Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kerrville Triathlon Recap

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 not suit my strengths, I knew I was here just to have a hard training day.

Race Morning: 

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 cool 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.  he 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

As I mentioned before, I had not put my face in the water to swim a single stroke in over 5 weeks. I tried to this past week on my brief visit to my loft but the pool I belong to was closed all week for renovations. With the race being a shorter distance and the water seemingly quite warm, I opted to not use a wetsuit. The extra buoyancy would be missed but I felt the ease of moving around during the swim and no need to be stripped afterward would make up for it.

Nothing eventful happened during the swim as I felt strong but not exactly fish-like.  About halfway into the first 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 who were obviously faster than me but who couldn't swim in a straight line to save their lives.  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

Crawling out of the water with a little help from the handlers, I zipped by the people ripping the wetsuits off of competiros and felt vindicated in not wearing my wetsuit. Then came the big climb up the hill to the bikes. I think the climb out of Lucky Peak at the Boise 70.3 was longer but not nearly as steep.  This was a place where time could be made up as well on those who did not run up the hill, but rather walked.

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. 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.

We pulled into the area right before transition and were again directed through more than a few right angle turns. The 70.3-cyclists were going out for round two which I did not envy. The wind had been pretty bad on the way back and I did not wish to imagine dealing with it again on another loop. Turning the corner to finish my cycle, I was told I needed to dismount my bike "BEFORE THIS ORANGE LINE RIGHT NOW!" Not wishing to get any sort of penalty and always listening to volunteers, I almost crashed the bike coming to a stop and after only unclipping one foot, soon turned into a tangled mess.  My one foot slipped out from underneath me on the slick pavement, my other finally unhinged itself but my body and underarm slammed down onto the frame when my foot slipped and I skidded forward on my bike.  To my credit I stopped before the orange line. To my dismay another volunteer turned to the first and said "He didn't need to stop right there."  Let's just say the cut from the bike frame hurt, shall we?

Transition 2: 1:32 34th OA

The opposite of the last transition, and not in a good way, my rack was not right inside the change area but literally as far away as possible. Again I had to clippity-clop through a grass field, with a bloody arm and a not-so-pleasant demeanor. Once I got to where my run bag was supposed to be tied, I noticed it has been slid somewhere else. Finally racking my bike and changing as quickly as possible in to my new Altra Instinct 1.5s, I was hoping to really turn it on in the run.

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. 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.

1 comment:

jm said...

Great recap Dane! I am glad you got to enjoy the Texas Hill Country!