl and at one point I thought I was in danger of going backwards down the hill. But I finally crested it and began my drive toward home. Around 25 miles, I began to wane a little bit, wishing this was the true Olympic distance for cycling but knowing I had 4 more miles left.
Transition 2: 1:32 34th OA
Run Leg: 48:51 (7:38 pace) 19th OA
The run consisted of two separate 3.2 mile out and backs but that was all I knew about the course. Heading out a nice paved road felt quite good and I immediately passed two runners within the first mile. Then we went down a hill back up another and turned into a rutted, cross-country-esque course I wasn't really expecting. By now I could see some of the competitors I knew were in my race heading back toward me. This told me they were probably about a mile in front of me, if not a little more. I tried to get my legs into a quicker gear and see if I could make up this time gap but nothing really responded.
I was still passing runners but I was not moving any faster. As we neared the turnaround point, a look to our right showed the finish line of the race. Too bad we would not only have to do a loop back to it, but have to do the whole thing over again. As I made the turnaround, a runner caught me from behind and passed me. In all the triathlons I have done I have never had that happen. To say it was a little disappointing would be correct. However, I used his energy to pull me back out through the dirt running and out onto the road again. While I would eventually lose sight of him, I felt the extra energy boost was just what I needed.
You could hear the announcer shouting out the names of all the competitors as they made their way through the finish area to head out for lap two. Not quite sure why everyone needed to have their name announced with a long vowel on the last portion of whatever he said like he was calling out a goal in the World Cup (e.g. Joe Smith from San Antoniooooooooooooooooo!") but it was incentive to run away as fast as I could.
Unfortunately, that was not very fast at all and in the next loop I got passed by two more runners. Luckily, one of them was in the wave which started before me which means I would probably still beat him but that was a first. I rarely passed someone on the bike who would later pass me on the run. This told me I was definitely a tired puppy.
The rest of the run was just holding onto positioning. I almost caught one runner at the finish line and would have had him if I had not misjudged where the actual finish was. It didn't matter either way as he was in the wave four minutes ahead of me so I actually beat him by 3:59.
All told, it appears I finished 20th OA in a time a 2:34:29
. The runner who passed me on the first loop ended up taking the 3rd place award in my age group. Drat. All told it was a rather well put together event. Ironically, I was most pleased with my cycling effort on the day. While it was far and away the worst of my three legs with regard to overall placement, it might have been one of my best showings on the bike yet.
Not too shabby for a hard training day. And next week I take my first race weekend off since the middle of August. I like that sound of that.