A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 15; 2nd Edition
400 yards swum, 13 miles biked and 16.2 mile raced in 2020 races
Race: Cal Tri Austin Sprint Distance
Place: Pflugerville, TX
Miles from home: 20
Weather: 50-60 degrees; sunny, humid
A Facebook notification came across my view about a triathlon just up the road a piece a week from then and I looked ta the weather report. This might be the last time in Austin in six months where I won't melt in the sun. Sure, I haven't completed a triathlon without incident in five years. Sure, I have been on the bike twice since June 1st, 2019. Sure, I am dealing with some inexplicable weight gain and lethargy lately. But it will be 52 degrees on race morning!
|Not this race; but that's Leeroy|
So I signed up, made sure their was air in the tires of Leeroy Jenkins (my ten year old Cervelo) and plunked down my quid (plus tax, plus convenience fee, plus destination fee, plus eye color fee, plus whatever extras fees ended up adding an extra $10 to the total cost) and realized I was the absolutely last one to register. How did I know this? Because when I went to check something else out on the webpage, it was all sold out. Good timing I guess!
Look I don't say I am out of shape and not in racing shape as an excuse. It is a fact. I have well-meaning friends tell me I will do great and I can do this. Well, great is relative and I know I can do it. I mean it was a 400m swim ,a 13 mile bike ride and a 5k run. If there comes a time where I can't complete that on any given day woken up from a drunken stupor, that will be a very bad day in my life. But if my motto about how completion alone is rarely enough for me wasn't emblazoned in my mind pre-pandemic, it sure is now.
As I rapidly approach my 45th birthday I feel like the past half-decade has been wasted to some extent athletically. First with the obvious pandemic but then with a change in my attitude and focus in the previous four years spending way too much time trying to use what I had to stop the atrocities which were going on around me in government. I just feel tired. But I know races invigorate me. I love to compete. I love to challenge myself. And taking on something like a sprint distance tri, where sprinting never was my strong point, when I am out of shape, would be a good challenge. I don’t get a kick out of entering long-distance races when I am out of shape to stumble along in generous cut-off times and accept a medal for showing up. For me, often, fun follows suffering.
Getting up at 5 a.m. is standard for many people. Going to
bed at 3 a.m. is standard for me. The two do not go well together when preparing
for a race. But I had gotten myself to bed at 11 the night before which was one
heck a victory for me. As I got my gear together to make the relatively short
drive to the race, I was exuberant that it was mildly chilly. I do not
experience mildly chilly much here in Austin.
Setting up my bike and run gear in the transition, I was a little uncertain where would be the optimum place to put everything to cut down on my transition times. I know my transitions leave something to be desired in these races and wanted to cut down on an unnecessary time additions. I chose what looked like a decent spot and readied myself for the swim.
In place with plenty of time for the swim start I could see we weren’t quite ready to begin. The buoys (which I learned the British pronounce “boy” - weirdos) weren’t in place and the course wasn’t quite being relayed to us competitors. While precautions were being taken to battle COVID, they were sort of throw out the window here as we waited impatiently in groups, trying to talk and then remembering that we should stay away from each other as well.
Finally it was all sorted and a triangular swim course with
a running staggered start into the pleasantly cool 68 degree Lake Pflugerville
is how we would start our day. I positioned myself about 15-20 people back and
got ready for the plunge!
Swim: 7:42 (9th fastest out of 122 finishers)
As expected, the first few strokes of the swim were a bit chilly as I eschewed the wetsuit others were using for both buoyancy and warmth and worn my skin-thin US National Team Aquathlon Qualifying suit (Brag brag. Hey, I dropped an exorbitant amount on this baby. I am going to use it as often as I can!)
Nothing much to report in this short 400 meter (or so) swim other than I felt quite good, passed around three or four swimmers and had no one pass me. I hit the sand, had an weird falling-to-the-right, my-balance-is-out-of-whack thing but other than that, all went well.
|I think I am one of these swimmers|
Transition 1:38 (32nd fastest)
We had a little bit of a run from the water to the
transition area but this game me time to start the GPS for my bike. I hadn’t started
it for my swim as the watch I enjoy using doesn’t have the greatest triathlon
features. No great shakes.
I did take a little bit longer than I would have liked getting through here and saw I hadn’t chosen the best place to put my bike. In fact, I had chosen one of the worst sports. It was about the furthest from the entry form the swim and furthest from the exit for the bike as possible. Good work, Rauschenberg.
