Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rookie Race Report

  I have been dragging my feet with blog post updates and triathlon news so I hope that finishing college at the University of Texas this spring will free up some time. I recently competed in the Rookie triathlon here in Austin, Tx. This was my second time to compete in this race and boy what a difference a year makes. I lost most of my pre-race jitters and was able to relax leading up to race day. The race date was moved up from May to April 17th this year. The venue was also changed from the Texas Ski Ranch to Walter E. Long park out at Decker lake. I was happy to swim at Decker but the tradeoff was the dreaded hills surrounding the park.
  As per usual I woke up late, got a late start and was stuck in traffic leading up to the race. Will I ever learn? It adds so much extra stress on race day which can easily be avoided. To be fair I did have to work the night before so I did need the extra sleep. I ended up arriving with plenty of time to set up my transition so I was able to relax after I got into the transition area.
  This year the Rookie was structured a little different than in years past. There was the open group which is all ages and sexes mixed together. This is the group where the overall race winners compete. Next it was divided into veterans, those who have competed in more than one triathlon previously, and rookies, those who this is their first race ever. The usual age groups categories still applied and I was raced in my new group men ages 35-39. I kept hearing how competitive the group was compared to others but I decided that did not matter too much to me since I really wasn't, "competing".
  The water temps at Decker lake were cold enough to allow wetsuits but you really didn't need them. The water wasn't that cold and the distance was only 300 meters. I debated the wetsuit issue until a friend of mine suggested that it would make for excellent practice so I suited up.
  My wave was the 3rd or 4th to start so I had some time to kill. I found my friends Lori and Marchele. Lori was a seasoned pro at triathlons but this was Marchele's very first one. Their wave didn't start for a while so they wanted to watch the first few groups go out. It was nice to see familiar faces and wish them luck.
  My wave was getting close to starting so I made my way to the front of the pack. We waded in and anxiously awaited the starting horn. Looking out to the buoys it didn't seem all that far to go. Normally this is when I start to freak out about swimming in open water with a huge group but I was strangely calm. I had been logging a lot of time in the pool at UT so I think I was feeling more confident about the swim than last year.
  The horn blared and we were off. The usual kicking and elbowing ensued but I was able to swim through it. Normally I would veer around the aquatic mosh pit and alter course but this time I stayed true. Yeah I got hit a few more times but I didn't let that alter my route and slow me down. We rounded the first buoy and it felt like I had kept my place in the front group. I was also able to maintain a pretty solid pace that normally would have left me gasping for air. I reached the shore feeling great.
5 minutes and 18 seconds later I was out of the water and still towards the front of my group. Normally when I stand up out of the water I am a little woozy and not in the mood to sprint to transition. This was different. I was feeling pretty pumped about the swim and had a lot of breath left so I hauled ass to transition and passed some more guys.
   Transitions have traditionally been one of my weak links and this would be no exception. I still use road bike shoes and they take some extra time to get in. I was also wearing a wetsuit so that slowed me down a bit. My T1 (first transition) time was a horrible 3:10. The guy that won my group did it in 1:44. Luckily I can practice this to get it down to a reasonable time. So after dragging through transition I escorted my bicycle to bike exit.
  When I passed through the bike mount area it quickly deteriorated to a cluster of bikes, fallen water bottles and scratched up arms, legs and bruised egos. The guy directly in front of me decided to mount his bike immediately in front of a line of cones. It was spectacular. He managed to saddle up with both legs properly straddling the bike but he had to negotiate the impromptu obstacle course that he now found himself. He weaved in and out of about four cones but couldn't manage to clip in before that fifth cone became his demise. I was still running with my bike to bypass the clusters when I saw him do all of this maneuvering and his eventual slow speed crash. I clumsily mounted my bike, clipped in and started to zip past the stragglers when I heard the big crash. I turned my head and noticed about 4 or 5 athletes writhing around on the ground intertwined with their bikes and other competitors. I felt lucky to have missed that one.
   After narrowly avoiding a disastrous start I began the tour de Decker. I have raced and trained this route a few times so there aren't many surprises. There are a few fast descents and some rough climbs. I am not a feathery lightweight competitor so I have to really take advantage of gravity on the downhills. I hammer away to get as much speed and momentum going down. Also I am not afraid to go fast so I stay off the brakes. It is when I hit the uphills that I have trouble competing against the lighter athletes. Out of the three sports cycling has received the least amount of attention from me this season so I was a little worried about how I would do out there. I struggled a bit but cycling was still the strongest. I finished the 11 mile course with a time of 34:27 and averaged about 19.5 mph. I was happy with that time but I think I need some more training time in the saddle.
  The second transition came and went with an ordinary T2 time of 1:09 (one guy in my group did it in 38 seconds). I parked my bike, slipped on the running shoes and headed out of transition. On my way out I looked back at the bike racks and saw that it was nearly empty. It was at this point in the race I thought that maybe I wasn't doing too bad after all. It is hard to determine how the race is going compared to the other athletes while racing so I use the state of the bike rack as a general measure. 
  On my way out of transition I spotted a runner in my age group a little ahead of me. He was keeping a pace just slightly slower than I could go so I focused on him and decided that I would slowly reel him in and pass him towards the end of the two mile run course. The race day temperature was pretty nice for the run but a little chilly for the bike. My feet were numb from cycling and the first mile felt strange to be running and not be able to feel your feet.
  I had my perfect plan of reeling in that runner but it totally failed when he stopped to get a rock out of his shoe, dang! I was on my own. I am not very good at running off the bike because I have trouble determining what pace I can hold. If I was just running it would be no problem but after cycling your heart rate is out of whack, you've got lactic acid buildup where it's not supposed to be and you just can't "lock it in". I figured it was a race so I just red lined my effort as hard as I could. After all it was only two miles right?
  With about a quarter of a mile to go the runner I wanted to follow passed me. It turns out after he cleared the rocks out of his shoe he had been reeling me in the whole time . He passed me at a pace I couldn't keep so I had to let him go. Usually I can kick the end of my races pretty good for the last 40 or 50 yards but this time there was no gas left in the tank. I almost caught the guy but he beat me by 2 seconds. My final run time was 15:07 for a pace of 7:34 minutes per mile. I was happy with the run. After I crossed the finish line the guy turned around and we both said, "Great Job!" at the same time.
  My overall time was 59:14. It was good enough to get 10th place in my age group. It was the highest I had ever placed in any race since play day at Shands Elementary school in Mesquite, TX. I kept hearing from friends how competitive the Male 35-39 age group was so I compared my time to the Veteran Male 30-34 group (the one is was in last year). I would have got 5th place in that group. If I competed in the rookie group in the M 30-34 (my exact group last year) I would have got 2nd place! I know these kind of comparisons aren't very accurate but it still makes you feel good about your race.
  Going forward from here I need to get way faster in the transition area, I need more time on the bike and I need to work on my run pace after the bike. I had a great race on a good day so I feel very satisfied.  Congratulations to my friend Marchele who raced her first triathlon and got the tri bug. My friend Ed Stephens got 7th overall and his brother Joe won his age group. Back to training and preparing for the next race.
Lori, Me and Marchele at The Rookie

1 comment:

  1. Aww - so sweet. Nice story Colin. You did great that day! Marchele