Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Race Report - Houston Triathlon

Meant to get this done sooner, but this race was my one day off, smack in the middle of 1.5 weeks of field work and then a quickie weekend trip to MN for a wedding. 

This race had three options: full Oly distance tri, 300 m swim then oly distance bike/run, and a duathlon.  Lots of choices. I did the fully Oly distance.

I signed up for this race on somewhat of a whim, but also had a few reasons. 
  1. I'm still really cranky I didn't get to do the Gateway to the Bay Oly in April, because I had the world's worst stomach virus the night (and morning) before the race.  I had an Oly distance as an unoffical goal for 2010, and even though it was supposed to be BEFORE a 70.3, I still wanted to race this distance.
  2. Several of my friends were doing this race - racing with friends is fun!
  3. Wasn't sure if this would be my last chance to race in Houston in before IMTX, so I wanted to enter for nostalgia.
Since I entered on a whim, I really hadn't trained for this race either.  Now, I've been swimming 7,000 yards a week and doing my marathon training.  Haven't touched the bike much, but I did do a 43 mile ride the weekend before the Oly.  When I told Will that I haven't trained for the race he asks me "what have you been doing in the mornings if its not training???"  Silly boy.  I had to explain the difference between training for the sake of just having something to do versus actually training for a specific event.

So, I signed up and THEN read the course layout.  After I signed up.  2 loop swim with a 300 ft run in the middle, 1/4 mile "run" between the swim exit and transition, 2 loop bike course (with up ato 1,000 athletes on it), and a run which included a lap through the football stadium and UP the stadium ramps.  Uh, yeah.  Why did I sign up again?  All this race needed to complete "the crazy" was a mud pit and fire at the finish line.

This race was relatively close to my house, which was nice.  Parking was a bit of a bear (one entrance) but once I got parked, transition was nice.  I love it when they pre-assign numbers.  Also, the two people on either side of me never showed up, so I had tons of space.  I got my gear set up and then checked in on some friends (two of which had never done a duathlon before).  Then transition closed and it was off for a long trek to the swim start...

The swim was in a residential lake and consisted of a 2 loop (700 m loop) swim with a 300 m run btwn loops.  The idea was to have this swim be like ITU races.  To complicate things, the start was a wave start, so eventually, you'd have waves of people starting and other swimmers starting their second loop - sort of like a crazy merge onto a highway.  Or roller derby.  I was in the last wave (boo).  Made for a crowded first loop but the second loop was a bit better. 

This was probably one of the craziest swims I've done in a while, mainly due to the congestion.  I seemed to have some girl in my wave magnetically attracted to me.  She's be all up in my business, whacking me, and then I'd see her veer off sharply off course.  Then a few minutes later, she's whacking me again.  I've never been whacked on the back of the head so many times.  I really think this chick swim an extra 1/4 of the course with her navigation issues.  My pace and effort felt ok, navigation was good.  The 300 m run sucked - mainly because you go from being at a horizontal redline to a vertical redline and back to horizontal.  Lots of blood flow and stomach shifting.  Basically the run sequence made me nauseous, which is never fun.  I didn't hit my watch a loop split, so I have no idea which loop was faster.  Its a toss up, because I spent most of the second loop navigating around the older men of the previous waves.  I had a really good hand-up out of the water (there was a big step to exit) and then it was off, running along the carpeted 1/4 mile road into T1.  My achilles had been acting up, so best I could manage was a pathetic jog, which sucked since people I beat out of the water were now beating me to T1.  Boo.

Nothing notable.  Put bike shoes on, number on, helmet on, grab bike and go.  It did seem like the bike mount line was pretty far away from the transition gate, but I was hobbling along, so chances are, it was just me.

Bike was a pretty straightfoward 2 loop course with long straight stretches of road.  Immediately out from T1 I saw 22 mph on my Garmin and thought "sweet - I'm hauling and not dying!"  Then I turned the corner and realized that my speed was aided by a tailwind.  Nothing like reality to bring you back down.  The wind was maybe 15-20 mph (2nd loop stronger than the 1st) and it was pretty much head/tail wind.  I much prefer that to crosswind, because with head/tail wind at least you get SOME reward during the tailwind part.  Crosswinds are just annoying and wear you down, with little reward.  The bike wasn't as crowded as I feared.  I caught up with my duathlon friend, he seemed like he was doing ok.  When I asked him what loop he was on, he said "2" and I had a few select words, mostly related to being the last wave on the swim.  I was destined to be on the course forever.  The second loop was a bit windier, but the course was flat so it wasn't awful.  My speed in the headwind was ~12-14 mph, while I easily maintained 20-24 on the tailwind.  Around mile 15 I could tell that I haven't spent much time in the saddle - especially in my Boise kit.  Things were starting to get a bit uncomfortable - nothing awful, just a good reminder of why actually training for a race is a good idea.

Nothing remarkable here.  I did actually manage to wait until I was running away from my transition spot before putting my hat on.

I've been regularly running 5 miles for my "short" runs and 11 miles for my long runs.  A 10k straight should not be a problem.  The first 3 miles were great - it was cloudy and the run course was nice.  It was in a residential neighborhood and we went along crushed gravel paths adjacent to houses and lakes - some of the residents were even on their back patios cheering us along.  Right around mile 3 the sun came out and *bam* I got hot.  And anyone (all 2 of you!) who reads my blog knows that I fall apart when the heat starts.  And so I started walking bits and pieces.  Not awful, but definitely not great.  I went from "hey, I bet I can negative split the run" when it was cloudy to "hmmm, heart rate is up there, lets slow down and have fun".  I fully admit to walking the ENTIRE football stadium section.  It was just silly.  Around the football field, up the spectator ramps, around the seating area, and back down the ramp.  Given my shin split / achilles issues lately, I thought running up/down the ramps was a dumb idea and was perfectly happy walking.  I did run the final 1.2 miles, so at least I have that.  Once I got within a 1/2 mile of the finish, you could see the transition area and you just KNEW you were close.  I tried to go faster (sub-9:30 pace) but there just wasn't any gas left.  At least I know I finished hard and couldn't have finished any faster than I did.

Results - 1500 m swim, 24.85 mi bike, 6.2 mi run
Swim: 31:04.8; 2:07/100 meter pace (slow for me, not sure what the deal was)
T1: 5:24.8 (gotta love the 1/4 mile run to T1!)
Bike: 1:25.1; 17.5 mph
T2: 1:23
Run: 1:14:59, 12:05/mile pace
Overall: 3:17:59

Swim: 8/34, 37/643
Bike: 24/34, 507/643
Run: 29/34, 544/643
Overall: 27/34, 477/643

Closing Thoughts
Overall, the race was actually pretty fun.  The swim and the football stadium were annoying, but I understand why the RD set up the race like that.  He was trying to do something different and fun.  Its just that my version of different and fun are not quite in line with his version.  My stretch goal time was 3:15, so I came pretty close to hitting it.  I told myself that anything under 3:30 would be fine, and I cam in way faster than that.

I had a good time, and I think with the improvements they'll make next year (this year was the inaugural race), it will be even better.

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