Bike: 39:23 (33rd fastest)
I had seen from the course profile that this was a rolling course at best with some nice steep little climbs. I am sure others will disagree how steep or how hard it was but, for me, it was a challenge. Not horrible, but not easy.
I stayed in the back pocket of one cyclist as we started but after dodging one car who sorta made me a bit nervous around the first mile, I found I had it in me to pass this fella. I cycle so infrequently I don’t know how much to push or what is being winded or anything else about how I should go. But I felt this was a good pace and decided to keep going as long as I could. Around the fourth mile I heard the telltale “whirr-whirr” of a fancy bike and sure enough the first cyclist to pass me did just that a few seconds later. I did my best to keep him sight on the long straightaway but I was more focused on just keeping my eyes o the road and passing a few cyclists out on the road for exercise. They must have been enjoying the fruits of our closed/monitored roads.
Another cyclist passed me around mile 6.5, as we were
going around a turn. I am just so uncomfortable on the bike and will give
everyone a wide berth in any such circumstances. Two bad bike crashes in
training many eons ago have removed most of my fearlessness in this arena. But that wasn't the case with this guy. He probably didn't even think twice.
Around mile nine I had three pass me in quick succession including
a woman on a bike that looked as old and actual “bike-like” as my own. I was
quite impressed at her skill level. (I am unsure if she was in my race or in a
relay or what and will have the check the pictures later.)
Finally around mile 11 one last cyclist passed me on a long flat straightaway. But as we approached an uphill I soon found myself right on him again. As I passed him, he jovially announced “We don’t have these mountain in Houston!” I couldn’t think of any more definitive proof of how much a bike can help someone than this instance. When all things were equal on a flat, I couldn’t stand a chance against a guy on a much nicer bike. But the minute we hit some hills, even undertrained, I was able to over take him.
Soon thereafter, he (Tom) passed me again and with just a few hundred
yards left and car traffic to navigate, I was in no hurry to overtake him. So I just eased into the transition.
Transition 2: 1:15 (48th fastest)
Nothing much to add here other than noticing my poor placement of my gear
again and how I lollygagged a little getting out of the transition.
Run: 19:17 (14th fastest)
Exiting to the run, I was excited. Even though with far less
swimming practice it is clear I am just fundamentally a better swimmer than anything
else, I do spend most my time running. In addition, I had run this loop
previously, even if it was nearly two years ago (May 26th, 2019, to
be exact, or just one week before the last time I had ridden my bike until a
few weeks ago. Hmm.) As such, the familiarity gave me great confidence.
I passed the affable Houstonian cyclist who let out a mockingly derisive “You again?” and a quarter of a mile later passed another runner, Yan. Now it was a little difficult to tell who was running what as we had pedestrians out enjoying the morning, runners out for their workout, and the various races going on around us. Therefore, I simply tried to catch everyone in front of me regardless of who they were and this helped me motor on.
About halfway through I saw two guys with matching outfits running in close tandem. One was slowly but surely gaining on the other and I was gaining on both of them. I suddenly began to feel a twitch in my right calf which gave me pause. I have been dealing with a left calf/heel/achilles issue for a year, but this was not only the other leg but definitely up in the calf region alone. As much as I wanted to track these guys down, I knew there was nothing worth hurting myself for. So for the next half mile I backed it off a touch to see how it would feel. Luckily, it didn’t protest any more.
With a slight bit of acceleration, I narrowed the gap between the three of us. The runner who had been behind the other was now in front. I soon was in their shadow. With half of a mile to go, I made a definitive move to pass them both and kept on pushing. I saw absolutely no one else in front of me for the remainder of the race. I knew this didn’t mean that people might not still end up in front of me because of the staggered start but for now I had passed everyone I could.
I crossed the finish line in what looked like 9th
place in a time of 1:09:17. I would end up 15th overall. Four competitors
would finish less than a minute in front of me time-wise,
including the two nice guys who I had just passed in the final half-mile. Good
thing I didn’t sprint harder at the end and tear a calf muscle or whatever.
The race was well-run and followed the exact same course of the Lake Pflugerville Tri run here in June. I have thought about doing that one occasionally but it is usually eleventy billion degrees centigrade by that time of the year so I never have. I wonder if they are no longer running it or this race had an agreement with them or what exactly. Regardless, other than the late start, I thought it all went very smoothly.
I was fairly pleased with my overall result. I don't think I could have been much faster on this day given my training and fitness level. Perhaps I will throw a few more tris on the schedule and try to get myself into shape for them this summer!